Here’s a picture of a quilt – I think it is pretty awesome. But what do we know about it? Not an awful lot! If we do a “Right Click” and “Save” we MAY find some of the information that gets hidden in the computer stuff, but that is likely to be just when the picture was taken. If the person taking the picture gave it a name we might have that information. But that is it. In this world where “Knowledge is Power”, where we have the power of the internet at our fingertips, where the world is smaller and we have the facility to connect with so many people, that is a pretty paltry amount of information.
Why does it matter? Or rather why do I think that it matters so much? Why do I go on about it so much?
Let’s look at the picture above. It’s nothing terribly unique, or special, but someone might want to know a bit more about it. Without at least one piece of information, there is no chance of them being able to find anything. They might want to make something like it – maybe the maker runs classes or has patterns to sell, maybe it was inspired by another artist’s work – no chance of finding out without a name.
So that’s just a very tiddly little look at the issue from the point of view of the spectator – they are being cheated because they are not getting the whole picture.
Let’s turn it on its head and look at it from the point of view of the maker, the Artist.
Imagine that this is an award winning quilt (Well, not this one, obviously!!) A totally unique idea that someone has spent a good deal of time designing and another age creating. They may have based a book idea around the quilt, or written a pattern, or be teaching a class. Their livelihood may be tied up in their work. By not acknowledging the maker you are not allowing them the recognition that they deserve. You have taken a photo of it because you think that it is amazing and you want to celebrate it. And they will love that your think it is amazing. You are not planning on copying it or doing anything untoward with it – it’s just lovely and you want to share it with your friends. But you don’t think about recognising them as individuals. In the good old days, we took photos, got them printed, visited our friends and looked at our photos over a cup of tea. We chatted about things, we shared the things that we remembered about the makers (maybe!). Facebook and Twitter and the like are just today’s version of us gathering round a cup of tea!
In the good old days, after you and your friends had had a look, the prints would go back in their envelope and that would be that – and you maintained control. But these days that is not the end of it. Once you share a photo on the internet you have lost control. You might have been fabulous and put the name of the maker and the title of the quilt in the information within the post. Your lovely friend who was as inspired as you were then shares it with her friends. You have just taken your print of the photo and thrown it up in the air – and you have no control over where it lands, or of what happens to it when it lands. At some point someone shares without any attribution – and someone copies the design because they don’t know who designed it, don’t know that there is a pattern they could buy (if they wanted to), don’t know that their quilt group could invite the maker to visit and talk about their award winning quilt. This is the Artist’s potential for earning, their potential for fame that you are playing with.
I have seen photos this week of a substantial item having been stolen from a trader at a show. There are posts about this sort of thing every time there is a show. And people are horrified and appalled – as they should be! People say that we should look out for the traders – shout up if we see inappropriate behaviour or stealing. We shouldn’t accept that this happens and just walk on by. And indeed we shouldn’t. Theft – be it of physical or intellectual property, is unacceptable.
So PLEASE take action at the local level. Start with yourself. Understand, value and appreciate the ownership of these designs. Understand that although the world is altered, we need to be the agents of change. We need to appreciate the value of things and not accept the unacceptable. And one tiny step towards that is making sure that you always show the name of the designer or maker when you share photographs of their work.
Oh, and just for the record, the quilt is my own. It is 5″ square and made of hand-dyed cottons and silk wadding. It needs a name though! Fractured Tiles was a possibility, but I am also drawn to the word Radiant