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Copyright Infringement-Why Etsy will Shut your Shop Down

Copyright Infringement

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.

xoxox,

Beth Picard

Great Graphics

207 Comments
  1. We sell a lot of stamps on our site that we do NOT design. These are designed by reputable manufacturers.

    We had a listing taken down because some artist said the images on a stamp were his although our manufacturer purchased a commercial license.

    It is interesting to us that Etsy takes down the listing immediately upon the reporting, sends threatening emails and does not allow the seller to defend their position.

    We did NOT infringe on anyone’s copyright and are in the midst of working with Etsy and the reporter to fix it, but it’s ridiculous that Etsy doesn’t even allow you to provide the information to prove you are innocent before they take down the listing, send threats of shutting down your store permanently, etc.

    I thought in America, we were “Innocent until PROVEN guilty”… but on ETSY your are Guilty until you prove yourself innocent.

    Thanks for your article. I do think for the average seller they make something without even thinking about the fact they could be infringing. In a position like we are in, we represent large well known and reputable manufacturers, who actually purchase commercial licenses, hold copyrights, etc. and to be immediately assumed guilty by Etsy when we have followed the rules is a bit ridiculous.

    We had a huge online presence for several years, but decided to back down a bit so we could get back to enjoying life and using someone else’s ecommerce was just easier then continuing with our own store at the time we made the decision.

    It was hard to close down our biz and just go with a couple sites where we sell, but it’s been a lot better for quality of life (until Etsy decides to be judge/jury without allowing any evidence to be presented – initially anyway)

    • HI Diana,

      It is a shame that you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent in these cases, but I would say that about 99% of the people infringing ARE guilty- just makes it hard on those of us who are honest and wouldn’t do that – at least not knowingly- when you are penalized and have to go through all the mess of proving that you have the rights to use certain things.

      But GOOD FOR YOU, for going the right channels, paying for licensing- YOU are the kind of person that artists want to deal with.

      thanks so much for your comment.

      Beth

  2. Hello Beth,

    Thank you very much for this article. Another Etsy seller took three of my images, cropped a part of them and made a collage using these cropped parts of photos. She than listed this collage in almost every listing in her shop and she has them over 100!! I was wondering is cropping a part of your picture consider to be copyright infringement? I would like to report her to etsy legal but I’m not sure if I have the right to do this since she cropped about half of my photos?
    Thank you very much in advance for your answer.

    • If they are your photos- that you took and own the rights to whether she cropped them or not- you own the copyright to them- and yes you should report them- if she bought them from you- which it doesn’t sound like she did- but if so, and she is using them outside your terms of use- again- they should be reported. You own the copyright to your work from the moment it is created- whether you take photos or create images on your computer, etc…even if you don’t register them, they are still protected as your property. You probably need to be able to show when you took the photos or made the images to prove they are yours- but if you use photoshop- then it has the date on there of when you created something with it.

      Let me know what happens!
      Beth

      • Hello thank you so much for your answer. No I have never sold these images to this person or to any other person. The images are showing my items and they are listed in my etsy shop. I have personally took them with my Nicon camera in my own house :) They were edited in photoshop a little – I had to lighten them a bit since I’m always struggling with getting good daylight to take photos :) So, that is why I was really saddened when I saw that someone just came and took my hard work away from me. Not to mention that she is selling like crazy and I get 0 sales on those images.
        I am stay at home mom and my Etsy shop is my only job that I have and I take it very seriously.
        Thank you very much for your help, your advices are very helpful and I will fill out DMCA notice to Etsy legal right away – I wasn’t sure about the cropping the image, so I wanted to wait for your answer :)
        Again, thank you very much for taking the time to answer to my concerns! I will write you as soon as I receive answer from Etsy.

        Kind regards,
        Tatiana

  3. Hi Beth,

    I’m a student and I like programing games so recently I developed a game on Visual basic ( Programming software) I created a game and used the characters, music, backgrounds of Walt Disney Animated Studio ” Aladdin” I did mention on my youtube channel that the game I have created the characters, music and background images respectively belongs to Walt Disney Animated Studio, so am I still going to be in trouble, I’m really worried now :( . THANKS FROM Adnan, I got the images from Google and music from youtube – would love to get some views from you :)

    • HI Adnan- If you are just using it for fun- I don’t think that is a problem- but if you are charging people to play it- then that is where the problem comes in- you can’t profit off of someone else’s work without compensating them for it. That includes music as well- there are some places that offer royalty free music- but using the Disney images even if you “credit” them is still infringement- and I really only think this applies if you are selling things- if you make people pay to play your game- otherwise I think that is really personal use- but I could even be wrong about that.

      Hope that helps.
      thanks,
      beth

  4. I’d like to use existing images as “go-bys” and have graphic designers change them enough so I won’t infringe on any copyrights. But the tricky part, obviously, is determining what is “enough” of a change. The final images will be used for merchandise such as t-shirts, hats, etc. Thoughts? THANKS

    • HI Tom,

      Since I have no idea what images you mean- it is hard to say- but I think it is better to just do your own original work than use other people’s creations to “go by”. I say this because I have had people use my images that way and they only change it so little that I can hardly tell the difference but for most of the graphics that has happened to it just isn’t worth the time, effort or money to bother with. There are some of my other graphics that I would fight to the death for, just not a lot of the ones I have sold in the past because so many people have them and use them already. The “copycats” make me crazy though- so from that perspective I would say they need to be changed enough to be unrecognizable as someone else’s work- so you might as well just create something original :)
      thanks!

  5. How do you sell something like Wreaths that are absolutely targeted to certain schools like a purple and gold with a sign in it that is from LSU.

    • HI Sue- you have to get licensing from each individual school to do that- otherwise you can and most likely will get in trouble for selling something like that without the licensing rights. The Collegiate Licensing Company oversees a lot of the schools and then some schools handle that themselves- I know LSU is licensed through the CLC- so you can go to their website to find out what is involved in getting licensed. Here is a link to the licensing page https://www.clc.com/Licensing-Info.aspx

      Beth

  6. Have to say this is a great and informative post. I am near opening an Etsy store and have obviously been trying to do my homework on copyrights and infringement before opening up.

    Now I have a question for anyone reading and I understand that no one here is a lawyer and may not know the correct answer but I thought I might get some feedback….

    So the art store I plan on opening on etsy will feature vintage images from postcards, calendars, magazines, etc that I have purchased at antique stores, book store and what have you. On top of this I am cutting out 1-2 characters from comic books such as spider man, iron man, etc etc, you get the idea. I use an exacto knife to get all the small details out so it looks as if the character is really in the original image and not just glued down. What are thought on copyright here?

    My thinking is almost like that of a comic book store. They buy comic books and re sell them for profit. To me, I am doing no different, just altering the comic book before I sell it. Make sense? Now when I see individuals on etsy who are painting Cowboys posters or Thor posters, yeah that seems blatantly wrong because you are creating and image that someone else owns. I am simply taking a comic book, that I paid for, and repurposing it as a different form of art. I could be way off and just lying to myself….

    Thoughts?

    • Hi Ray- I for sure don’t know the answer to this- maybe someone else will- the only thing I can equate it to is when someone buys fabric (some licensed fabrics) they are not allowed to make them into something else to sell- I at least know this to be true for Collegiate licensing- you can’t buy the fabric with the college logos and then make an apron and sell it- those fabrics are for personal use- or at least that is what I was told by the Collegiate Licensing Company. So I don’t know what would happen with what you are doing- hopefully some one will help out.

      thanks and good luck with your Etsy shop!
      beth

      • Thanks for the reply Beth. I’ve seen others on etsy who repurpose pieces of pop art like an old magazine or an old photo for sell. It’s definitely a very grey area…. Like my wife recently bought me an old metal topi Chico sign on eBay, but what if we took the sign, cut out the logo and put it on say a pice of wood and then sold it. Sort of the same concept I guess. To me, I don’t see it as much different from someone buying and selling comic books or art work.

        Anyway, thanks again and hopefully someone can provide a little insight.

        • I hope someone knows the answer and can clue is in on this- I know there are probably a lot of people who would like to know as well.
          thanks again for your comments!
          beth

    • If a comic book store buys a spiderman comic book Stan Lee gets some of that money. Stan Lee will not get any residuals from the money you make. This is my understanding of what you’re saying.

      • Hi Kim- I am sure that is true for the creator- but the people that own the rights to Spiderman- Marvel, whoever that is – own the rights to the usage of the images- so anything past the comic book store selling the actual comic book- I don’t know what the licensing would be for re-usage of the images

  7. Good read! I am thinking of opening up a shop since a few co-workers saw my artwork and said that they’d make great children’s birthday invitations. I would never use copyrighted characters for my designs, but when I did a search on birthday invitations, I saw SO MANY DISNEY characters, I was shocked that they are even able to sell them. I know Disney has a team of people looking for copyright infringement, but it’s not hard to type “Disney invitations” and get tons of search results. I’ve looked at a few shops that had a lot of sales in such a short amount of time and they had “copyrighted” info stating that they do not own the images and are copyrighted to their respected owners, but you are paying for their time and service, and not the image. Made me wonder if that’s a loophole to not get shut down? OR maybe Esty doesn’t care because they’re getting money from the higher volume shops, so unless Disney actually comes to them about it, they turn the other cheek? I tried to search if that was a valid loophole (doesn’t sound like one to me) and came across you here. Do you know anything about it?

    • HI Charina,

      That is not a loophole- and if the Disney people find them, they will have the items removed- as I have said before in some of the comments- Etsy is not really responsible for removing the items- the copyright or trademark holder is- and they have to report each individual item to Etsy to have it removed- that is probably why there are so many- it would take a team of people around the clock to report them all. However, with all the new scrutiny going on with Etsy going public, I imagine the crackdown is coming- from one place or another. If you don’t pay for licensing or don’t own the art work- don’t use it- you will eventually get in trouble- and as I have said before – many times- it is wrong- and just like stealing to use copyrighted or trademarked anything, it is just not the right thing to do.

      thanks for your comment.

  8. great post!! okay…i just got an etsy complaint that said they were going to SHUT ME DOWN on etsy! I was using a common phrase like WORK HARD, PLAY HARD. (not trademarked). but this person used it on her clothing and said it was intellectual property. But she had now trademark on the text WORK HARD PLAY HARD. What are your thoughts on that?

    • Thanks Jonathan! Did you get something directly from Etsy or from a seller? Nobody but Etsy can shut you down, people can threaten to report you and if they can prove they own the trademark to “work hard play hard” then they can complain to Etsy and have items removed that have that on there- but THEY can’t shut you down and if you haven’t ever been contacted by Etsy before it is highly unlikely they would shut you down for your first mistake and that would be an EASY mistake to make.

      I looked up “work hard play hard” and there are a lot of trademarks for that-you have to register the trademark in certain classes- and unless this person has registered it for the classes that have the clothing she is putting it on- then she can’t do anything and if she is telling you it is intellectual property- ummmmm that just sounds fishy to me- you can look at all the trademarks for “work hard play hard” here: http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/search-trademark-database just go to the search and type in “work hard play hard” and you will see them all

      and if she does hold the trademark for clothing and you are doing the saying on something else- and she didn’t pay for that class- then she can’t do anything to you. It sounds like she is just trying to scare you into taking down your items- unless of course you were contacted by Etsy legal- and in that case they would have removed the items- and you shouldn’t put them back up- but if you can prove she doesn’t own the trademark for what you are selling- then I would certainly try to make them see that.

      Again, as I always say, I am not an attorney, but I have trademarked my business name and logo and I had to find out all the classes that I wanted to apply it to- and I have paid a lot to a trademark attorney to get it done- and IF she really has it trademarked- she should have a TM behind it- I just finished the application process- and need to go back and add that to all my logos, etc… and if it has been approved and registered- then she should have the R with the circle around it after it- that is what they tell you to do- so I think I would dig a little deeper and see what you can find out.

