You have all heard it- “My shop on Etsy was shut down for copyright infringement.”
Copyright infringement is serious issue even though tons of people do it. “So what did I do wrong, everyone is selling the same stuff”, I hear this ALL the time! As my mother always used to tell me, “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?” You may be “jumping off the bridge” if you use copyrighted images on ANYTHING you create, whether it is an invitation, a cupcake, a pillow, etc…. UNLESS you have bought the rights to use the images and usually that is not feasible for most people, therefore you will be guilty of copyright infringement.
And yes, I have had things removed from my Etsy shop and found out that ignorance is no excuse. I had NO copyrighted images, BUT, I had “school spirit” papers which were in collegiate school colors and in each set I had ONE sheet that had wording on it- like “Roll Tide”, “Go Tigers”, Go Bulldogs”, you get the picture- NO mascots, NO logos, NOTHING that I thought would be copyright infringement, because I READ all I could find about that before I made them. Guess what, the Collegiate Licensing Company OWNS the words “Roll Tide” and even “Go Tigers”, yes it is STUPID in my opinion that is considered copyright infringement, but it is what it is and I fought them for three months because Etsy is FULL of people selling copyright infringement images of the mascots, logos and everything else- so why was I targeted?
This is why. They don’t come looking for you. Someone on Etsy, YOUR COMPETITION, most likely, turns you in to the company that owns the rights to the images or copyrights. They don’t turn you into Etsy, Etsy doesn’t care, if they did there wouldn’t be one Disney or Pixar or the million other things that are blatant copyright infringement. The companies DO care, but they aren’t pouring over Etsy looking either, because they would have to hire full time people just for that. (I learned all this dealing with the school papers.) Someone HAS to report you to them for them to act on it.
Here is another example: The tractor you see is something I had in my farm clip art set. There are NO logos, no mention of John Deere, NOTHING that I had ANY idea would constitute copyright infringement. I live in the city, I just happened to think all tractors were GREEN! Big mistake, someone with WAYYYY too much time on their hands contacted John Deere and reported my tractor. (If you don’t think people will turn you in for the least little thing, even something as ridiculous as this, think again!) I did not have any mention of John Deere- NOTHING! But guess what, John Deere owns the copyrights to green tractors with yellow wheels- who knew? I just happened to put the yellow on it because I thought it looked good. I had to redo my tractor and make it red- who knows who owns the rights to red tractors- but I changed mine to red. It took me three weeks going back and forth with John Deere, showing them the new tractor, to get them to remove the complaint and for Etsy to allow me to put my farm set back up. And, yes, there are dozens of green tractors with yellow wheels still on Etsy.
Just a couple of weeks ago, one of the members of My Friend Beth had their store shut down for copyright infringement. I know others that have had theirs shut down as well, and a few lucky ones have gotten theirs re-opened, but that is rare. One of my members has a friend that got her Etsy shop taken down because the candy she was making infringed on someone’s copyrights. So if you think this just applies to paper or products like plates, etc…. it doesn’t, it is anything that you make that you use someone else’s images for. She then made an even bigger mistake. She started a new shop under a new name and Etsy found out and not only shut her shop down, but banned her from Etsy altogether. She cannot even SHOP on Etsy anymore. They don’t mess around.
All of that being said, there are ways to use a “theme” without having to worry about copyright infringement. For example, the image on the left above is of my Dr. Seuss inspired digital background papers and the image on the right is an example invitation that I made using my papers, frames and a couple of free Seuss fonts. There is NOTHING that is copyright infringment, but it still gets the point across that it is “Seussical”. You can put anything you want in the wording on your invitation and that is NOT copyright infringement. Be creative, be imaginative or as Dr. Seuss says;
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”
One last thing, even though it could mean your shop being shut down, the MAIN reason you should NOT infringe on other’s copyright is that copyright infringement is illegal, it is just plain wrong, no other way to look at it. I have had my graphics stolen and I can tell you as the creator it is so infuriating and stealing is stealing, no matter what kind of spin you try to put on it. So do the right thing! Don’t use copyrighted images for anything and then not only will you not have to worry about your Etsy shop being shut down or having someone initiate a lawsuit against you for copyright infringement, but most of all, you will be able to have a clear conscience and sleep well at night.