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Is the sweet little grey-haired lady with the embroidery sitting on her lap somebody's dear old granny -- or is she a software pirate?

Perhaps both, according to the Embroidery Software Protection Coalition

Before the internet era, those talented with a needle and thread often bought designs from specialty shops, transferred the outlines to fabric, and used intricate hand stitching to create finished projects.  Today, embroiderers often download designs to embroider by hand, or even use software and computerized sewing machines to execute their visions. 

The issue is that many of those designs are subject to copyright, as is the software.  So when granny shares her new embroidery pattern or software with her online sewing circle, she becomes a copyright infringer.  Similarly, if an ambitious embroiderer with a high-tech machine pays for a design and then whips up multiple copies to sell, she may be violating the terms of a license which allows personal use only.

The Embroidery Software Protection Coalition has a point -- but it's sharp enforcement efforts have drawn criticism.   It is alleged that the Coalition has not only targeted those who distribute copyrighted designs or design software without authorization, but also those who have purchased the designs without realizing that there may be a copyright infringement question or who have distributed public domain works.  In addition, the Coalition has threatened to sue online protesters for defamation, even going so far as to send a subpoena to Yahoo in an attempt to identify the members of one online embroidery forum.  Enter the EFF, which successfully defended the right to stitch and bitch anonymously -- for now. 

Keep your thimbles ready, folks.  The music industry's enforcement efforts against college students are one thing, but those little grey-haired ladies are tough customers.  There will definitely be some pricked fingers before this one is over. 

Many thanks to friend and computer guru Rich Schinnell, who sent me this link earlier in the week.  (Yes, Rich, this is a real copyright issue, even if it the ESPC's demands for payment may make it look like some kind of shakedown.)  Today's Wall Street Journal also has an article on the dispute. 

Comments

Hi,

I love your blog.
I'm an intellectual attorney who handles reprint permissions for a stable of 200 magazines owned by a big magazine conglomerate. This enty is very interesting because I field inquiries from worried scrapbooking fans asking permission to integrate designs from our scrapbooking design CDs into their commercial projects on a monthly basis.

I'd been pretty easy-going about this by confirming that the scrapbooker does not plan to sell their creation, with our designs embedded on an element, on a mass level. Guess I'll have to rethink the matter, now...I'm sure the same issues apply for the scrapbook industry...but it's hard to know since most designs for scrabooking were created for mass reuse.

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