      Let me know- thanks for commenting!
      Beth

  9. People aren’t “turning you in” to those companies. Large companies like Disney, Sanrio, John Deere, etc have teams that do regular sweeps of Etsy, Ebay, Amazon, etc…to find infringing items. Its illegal. Im not sure why the John Deere tractor image is so hard to grasp, but thats how copyrights work. If you look at that tractor and it makes you THINK of John Deere, its illegal to profit from its use. Many sellers would do well to research these things before trying to profit from characters or images that someone else created. Be unique and create your own ideas.

    • Hi Mandy- Maybe those companies do “sweeps” but if they did then there wouldn’t be so many infringing items still left on Etsy- and I know for a FACT that people ARE turning people in- because the two instances that I had to deal with the company that contacted me TOLD me that someone had turned me in- and I know dozens of others that have had the same experience. And being an artist I am very aware of how copyrights work- as for the tractor- I live in the city- I don’t see a lot of tractors- and just by CHANCE I happened to make mine green and added yellow wheels because the color are complimentary- NOT because I was thinking of John Deere- I am not sure if I have EVER seen a John Deere tractor- so mistakes do happen- most of what is being discussed on this blog is for outright infringement- people that KNOWINGLY infringe and think there is nothing wrong with it and to inform those who want to know more- it is not about people that mistakenly do something- just like all the people that got in trouble for using the word “Onesie” – until Gerber went on a rampage and everyone found out the word was trademarked- I will bet you nobody knew that- and how would you?? Did you know the word “quatrefoil” is trademarked in regards to jewelry- I bet not- since is an ancient word- but David Yurman trademarked it for jewelry- people have gotten in trouble for that too- NONE of these violations were done knowingly or intentionally –

      Also, if you had read any of the other comments- it is mentioned multiple times about all the Disney stuff and not being able to used “inspired by” etc…and all the other things you mentioned- I appreciate your comments but it seems you are being a little heavy handed- most of the people commenting here are trying to find out what they can and can’t do and maybe everyone isn’t as knowledgeable as you are-

      thanks

  10. Thank you so much for this topic. Once your own work is “stolen” you totally get it. A competitor stole a photo of my work from a magazine. Both the publisher and I tried to get him to take it down to no avail. I didn’t have the resources to hire a lawyer and the magazine was located in the UK. Ten years later I still feel personally violated.

    I am constantly turning down cakes with copyrighted images- thanks Pinterest. If people would understand that the cake you make for your child is not always a design you can sell, the playing field would be far more level.

    • HI Deborah,

      thanks for your comments- you are right- when it happens to you, you have a much better respect for others. And good for you for not doing the copyrighted images on the cakes, even though I am sure you could “get away with it”, but that isn’t the point. So much respect for you!!

      thanks again!!!
      Beth

      • if I buy material from Joann (Disney) is is ok to make dresses and sell them at craft shows?

        • HI Dotty- I don’t know- from what I have “heard” it is not, unless you have licensing yourself- you need to contact a copyright attorney or Disney to find that out. I really can’t say-

          Beth

  11. Hi,
    I found your post when i googled John Deere copyright. Today I had my nursery tractors removed from my store. Yes they are green and yellow and two of them say John Deere. It made me mad …but I guess the occasional sale makes it not worth beeing shut down. I did some research and saw in one article explaining that they own the logo and the name but not the yellow green colors which is confusing. None of my pictures are even real john Deeres, I just made a green version of my other non-brand name tractors that I was selling pior to these.

    • Hi Theresa,

      Here is what I got directly from John Deere- and they do own the copyright to the colors green and yellow on tractors- as mentioned here- I did not have a single mention of John Deere, nor did I have the logo- simply a green tractor with yellow wheels- and I had to change it- I bolded the part about the colors

      “from Suzanne Eagle, Senior Attorney for Deere & Company. The notice said that Deere & Company is the trademark owner of John Deere, the leaping deer logo and the colors of green vehicle body and yellow wheels and/or yellow stripe and/or yellow seat on tractors; Reg. No.’s 2586334 for “John Deere”, 2997174 for “Leaping Deer logo”, 3877114 for “Color Combination” of green vehicle body and yellow stripe, 3857088 for “Color Combination” of green vehicle body and yellow wheels and 3132124 for “Color Combination” of green vehicle body and yellow seat, and has copyright in the leaping deer design.”

      So I would say be careful- green tractor- fine- but not with yellow- just sayin’
      Beth

      • I just found this post today after I received an e-mail saying I had a complaint and one of my listings had been deactivated. I was shocked to say the least I had no idea I did anything wrong. I made a baby baseball hat that I sewed a patch on that I had bought from another online store, no idea that was a violation. I had other hats with patches that I deactivated myself because now i know but I have other items that are inspired by other things and I don’t know if they are violations or not. For example I have a basket that was inspired by woody from toy story. It’s just like woodys shirt, vest and blue pants belt buckle and a sheriff’s star so it doesn’t exactly look like him it’s just clothing colors, if that makes since. Would that be a violation as well? I don’t want to infringe on anyone’s copy rights. Or I have a basket that has Kansas city chiefs colors but no logo or anything is that a violation if I say it’s kc inspired?

        Now that I know I want to do the right thing but I’m just confused as to what that is. Also you mentioned that you had the complaint removed how did you do that and will it effect my shop now that I have that complaint on there?

        Any help would be great. Thanks so much for posting this it’s been educational.

        • HI Deborah,

          As I have said before, I am not a copyright attorney- so I don’t know the answers to all of these things- I think there are different rights for things you buy that you can turn around and make into something else- I think you would have to check with the company to find out what their licensing agreements are for usage. As for the basket- I just don’t know- but I do know you can’t say “xyz inspired” that does not make it okay- that is still using their name, trademark, whatever to describe the item- so you can’t say the team name in your description- you are basically still using them for financial gain – at least this is my understanding from some of the companies I have talked to and the Collegiate Licensing Company says the same thing.

          As for removing the complaint, I simply emailed the company back, apologized, showed them what I had changed and asked if they wouldn’t mind removing the complaint with Etsy and they were very nice to do. I know some people have asked other companies and gotten no response- so I guess it depends on who it is.

          You were smart to remove other items you have in question and get the things fixed on your shop. I hope this helps a little.
          Beth

        • You absolutely cannot sell any Disney related items. You can’t use Disney characters in your titles, descriptions, tags, pictures…NO where on your listing. You also can’t use a “likeness” or say “inspired by” Neither of these get you off the hook for infringement. If you have a pair of black mouse ears even, even if you dont call them Mickey or Minnie ears, even if you make absolutely no mention of Disney or its characters names, it’s still illegal to profit from it if you have created a new item with it. The only time it is legal to sell Disney items, is if they are 100% unaltered and you are reselling. You wouldn’t want someone profiting from a character you came up with on your own, so you can’t expect a large company with very deep pockets to take that theft lying down.

      • John Deere does not own the colors green and yellow, they own the design. You can not paint anything that resembles their product. It is possible for any company to “own” a color. They passed a law that stated no company can own a color.

        • Hi Judy- I don’t think I said they owned the colors green and yellow- I said the have trademarked the color green for tractors and yellow wheels- so any image of tractor that is green with yellow wheels that is not a John Deere tractor would be trademark/copyright violation. And I have to also disagree with you – Tiffany & Co. owns Tiffany Blue- the color. Unless that law is something very recent- I checked into that last year sometime when people were getting in trouble for having the words “tiffany blue” on their shops.

          thanks for you comments.
          Beth

  12. I am creating a crochet pattern from a character in a movie. I want to be able to sell the pattern. Is that legal? Ple ase advise.

    • HI Melissa,

      I am not a copyright attorney- so I don’t know – but my first reaction would be no, if it is from a character in a movie, it would be copyrighted so creating anything to sell without paying royalties would be copyright infringement. You should contact the company that owns the rights to the character and ask them-

  13. I have reason to believe someone is copyrighting on a few companies. For instance they took a coffee tumbler, used a white and green background and put the head of a Frozen character on each glass. They advertised it as saying it was “Frozen inspired” and feel that is a disclaimer for not being a copyright.

    • Hi Ann Marie,

      You are 100% correct they are infringing on Disney’s copyright especially if they are using the actual images from Disney of the characters. But even if they are just using “Frozen inspired” Disney owns the copyright to “Frozen” in reference to anything to do with the movie- and saying “inspired” does not mean it is still not infringing- and I know some people that had their Etsy shops shut down for having “inspired” copyrighted images- they don’t care- so you are exactly right!

      thanks for your comment.
      beth

  14. Hello there!

    Long story short, my Etsy.com shop was shut down due to a few shipping issues with clients. I custom restore and rehab vintage furniture and do professional upholstery. While we are not new in our trade, we are beginners at shipping large furniture and have had some issues with clients and damaged goods during shipment. Although we have made good on all issues with clients and cases – Etsy.com has shut down my store for good. This is my ONLY source of income and although my store is on various other online markeplace platforms, 80% of my business comes from Etsy.com
    I have tried using other personal information of my assistant and husband (last names and credit cards, etc are all different) however Etsy.com seems to know that these new shops I am attempting to create are somehow linked to my old shop – although ALL of the information is different. Even used different computers as to be assured they weren’t tracking the IP address. Anyone had this issue and were you able to create a new shop? My business is going under every second I am not live on Etsy.com!!! Thank you.

    • HI Briel,

      I am so sorry to hear about that. I honestly have no idea what to tell you- this is so different from anything I have heard anything about that I just don’t know what to say. I do know if you do try to reopen under another name using someone else’s ID- etc…if they find out (which it seems they usually do) they will not just shut you down but ban you from etsy forever- you won’t even be able to get on and look to see anything.

      I wish I could be more helpful, but I honestly have no idea- unless you contact them and see what they say since you have rectified all your shipping issues to see if they will reopen your shop- that is all I know to suggest you do.

      Good luck, I hope you can get them to reopen it.
      Beth

    • Briel…if you got so far as to create listings in a new shop using the info for these other people, my guess would be they were able to match those items to the listings in your shop via Google’s image search, or who knows, with all the investment cash Etsy has, they might even be able to do it from their own database.

      If you didn’t get that far, it’s hard to say, but there may have been clues other clues they were able to figure it out by. Thing is on the internet, people give themselves away in all manner of ways they may not be aware of, but others will pick up on immediately.

      I once sent a convo to a seller regarding something I bought that wasn’t as described, faux pearls that were sold as glass, but under the coating they were some kind of hard plastic. Never heard back from her and it wasn’t worth the trouble to pursue it. For some reason, she closed her shop not long after that, but within months I was doing a search on Etsy and came across a shop that had a different name and many other details were different, but it didn’t take me long to realize it was the the very same person. Needless to say I never bought anything from her again.

      • Thanks so much for your responses and suggestions. I think I may have turned a negative into a positive with this concern.

        Introducing……

        http://www.forgetsy.com

        Artists, Designers, DIY’ers, Online Businesses and Entrepreneurs Unite!

        Forgetsy.com is a blog that helps foster ecommerce growth, values, business marketing and sales tactics and information to help online businesses grow and succeed!!!

        Follow us and start sharing your stories, concerns, craft, and successes!

        • HI Briel- AWESOME! I just went to your site and GOOD FOR YOU! I imagine you will help so many people see that losing their Etsy shop is not the END! But very well could be a new beginning. How wonderful that you took a negative and TRULY turned it into a positive. I hope everyone that has posted a comment here will find their way to you!

          Thanks for letting me know what you are up to!
          beth

    • You can try starting fresh with a new shop provider. Artfire.com is similar to Etsy as in it provides an online storefront for people to sell their vintage and handmade items.

