When I first brought out the Stitch and Thimble, my digital hand embroidery publication, I did some research into copyright protection. My thinking was that putting out a PDF, the simplest of formats for such a publication, without some sort of protection was foolhardy as it would be way too easy for buyers to simply forward it on to any and everyone should they so choose. Or print out dozens of copies and hand them out to friends, fellow stitchers, customers and pupils. Or – worst-case scenario – upload the publication to the net for the world to download for free. A fellow designer even bought the first issue of the Stitch and Thimble for the sole purpose of seeing what measures I'd taken to protect my copyright.
Nothing has changed since issue 01. Document protection software is either woefully inadequate for my purposes or too easy to skirt around if you know the tricks, which are posted all over the net. And after much reading and research, the conclusion I came to then, which still stands today, is that if people really want to abuse your copyright and copy or distribute your intellectual property, they will find a way. No matter what measure you put in place to try and avoid it. Think photocopiers, scanners, screen grabs... the ways and means are many.
In the meanwhile, all I'd have done was alienate potential buyers with passwords and encryptions and sign-in accounts – basically making willing customers jump through hoops to get their hands on a copy. So I decided to make it as easy as possible to buy the Stitch and Thimble, which I did and still do. You pick your issues, pay online and they're emailed to you almost immediately. No fuss.
The same goes for my embroidery patterns. They're also all in PDF format and, as such, open to copyright abuse. The alternative is to print each issue of the Stitch and Thimble and all my patterns and sell them as hard copies. This would increase my costs (paper, printing, packaging and postage) and push up my prices, and it'd take longer for my customers to receive their purchases. And copyright abusers could still abuse my copyright. Think photocopiers, scanners and so on. Otherwise I could get fancy with technology and use existing online magazine solutions or employ a guru to come up with a way to only view my products online for a certain amount of time and limit the number of copies printed – again, this would increase my costs and push up my prices, not to mention frustrate potential buyers.
I've gone back and forth, deliberating between formats, doubting my decision to go digital many times. For all I know my hard work could have been forwarded, copied and printed out hundreds of times – I'd never know. And it's not as though needlework design is a lucrative business to begin with. But ultimately common sense and trust has won out. By sticking with digital, I can focus on and spend more time designing and creating new products, buyers get their patterns and issues of the Stitch and Thimble within minutes of ordering and we save a few trees in the process. And as for copyright abuse, I can only put my faith in you, the people who buy my designs, and trust that you will respect my copyright and my right to earn an honest living.