Addendum 5/17 – Looks like the BBC and the author of the “Adipose” pattern have made peace. It’s a happy ending as the BBC is negotiating a deal that includes a licensing for the pattern (which hopefully will be provided for fans on the BBC website). Plus Mazzmatazz may get to make Adipose babies for the BBC team and meet the Dr. Who crew.
See hostility just doesn’t pay. Now just about everyone is happy… the fans, the pattern maker, and the BBC.
Article posted here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/newsid_7400000/newsid_7406200/7406217.stm
If you haven’t heard anything about this, there’s been argument over some knitting patterns developed by a Dr. Who fan. In a nutshell, the fan created doll patterns of certain creatures from the popular BBC Series and made them available for free. In a rush to preserve the Dr. Who brand, the BBC has forced her to take the patterns now. Here’s a full version of the story.
I believe that many knitters are naturally creative people, and knitting is a powerful skill to have, because you can create all sorts of objects. When we like things or find them appealing, sometimes we want to recreate them for ourselves. It’s human to want to own things or have them in our possession. I collected Star Wars bubble gum cards and action figures when I was a kid because I loved re-living the scenes from the first three movies. I wanted to re-live the story because I liked it so much. Mazmataz recreated the Ood, the Adipose Babies, and the Tardis perhaps because of similar sentiments towards the Dr. Who series and its characters. I get it.
But the BBC doesn’t get it and from their point of view as a business that owns the intellectual property rights of Dr. Who they probably won’t.
I came of age (in the business world) in a large corporation who was ever so paranoid about loosing it’s brand. I suppose this is a law of nature that once on top, you become paranoid of others taking you down. It’s probably a king of the hill type syndrome. The company I worked for was so afraid of brand violation, they had numerous face to face course about how to protect their brand.
Now, I’m torn about this issue, because from a completely business point of view, I can understand why companies want to and need to protect their brand. However, from a historical view, I think that over-zealous protection of copyright or brand can only harm the rest of us or the general public who can benefit from the proliferation of new ideas and products.
New things… objects, ideas, concepts… do not just generate themselves out of nothingness. New things often come from older things. The gasoline combustion engine that drives cars was born from the ideas and objects developed by other tinkerers. The Model T Ford was developed from prototypes developed by others. If Henry Ford wasn’t able to pull the work created by others he wouldn’t have developed the automobile that made his company what it is today (probably someone else would do it). There are very few ideas or concepts that come from ‘thin air.’ They are usually based on another idea or concept or at least inspired by something else.
On the other hand, because we all live within a grid of monetary value where products from ideas can be exchanged for money. There will always be those people who take what’s offered for free and make money off it. Such was the case for mazmataz’s Dr. Who Patterns. Apparently people were knitting the patterns and selling the toys on e-Bay. That’s just pure opportunism. On one hand I think those people have violated a request not to use the patterns for profit. On the other hand, they were simply responding to the demand/value created by our system of demand/perceived need or desire for the said item.
In my mind this whole debate again raises the question whether intellectual properties should or are changing/evolving because of the advent of the Internet. It much easier to share information, instructions, ideas, objects and products on the web. They don’t have to be isolated or hidden from other people who may build upon them, improve them or even create something new.
I believe that some of the greatest creative and productive eras from history occurred when information was shared between cultures, peoples, or individuals. On a smaller scale, I have to say, the sharing of patterns both free and paid on social networking sites like Ravelry seems to encourage creativity amongst the population of knitters and participants. It also, encourages commerce. For example, a knitter might see a pattern knit in a different yarn and actually seek out and purchase that yarn. Or another knitter may have a stash of a particular yarn and need inspiration for how to use it. She/he might actually review the projects made by other knitters in this yarn and purchase a pattern made by a designer who advertises or posts information on their available patterns on Ravelry.
I know it will take some time and probably some ugly wrangling to get the intellectual property and copyright laws ironed out, but hopefully we will still be able to reap the benefits of the sharing and collaboration that takes place via the Net. In my head I’m still trying to think up a scenario that explains how all this sharing can be bad for us, because it’s good to think of things from more than one perspective.
Images from audreyem’s occasional blog. The original Adipose doll knitted pattern toy is on the right. A crochet version of the doll is on the left.