      • HI Lyra,

        I am not sure who this is in reference to – my shop was never shut down on Etsy- that is just the title of the blog post- I appreciate the idea of Artfire- I was on AF years ago with my graphics business in addition to Etsy- I just didn’t have the time to do both and a website since the sales on AF were about 1/10th of what my Etsy sales were- but maybe things have changed and this would be a viable alternative for those who have had their Etsy shops shut down.
        thanks!

  15. Hi! So glad I found this, there is so much information to consider before opening a shop. I have a question: I hand-painted some coffee mugs as Christmas gifts this year and everyone tells me that i should open a shop…what I’m wondering about (copyright-wise) are quotes. Books, movies, popular memes whichever- what are the rules for copyright if I do just a favorite line/sentence? I know that some books are considered “public domain” such as the classics (I wouldn’t think there would be an issue using quotes from these) but what about more current books (or movies/memes)? Would it make a difference if I did or didn’t source the quote in the listing? I’m new to this and technically I haven’t really even started so I definitely want to make sure to research before I go “all in” and open a shop. Thank you so much for all of your input so far AND in advance for taking the time to read this :)

    • HI Kimberly,

      I really don’t know the answer- I think to be safe you need to research the copyrights on the quotes and things- I know a lot of “quotes” are now copyrighted because so many people take them from movies and try to make money from them- best thing I can say is google “the quote and copyright” and see what comes up- better safe than sorry!

      Good luck with your your shop it sounds wonderful- and you are smart to research it all before going “all in”, because no reason to do all that work and then have it shut down.

      Thanks!!
      Beth

    • Hi Kimberly- Short phrases alone are not copyrightable, only images. A short phrase needs to be trademarked, much more expensive & difficult to do.

      You can search for trademarked phrases (and images) here: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=4802:kjt375.1.1

      You can find out when copyrights expire here: http://inventors.about.com/od/copyrights/a/expiration.htm
      As for quoting the classics, anything published before 1923 is now in public domain. Hello Plato coffee mug!

      As for Etsy shutting down your shop? I would strongly suggest investing in a stand alone website now, just in case it happens. They don’t even have to give you a reason to shut you down. If it’s your livelyhood, be safe & mirror all your listings on your own site. I find Indiemade.com is great, helpful & cheap! Also, why spend time & money promoting your Etsy shop, just to send your customers to 10,000 other sellers? Send them to you own shop!

      Hope that helps.
      Spoon

      • Hi Spoon,

        THANKS for the great links and info- and I have said in the comments on here EXACTLY what you said about getting your own website. If you sell on any site like Etsy, Artfire, Zibbet, or places like that you absolutely should have your own site- because you have no control over anything on those sites and they can shut you down and not even give you a reason- just like Spoon said.

        Thanks so much for your great comments!
        Beth

  16. Hi, Beth. Wow, great content and information, thanks from all. I will be starting a first-time business of my own next year with the emphasis on clay pots (painting, stenciling, etc.) with NO brand-name items on any of them. As I have been doing research on sites like Pinterest for one, there are so many designs on that site for clay pots. My question is that if my design is similar to a holiday, like Christmas for instance with a snowflake and someone else has a snowflake on their clay pot, is that considered copyright if I do a clay pot with a snowflake also or a candy cane, etc.? Thanks for your time and response.

    • HI Debra,

      I am glad you liked the article! I am pretty sure you are safe to do snowflakes and candy canes, as I don’t believe anyone can copyright either of those- or anything else that is that broad- like holly or Santa, or reindeer, etc… Just be sure to make your own designs- and if you get “inspiration” from another artist, just make sure yours is very different from theirs- that is where you could run into trouble.

      I hope that helps a bit and good luck with your new shop!
      thanks,
      Beth

  17. Wow, great article, and reading all the comments it’s amazing what some people don’t realize about copyrighted stuff. I’m beginning to do some research on suitable platforms to sell my jewellery and I’m well aware of the muddy dangers of copyright infringement.

    Thankfully my designs are pretty unique (I know everyone says that! lol), but I’ve gone through tons of pages and sites looking at what everyone else is making, so I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of the market. And actually, that research has informed my designs, by making them more and more individual, sourcing hard to find components, and designing and hand making from scratch the main elements. Fingersxx

    What I’ve noticed from many of these horror stories is that the design of the products share a certain japanese pop, indie punk, kawaii look. Unfortunately, this style of design often uses elements of pop culture – hello kitty, disney, mario bros etc which is prevalent in the east. So, it’s no wonder they are getting flagged (by other competitors!).

    When I sell something with a brand name on Ebay, and I put that in the title, before I press the listing button, it immediately puts up a warning about counterfeiting. Shouldn’t Etsy do the same with copyright? It sounds so obvious and would save a lot of time, money and heartache!

    Oh, and if you think it doesn’t apply to big business: Topshop stole, yes STOLE a print design from a student and used it on one of their mens jumpers. It was blatantly a copy of the design, and they didn’t even change it enough to get away with it. They thought they could, until it was recognized by a friend who flagged them! This happened to my jewellery teacher too, with NEXT stealing her design after they brought her in to design for the company. They just took it, mass produced it without permission. She was accordingly compensated.

    It goes both ways:)

    • HI Gabby,

      Thanks for your comments and you are right it does work both ways! Unfortunately big companies do steal artwork from small artists hoping they will never get caught. I know someone who’s art was stolen by Urban Outfitters and another by Anthropologie, at least they cease and desist once they are caught but it is SO WRONG!!! AMAZING!!

      And you Etsy should have something like Ebay, that would take care of a lot of the people using copyrighted names, terms, etc…

      Thank you so much for your comments they are GREAT!!
      Beth

  18. On Etsy alone there are over 225,000 listing for Disney items. Over 28,000 Hello Kitty items. Over 49,000 sports team listings and the list goes on and on….. Do you really believe for a second that these companies are going to go after the little guy/girl who sells a $5.00 cup with a hello Kitty logo on it? They’d be out of business if they did (large companies). Is it right to steal their logos no, but millions of people are doing just that. If it’s on the net it’s going to be copied by someone somewhere, you can count on that! I sell my designer patterns on Etsy and I’m not stupid enough to believe that there isn’t someone out there stealing my patterns, but will I sue them? NO! Not even if I was a billionaire!! Why? Because it cost to much dame money to sue and my $10.00 pattern isn’t worth the money (or the headaches) I will have to spend to pursue a lawsuit!!

    • Hi Connie,

      YES, they will go after them because if they don’t they can lose the copyright to their art, or whatever. They don’t generally sue a small business owner, they send a cease and desist letter and if the person doesn’t quit selling their copyrighted designs, then yes, they will sue, and they do. They don’t have a choice. The way copyrights work is that if you don’t actively protect your copyright, you stand to lose it. If you are informed that someone is using your copyrighted work without your permission you have to act on it or stand to lose your claim to that copyright. Will Disney spend the money and manpower to have people working all day to chase down people on Etsy? probably not, but if someone turns someone into them they HAVE to act on it. That is why so many people have had their Etsy shops shut down. No, I don’t believe Disney goes actively looking on Etsy because they KNOW it is there, but unless they are informed of a specific item or items, they really don’t have to do anything about it.

      As for going after someone who steals your stuff, I have to disagree with you, I wouldn’t have thought I would go to the time and expense either until I saw some of my graphics that someone had stolen- not even bought- just totally ripped off, they removed the watermark and were selling pillows with my graphics on them on One King’s Lane and had sold about $3500 worth. I didn’t have to sue, but I did have to pay an attorney to send a cease and desist letter. Maybe you wouldn’t get worked up over someone selling your pattern once or twice, but I bet if they were selling hundreds of them you would think differently.

      And I have heard that Disney is actually cracking down on Etsy sellers, they could probably never catch up because as soon as they shut one of them down, another pops up. But all of this really isn’t what this whole post was about- it was about the fact that STEALING and USING other people’s copyrighted work is against the law!

      thanks for your comment.
      Beth

      • Beth, I could be mistaken, but I do believe that some of the large companies such as Disney do have staff that search the large sites such as Etsy, in addition to following up on reports they receive, as you stated. At least that’s what I’ve read, and with all the infringement out there, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

        Not sure about the requirement to defend a copyright or lose it, but that is true of a trademark, and most of what is seen out there is actually trademark infringement, I believe, rather than copyright (both of which are illegal, as well as just plain wrong.) Which is another reason it would be possible and makes sense that the large companies who can afford to would hire staff to be looking for it. Still like playing whack-a-mole, though. lol

        • HI MickeyJo,

          When I talked with the Collegiate Licensing Company they told me that they acted on reports they got of violators- and the people they actively pursued were people selling in much larger quantities (wholesale, etc…) than individual sellers on Etsy- but they HAD to act on that if they got a report about it on Etsy, when I told them there were over 100,000 alabama items on Etsy using mascots, licensed art, etc…she said they simply didn’t have time to go through all of the listings- I don’t know about Disney, and other companies- I am sure there are some that actively pursue that- like Gerber did for awhile with the whole “onesie” thing- but it truly is like whack-a-mole!!

          As far as defending your copyright – it is the same as a trademark- when someone stole my art and were selling pillows using it- I hired a copyright/trademark attorney and if I had not pursued it then I would lose the rights to those images- so it is the same for both.

          thanks for your comments!

          • Agreed that many organizations out there simply don’t have the resources to track these things themselves. In the case of corporations such as Disney or Sanrio, and the like, who are some of the most infringed upon, it’s probably worth their while to actively monitor.

            I did suspect that defending one’s copyright might be the same as a trademark, but as I mentioned, most of what we see on sites like Etsy is primarily trademark infringement.

            I do often refer people to this particular article on your blog when the topic arises. And you’re right about when in doubt, if there’s any question in one’s mind, it’s just best to steer clear.

            Another great site dealing with this issue is:
            http://youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com/blog3/

            Thanks for the great blog, including the Photoshop tutorials. I’ve worked with it quite a bit, teaching myself, but those filled in some missing pieces for me very nicely. Much appreciated.

            • Thanks MickeyJo,

              Glad you enjoyed the tutorials! and that is a great blog, although so disconcerting that so many larger companies steal artist’s work- so sad- thanks for sharing that.
              And again, thanks for all your wonderful comments.
              Beth

  19. Etsy is going completely off the rails right now. I received a takedown notice thst I was in violation of another seller’s copyright for folded stars from aluminum cans. I have been making these for a few years and went through several iterations before settling on my current process. The other shop simply had to “affirm” that they hold a copyright for a folded star and that was enough to deactivate my listings. Now I am working through counter notices and have submitted photos of my entire process, but etsy has gone completely silent. You are basically guilty until proven innocent? I have requested, from both the seller and etsy on multiple occasions, to allow access to this supposed copyrighted process to see where any similarities exist but neither will provide.
    So at this point I am left in a limbo. Is it generally acceptable in the etsy world to make blind accusations and not have to provide any actual facts?

    • I am so sorry this happened to you- and it sounds incredibly WRONG to me! first of all, I don’t think you can “copyright” an artistic process- that would be like saying because one person decided to fold book pages to make art, that no one else can do that- and clearly that is not the case. Or if someone decided to carve stars in a piece of wood that no one else could carve stars in wood. That just makes NO sense to me. I “thought” that whoever reported someone to Etsy had to PROVE they owned the copyright before they would take action. I think the person who claims to have the copyright should absolutely have to show you that they do indeed own the copyright, but again, I just don’t see how someone can own a copyright to something like this. I could be very wrong, and would love to find out more about this.

      I really think you should consider contacting an attorney and seeing what you can find out about this. A copyright attorney could do a search for you and it might not be that expensive. As for Etsy answering you, they won’t, they leave it all between you and the other party, just the way they work, I would’t contact them further, you don’t want to antagonize them.

