The Knitting Curmudgeon Flies Off the Handle

My wife, who knits, tipped me off to a lovely little dispute in the world of knitting blogs. It’s been resolved [UPDATE: the original resolution has since been reversed. See below], but since I’ll do just about anything to generate weekend traffic, I thought I’d stir it up again here.

The short version is that a blog called The Knitting Curmudgeon has, for years, used the subhead “Shut Up, I’m Counting”. Last year, another knitter started a blog called “Shut Up, I’m Counting.”

Ms. Curmudgeon found out about this, and very publicly called the newer blogger out — accusing her of copyright violation and threatening legal action. She later admitted to over-reacting, but this would appear to be an understatement. Especially since the US Copyright office has this to say on the issue:

Names, titles, and short phrases or expressions are not subject to copyright protection. Even if a name, title, or short phrase is novel or distinctive or if it lends itself to a play on words, it cannot be protected by copyright. The Copyright Office cannot register claims to exclusive rights in brief combinations of words such as:

  • Names of products or services
  • Names of businesses, organizations, or groups (including the name of a group of performers)
  • Names of pseudonyms of individuals (including pen name or stage name)
  • Titles of works
  • Catchwords, catchphrases, mottoes, slogans, or short advertising expressions
  • Mere listings of ingredients, as in recipes, labels, or formulas. When a recipe or formula is accompanied by explanation or directions, the text directions may be copyrightable, but the recipe or formula itself remains uncopyrightable.

It appears to me that not only was Ms. Curmudgeon way-beyond-justifiably-cranky (she might have at least asked a few questions before accusing a complete stranger of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby) — she was also legally in the wrong.

On the other hand, I never went to law school. So I’m asking — did The Knitting Curmudgeon have any case at all, copyright-wise?

Thoughts? Comments? Bring ’em on!

UPDATE 9/6/08, 2:35pm Pacific: All rights reserved, all wrongs reversed. Miz Curmudgeon has apologized to Miz Shut Up I’m Counting, and has removed her original diatribe from her blog. Miz Shut Up I’m Counting, who had originally agreed to change the name of her blog, has now decided to keep it just the way it was.


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5 thoughts on “The Knitting Curmudgeon Flies Off the Handle

  1. OMG!!!!

    Thank you for looking this stuff up. I am part of the knitting community, and I’ve never seen such a group of wonderful people…and then mention the holy “copyright” word. These people claim copyright on EVERYTHING.

    Did you know that you also can’t copywrite an idea? ♫ Say it Ain’t So ♫ (copywrite voilation, or catchy phrase from a song on RB OR a shameless plug for a band I can’t even remember the name of!!!)

    At any rate, when somebody posts a picture, they can copywrite THAT PICTURE and I can’t cut/copy and paste it and call it my own. However, if I really like the knitted item in the picture and I can figure out how to DO it on my own……..FREE REIGN!!!!!


    That should get you some traffic!

  2. When people use their blogs to embarrass others i feel it is melicious and hateful.Thankyou for defending Cass she is a sweetheart and her blog is always a bright spot in my day:)Hugs Darcy

  3. Thank you, Phil, for the clarification. I felt bad for Cass, she is a ray of sunshine in the blogging community and that other woman was rather sharp tongued (or should I say fingered).

  4. Yup, have to agree with the above. I was so bothered by the tone of the original post that led to this blog-tastrophy. Thank you for posting the official guidelines set for copywrite. I have actually read both blogs for quite a while, though admit to thoroughly enjoying Cass’. We can get very protective when provoked…lol, and yes we carry pointy sticks!