Wheat Wrote WHAT?!

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June 14th, 2007 at 13:00 pm

Designers, Rocks, Hard Places, Mysteries of the Universe & Disney

This is NOT a criticism of the many publishers with whom Designers made past contracts, although some think it should be.

Contracts based on common past practices may not have been in a Designer’s long term best interest, they are/were common business practice and history that is past.

This IS about how our world is evolving and the new challenges and issues presented by our new, digital world.

Remember how good you felt when you negotiated that magic “Rights revert to the designer when the publication goes out of print” clause?

The pattern is submitted to a publisher, is published, and the check clears the bank, and everyone is happy.

The print run sells out or gets dumped to a discounter.
Everyone SEEMS happy

The Designer gets their rights back and they can now use that design or a derivative for a new effort. Again, this would seem to be a successful outcome…

However, in a blinding flash of the obvious, that happy ending is consigned to the ranks of never more.

I finally know what to worry about and WHY Disney opens its vaults from time to time.

This epiphany was brought on when one long time needle arts publisher opened its vaults and released, via download, what they promise will be all of their ‘technically’ out of print patterns and instructions.

In the Click of a Mouse, designers must live with the unintended consequences resulting from the THE ADVENT OF publishers introducing the practice of



Okay, so why should a designer care?

ALL Those CONTRACTS are NOW “ALL RIGHTS Now & In The Known & Unknown UNIVERSE”

That is not the end of it either.

One of the most significant issues raised by this practice is the lack of quality control on the final product (downloaded or print on demand) and the effect this has on YOUR reputation as the Designer.

When the Publisher makes a pattern available through download or print on demand, they are keeping the pattern in print so rights never revert to the designer. This applies whether the pattern is sold or given away for free by the publisher.

In many cases, the publishers are NOT making the required investment and effort to PROPERLY [PDF] UPLOAD OR MAKE AVAILABLE the entire pattern INCLUDING any CORRECTIONS

So, you may ask, *How does that effect MY reputation?*

Here is a brief summary of the downside of this increasingly common practice:

If the patterns have not been corrected or the translation into download or print on demand format may be poorly executed, the NeedleArts Enthusiast is getting a bad product with YOUR name on it.

Still not convince this is a problem?

WHO is supporting these patterns?

Definitely NOT the customer service reps for the publishers – their job is to help process the consumer’s order or product return. As result, if the Publishing company is contacted by a consumer about a problem the current practice is to suggest to the NeedleArts Enthusiast that she should “google the designer” and contact the designer directly with any questions or problems.

It is NOW left to the Designer to support a pattern without any control over its publication or presentation.

The Designing Author cannot correct the errors printed on line. Discussing this issue with the Publisher and getting the Publisher to implement the needed corrections or improvements is rarely accomplished.

The Designing Author will not be compensated for this added work since, in most cases, they do not receive royalties or any compensation for this added burden.

The NeedleArts Consumer rarely has complete information, and often assumes that since the publisher suggested contacting the Designing Author, the Designer must be getting compensated for providing extra service to the consumer.

If the Designing Author is currently active in the industry, they MUST “take the loss of time and money” to support the pattern by assisting these NeedleArts consumers or risk being fried, fricasseed, and roasted in the Online communities.

One such bad rap from an unhappy NeedleArts consumer can spreads like plague almost instantly! Just think about how many times you have read “I have heard” – not first hand knowledge, just repeating dirty gossip.

We all have seen how no matter how unfair or incorrect OnLine information may be, once it is written and seen OnLine, it is believed to be true. As a result, the reputation of the Designing Author can be tarnished and even destroyed with NO real hope of recovery.

In any event, The NeedleArts Consumer
– WILL find the designing author,
– will write to the designing author,
– will expect the designing author, to help them IMMEDIATELY

Adding insult to injury, that lovely clause about *return of rights when the publication goes out of print* is never going to apply. You, the Designer will NEVER get back your rights to that design.

All of this has dramatic, negative long term implications for independent designers and their survival.

Our Industry needs to find a way to ensure:

1. Designers recognize the inequity, and INSIST on a fair contract that includes either ongoing payment for services rendered OR the Return of Rights after a specified period.

2. We need to take all necessary steps to ensure the technical accuracy of what is “put out there”

3. PRIOR to republishing, a good faith effort is made by the Publisher to provide accurate and updated versions of the design and its instructions.

4. Whether as a Giveaway or Download Sale, the entity who profits, be that the Catalog/Pattern house, YARNandTHREAD manufacturers/distributors, or the Independent Designer will provide Consumer support themselves, or Compensate the Pattern’s Designer/Author for providing Consumer support.

This is a lot to think about

My head has been exploding for weeks

I sincerely hope we can start a dialogue that leads to ways and means to a professional solution mutually beneficial to all.


  • 1

    Brilliantly said!! Some of us designers who choose to offer digital downloads work with PatternsOnline for that very reason. I NEED to have control over correcting things because I AM the one who gets the phone calls at all hours, the e-mail and snail mail. The worst experience was a kit sold by a publisher (who shall remain nameless) that put in 1 yard of CARON silk instead of 1 SKEIN and I kept getting the complaints because every kit was short. Caron and I worked out a deal to mail out extras to those who took the time to contact me, but I shudder to think how many others are just grumbling about me out there and have the kit stuffed in a drawer.

    If you are going to run a business or protect your work as a creative person, you have to ask the tough questions and try to get the best that you can. At a trade show where I sat in on a panel about being an illustrator, one very famous cover artist said that the most important thing he now negotiates is “the right to remove my name from the design credit if you mess with my work too much in Photoshop.”

    As for the world where ethics and honestly won over the Robin Hood mentality of getting something for nothing and beating the system… I think people who download ANY kind of intellectual property and cheat the creators should be fed to dragons or volcanoes… but that’s a bit hard to legislate!

    DragonDreamsJen on June 15th, 2007
  • 2

    I was asked to contribute a design to a craft book last fall. The publisher was willing to nix “exclusive rights” to the pattern, but would not define or limit rights to “derivative works.” I understand that to mean the publisher can reprint the pattern in myriad “derivative” ways, with no further consent from or payment to me. I was willing to agree to translations of the book in its entirety, but didn’t want them to be able to reprint the pattern as, say, a project sheet for a manufacturer, or who-knows-what else.

    I was told they could not anticipate what derivative works they may one day decide to publish, but they wanted the option of reprinting the pattern elsewhere, with no further payment to me.

    Perhaps most disturbing was the revelation that they’d already limited the derivative works clause for 3 contributing designers, and therefore did not want to limit it for me.

    So publishers are willing to “play nice,” but only with a few designers? What’s up with that?

    I declined to participate. The book is now published. Some designers, it seems, are willing to give their work away for less than I am.

    As long as there are people willing to work for free, why bother to pay someone? The only answer is because that someone’s work is deemed worthy of payment. That’s the kind of designer I am.

    JenFW on June 15th, 2007
  • 3

    Thanks for this great post, Wheat.
    Angie K.

    angiek on June 16th, 2007
  • 4

    Well, I’m no expert, and all these words just melt on the surface of my brain, but what I’m getting is that I had darn well better just self-publish and leave the money-grubbing publishers and control freaks out of the loop! LOL

    Knitterman on June 16th, 2007


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