      I would love to know what you find out, but I wouldn’t give up the fight without some proof from the person saying they own the copyright to this.
      Thanks for your comment, I hope you get this straightened out and can put your things back up.

      Beth

      • Beth, I believe that is the way Etsy is required by the law to operate, not just the way they choose to. I’m not an attorney, but again, from all I’ve read on this subject, which has been a lot, Etsy (or any other similar site) is actually required by law to remove the listing, provide the info on the claim to the seller and then step out of the process. The seller is required to work it out with the person who files the claim.

        If you think about it, why would these sites even need to entangle themselves in the process? They don’t legally represent either party in this situation, only themselves. They have safe harbor protection by law in these cases, which they would jeopardize if they didn’t act exactly as the law prescribes.

        I do agree that the above situation Ron describes doesn’t sound right. An artist is granted copyright protection on a work immediately without having to register it, though in some cases it may be a good idea to do it.

        However it’s my understanding that a design and its process would be covered under a patent, which one of these parties would have to apply for and win (not an inexpensive or easy process), and they are usually only granted for something very unique. And it matters not if the person who actually invented it applies for the patent first or the next person does; it’s whoever gets there first. Just look up the story of Elisha Gray, Alexander Graham Bell and the patent for the telephone.

        • Hi MickeyJo,

          You are correct about Etsy being required to remove the listing- somewhere in this thread I mentioned that- once they are contacted by a company that is being infringed upon- they MUST remove the items or they will be held liable- and once that takes place the entire process is then between the seller and the company- Etsy has nothing to do with it. I know for a fact this is how it works because when I had my cute little green tractor with the yellow wheels (no logos, no mention of John Deere)- but John Deere OWNS green tractors with yellow wheels- I had to spend a week back and forth with them until I sent them a new image of my RED tractor- so that I could get them to remove the complaint and I could relist my farm graphics. so everything you say about that is absolutely true.

          As for patents, trademarks, etc…. I really don’t know much other than about copyrighting art- and it is best to register each piece of art- but since I have over 40,000 graphics- and it costs $35 per image- it is not really feasible for me to do that- so I register only ones that are really unique and important to me. And the only difference that REALLY make is in your ability to collect damages- for instance in Alabama if someone infringes on my copyright- whether is it registered or not- I am entitled to 100% of whatever they have sold using those images- however, if the art is registered- I am entitled to treble damages- triple the amount of what they have sold- and I know the laws are different in each state- but that is how it works in Alabama-

          thanks for all your great comments!
          Beth

  20. Wow! I think I enjoyed the comments as much as the article. Timely too as copyright and the internet are huge topics. I want to bring another perspective … In the comments someone mentioned lyrics. And on Etsy I see pictures of artists and bands and lyrics on shirts, pillows, wall art, etc. It’s one thing to create fan art. Artists love fan art. It’s another to sell it without permission. Granted I am not well known enough to have this problem, but most artists don’t actually make much money. That indie band you love may be sleeping on fan’s sofas when first touring. And often those lyrics you love were written by some other music writer that rarely gets credited properly in second hand reference. Those stolen words and images are taking money away from the artist, their writer (of not one and the same), the label (if they have one), and anyone else depending on merchandise sales of the touring band. We create or pay for our album art. We write and create lyrics and music. We try to earn enough money from it to keep creating.

    Granted many of the bands and artists featured in these shops are not the smaller artists like myself, but if you can convince yourself that it’s okay to steal from them, you start to lower the limit. And as Beth said… It is never okay to steal that material. It devalues us as creators.

    This also is making me reevaluate how I shop on Etsy. Looking for permissions and licenses attached to the merchandise I am buying. We often assume the image was legally acquired. We as consumers should be smart about buying too.

    Thank you for this article Beth!

    • SARAH!!!! THANK YOU!!! I really appreciate you taking the time to write a comment on here from the OTHER perspective, since I feel like I am beating a dead horse most of the time saying “If you didn’t create it or you don’t have the RIGHTS to use it- then you shouldn’t”, because I think it just sounds like ME, as an artist, complaining.

      I KNOW how you feel when you see your lyrics or anything that is your copyrighted material being used without your permission. I want to cry, then I get mad and want to go after them with everything I have, it is just so WRONG and I don’t understand what people can’t understand about that.

      As I have said umpteen times in this post, it doesn’t matter if it is Disney, Pixar, your favorite author, Maroon 5, Picasso or people like you and me- if you don’t have the right to use it and you do, it is AGAINST THE LAW! It is stealing just as much as if you walked in a store and shoplifted, it truly is the SAME thing. I guess it is just because the internet is so big, that people hope they won’t get caught, and THAT makes me madder than anything. Right is right and wrong is wrong- no matter HOW big the artist, the company, the singer, the writer, if you use something that doesn’t belong to you, it is NOT RIGHT!

      And I LOVE that you are taking on the responsibility as a buyer to look at things you buy with a different eye. If all buyers would do that, then all the people selling things that they aren’t licensed to sell or didn’t create themselves would be out of business, as they should be. I get so tired of hearing people say they can’t sell anything if they don’t use copyrighted images, etc….that is SO UNTRUE. I see tons of VERY successful people selling original creations that they have either designed themselves or using images they have the RIGHTS to use, like people that buy my graphics. I am PROOF positive you can sell plenty of original creations- I have sold over 17,000 sets of my graphics on Etsy and ALL of them are ORIGINAL! And I know a ton of my customers have even more sales than I do using things that are NOT copyrighted.

      And the other side of that is for people like me that do sell things that are licensed and have PAID for the licensing, jump through the hoops (like my sorority stuff), and then you see hundreds of people selling them WITHOUT the licensing and they are keeping ALL the money, while I am paying royalties to the people that own the rights, it is infuriating!

      Lastly, (and I will get off my rant), as far as the argument that “everyone else is doing it” goes- I guess the best answer is what my mother always told me; “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?” And I hated that then, but I REALLY get it now!

      THANK YOU again, for speaking up and for sharing and for letting people know from another perspective how much this really does hurt artists, in any genre.
      xoxo,
      Beth

      • Couldn’t agree more. It is hurtful to see your work stolen. I was working on what I thought was a free project with a fellow musician one day only to find out he put my vocal on disc and was selling it. He realized the issue and gave me rights to sell the digital copy but by that time I was crushed. I am now clear up front on projects. I also carefully review terms and conditions when I use a new synthesizer sound in my music that it be cleared for use in recording and distributing. I pay for the license of that sound. I pay for my equipment, my piano tunings, my software, my website, my vocal care, etc. And my time is worth something as well. It costs me money to produce music! Sometimes more than I want to think about.

        I think, if anything, people need to realize that it costs any artist to produce art (from your favorite character to a song). Time and money. It costs a photographer. It costs a painter. It costs a sculptor. It costs a jewelry designer. It costs a script writer. Original art costs money. And if we want to continue to see more original art of quality, we need to assign proper value.

        Much love! Thanks again!

        • Oh Sarah!! THAT is something I have never touched on!! and BRILLIANT!! YES, it costs MONEY- usually LOTS of money to produce art. I know I have spent THOUSANDS of dollars not only on paint, markers, paper, etc….but on software to convert it to sell- LOTS and LOTS of money!!! And I am sure you spend even more on all the equipment and things you need to make your music! Maybe if people would realize THAT part, then they might value the art- whatever kind of art it is, much more.

          When I first started selling my graphics on Etsy I was appalled at the prices, but I succumbed (to a degree) and sold mine at the same sort of prices that everyone else was doing. It is ridiculous when I think of all the money I spend for supplies how cheaply I sell the graphics, not to mention the time involved. The only saving grace is that I can sell them over and over again. And speaking of value, my favorite- is when someone asks if they can just buy ONE graphic out of a set of 10, 15 or 20 which is being sold for $5- WHAT price do they think I would sell it for? 50 cents?? Then I can pay the Etsy fees, the PayPal or the credit card fees and then pay to repost for 20 cents- let’s see- I just LOST money! I do think a lot of the problem is that people don’t value what a lot of artists do and feel entitled to get what they want for free or for little or nothing, but I don’t even need to get started on that!!

          You are the BEST! Thank you again for all your wisdom and insight and your point of view- I hope EVERYONE reads your comments!
          xoxox,
          Beth

  21. I make stuff using old book page from books that are falling apart but still have some decent pages.

    Would I be able to list what book it has come from in the title, description and in the tags? Also, is is even okay to create something from book pages?

    I did some research on that and it seems to be a very grey and fuzzy area. Would love some more insight on it.

    • HI Victoria,

      I don’t think there is a problem with using the pages to make new things- like gift tags or decoupaging something- I don’t know about using the title of the book in your descriptions- that might not be okay to do- I just don’t know the answer to that- I would probably steer clear of doing that just to be safe.

      Wish I had a better answer, but I just don’t know.
      thanks,
      Beth

  22. Hi there.I sell inspired lord of the rings ‘one ring’ for more than one year and didn’t know that there will be copyrights issue as there are tons of people doing the same. I just received this morning a message from a etsy account claimed to be from warner bros to remove it or they will report me. I don’t know whether the account is real or some tactics by other competitors. It looks legit with phone number and all though. If it is real,why am I the only one and why the sudden? I checked the account that sent me the legal message. It has been there since 2012.

    • It doesn’t matter that there are tons of people selling the same thing- anything using “Lord of the Rings” is going to be copyrighted. And if you got a message from Etsy legal and it had an email from Warner Brothers- I am betting it is legitimate- and the reason they contacted you, as I have written numerous times in the replies on here- someone turned you in to Warner Brothers- who in turn MUST protect their copyright and they contact Etsy- who MUST take action against copyright infringers or they will get in trouble. I know tons of people who have gotten in trouble and even had their shops shut down for using Disney, Hello Kitty, all sorts of copyrighted stuff- but if you type either of those things in on Etsy you will see thousands who are still doing it.

      I would make sure you take everything with “Lord of the Rings” in it off you site- and not put any of that back up- or risk having your shop shut down- it’s just not worth it and if it is copyrighted, then it’s wrong to do anyway.

      • Hi there. Thank you for the info! Etsy didn’t inform me, it is sent by some user account by the name warnerbros.legal. They told me to take it down if not they will report my listing to etsy and face action taken by etsy against me. Hence, I am unsure whether is it real or some stunts pulled by other competitors. Since there are still many out there selling similar items.

        • My best advice is this: If you are using “Lord of the Rings” to describe anything, then I would assume that is copyrighted and whether it is actually from Warner Brothers or not- you should change the description or take it down. It sounds like it is legit- and you don’t know whether they have contacted anyone else or not- I have heard that a lot of the big companies are cracking down on copyright infringement on Etsy- so I would go under the assumption that it is them and I would just do what they say- and one of your competitors probably turned you in to them- and they were nice to contact you FIRST before going to Etsy- because you never know what action Etsy may take. I just wouldn’t take the chance and like I have said before, if it is copyrighted words, images, whatever- then it is NOT yours to use unless you have paid for the rights to use it.

  23. So my question is…
    If I make a necklace (1″ magnet) with snowflakes and the words Let It Go that is trademark infringement? They have 3 words trademarked? I’m just curious.

    • HI Nikki,

      I don’t know if Disney has that trademarked or not- you would just have to do some research on that- and yes, people and companies can trademark words- and especially when they are paired with other things- I just don’t know- you would have to look into all of that.

      thanks,
      Beht

  24. So glad a came across this. Lots of great information on a very confusing subject. Just started my Etsy store with wedding and home deocor silk floral, but want to add other items such as signs with quotes,sayings, scripture, and stenciled, re-purposed furniture, etc. Was wondering about stencils. If you purchase a stencil design or lettering at a craft store can you use them on items you re-sell? Is there anyway to find out if a quote is copyrighted? What about using scrapbook paper for decoupaged items? Are scrapbook paper designs copyrighted?

