KnitWiki and Creative Commons
By Liz Worth
If you’re a craft enthusiast who’s been hunting around the internet for new crocheting projects and dress patterns, you’ve probably started seeing mention of patterns that are available under a Creative Commons license.
While many of us tend to think of music and literature as copyrighted material that most often needs to be protected from plagiarism and piracy, the online sharing of craft patterns of all kinds has become a nightmare for the needlepoint industry.
In the early 2000s, pattern piracy looked like it had the potential to boil up into messy court battles and corporate hostility much in the same way that music file sharing has. The attention towards resulted in a buzz surrounding e-groups like Pattern Piggies Unite!, which was run by Carla Conry, a mother of six who had created an online community for friends to share patterns with each other instead of dishing out six to seven dollars for one new pattern. But as the media attention swirled around the controversy of programs like Napster, and the music industry began suing its own customers, pattern sharers started getting scared, and groups like Pattern Piggies Unite! voluntarily shut down before facing further criticism.
Since then, Creative Commons licenses have been making it easier for craftsters to find inspiration online and share their favourite projects with each other. The non-profit organization offers a flexible range of protections for artists of all kinds.
When knitting enthusiast Sarah Bradberry started up KnitWiki, “a community-run knitting encyclopedia with patterns, techniques, historical information and a whole lot more,” she implemented Creative Commons to ensure that it stayed a free, but fair, online environment for knitters to share their work.
“If someone uses a pattern from my knitting wiki and changes it, they may share their altered pattern on their own website as long as it is free, they don’t make any money from it, and they properly attribute the original pattern and designer with a link to the original,” Bradberry explains. “This gives them freedom to share their new work while still being fair to the original designer.”
Bradberry says that she’s been fascinated with knitting for as long as she can remember and has been running another site, www.knitting-and.com, since 1996. She says that the benefits to using the internet as a knitting resource is that the information is vast, but that in running Knitting-and.com, she found she was often being contacted by people with additions and corrections to her projects, so she was often editing the website. Another problem was that discussions about the patterns and information she had posted were taking place in other online communities.
By starting KnitWiki, Bradberry saw that wiki technology would allow her to change what she wasn’t satisfied with.
“I wanted the people who read the articles and patterns to be able to start a discussion right there with the information they’re talking about,” she says. “Not only for my own convenience but also so anyone reading the wiki would have the benefit of the knowledge of everyone who has used a pattern rather than just me.”
Bradberry says that, “the Creative Commons licensed knitting wiki was dreamed up by Brenda Dayne of the Cast On podcast at www.cast-on.com.”
Bradberry says that Dayne wanted to see an online resource created where people could go to look up anything they want about knitting and have the information right there but also be able to add to what they were reading.
“I don’t know if my knitting wiki could ever be ‘the’ place to look for information, but I liked the idea of a knitting wiki that can have info added any time of the day or night by anybody,” Bradberry says.
But it’s already looking like KnitWiki is becoming an essential online resource for knitters. It only launched in February of 2007 but has been growing quickly. The vintage and contemporary patterns available are enough to keep even the most avid knitters busy for a while, and at the time of this interview, the site already boasted 120 users and 30 active contributors. Bradberry in no way anticipated that it would grow so quickly.
“I totally underestimated the ‘get stuck in and try it’ attitude of many knitters out there,” she says. “I thought that many would be wary of the software, but I’ve very happily been proven wrong. I’ve had many comments from wiki users saying that they had never edited anything in a wiki before, but they were willing to have a go and there has been no stopping most of them since then.”
Bradberry hopes that in a year’s time, KnitWiki will have established a true “community” feel and that the excitement and interest sees the site evolving with new patterns, ideas, and knitting knowledge.
And one of the best parts is that with the protection of Creative Commons licenses, Bradberry and the KnitWiki community have the freedom to focus on community, not copyright.