Design Piracy

Article Posted 01 October 2015

Ashlea Stoodley - Bunnycup Embroidery

In this blog post, we want to address design sharing and piracy.  Sharing the designs you have purchased, be it with a group, like facebook, a torrent site, with your friends or family is a form of piracy and is a legal offence.  It is all too often we are notified of illegal sharing of our designs, and from a digitizer’s perspective, let me tell you, this is absolutely heartbreaking.

It is all too often in the press lately about large torrent sites such as Megavideo and Pirate Bay founders being under arrest for piracy offences.  People know it is illegal to share or pirate a movie and the legal action evidenced in such cases as Megavideo and Pirate Bay reinforce this.   Sharing an embroidery file is no different to sharing a movie and it is clear it is a legal offence that action can be taken upon by the copyright holder (which is the digitizer in the case of embroidery files, but also the illustrator of the artwork who owns the artwork the design is based on as well).

In the case of digitizers, piracy is very harmful to them.  Unlike TV productions or movies, every bit of income from their designs is important to the digitizer.  They are very few independent embroidery businesses that are large corporations.  The majority of us are small privately owned businesses run out of our homes.  Some of us may have one or two employees, but we typically are not large businesses.  In our own particular case, our designs largely based on exclusive licensing arrangements with professional illustrators which come at rather expensive pricing.  The costs of licensing and other business costs can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.  Each design set typically costs some thousands of dollars to produce before it is even released and our time and personal income is factored into it.

By sharing a design, basically it is effectively taking the rightful income of the digitizer.  The digitizer is robbed of a sale.  This results in less income to cover what can be very significant business costs, and also makes the digitizer’s time in growing their business essentially worthless.  In the long run, it also effects the overall embroidery market with potential price increases when sales are reduced.

In my personal experience as a digitizer, I now come across design piracy nearly every day.  Group after group online are sharing designs, people are listing them on all sorts of torrent sites, and people are illegally selling them on ebay, etsy, and websites and so on.  We now spend a very significant time simply attempting to protect the legal copyright on our designs rather than doing what our business is designed to do (producing designs for sale).  We also often defend our copyright by lodging cease and desists with sites like facebook and hosting companies only to have the person who is illegally sharing the design threaten and abuse us in all sorts of manners.  I can assure you this is one of the most heartbreaking and demotivating things I have ever encountered, especially when just standing up for what we own and what is our legal right.

Please bear in mind when you think you are harmlessly sharing your designs with your friends or a group online the consequences of your actions.  Not only are you breaking the law and legal action can be taken against you, you are effectively harming the legal owner of those designs by reducing their right income.  When you purchase a design, you purchase the right to use that design, not the right to distribute the design.  The right to distribute it only ever rests with the original creator of the design. Design sharing is illegal, a crime and stealing from the rights of the original creator.