Provo Craft & Make The Cut: The Technology Background

As noted earlier today on Scrapbook Update, Provo Craft has filed a lawsuit against software company Make The Cut over an issue that is somewhat new to the scrapbook industry: digital copyright security protection.

One issue seems to be of particular interest to Provo Craft in the lawsuit. Make The Cut recently provided an update that included a new feature they described as “experimental”: cartridge backup. Although Make The Cut indicates that their software doesn’t create a full reproduction of cartridge date, even partial data copies was apparently enough to warrant major attention from Provo Craft’s lawyers. This may explain why Provo Craft has chosen to take action against Make The Cut while seeming to leave alone Craft Edge, the maker of Sure Cuts A Lot software which also allows cutting from a computer with Cricut machines. The Sure Cuts A Lot software doesn’t access Cricut Design Studio or allow the use/copying of cartridge images.

Creating backups via cracked security protection has long been a fought-over issue in the technology world. The issue has been fought about regarding DVD’s, gaming cartridges, and other types of media. Media companies have pretty much always held that it violates their copyrights to create back-ups of the media they sell, or to transfer those media to other formats for use (such as ripping DVD’s to store and watch on your computer). But software, which doesn’t always work but still exists, to crack the copyright protection on DVD’s continues to be distributed via the internet. An exception to this are CD’s, which iTunes even has a built-in feature for importing, because there are usually no copy protections installed on them. (One notable exception: Sony BMG got in a lot of trouble several years back for installing computer-damaging root kits on some of their CDs that caused problems for users who inserted those discs into their Windows computers. They ended up as the subject of a recall, several class action lawsuits and state & federal sanctions.)

The creation and maintenance of closed operating platforms (where a company uses copyright protections and proprietary technology on equipment or systems to control how purchasers may use them) is also a highly controversial issue to many. Apple is (in)famous for doing this with the iPhone to control what applications users may run on their phone. The phone’s lockdown has resulted in a practice called “jailbreaking” where some users hack the phone so that they can install applications other than the officially approved ones sold in the iTunes App Store. The result has been a running battle between Apple and the jailbreakers, where the iPhone is repeatedly secured with a new operating system update, and then hacked again by jailbreakers. The same battle has already started over Apple’s brand new iPad device. (This differs from devices like a personal computer, which is designed as an open system designed to have any compatible software you can get your hands on – or even write yourself – installed on it.)

Provo Craft has in essence created a closed operating system for the Cricut with the secure proprietary software that runs the machines. Only their cartridges can be used in the machines, and only their Design Studio software or Gypsy can be used to access the machines for cutting. Companies like Apple say that a closed system provides a better user experience by eliminating outside errors being brought into a system. Many users agree and like the natural simplicity of a closed system.

So why does Make The Cut (and iPhone jailbreaking) exist? Because some users feel that once they buy something they should have the right to do with it whatever they want. A certain segment of consumers sees the purchase of an item as absolute. It’s a black-and-white philosophy: “I own it, so I should be able to do what I want with it.” These users chafe under limitations of a closed system.

These issues may be new to the scrapbook industry, but they certainly aren’t new to technology. As technology invades the scrapbook industry more, we will see more and more of them.

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14 Responses to Provo Craft & Make The Cut: The Technology Background

  1. Kate April 7, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    I certainly don’t blame Provocraft for doing this, but I don’t understand why they haven’t done their own version of this type of software in the first place. It seems to me that they could have eliminated this problem in the first place – obviously there is a demand for it, or this guy wouldn’t be in business. I own a Cricut for the sole reason that I don’t want to have to fire up my computer each time I want to cut something. I like the ease of plugging in a cartridge and cutting. I don’t think that having software to cut other fonts and shapes would keep me from purchasing cartridges and I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling. Again, that’s the draw of the Cricut for many users. Otherwise, I’d just buy a Silhouette in the first place (well, except for the fact that it’s not Mac compatible).

  2. Nancy Grant April 7, 2010 at 11:58 pm #

    I’m right there with the above commenter, Kate.

    Thank you Nancy for reporting on this issue. It will be interesting to see what happens with the suit and where all this goes.

  3. VickiF April 8, 2010 at 7:41 am #

    It will certainly be interesting to see the outcome of this suit. Considering the very high cost of litigation these days, Provo Craft must see this software as a revenue stealing device. Again, I echo what has been said previously, there must be a demand….seems $$ would be better spent on addressing these issues and making product changes rather than litigating….

  4. Susan / PaperCrafter's Corner April 8, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    Thank you, Nancy, for providing such a clear explanation for the technology issues behind the lawsuit!

  5. Angela - Sew Many Cards April 8, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    I own both SCAL and Make the Cut and only two carts. Although I can see where Provocraft is coming from, I do not agree with the way they handle any of their customer service issues, including these that have to do with SCAL and Makes the Cut. I am in the second group. When I buy and HP computer, you can’t expect me to use only HP products on it. There was a much better way of handling the issue. I do not support PC! I use SCAL and Makes the cut to make everything, every shape, all of it and will continue to do so because it’s easy for me to do so.

  6. LynneF April 8, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    Excellent article and explanation

    MTC crossed the line regarding copyright laws.
    As you pointed out, this is not a new issue with technology and PC has every LEGAL right to protect their product.