    • HI Karen,

      I honestly don’t know the answers to all of your questions. I think in most scrapbooking sets you buy it tells you what you can and can’t use them for, or you could check with the company that makes them. The same for stencils- I would see if I could find out that info on their sites or call them just to be sure. Scrapbook designs are probably all copyrighted but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use them to make other things like you are talking about- I would just check with the company.

      I know some quotes and sayings are copyrighted- I guess just google that and try to find out.

      Wish I could be more helpful, but I just don’t know for sure to tell you.
      thanks,
      Beth

  25. Great article!!

    I make hair bows, what about if I make an orange and blue bow with a football resin in the middle? Is that OK?

    • Thanks Amanda,

      As long as you don’t say War Eagle or Auburn Tigers, etc…I think that is fine- you just can’t use those words on it or in your description or tags- there are plenty of schools who have blue and orange as their colors- Auburn High School for instance and they are Tigers as well, I tried that argument with the Collegiate Licensing Company- they don’t care- so just be careful about what you use for your titles and tags, etc…

      Beth

      • HI beth, do you know if it’s legal trading to buy logo clothing and open up a shop and sell them, also buying mass quantity amount of logo clothing and reselling them in your own shop?

        Thanks Porscha

        • HI Porscha,

          If you mean buying things like that and selling on Etsy, no, that is not allowed- that is reselling and nothing about that is handmade- and Etsy is for handmade sellers- if you buy stuff and sell it on your own website I am sure that is fine- just not on Etsy.
          Beth

      • Thank you so much for the quick response. I will keep it nice and simple and just tag/title it exactly what the bow is, orange and blue football bow.

  26. This is a great article, thank you for writing it! I have been searching on the internet and cannot find an answer to my question. I found some lovely patterned stationery (sold at Michaels in a book) and wanted to use it for an invitation. Can I use it? It has roses that have been digitally designed (not realistic) and is just the stationery background. I wanted to put beautiful type over it and tweak the transparency of the flowers. I want to submit it to an online stationery contest to sell.

    • HI Annie,

      I would think the answer would be NO. Someone designed those roses- whether digitally, photographed or painted and they belong to that artist. Michaels probably paid them to use their art (not sure what kind of book you mean-but someone paid them to use it)- but most artists always retain the copyright to their art, even if it is mass produced, the people mass producing it are paying them for the rights to use it.

      So for you to use it as a background for your invitation would clearly be copyright infringement, even it you “tweaked” it a little. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if you want to use something you haven’t created yourself, you either need to pay for it, or find something that is in the public domain (no copyrights anymore), or pay someone to create it for you and make sure they know what you plan to use it for and always abide by the terms of use that people set for usage of their art.

      I hope that helps.
      thanks,
      Beth

  27. Can you tell me if something such as this is being targeted? https://www.etsy.com/listing/189882463/the-blue-snow-queenice-princess-inspired?ref=shop_home_feat_1

    I dont use any image and I always put my own twist on my dress creations.

    • HI Hilliary,

      I really have no way of knowing what is being targeted or not- my best advice is if you are using words that belong to anyone else- and I am not even sure what words or phrases places like Disney, Warner Bros, or Pixar own- but if you are in doubt, I would do a trademark/copyright search just to make sure. I just have no way of knowing what all those are, what is okay and what is not- but at least you aren’t using the images- that is wonderful- but they do own some wording- so I would look into that.
      thanks,
      Beth

  28. Hi there just been reading the comnents and discussions about copywrites

    Can I ask this?

    I make decoupage wine glasses using wrapping paper and I made a frozen one for a friend fora xmas present I put it on my facebook page and quiet a few people said that they would like to order one but am unsure as to weather I cud sell.?

    I was told by several people that you can sell am item with a copywrited image as long as ur not reproducing the same item for example i uses the wrapping paper to make a different item and not remade the wrapping paper (hope that makes sense) is this actually true?

    Could you please help me with this query as I would love to b able to sell them too people but dnt want to get caught up in the law

    • Hi Jackie,

      The way I understand it- which may be totally wrong, but I have asked and spoken to some licensing companies about this- YOU have to hold the licensing to sell copyrighted anything- for instance- you can go in Joann’s and buy Disney fabric and use it to make anything you want- for PERSONAL use. Say you wanted to make a bedspread using a Frozen design, that is fine to make for your child, but if you want to sell it- YOU must get the licensing.

      When I got my sorority licensing I asked them if I sold my sorority graphics would each person that bought them have to have the licensing as well, and they said if they were using the graphics to create a product to sell- then YES- because of liability reasons.

      Here is why companies require licensing besides making money- which is what everyone thinks is the only reason. For some reason people seem to think that Disney is just a greedy giant for not allowing everyone to use their images. There is a lot more to it than that- of course, they want to make money off of the art or whatever their copyrighted material is and that is only fair. There is also the liability and legal aspect that is very important. The companies can get sued by people if someone got hurt using a product with their images on it, believe it or not. If Disney allows someone to make plastic bags with their images and then some child puts it over their head and suffocates, Disney will be sued along with the company that makes the bags- so when you obtain licensing you also have to abide by stringent guidelines as to what they allow to be made using their images and what is not allowed. You have to have liability insurance in the name of the company you are licensing from- the insurance I had to get was a $1 million liability policy and my stuff is going to 18 and older, I would imagine things made for kids would be much, much higher.

      The people that told you about using the copyrighted images as different things is not correct unless you have permission. I sell copyrighted graphics and as long as people use them to make other things that is fine- just not sell my graphics for scrapbook paper or “as is” digitally. But companies like Disney do not allow that- you must have licensing to do anything with their images.

      So my advice is this- make all you want for your friends, but I wouldn’t put them up for sale- and I just read on Etsy that Disney is really cracking down on people using their images on Amazon, Etsy and Ebay. Apparently they have shut down a ton of stores on Amazon already- so better safe than sorry and I also heard they are starting to sue people. So I wouldn’t put anything from ANY company that you don’t have licensing for up for sale anywhere.

      thanks Jackie, I hope this helps.
      Beth

      • Thank u thats brill will def not be selling any now then just making for friends and family thank you for your advice x

      • With regards to fabric, that’s not exactly true. You can use fabric bought from JoAnn’s (or elsewhere) to make items to sell. This website has more info.

        http://www.tabberone.com/Trademarks/CopyrightLaw/LicensedFabric.shtml

        You still can’t copy the character, ie you can’t paint it or draw it or applique’ it yourself, but you can use purchased fabric. I would assume this would extend to something like wrapping paper as well.

        • Hi Allison,

          Thanks for that link, and maybe that applies to come companies as stated- but when I talked to the Collegiate Licensing Company they told me that if you bought a licensed fabric with a collegiate team mascots, name, etc… on it and used it for anything other than personal use- you would have to obtain licensing too. I know there are other companies that hold the same opinion. Maybe things are changing on that front, but I would be very careful to check with the company before I did anything- and also, it does state that Etsy sellers have had to sue to maintain their rights to use the fabrics- that can’t be inexpensive.

          But a good link to study – I still don’t think it applies to everything across the board. And I would have no idea if that applied to wrapping paper- but since that is a totally different substrate- and not necessarily in the same ballpark at all as fabric, I would be very careful with that.
          thanks!
          Beth

  29. I was told that if you have a license agreement with: warner brothers, disney, john deere, etc that you can still sell the trademark items? Is that true and do you know how to go about getting a license or how much they are?

    • Hi Paige,

      Yes, if you have licensing agreements with anyone then you can sell things with their images on them- but even then they can be very particular about what you put them on. With my sorority licensing there are some sororities that don’t allow anything on koozies, some that don’t allow things on shorts- so there are usually a lot of variables with licensing.

      As for the cost with Warner Brothers and Disney- I think it is cost prohibitive for small business owners- meaning I think it is hundreds of thousands of dollars plus royalties, I don’t know this for sure, but someone told me they looked into it and that is what they were told- which is why you don’t see anyone but large companies using the images. I don’t know about John Deere- you would just need to call and find out about that. Be prepared to jump through lots of hoops and if it is anything like the licensing I have for the sororities- lots of time- I have to have EVERY item approved by the sorority before I can sell it and EVERY design- it took me months before I was ready to sell. Good luck!!

  30. I need an opinion on this. If a trademark is written specifically for tshirts with the picture of a state with a heart in it… and I make a sticker that looks similar (just a sticker, not on a tshirt or anything) would I be in violation?
    Since their trademark is written for the picture to be printed on clothing I wouldn’t think so, but I would value your opinion.
    Example in question: http://www.heartsticker.com/images/P/Sticker_NC.jpg

    • HI Ryan,

      I honestly don’t know the answer and wouldn’t want to steer you wrong, but from what I understand someone can trademark a specific design for specific products like you mention- and if they don’t cover things like bumper stickers, etc…then it should be okay- UNLESS it is someone’s artwork- then that is copyrighted across the board and you would need the artist’s permission to use it on anything. I just don’t know about the heart in the state – I stay amazed at the things that get copyrighted- I wish I knew more about this- but I don’t- I think asking a trademark attorney is the best thing to do.
      Beth

  31. I got a notice from Etsy about using Hershey in my listings for candy stickers & wrappers. So I’m in the process of taking out all references to Hershey. Do you know if it’s okay to still use pictures of my stickers on Hershey Kisses so people know what they are for? Or would it be best to just create all images in photoshop? Thanks!

    • HI Kathryn,

      I think it would be fine to SHOW your product on the kisses- so people will know what they are- but I guess you should just say “chocolate bar” or “candy bar” and I don’t know how you would reference the kisses- “chocolate drop candy”?? I suppose if you were actually selling the candy with the wrappers, etc..you could use the name- but if you are just selling the wrappers, etc…I guess they don’t want you using it- which seems dumb to me- because I don’t know anyone else that makes kisses- and seems like that would sell more candy for them- but who knows- just make sure you take it out of your description and all your tags- don’t want them coming back to harass you more :)

  32. THANK YOU! This has helped me out so much. I had to do a lot of cleaning on my pages. I am planning to open up a online shop in the future(probably my own site not etsy) and I needed a lot of this information I did not know. I am very glad I came upon this website :) We work on invitations, party supplies, logos, business cards, etc. Had to delete some of our work but we also have a lot of custom stuff that do not have anything to do with any characters, movies, etc. Once again I appreciate your post. If possible I would love to contact you if I have any questions when starting out my website.

    • HI Natalie,

      I am glad you found it helpful- always good to learn from other people’s mistakes and not make the same ones yourself!! You are welcome to get in touch with me if you have questions about starting your website.

      thanks!
      Beth

  33. Okay what about silhouettes. For example cut from a Cricut or Silhouette machine. I mean there are even whole books written on using these machines for profit. The way I look at is they sold me the cricut cartridge with those images on it to cut.
    When looking at images – particularly digital scrapbooking images many people will charge you slightly more to have the rights to use it in a business.
    Just curious what people think about those images. I deal strictly in vinyl.
    Thanks,
    Tracy

    • HI Tracy,

      I don’t know about that- I would make sure what it says on the actual cartridge you buy- see if it says it is for commercial use. Just because someone writes a book saying you can- doesn’t mean that is necessarily so. Just like you can’t go to Joann’s and buy Disney or other fabrics like that and use them to make things to sell- they are for personal use only. I know part of the reason is –say you made a sleeping bag out of Disney fabric and then some child suffocated inside it because they couldn’t get out- they could hold Disney responsible thinking they approved the product- when in fact they didn’t. Usually when you have licensing you also have to have Liability Insurance so that if someone gets hurt on something you make the company doesn’t get sued- YOU do- that is one of the reasons the sell licensing- in addition to getting part of the profits from things people make using their images.

