How I almost lost control over my intellectual property
I’d like to raise your attention to something, that might happen to your design, your intellectual property and your copyright, if you trust Interweave, or Golden Peak Media* with them. Please read this, even if beading is not your hobby/profession, because this can very well apply to all publications of Golden Peak Media (beading, jewellery making, knitting, crochet, sewing, quilting, patchwork, embroidery and fine arts as well), because we talk about the same publisher. My story is a lesson for everyone, the designers, who create DIY tutorials, and artisans/crafters who create art based on print or on-line media.
I am Diána Balogh, a Hungarian beaded jewellery designer.
My story in a nutshell starts in 2015, when I developed a new beaded design – I was wondering, whether it is possible to create a multi-row, two-dimensional chenille net. I sent the design and the blueprints to Interweave, and I told them, I created this new design, and I named it as “Flat Chenille Stitch”.
Contrary to its name, ‘Flat Chenille Stitch’ is not a stitch, especially not a basic stitch.
Basic stitches are repetitions of a single movement (e.g. straight – netting, wave – peyote, circular – brick, or figure eight – RAW). But the ‘Flat Chenille Stitch’ is a complex set, as it contains almost all thread-leading techniques. In reality it is a pattern by itself, to which I gave its name due to the visual similarity to the pattern of the rope created using the traditional chenille stitch.
My design was published in an e-book by Interweave. The reason I decided to publish the design was to introduce it to beaders, so they can make some for themselves or as a gift, as it is written in the Terms and conditions of Beadwork Magazine, that apply on designs published in the magazine. Obviously my other goal was to introduce myself – the creator of the design – to a bigger audience, because as a designer this is my full-time job. The contract I signed with F+W Media (predecessor of Golden Peak Media) states it clearly: I am the sole owner of the copyrights for the original design and I shall remain so until it expires.
After the design & blueprints were first published with my consent, I was approached two additional times about republication (one was in print media, the other was another ebook).
The design was also made freely available for everyone on the Interweave website, but I – the creator of the design and the stitch, the owner of the copyright – am only credited to say I use a certain stitch (which is by far not the same thing, and would not count as fair use either).
Then the design was incorporated into a video tutorial, where they made absolutely no reference to me or to my copyright, moreover the blueprints were sold by Interweave in their web shop. Needles to say, I wasn’t notified about any of those.
After the first publication my life took a turn, and I did not have enough time for beading and creating new tutorials. And definitely no time to double-check whether my copyrights of my design were respected. I trusted Interweave to handle my intellectual properties appropriately. Once I was able to return to professional beading, I was shocked to see my Flat Chenille Design published in multiple places:
websites, youtube video tutorials, sold as a tutorial, as a design by another designer, as a base for jewellery, as a training material for paid on-line or in person beading course, it was even published in a book – but I wasn’t credited as the creator of the design, of the blueprints and owner of the copyrights for it, my name wasn’t even mentioned anywhere. Logically, no one of those – who re-published the design the above mentioned variations – approached me to get permission to publish the plans of the Flat Chenille Design, or a derivative work or the aforementioned plagiaries.
I turned to Interweave, as I couldn’t understand how this could have happened, but this wasn’t easy at all:
- I wasn’t able to reach my previous personal contact, the mails I sent were rejected as the address doesn’t existed anymore.
- From the Interweave website I was able to navigate to Golden Peak Media, where I tried to reach my previous contact using a public form. She replied immediately – she was the only helpful and very kind person I’ve got in touch with at the company – and she tried all her best to move it forward, but could not help much despite she also took the issue to the editor in chief.
- The editor in chief did not respond to any of my inquiries, and the person responsible for contracts did not understand what is this all about. (I have to say, you will not find any contact information to anybody on the pages of Interweave and Golden Peak Media. The only way is to use a public web form; there’s no information about the management, public relations contact, not a single name, position or an e-mail address – basically nothing that one could use to reach them in case there are questions or problems.)
- They claimed our previous correspondence between Interweave and me was completely lost, so they weren’t aware that I am also the inventor of the stitch, not just the design (which is by the way the same), so I was asked to prove I invented the Flat Chenille Stitch design.
