One obstacle in designing our kits here at Ray-Way Products is the moral issue. The patterns and instructions are worth far more than the materials, so we are taking a chance that customers might share the patterns and instructions with others, and even go so far as to use them for commercial enterprise. Will our customers exercise integrity in themselves and respect for our work and our products? This kind of integrity is not terribly common in society, and it is not learned much in schools, churches, and certainly not on tv, in movies, and on the internet.But neither is sewing one's own outdoor gear common in society, and Jenny and I like to think we are helping to shift the paradigm somewhat in that regard. These kits do require a shift in morals. Too many customers showing disrespect of our designs by giving our instructions and patterns to their friends would only encourage us to stop selling our kits. In so doing, they would also discourage us from designing new types of kits, and in that regard everyone would lose. After designing our hiking gear for the long trails, many years ago, I described much of it in our books, including rudimentary sewing instructions. But because we were not in a position to make and sell kits back then, I licensed a certain company to produce those designs - big mistake! Then for several years I more or less forgot about the gear. So I think people got the idea that my designs were up for grabs. For example, how many types of backpacks today have my mesh pockets on the front and sides? How many have a drawstring extension closed with my over-strap method? How many shelters now have beaks? I did not necessarily mind all this, because I had no reason to protect my designs. But now that we are selling kits, we will have to discourage people and companies from stealing our design elements. Especially since competitors could use our kits to learn how to improve their products. Some people do not seem to understand what is wrong with someone stealing our designs. Here is something I wrote for my GuestBook a few years ago: "We in our copy-cat society are so used to seeing pirated designs that we hardly take notice - if at all. But the designers among us do take notice. To us, when someone makes commercial use of one of our designs, it feels like. . . well, let me describe it this way: Imagine a farmer laboring for weeks and months preparing a field for crops - plowing, disking and harrowing the soil, working by the sweat of the brow, and then sowing the seeds lovingly, irrigating them with care, and diligently weeding the plot in a protecting way. Imagine the amount of work this entails! Basically the plot represents the farmer's life. It is a manifestation of his energies, an extension of himself. Then imagine that when the crops are ready for harvest, someone slips in by night, cuts the produce - all or in part - and takes it to market to sell. This person also worked hard, for a time, cutting them, taking them to the market, and selling them. But did that work justify the unconscionable actions?" What kind of controls must Jenny and I install for the protection of our kits and the details of their designs? Or could we educate our customers and encourage them to respect our wishes not to share our designs, and so eliminate the need for such controls? This would require a shift in the integrity paradigm. Such a shift might be one small step in the right direction - away from society's general but seemingly inexorable decline. I like to think that, yes, we can take that step, all of us together. Our customers are already shifting the paradigm by making their gear rather than buying it. They are discovering that gear they make themselves is far more meaningful and rewarding, and that their time spent sewing is quality time away from the mindless tv. They are are learning new skills and working with their hands, and so taking themselves to a whole new level in their backpacking, hiking and camping adventures. These are the people who excite and inspire us. And those who respect our wishes by not sharing our designs with their friends, or using them in their companies, are encouraging us to continue.
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