      I don’t know the answer about the cricut cartridges or any of the other vinyl cutting machines- but I would most definitely check with the company if you can’t find that info on the box or inside.

      • I have been making oneies that say “green bay” with a green heart on the butt for a local store. Recently, I had two people ask me to make special orders for them, making one that said “Vikings” and one that said “FSU”. I know saying “FSU” would be against copyright laws. Do you know what the laws are with this? Is there any ways around it? I almost felt I couldn’t “sell” the FSU one that I made for the woman, and wanted to just ask for a donation!! I don’t want to be breaking the law. Are the Green Bay onesies breaking copyright too? I also made women’s shirts that say LOVE with the “O” being a football, and underneath says “Green Bay”. I have been trying to research what would be okay, but am starting to think that just using the team colors is against the copyright! Any information you could give me would be very helpful. Thank you for this post and your time and consideration

        • HI Kendra,

          I can tell you 100% that any use of the colleges names, logos, colors in conjunction with their name or even FSU or their “sayings” such as “Roll Tide” or “Geaux Tigers” will get you in trouble. The same goes for any of the NFL or other pro teams – colors in conjunction with their name, mascots, etc… and they don’t mess around- the pro teams guard their copyrighted names, mascots, etc..even more closely than the collegiate licensing does.

          My advice- take down anything that says Green Bay in conjunction with sports- or their colors- they don’t own the name of a town, but anything that leads someone to believe you are using that in conjunction with a “team” will land you in hot water. And even doing something with FSU on it for a “donation” could still be considered copyright infringement- basically you are selling it-

          Hate to be the bearer of bad news- but those are just the facts- and you are smart to try and stay out of trouble!
          Beth

  34. I have spent tons of time designing Disney inspired stickers… The stickers depict princesses with the same color scheme however my girls are made out of basic shapes and solid colors so they do not have any same features of the real princesses. I don’t plan on using the same names, would I be infringing by making for example a mermaid girl with red hair purple bathing suit top and a green fin? Or a blonde princess with a blue dress and glass slipper?

    • I don’t think you will be in any trouble if you are just making them the way you described- you aren’t using copyrighted images- so that is great! However, you need to steer clear of using any wording such as “Disney inspired” or “The Little Mermaid” etc…(not really sure if The Little Mermaid is copyrighted since it is from an old children’s story- but you could check on the trademark and copyright website) anyway- but anything that is wording that belongs to someone else- even if you add “inspired” behind it could get you in trouble- especially the word “Disney”. Besides that I think you will be fine! Hope that helps!

      • You seem pretty knowledgeable in stuff like this…
        Would characters like this:
        http://tinypic.com/r/2z55frs/8
        be considered copyright infringement?

        • I don’t think so- if those are not anyone else’s artwork or you have permission to use them- I think you are fine- again- as long as you don’t describe them as “disney inspired” etc…

          • You couldn’t use those because they clearly resemble disney characters.

            Here’s the basic run down. You can’t use ANYTHING that might possibly confuse a customer into thinking your item belongs to another brand, that’s why John Deer responded to the “GREEN” tractor, because it “Could” be interpreted as a John Deer tractor.

            Basically, every idea you have that you think will boost your exposure because your item is similar to something else can’t be done if it even remotely could cause confusion. This is why so many people fail online. They have to figure out how to get a buyer to find their “Mermaid with green tail and purple top” using keywords that don’t infringe on Disney’s copyright, which would basically be “Mermaid” Then nobody ever finds your product because real buyers are entering “The little Mermaid” That’s why you see everyone say “You have to work on SEO” but no matter how you cut it, the buyers are entering familar brands to find what they want, so that SEO crap doesn’t work most of the time either.

            The only people really making money on those sites are infringing on copyrights. If those items were not there, nobody would even use ETSY to the extent that they do now. If they weren’t there, most people would never have even heard of etsy period.

            • I am not sure that is entirely true. The John Deere thing was not that my tractor resembled theirs, it was that they own the copyrights to green tractors with yellow wheels. And I know you can do characters that resemble others as long as they are not outright copies or using the copyrighted ones, and you can make characters that resemble Superman as long as you don’t use the S on the shirt- but you are correct about using the verbiage that Disney owns. And you are also correct about all the people on Etsy that do infringe, it is an easy place to find those things, until all the infringers are shut down- I am sure it will continue, sadly.

        • Yes. Under US or UK laws these seem to me to be infringing both copyright and [possibly] trademark.

          The images are recognisable as _derivatives_ of Disney characters. They’re not direct copies but they are designed to look like those characters (no matter what you call them).

          IMO if Disney sued you for selling these you’d lose.

          Disclaimer: this is not legal advice.

          • If you draw up a mermaid character with red hair, green fin, and a purple top, that is clearly copyright infringement — it would be a derivative work, as noted above.

            All of the characters in the xxx link would be considered derivative works. Disclaimer: This is not legal advice, and I am not a lawyer. :)

            • HI Amanda,

              I am not so sure about that- if it is changed enough- I don’t think drawing a mermaid with red hair, a green tail fin and purple top of your own, if they were a great deal different would be copyright infringement- I am not an copyright attorney either but I do know there are copyright laws that state if the work is clearly different from the original it isn’t infringement. Derivitive works maintain all or most of the original work- here is an article defining that http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf

              Also, I removed the link because all I saw were photographs of a girl- no artwork- and the website was a bit sketchy to me.
              thanks for your comment.

  35. Wow, All your advise is so much help! I feel so demotivated with my Etsy shop. I too will have to remove all my items. I invested so much time and money into my shop as I believe all of you did too.

    I sell party printable kits and would like to know if its legal to use “fake” Disney clip art sets rather than Disney characters? The clip art sets you can still recognize as Disney characters, but I wonder if I can use these?

    Hope to hear from you soon :)

    Thanks

    • HI Anel,

      I think I know what characters you are talking about, I have seen them and know there are some designers that sell the clip art of those. As far as I know, since they are not the Disney characters, I think they are okay- but I don’t know for sure- so I would try and find out from some one that is more knowledgeable than I am about that. Same thing goes for the super heroes- I think even if they aren’t the “Marvel” ones- if they have the bat on the chest or the S for superman – you can get in trouble for that.

      I would suggest anyone that has questions about if something is trademarked or copyrighted do a search at http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/ and if it is there and someone has one pertaining to what you do, then I would steer clear. A lot of people have trademarks and copyrights for certain things pertaining to certain areas, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use the “word” but if someone has it trademarked for what you are doing or selling then you shouldn’t use it. As for images, if they don’t belong to you and you didn’t buy the rights or licensing to use them- DON’T! And just because someone is selling something on Etsy, that doesn’t mean it is okay to use. There are disreputable people that will do anything to make a dollar, so make sure you don’t buy copyrighted images from people either. You will be wasting your money and putting your business at risk.

      I hope that helps, but honestly I don’t know the answer, you could always contact Disney legal and ask them. Good luck!

    • No they wouldn’t be ok to sell because they resemble disney characters. I doubt they’d do anything though, nobody will find them as long as you do not use disney keywords.

      Lets put it this way, if you put something up on etsy and it starts selling, you better research it and see if someone else already made it and owns the rights.

  36. Hi Beth,

    Thank you for this article. I’m about to start a business and was doing some research in this area first. I’m still a bit confused as I agree, Etsy seems to be full of such items! And it’s actually what got me shopping there in the first place (Harry Potter inspired craft as gifts for my sister). I was always confused as to how they could sell but then I saw that so many people were doing it that I wondered if there was some sort of loop hole.

    But my actual question is in relation to your Dr Seuss inspired invitations. You mention that there is no trade mark infringement in the wording of the invitation but I would have thought ‘Thing 1′ and ‘Thing 2′ are copyrighted? Or is it because of the age of the books? Are you able to expand on this? Thanks in advance for your help :D

    • Hi Kirsty,

      I don’t do invitations, I think what you are referring to is the comment I made about people using non-copyrighted images like my blue and red papers, which are just polka dots, stripes, etc…and then making their invitation and in the WORDING saying “Thing 1 and Thing 2″. In the wording for an invitation for personal use I think you can say pretty much anything you want to say- because you are sending it to your friends and not selling it. “Thing 1 and Thing 2″ are most definitely copyrighted – what I meant was that if you were selling an invitation with those colors- you are selling the invitation- not the wording. Just like when my husband sells a blank houndstooth invitation- if the customer wants to put “Roll Tide, join us for a football party”, he is not selling the wording- just the blank invitation and he has no control over what they put on it. And the words “Roll Tide” are owned by the Collegiate Licensing Company for Alabama. But he is not selling something with that on it- only the blank invitation. Someone could just as easily put something on the invite that had nothing to do with Alabama- they just like the houndstooth design.

      I hope that helps a little- I would not put copyrighted words on your invite or in your title or tag, that would be copyright infringement, but if you customer wants to buy it and they want to put that wording on there for their personal invitation use, I don’t think there is much you can do about that and they are not selling the invites, so I doubt that would qualify as copyright infringement, but then I am not a copyright attorney- they could just as easily print that on them at home if they wanted and no one would know- again, because they are not selling them.

    • I’d be willing to bet that Dr Suess has a copyright on the font. Did you actually get permission from them? If not and you ask for permission, I bet they deny due to the font because it could be recognized as Dr Suess which in turn would be the only reason most people would have purchased or found the item. The company not getting compensated usually has a problem with this.

  37. I actually just got a C&D letter from a competitor on Etsy claiming that I have copied her designs and for me to remove all the listings from my shop. I took a look at her shop and noticed that while our designs are similar, they are not the same. We both make memory books for babies and there are sections where it is similar since I mean you really are designing to the same milestones. So I am confused as to how she is claiming copyright, I’ve also checked on the copyright database in both US & CAN, and her book is not registered. I’ve also not seen a copyright document which you are suppose to send when sending C&D letters.
    How does ETSY review CI? Do they just compare our designs next to each other and determine if it is copied??

    I am so confused! I am a new seller and am getting great reviews on my design and book and I handmake everything, including the binder!

    • I honestly don’t know anything about this- I know that people that have “stolen” designs from me and changed them just a little, and that is all it takes for it to be “your own”. The only time I have taken any action against anyone is when they copied me EXACTLY to placement of identical graphics- and they took theirs down- but yours sounds like anyone that does what you do would most likely come up with the same milestones and therefore have similar designs. I just don’t really know enough to say.

      The way copyrights work is the minute you design something, on paper, on your computer, it is basically copyrighted. In order to be able to sue someone, you really need to register each and every design with the Copyright Office and at $35 a design that can get expensive. If your designs are not exactly like hers and you both just happened to have the same ideas- then I don’t think you have anything to worry about- but I am not an attorney and since I haven’t seen yours or hers, I really don’t know what to tell you.

      And as far as Etsy is concerned, I have no idea what they do in this situation. I wish I was more helpful, maybe someone else reading this will know.
      thanks for posting and let me know what happens, I am sure that would help others as well.

  38. This is something I really wish Etsy would be more proactive about. There should be some sort of online seller training course that sellers need to pass before their store goes “live” and intellectual property infringement should be covered. I do think most sellers who are infringing are doing so “innocently” and just don’t realize how stringent the laws are. For example, if you’re using fabric with a Disney logo printed on it, most people would probably assume that they can sell whatever they make because they paid for the fabric and Disney is getting its cut of the money that way. That’s not necessarily true, however, because in most cases the license covering that fabric (i.e. whoever manufactured the fabric has a license from Disney to use those characters/logos) does not transfer to the end user for anything other than personal use.

    And it’s not necessarily true that your competition is reporting you. Trademarks have to be zealously defended by their owners or they risk losing those rights, so larger companies like Disney will hire what is called a “Trademark Monitoring Service” to search the web and elsewhere for illegal use of their trademarks. I will report these things when I stumble across them even though I’m not an “interested party” because it’s an issue I care deeply about.

