May 272008

Sum­mer wouldn’t be sum­mer without a sum­mer con­fer­ence or two. There’s some­thing about walk­ing the streets or sit­ting in cafes, talk­ing about tech­no­logy, in balmy weather (well, when it doesn’t rain like it did at last year’s CSW XML Sum­mer School in Oxford). This year I’m off to Mon­tréal for Bal­is­age in the middle of August. Even if the weather decides to be nasty, and the streets are too unpleas­ant to stroll, there will be lots of inter­est­ing people to talk tech­no­logy with and cafes near the con­fer­ence hotel to fre­quent. If you missed the dead­line to speak, there’s no need to pan­ic just yet. There is still room on the sched­ule for late-breaking talks as long as you get your pro­pos­al in by June 13. I was one of the review­ers of the main batch of talks so I got a sneak peek at some of the sub­mis­sions. There is thought-provoking stuff on the pro­gram and I expect lots of hefty dis­cus­sion, at the talks and in the cafes after­wards. Warm weather, inter­est­ing people, good food — I guess I should brush up on my French a little for those res­taur­ants.

Feb 202008

I went to my first fibre retreat ever over the week­end (actu­ally, a four-day week­end, includ­ing Valentine’s Day, which struck me as iron­ic). The organ­isers of the retreat did a great job, given that the hotel was being ren­ov­ated, with some of the res­taur­ants and pub­lic spaces closed, and work­ers crawl­ing over much of the rest of the hotel’s pub­lic spaces. It was run just like a tutorial-style con­fer­ence, with three-hour classes where the instruct­or talked a bit, showed a tech­nique (for tech­nique classes) or samples of end res­ults (for the artist­ic ideas classes), and then got you to try it out while they came around and helped. There were lots of tables set up for inform­al get-togethers, out­side the classrooms and the mar­ket­place.

The dif­fer­ences to tech con­fer­ences were obvi­ous — not a laptop to be seen, although I’m sure some people went back to their hotel rooms at the breaks to blog or check email, given that many people appeared to work at loc­al tech­no­logy com­pan­ies, and the male/female ratio was even more skewed than for most tech con­fer­ences (I saw about five men at the retreat, out of about 200). The mar­ket­place was busy selling as well as show­ing (unlike exhib­it halls at most tech con­fer­ences), though the vendors looked just as exhausted by the end of the four days as I can remem­ber being after long days on the booth at any oth­er con­fer­ence.

I learnt a lot (I’ll post more details of the knit­ting high­lights on my craft­ing blog), saw a bit of Tacoma (where the retreat was held), met a few people, and hung out a lot with Eve and Yvon­ne. Culin­ary high­lights included a yummy din­ner at Wild Ginger where we downed a good bottle of cham­pag­ne (Inflor­es­cence Blanc de Noirs brut, 100% pinot noir, from Jean-Pierre Bouchard and Cédric Bouchard), Eve’s home-made borekas, and a good quick tagine, which I’ll be mak­ing again. 

I’m slowly catch­ing up on sleep; just like any con­fer­ence it was pretty intense and was both invig­or­at­ing and exhaust­ing at the same time. 

Oct 252007

I finally got my Ravelry invite today. I got on the wait­ing list about a month ago, so it didn’t take long. I spent a few minutes pok­ing around, though I will have to be care­ful as it could prove to be an immense time-sink for me, with all the dis­cus­sion about knit­ting and crochet. There’s even a group for KnitML there, which I hadn’t heard of before.

It’s inter­est­ing com­par­ing Ravelry to Face­book, as well. Sur­face impres­sions: com­pletely dif­fer­ent crowd, they don’t ask for any inform­a­tion when you sign up except for an email address, user­name, and pass­word. Of course, you can add info such as birth­day or where you live to your pro­file, but it’s not needed. Lots of links to sites out­side of Ravelry, thus the site feels much more open to the rest of the world than Face­book. And may­be because it’s more focussed, it will be more appeal­ing long-term (there already seems to be quite a lot of Face­book ennui out there in the blo­go­sphere).

If you’re a keen knit­ter or cro­chet­er, don’t be put off by the fact you have to join a wait­ing list; it doesn’t take long to get the invite and it looks like a worth­while resource. One neat item: the yarn list­ing includes people’s destash info.

Aug 272007

Eve’s XML and knit­ting ana­logy got me think­ing.

You can think of a writ­ten knit­ting pat­tern as being the schema, with a set of instruc­tions, just like the schema’s con­tent mod­el. Then each knit­ted item you make that con­forms to that knit­ting pat­tern is like the doc­u­ment instance that con­forms to the schema. Schem­as can be restrict­ive or allow lots of instance struc­ture vari­ations, as can knit­ting pat­terns. And, to tie it into my pre­vi­ous post on knit­ting and copy­right, a schema can be copy­righted (and often is). The ana­logy does have a few prob­lems when you start try­ing to fig­ure out the rela­tion­ship of the set of tags in a doc­u­ment instance and the con­tent with­in those tags; if you think of the knit and purl stitches as being the ele­ments, then the yarn would be the con­tent. Except for, yarn can’t really be ori­gin­al in the same way as the con­tent in an XML doc­u­ment can be. Some people may dis­agree when it comes to hand-painted yarns, of course.