  7. Anonymous April 8, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    I have experimented with the program. The backup feature that is in mtc only let’s you backup the images if you have both the cartridge and a licensed version of cricut design studio. I almost wonder if mtc has hurt Provo craft’s sales. I know 3 people who have bought the cricut just because of make the cut, not to mention all the accessories along with the machine. Just knowing that makes it hard to believe that it is hurting Povo Craft.

  8. Jeanne April 8, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    I have purchased more cartridges and Design Studio SINCE I got the Make the Cut. The MTC is much easier to use and I have wondered why PC doesn’t make theirs easier to use. I think MTC is such and enhancement that I’ve cut more with the cricut that I first thought possible. That means I’ve bought more consumables from PC, blades, mats, etc.

    I agree the you must have the cartridge and a licensed version of DS to make all this work. I wouldn’t dream of trading files with friends that came off of a cricut cartridge. I just hope PC would realize how much more people are using and wanting to use the machines since the advent of MTC.

    I personally know people who’ve spent the money for Cricut machines after seeing things I”ve cut using MTC.

    Another good idea would to be hire the originator of MTC to ehance their own program.

    But then American companies are a some of the most litigious in the world.

  9. Lana @ Mz-Cellaneous April 8, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

    PC really needs to make an attempt to give the consumers what they want. They obviously want a system that will allow them to cut their own files. Why not have software that consumers can download and then update annually like Norton or McAfee? Make it cheaper than the competition and watch their consumers flock back to them.

    There are plenty of people out there that use the SCAL, MTC *and* cartridges.

  10. Pina April 9, 2010 at 12:43 am #

    Copyright laws are not common information among many people. The common thought is: if I bought it, I own it, and I can do whatever I want with it. That is why in cases like this, the consumer is not the one being sued but the source of the copyright violation. I don’t have MTC, SCAL or DS. In fact I just bought a Gypsy. From the consumer’s point of view, I’d love to have the “backup” of all the cartridges for a very cheap price. Sure. But if I was in PC’s shoes, I won’t be very happy with anyone cracking my product. The bottom line is: the law is the law. I agree that PC should have listened more to the demands of their customers and did something to satisfy that. But it’s their business and they can do whatever they want with their product that they designed, supported by these copyright laws. I never was a fan of Sony or Apple because of this exclusivity that they have with their products. And because of that, I don’t own a single Sony or Apply product. However, we craft consumers do have choices. If you want to cut anything from your computer including your own designs, why didn’t you buy Pazzles or Wishblade? Let me guess. Because they are definitely more expensive than Cricut. That’s the price you have to pay for not having to buy cartridges to cut shapes. The Cricut machines are a lot cheaper but they do require cartridges which are not really cheap. I guess we can’t just have everything, won’t we? Personally, I chose to buy the Cricut because I didn’t want to go through my computer to cut things. For me, it’s more convenient to cut with the Cricut and its cartridges. It’s all a matter of preference. I am not suprised that MTC got in trouble for this because PC has good grounds on the issue. This is not a about a company giant stepping on a small business. MTC violated the law and that’s it. I do feel bad for MTC and it’s users because MTC seemed to be a really good product with great customer service. I am curious how all this is going to end. Cases like this don’t happen too often in the craft world. We will all just have to wait and see.

  11. Patience April 11, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    YIKES, I’m new to scrapbooking and will not be purchasing any of these machines. I believe that PC has a case – but at the same time is it worth alienating all the MTC/Cricut users? I for one would prefer to just use my own designs and will look into the Gazelle machine.

  12. Loves2Create April 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    It definitely is not an open and shut case. PC, has made legal claims to things that they do not have a right to….

  13. judy April 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    Sorry but I think provocraft is wrong here. They want to tie you to them so they can continue to gouge for their over-priced cartridges. Make the cut and scal let you use the cartridges to the fullest extent! Heck there are machines out there that work with NO CARTS AT ALL. Let’s face it do you really think the images that are on the cartridges someone from provocraft thought up. NO they are everyday images of horses, flowers, flags, children and what not—gleaned from god knows where. Where did provo craft get these images??? They didn’t make them up one by one. They are free images out there we would come across sooner or later on the internet. Well I have a pazzles and can cut any provocraft cricut picture from the internet. maybe provocraft could come out with cheaper software like scal and make the cut too–but then they wouldn’t be able to charge 80 bucks for a crummy 20 images. Catch up with technology provocraft–crafters cant be held hostage to your prices forever. Well this is just my opinion and whether you agree or disagree I am glad I have my pazzle and the freedom of the internet that goes with it for FREE!!!

  14. tabberone April 14, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    Over 130 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that once the owner of a patented machine sells that machine to you, the owner has no legal authority to control what you do with the machine.
    Bloomer v. Millinger, 68 U.S. (1 Wall.) 340, 350, 17 L.Ed. 581 (Supreme Court 1863)

    Absent a written contract, once you buy it it is yours. That is not selfish, that is a fact. If you bought a Ford and then Ford told you that you cannot drive the car over the state line, you would not believe them. PC’s angel Policy is unenforceable and constitutes copyright and patent misuse. I go into detail on this, including court decisions, on my web site.