    • HI Heather,

      Thanks for your commentary on this. I do believe that a lot of people don’t know they aren’t supposed to use images like Disney, but I do believe a lot of people know and just hope not to get caught and have the mentality of “well everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?”

      I am also aware that companies rigorously guard their copyrights and have to in order not to lose them. However, a few companies that I have talked to and asked about on behalf of friends and people that have had issues, have told me they don’t have time to go through everything on Etsy, even as easy as it is to find the infringers, and both John Deere and the Collegiate Licensing Company that I had issues with told me that someone turned me in- they did not come looking for me.

      You are exactly right about the use of fabrics. I know someone that got in trouble for using some collegiate fabric to make something and unless they had the licensing themselves, were not allowed to sell their items. Who would know that? I agree that Etsy should really help out their sellers by teaching them about what is and isn’t allowed. I guess they expect everyone to do that research themselves, but to find out that things like the fact that the word “quatrefoil” is licensed by David Yurman for anything having to do with jewelry, might be a little obscure to even think about. Same thing about “Onesie”.

      Thanks again for your take on all of this! I think bringing up the part about the fabrics may save someone a lot of headaches!

      • Whoa! I had no idea quatrefoil was trademarked in relation to jewellery. I recently sold an 1880s chain on Etsy with quatrefoil style links and listed it as such. How do companies get away with trademarking this type of thing? Quatrefoils have been around for centuries and are quite literally just four leaf clovers.

        I’m currently struggling with Etsy removing a Russian rolling wedding ring of mine. I mistakenly listed it the first time and violated a trademark. I researched, changed the listing, and relisted it. It happened again. I made another change after further research which seemed unnecessary but I wanted to stay on the right side of the law. It happened again. So now I’m attempting to contact the company in relation to this issue and it’s just a mess. I’m honestly starting to think that it’s just still showing up in google searches, something I can’t help, and so it’s being taken down even though I’ve fixed the problem.

        The ability to trademark a centuries old common word is just jaw-dropping to me.

        • HI Erin,

          I think it is ridiculous that you can trademark the name of a pattern that was first used in the 15th century- but that is the way it goes these days- I am not sure I understand what terms you are using that they continue to remove the ring you have listed- and even if it is an old listing- they should be looking at the current one when contacting Etsy- I would find out from the company what the problem is and I wouldn’t repost anything until you have their permission- since they have contacted Etsy multiple times that is scary- and I would also ask them to remove the complaints from Etsy once you have it to their liking- that way you don’t have any black marks hanging out there -

          I would love to know what happens-good luck.
          Beth

          • Beth,

            It was word “trinity”. It seems I missed removing it from my tags resulting in the second offense. The third offense the company says it was still in my tags, but I’m sure I had removed it by then having really looked very closely following the second email. I can’t prove it and frankly wasn’t willing to leave it up to try to prove anything

            Etsy legal is truly of no help. It’s the way the US legal is built, I assume? The company never told Etsy the problem and Etsy simply recommended that I get an attorney (the US does live up to it’s infamously litigious reputation!) and informed me that they’ll need to keep removing it, without questioning it, if the company keeps sending them notices.

            I’ve re-posted it with a new link so that it’s not in anyone’s cache, but no one is giving me permission. It just doesn’t seem to work like that with them. Etsy says they are glad to see I’ve reached a resolution (form response, much?) and the company said that as long I don’t include the word “trinity” I’m fine but won’t check my listing or give me the green light in any way. It’s all one sentence “I’m glad that you’re keeping us informed” emails.

            I’m not pushing for a positive, go ahead, you’re fine, type of response, they simply won’t give it so it’s pointless. I have a feeling this is as good as it gets!

            I don’t know how the US system works, so don’t know what you mean by “black marks hanging out there”. Can you explain?

            As it stands, if it happens again I’ll sell them in person. If it doesn’t happen again I’ll assume that I’m in the all-clear since no positive responses from either Etsy or the other company are forth-coming and won’t be. I suppose that’s big business in the States for you!

            • Hi Erin,

              Trinity?? seriously- they own the word “trinity”? I bet that will make some churches pretty mad!! THAT IS RIDICULOUS! and I even went to the trademark search and I didn’t see anything with just the word “trinity” associated with jewelry- but I am not really great at the trademark search- still I am shocked. I guess your best bet is to do what you have done-

              as far as the black marks- I meant with Etsy- usually after someone has reported you three times they usually shut your shop down- or at least that seems to be the magic number from most of the people I know that has happened to- however if they remove the complaint- then it doesn’t show up any longer to the Etsy people-doesn’t sound like they are the cooperative type though- so I would be very careful.

              I am just blown away!!!

              I think all of this is getting way out of hand! Just my opinion- think I will go trademark Santa Claus!!! LOL
              Beth

  39. I came across this because I had two items taken down on Etsy the other day. They were hair bows that used an image of an iconic Easter treat in the center. I didn’t relist the items and removed any other items that were trademarked from my shop. I am really worried, though, about being sued or fined by the company. In your experience, as long as I comply with the notice, will the company be satisfied or do they generally still seek damages? I only sold maybe 5 or 6 of these items.
    Thank you!

    • I don’t think you need to be worried about being sued. Most companies send a cease and desist (which is basically what that is when they contact Etsy), and THEN if you don’t comply they could sue you. It is good that you took down any items that you think might be infringing items. You can contact the company through the email they sent you and tell them that you removed the items and will not use them again and would they please remove the complaint with Etsy- that will help you, because then if something else happens and you inadvertently list something that you don’t know might be copyrighted (like the Onesie thing), then you won’t show any complaints against you. Some companies will do that, some won’t even respond, maybe you will be lucky and they will do that.

      Just be careful in the future and try and make sure you don’t list anything else that has copyrighted images and you should be fine!

      • Thank you so much! I’ve been so worried that I’ve been unable to sleep!

  40. Hi Beth!

    I have been having a very similar problem with Etsy deactivations and warnings. So far, I have had two infringement notices, both in the SAME DAY. UGH! Now, please understand that I am practically brand new to Etsy, and having bought plenty of items on the site before that violate at least 100 Copyright laws, I thought it would be great to open my own shop and create items I am passionate about.

    In my shop I sell …er… sold, because i have since deactivated all of my listings for fear of being shut down, Jewelry and key chains with Images from popular films and television shows. This includes characters, logos, quotes, etc. All of these items are from extremely popular programs with Big Whig brand names.

    I am very young, and as I said new to Etsy and have never had to deal with anything having to do with Copyrights before. So upon receiving these messages I panicked. I Sent emails to both companies that apparently requested the Items be deactivated stating that I was unaware of any infringement and that I have a disclaimer on all of my items stating that “I do not own any of the images and the customer’s purchase is ONLY for the time and labor required to assemble the items.”

    Overall, EVERYTHING in my shop has someone’s image on it, and I’m not entirely sure what to do here. I do NOT want my shop deactivated, however, if I remove all of my items, I’ll have nothing left to sell.

    Help?

    • HI Aryn,

      First let me say you were smart to deactivate everything if everything has copyrighted images on it. It does not matter that you say you don’t own the images- basically unless you pay for licensing you don’t have a right to use them (and neither does anyone else- even though as you pointed out there are TONS of people that do) but that doesn’t make it okay or right.

      What you need to do is get rid of ALL your items that have images that belong to anyone else- Disney, Hello Kitty, Pixar- ANY and ALL! otherwise you will have your shop shut down eventually- and that is not worth it- and it is better to start over and have a shop to sell things in, than to be shut down and not have the option to sell at all anymore. There are lots of people that sell graphics on Etsy (like me), that have tons of options to choose from and you can come up with your own designs. For instance, you could find a polka dot background and put a monogram on it, or you could use a clip art kid and put a child’s name on it- I looked at your jewelry and you can certainly use other graphics to put other types of things that are NOT copyrighted together to sell.

      I just looked at your sold items and it seems everything you have really does infringe on other’s copyrights, you are really, REALLY lucky they didn’t shut you down! Not only can you not use the images, but you should take “Disney” out of your shop announcement, that is copyrighted, just as the words “Game of Thrones”, “Jack Skellington”, etc… you could find an Etsy graphic seller that has “princess” clip art and use their images (be sure and find one that is NOT selling copyrighted images) and then you can use that princess and put a kids’ name on it and then research whether or not things like “Cinderella”, “Snow White”, etc…are owned by anyone- I think those “names” are in the public domain, but I would check just to make sure, but if you use the Disney Cinderella image and use the word “Disney” ANYWHERE you are going to get in trouble-eventually. Much better to be safe than sorry.

      There are tons of things you can do with your jewelry without using copyrighted images and I am sure you are creative enough to come up with your own ideas and make tons of sales. Most importantly you won’t be infringing on other’s copyrights, you won’t be breaking the law and risk being sued. All in all you will be doing what is right and can take pride in creating your own designs (even if you are using other people graphics that you purchase), and hopefully have a successful shop!! I wish you the best!!!

      • Hi, Ladies…

        Was doing some research on this issue to prove to someone that it’s always wrong to use copyrighted/trademarked items, when I came across your site, Beth.

        It’s also worth mentioning that, with regard to clip art, even if it’s free, you have to read the user agreement. Many times, just like the licensed fabrics, it’s fine to purchase for personal use, but not commercial.

        • And as I’ve read farther down, I see you have mentioned this closer to the end. :0)

        • Free absolutely doesn’t mean you can use it anyway you want as you pointed out. Always read the user agreement- and also just because it is on the web- doesn’t mean it is yours to use anyway you want! Thanks for reiterating that!

    • Hi there gals,
      I’m in the same boat as you. Almost all my items in my shop are *were* some kind of copy right infringement. My store was only a couple months shy of being open two years. As of yesterday (may 8th) Etsy terminated my selling privileges, effective immediately. I too, had been sent several emails of items being removed. Six in fact. Six warnings, six times they took down and deactivated one of my listings. It was on the 7th time that they shut down my store. Each one of the seven were for different items represented by different companies. I never relisted a deactivated item once it had been taken down. I’d love to name names, but I don’t want to get in further trouble.

      Like you, I was only selling these items because there were literally 1000s of other items with copyrighted images on them. When one listing in particular got deactivated, I actually contacted etsy, complaining that while my listing was deactivated, there were still listings all over the place with the copyrighted image. I felt singled out and unfairly punished while others kept on selling the trademarked image and were now profiting more because I couldn’t sell it. It took a while, but Etsy finally replied saying they are not responsible for all the listing on etsy. They only deactivate the specific listings the owner asks them too. SO in a sense, its not Etsy doing it, its the trademark owner who was unfair.
      Anyway, some companies are more concerned than others with their images. For example, one item had be up less than a week before they came after me and deactivated it, but I’ve had copyrighted images in my store from the beginning that never got deactivated,

      The thing is, I have some items that are not copyright, like little owls, and lady bugs, animals, chevron, etc… but those never sold. Maybe 5% of my total sales. If I never had the copy right images up, I’d never had gotten as much money as I did. On the other hand, my shop would still be open, but not very lucrative. No one wants a butterfly birthday, they want Frozen, and Spider-Man. I depended on that money and now I’m at a loss of what to do.

      • HI Ashley,

        I don’t want you to think I am being harsh here, but if you KNEW you were selling copyrighted images from the start and then continued even after you had several deactivated, it is hard to have much sympathy that after 7 times you had your shop shut down. Just the fact that you KNOWINGLY did it, regardless of your argument that “everyone else is doing it”. That doesn’t make it right, it doesn’t make it okay, and whether it is unfair that some get caught and some don’t, it just doesn’t matter, if you or anyone else use other people’s images that you don’t have the rights or licensing to use, it is just plain wrong.