Aug 102007

There was quite a lot of dis­cus­sion about copy­right issues in the com­ments to my knit­ted cush­ion piece; this is an import­ant enough sub­ject that it deserves its own blog post­ing. Oblig­at­ory dis­claim­er here.

The issue was wheth­er a knit­ting pat­tern can be copy­righted. I believe that the com­plete pat­tern with all the words can be copy­righted in the same way as all my oth­er post­ings are copy­righted. If it’s ori­gin­al con­tent that I cre­ated, and I haven’t assigned the copy­right to any­one else, then I have the copy­right. So the main ques­tion is, can the straight­for­ward descrip­tion of the stitches (i.e., the “k1, p1” bit) be copy­righted? Mark claims it can’t, because you can’t copy­right the design and stitches. A related issue is wheth­er you can impose licens­ing con­di­tions on someone mak­ing the art­icle described in the pat­tern (in the case of the cush­ion I designed, giv­ing attri­bu­tion).

Tra­di­tion­ally knit­ting has been about people mak­ing vari­ations on known ideas. Eliza­beth Zim­mer­man, one of the knit­ting gurus, used the word “unven­ted” to describe tech­niques that she dis­covered. She was con­vinced that someone else had prob­ably dis­covered the tech­nique long ago, but not writ­ten it down, so what she was doing was re-inventing, or “unvent­ing”. She also encour­aged people to make vari­ations on pat­terns, to make things their own. How­ever, there are the leg­al aspects of copy­right to con­sider. In the US, a knit­ting pat­tern falls under the Visu­al Arts cat­egory for copy­right as long as it fol­lows the basic rules. Copy­right pro­tects “ori­gin­al works of author­ship” that are fixed in a tan­gible form of expres­sion. In the UK, I assume knit­ting pat­terns would fall under the writ­ten work cat­egory, as it includes instruc­tion manu­als (a knit­ting pat­tern is argu­ably an instruc­tion manu­al). For Cana­dian law, it’s easi­er to refer to the web site writ­ten by an IPR law­yer. From there I read Sec­tion 5(1) of the Copy­right Act spe­cifies that copy­right sub­sists in every “ori­gin­al” lit­er­ary, dra­mat­ic, music­al and artist­ic work. So my cush­ion pat­tern, since it is ori­gin­al in that sense, does have copy­right pro­tec­tion. Includ­ing the arrange­ment of the stitches (or the basic “k1, p1” stuff). The stitch pat­terns on their own, the mod­ules that I built the cush­ion pat­tern out of, which are tra­di­tion­al, aren’t copy­righted, of course. It’s my arrange­ment of them to form the cush­ion pat­tern that is.

The oth­er ques­tion is what con­di­tions I can impose on someone who wants to copy the pat­tern, or make art­icles from it. In my pat­tern, I spe­cific­ally said people shouldn’t copy the pat­tern, but should link to it instead. And that they can use the pat­tern to make art­icles, even for sale, as long as they give me attri­bu­tion for the pat­tern. Most free knit­ting pat­terns con­tain the con­di­tion that the per­son not make the art­icle for sale, but I decided I didn’t object to that. 

From all my read­ing, it’s per­fectly allow­able (note I’m not say­ing any­thing about the mor­al aspects here) to impose such con­di­tions on any­one wish­ing to copy the pat­tern or use it to make a cush­ion. You should not simply assume that because you have per­mis­sion to make a copy of the sweat­er or afghan by fol­low­ing the pat­tern, you also have per­mis­sion to deal with that work in any way, for example by selling what you made. In the knit­ting industry, it’s very com­mon for people to say that the res­ult­ing art­icle may not be sold, and this is basic­ally a con­tract that the knit­ter agrees to in using the pat­tern.

In fact, the industry norm is that items made from any pat­tern that the knit­ter buys or down­loads (even free pat­terns) may only be made for the knit­ter or as gifts. So in the absence of a copy­right notice on the pat­tern, it could be argued that those would be the implied con­di­tions of use. This is not uni­ver­sally accep­ted; here’s the start­ing point to one long dis­cus­sion I read where this point was argued back and forth. I note, how­ever, that even the per­son arguing that the knit­ted art­icles should be able to be sold also argued that cred­it should be given to the design­er.



I am not a law­yer, I don’t know any law­yers per­son­ally who deal with the issue of copy­right in knit­ting, and thus although I have read quite a lot about the sub­ject, any detailed ques­tions you may have should be taken to someone who is prop­erly qual­i­fied. And all of this leg­al stuff does vary with the country/state/province you live in. Most of my read­ing has been based on Cana­dian and US law; the laws in oth­er coun­tries may vary con­sid­er­ably. I do hope that people who know more about the sub­ject than I do will com­ment.