The Bible, not to mention Pete Seeger in "Turn, Turn, Turn," says that "to everything there is a season. a time to be born, and a time to die...a time to weep, and a time to laugh...a time to rend, and a time to sew..."
Or is that a time to sue? Using the Net and e-mail, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hobbyists are sharing copyrighted sewing patterns among themselves, denying profits to the companies that created the designs. Certain cross-stitch pattern entrepreneurs believe these down-loaders had better pay up. As lawyers for rock band Metallica duke it out with Napster, Jim Hedgepath, president of Pegasus Originals, is ready for a legal battle of his own.
It's easy to joke about suing grannies who filch $5 to $8 patterns, but Hedge-path isn't laughing. Pointing out that most nefarious needlepointers are under 55, he says 70 percent of the retail stores that existed 10 years ago are gone. "[Pattern sharing] isn't the [entire] problem, but it's a big part of it," says Hedgepath, who has seen his pattern sales fall 40 percent, or $200,000, in the past three years.
The International Needlework Retailers Guild and the Hobby Industry Association of America have joined Hedgepath and a small band of cross-stitch companies in feeding money into a growing legal fund. Vows Hedgepath, "Some of the people starting these groups and posting these patterns on their Web sites are going to go to jail for it."
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.