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Old 08-09-2007, 11:38 PM   #20
Ribbing the Cuff
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Originally Posted by bip View Post
My husband is in law school for intellectual property, so I was just talking to him about this issue. He does biosciences stuff, so no copyright issues (which is VERY different from any other type of law), so he is no expert. However, he pointed out that someone likely owns the copyright to the binary pattern, so the designer of the original scarf could have been unknowingly infringing on that. Wouldn't that be a twist?
I highly doubt it. Binary is just 1s and 0s used to represent on/off states - it's a convention, not a design.

(Likewise, the dots and dashes of the Morse code aren't copyright, even though Morse has a lifetime credit in its name. The ACTGs of DNA are also not copyright, just a convention on how to represent the nucleotides.)

In the original question, it's probably best to look at the situation of what is the same versus what has been changed.

The technique? Different. The stitch pattern? Different.

It is a scarf - but no one holds copyright on "the scarf", or we'd all be broke paying the royalties.

So what's the same? The colour? Not really part of the pattern. You can do a derivation in black and amber to look like the other common cga monitor type easily enough. And colour combinations aren't copyrightable either.

So, it comes down to knitting a representation of binary code in a different technique, using different stitches. In my opinion, the idea of knitting binary is just not copyrightable, any more than the idea of knitting a stripe, or an intarsia flower, or adding Fair Isle snowflakes are copyright infringements. Stripes, flowers, snowflakes - and the 1s and 0s of binary - are representations of items that are not themselves copyright.

It would be entirely different if you were copying a design, or a logo that was identifiable and had its own copyright, but you can buy a thousand types of fabric, coffee mugs, t-shirts, posters, etc. all with binary designs (and some with actual binary messages). The idea of the binary 1s and 0s is firmly in the public domain (and the Matrix, apparently).

And the truth is that ideas cannot be copyright, only implementations can. And if the only similarity is that the item uses 1s and 0s, that's just not enough to claim a copyright violation (especially given that binary representations are public domain).

To take this to extremes, what if I were to knit a binary hat, or sweater or afghan? What if I were to change the size of the motifs, or the colour, or the font? All these items would still be knitted, and still use binary - and all could be inspired by the initial scarf - but, IMO, none of them would represent an infringement of copyright.


Last edited by Jacklad : 08-09-2007 at 11:42 PM. Reason: Grammar police.
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