- After I shared all the previous mails we exchanged on this topic, and issued a sworn statement under penalty of perjury, that the design called Flat Chenille Stitch is my intellectual property, my messages were finally forwarded to the legal representative of the company.
- In the opinion of their legal counsel
the Flat Chenille Design is just a ‘stitch-concept’, and as such is not under copyright protection.
(Strangely the text of the US Copyright law doesn’t contain the expression ‘stich-concept’, nor gives any definition what qualifies as a concept (see item 8 below).)
- Finally, on the mail I sent a month ago – and re-sent it afterwards, with my questions and observations for the above statement – I did not receive any response to date. I quote some key points from the mail:
Therefore the material of ‘Flat Chenille Stitch/design’ – what was provided to and used by Interweave – is according to this law not a technique nor a ’stitch concept’, but a technical drawing or plan, which – when followed – always results the original design, or a derivative of it. Regardless what shape/size/colour the beads are used to complete it. So the plan cannot be separated from the design. The plan is essential to describe the design accurately, and based on the plan it can be reproduced in a deterministic way.
If this wouldn’t be so, every creative designers in the world – who publishes any of his/her plan in any possible form – would instantly lose his/her copyright of his/her intellectual property just by merely documenting it.
A ‘design’ cannot be handed over to a ‘how-to-make’ magazine that only the ‘design’ is transferred and the plans (i.e. the part which you claim is not protected by any copyright) stays with the author. In this case the magazine would only be able to publish the photo, and could not function as a magazine for the DIY segment anymore.
- In these months revisited and re-read the contract multiple times, and was astounded that not a single of those important expressions (like stitch, stitch-concept, technique, design, plan) was ever defined in it. Back then – mostly attributed to my trust – I would not thought that this could be a source of problems, to me it was obvious: the description of a design – the blueprints – are under copyright protection, and the publisher respects that, as this respect serves as the base foundation for their business. In my case the blueprints for the design are – incorrectly – referred to as ‘stitch’ or ‘stitch-concept’ by the publisher, and are not protected by the copyright law.
- Well, there’s more: There was no definition for the ‘re-use fee’ either. I – naively – thought I will be awarded this fee upon each re-publication by the publisher. I was – retroactively – informed, that this is a one-time fee, and this covers virtually unlimited number of reuse – and I was paid this fee upfront, along with the original publication fee.
- Previously Interweave published more articles and booklets on copyrights, where they emphasise the importance to respect the copyright. However, in my case, I don’t really see the importance of this respect to play any key role with regards to their proceedings.
11. I’m not the sole aggrieved party in this story, but all those who plagiarised my design, published it on the Internet, sold the plans of the design as a tutorial, sold the jewelries made using this tutorial without giving credit to the copyright owner, created youtube video tutorials, taught it on courses or published it in a book. It’s because they all – even if not deliberately – infringed on my copyright. I ask for the understanding of those who already received or will receive a DMCA takedown request. My problem is not with them, and this is the fastest, most straightforward and most probably the only way to stop infringements, even if the infringer wasn’t aware of the original copyright. Please, just think for a moment, what would You do in my place.
- I asked Interweave to remove all my material from their website, and I asked for correction that publicly states that the Flat Chenille Stitch design is my intellectual property and as such is protected by copyright (just as it is written in the contract), and I asked to terminate the contract between us. After several months of exchanging emails only one item on that list was realised: the contract termination.
If you ever contracted Interweave (F+W Media, or Golden Peak Media), take your time to re-read your contract. If yours doesn’t have clear definitions for the subjects of the contract, you are in my shoes. If you wan’t to take measures to protect your copyright, get in touch with me. »
If you are aggrieved, because you plagiarised my design, published it in printed or electronic format, sold its plans, sold the jewellery made using the tutorial without giving credit to the copyright owner, created a video tutorial out of it, teach it on courses, please get in touch with me. »
If you already received the DMCA takedown request, please know, my matter is not with you personally, but I need to protect the copyright of my intellectual property. Thank you for your understanding. I am sure you wouldn’t do such thing deliberately if the appropriate copyright information would have been accessible and available for you.