        Let me make it a little more personal for you. What if you designed something that everyone loved and then hundreds or thousands of people started using YOUR design without your permission or without paying you for the rights to use it- how would you feel. Even if the companies you are talking about are HUGE, that doesn’t matter- it is their art, their copyright, it BELONGS to them and for you to in any way feel you have been treated unfairly to me seems ludicrous. I think you should be grateful no one sued you.

        Most of the people who have commented on this post, who had their shops shut down were unknowingly using copyrighted words- like “Onesie”, or like what happened to me- I had NO idea that the “color combination” of green and yellow on a tractor was copyrighted. Just yesterday someone told me they had some items deactivated because they had “Mad Scientist” in their title. NO copyrighted images, simply the words- apparently a company owns those words and has rights to them in regards to invitations. It is hard to keep up with EVERYTHING that is copyrighted, but when people blatantly use Disney images, Hello Kitty, Pixar, etc… it is hard for me to feel very sorry for them when their shops are shut down.

        I have said on this same blog post on several occasions that Etsy doesn’t care, they don’t go looking for people to deactivate- the company that owns the rights to the image, the word, the trademark, whatever, has to contact Etsy for them to take action. Now, whether the companies come looking for infringers or whether someone else from Etsy or somewhere else turns you in, either way the company HAS to protect their copyright or risk losing it.

        Since I create graphics I can tell you how infuriating it is to have them used either outside your terms of use, or being stolen and used without your permission. The amount of time and money I have to spend to protect MY copyrights is ridiculous and I am just a little nobody- but people still steal them, still try to pass them off as their own and use them without my permission. Bottom line, as I have said before, it is against the law, and it is just wrong.

        As for your argument that you wouldn’t make any money if you didn’t sell copyrighted images, I 100% disagree. I know people that have bought from me and many other reputable graphics sellers on Etsy that make over $100,000 a year selling invites, party decorations, stationery, products – NONE of which contain any copyrighted material, so I know that can be done.

        If you decide to continue either selling on another venue or on your own website, my best advice would be to never use copyrighted images again. There are companies that will sue you and that would be much more painful than having your Etsy shop shut down.

        • Thanks for your response, Beth. I agree and have to add:

          Ashley, it is people who are infringing on other people’s intellectual property that are unfair, not the people defending their legal rights.

          The trademark holder isn’t picking on anyone or singling anyone out…it is a constant game of whack-a-mole and as a trademark/copyright owner, you get who you can when you catch them. They have to report each and every instance of infringement individually, filling out the tedious DMCA report each time.

          Imagine it: There are 20,941 items right now on Etsy for “Frozen Disney”.

          It typically takes Etsy two days to get a listing removed, after it is reported.

          So the trademark/copyright owner files for 5,000 of those things…by the time they’re pulled, 2,000 more have likely popped up. There are ALWAYS going to be infringing things on Etsy, until copyright law has changed to keep up with the technology, and there are always going to be people who see those things and think “oh, it must be okay” instead of taking the time to actually research the issue for themselves.

          They can’t just say “remove all things infringing on our rights” to Etsy. They have to report each of them individually. And it is a giant pain in the butt.

          I know firsthand because I create original content. And constantly am having it ripped off.

          In my case, I’m a writer and an artist. My brand is built around typographic prints and illustrations featuring my own original creative writing and poetry. According to copyright law, my writing is mine and I get to decide how it is used.

          But so many people on Etsy don’t understand copyright laws or just don’t care or follow the “everyone else is doing it, so it must be okay” morality compass.

          So, Friday, I find not one but two shops (and this isn’t the first time this has happened) selling prints using my words from my best selling print. Words I created just for that print in my shop. Words that did not exist before they came out of my head. Words that were not on the internet before I put them there.

          This print is popular and people search for it specifically.

          The problem with other people selling what would be blank sheets of paper without my words and creativity?

          When people search for my print, they find the knock-offs. And the knockoffs are usually cheaper.

          I should not have to have my prints using my intellectual property compete with other people’s prints using my intellectual property. Period. I post on the bottom of each of my images that the original words are copyrighted to me. I post notices in my listings telling people to please not post my work or words ANYWHERE without crediting me…but it never fails to happen and I wind up with things I wrote on Facebook and Pinterest attributed to “anonymous” or “unknown”.

          Probably half of the typographic prints on Etsy are lyrics (copyrighted), from books (copyrighted), or television shows (copyrighted) or whatever…and people just assume that if so many other people are doing it, hey…why not?

          And holy cow, the fallout from trying to get it resolved.

          I wish the infringers would take two seconds to think about how it is for the other side, that are just trying to protect what’s rightfully theirs to protect.

          I could’ve reported both of the sellers stealing from me to Etsy. I am well-practiced in filing a DMCA.

          But instead, I did what I felt was the kind thing to do, since they were both new shops: I contacted them and nicely and professionally explained the situation and asked them to remove their listings.

          And what did I get?

          I got, after nearly 8 years of selling on Etsy with a spotless record, called out on the forums by the infringer, who, as typical, tried to make herself into the victim. When I was the one that was wronged. When I am the one who constantly has to police Etsy to make sure I’m not being ripped off.

          I had one print that was a best seller, using my own original words, but it got ripped off to the point I just got tired of fighting and let that one go. And now five or six other people on Etsy are selling it. And mine, which used to sell on a regular basis, rarely does. You want to talk about unfair? That’s unfair.

          And like Beth, I’m sorry if my reply is harsh. But I think it’s time for people to start taking a bit of responsibility for their actions.

          When you open up an Etsy shop, you are opening up a business and agreeing to their TOUs that you will follow all applicable laws, including copyright law. I totally understand that people are going to make mistakes. We all do. It happens.

          But it is becoming a lot harder for intellectual property owners to want to cut infringers slack when infringers are becoming more and more entitled, belligerent and increasingly wanting to make the person they are ripping off into the bad guy of the situation. I used to ask nicely every time, because I truly don’t want someone who is making a one-time, honest mistake and would correct their behavior once they were told it is wrong to lose their income stream…but from now on, after all of my recent experiences, I just go straight to filing the DMCA with Etsy legal and if it’s someone’s last strike, I can’t feel bad about it.

          Beth, I have a very long and lengthy spiel explaining the licensing business and why using the intellectual property of others is hurtful, if you’d like me to share it.

          All that said: Yep, it is a heck of a lot easier to make the big bucks using popular characters. But this I know for certain: It is also possible to make a successful Etsy shop while being ethical and not stepping on anyone’s toes. And, yep, those shops using popular characters can make a pile…but at any moment, they could be sued for statutory damages and all that money (and more)they made could be taken away by the court and given to its rightful owner.

          • THANK YOU Kathy!!! It is so nice to hear from someone else that is on the “other” side of this and understands. I just spent the last two weeks dealing with four different people selling things with my graphics on them against my terms of use. Some were wholesaling, which I do not and have never allowed, others were selling things on fabric items, which again, I have never allowed. It is so exhausting constantly having to deal with it and so I truly feel your pain, Kathy.

            I would love for you to share your information and am happy for you to post it here- it can only help everyone.

            Thank you again for your comment and I look forward to reading the rest of what you have to share.

            • Hi, Beth…here is my very long spiel about art licensing! I wrote it about a year ago, in a post in the Etsy forums about copyright infringement, because I truly believe what is needed is EDUCATION. I think there are a lot of people who are just going to get away with what they can get away with and truly don’t care who they’re hurting…but I believe there are just as many who’d do better if they knew better.

              *****************

              Can I take a moment to explain licensing?

              I genuinely believe many people infringing truly don’t get that they are *literally* taking money out of the pockets of those whose intellectual property they’re using without proper licensing.

              I am an artist.

              I create a character. She has bright orange hair and big brown eyes and a sweet smile.

              It just so happens a *major* company has licensed her to make products from.

              When I say they “licensed” her, I mean: They approached me and asked me if I would be interested in licensing my art to their company. There were month long negotiations and a *very* lengthy contract which outlaid exactly how they could use my art and exactly what I’d be paid for it (among other nitty gritty legal details) and *what I could no longer do with the art they were licensing*.

              I get paid a royalty for *every single product* they sell using her, as I should, since I created her.

              Let’s say they licensed her to make jewelry with. And I gave them *exclusive rights* to make jewelry with. No one else – including myself – can make jewelry using her. (They didn’t, but we’ll go that example since I can’t yet talk about the actual product.)

              So, if a seller who makes pendants sees the image I’ve painted of my little orange haired girl and thinks, oooh, I’m going to use that image on my pendants, it’s kinda cute…and who’ll ever know?

              So that seller is making *unauthorized* and *unlicensed* merchandise with my intellectual property. They’re infringing on my rights because I, as the owner of the intellectual property, get to decide how it’s used and they’ve stripped me of that right. They’re also taking money from me, because I should be getting a percentage of each sale. So they’re quite literally stealing from me.

              And not only that…they’re stealing from the company that paid good money for and purchased *sole* rights to create jewelry using my art.

              They’re also may even be costing me more, because let’s say I didn’t have a licensing deal with a company for jewelry made with my art…but one was interested in me…and did some Google reverse image searches…and found that there was already jewelry out there with my art on it, and whoops, they no longer are interested in me.

              Now let’s take it from a little ol’ artist like me and into that show on Nickelodeon…that singer…that novel…that movie…

              Almost all creative works make significant money from licensing their intellectual property into merchandise. I’d imagine that in many cases, they make just as much from royalties from licensed merchandise as they do from the actual creative work.

              So when someone makes unlicensed merchandise…let’s say party printables…from Dora the Explorer…and someone buys the unlicensed, unauthorized version…instead of the licensed version at the big box store…the creators of Dora/Nickelodeon/whoever-should-be-getting-paid aren’t getting the cut that, no matter how big or wealthy they are, they deserve.

              And you might say, well, what if Movie Whatever It’s Called currently doesn’t make embroidered couch cushions? I know they make hats and cups and action figures. But they don’t do embroidered couch cushions. I’m not competing with any of their merchandise, because they don’t make what I’m making.

              Well…that’s part of the point of COPYRIGHT LAW.

              As a creator of something, I get to decide how I want it used.

              The other day on Facebook, I discovered that someone had taken one of my big eyed girls and modified her a bit…putting so much heavy eyeliner and make-up on her, she didn’t look like one of my sweet girls anymore, but more like…something I never wanted her to look like. I was horrified.

              So, perhaps you should think: Hmmm. If Movie Whatever It’s Called doesn’t currently offer embroidered couch cushions, there’s probably a reason for that. You know they have the funds that they could make it happen if they wanted to…so they probably didn’t want to.

              But…but…but…the fans want it.

              Well…according to law, the fans’ rights don’t trump the intellectual property owners’ rights, so perhaps the fans should start contacting the studio and ask for such a thing…or if you want to sell your couch cushions, YOU should contact the studio and try to get proper licensing to do so…so everyone is happy. You get to do your couch cushions, the fans get the couch cushions…and the people who deserve to be paid, get paid.

              And if you think, oh, we sellers on Etsy are just small potatoes…the big guys aren’t going to care about us…yeah, maybe individually…but would you want someone taking money that should be yours out of your pocket, even if it was just $100? Now, consider: Individually, shops on Etsy might be small potatoes. But if I were a bestselling author and I saw that, collectively, shops on Etsy were making thousands of dollars every single month from *my* hard work? You better believe I wouldn’t consider it small potatoes. At all.

              Further, all these big guys started out small.

              Let’s say that a big production company saw one of the products made with my little orange haired girl…and decided, hey, let’s make a cartoon out of her…so suddenly (or probably not so suddenly), my little orange haired girl is famous…do I have any less right to not be ripped off than I did when I was just an artist on Etsy nobody knew? No, I don’t. At all.

              And, finally, eventually these companies like Sanrio are gonna get sick and tired of constantly having to police venues that are cesspools of copyright and trademark infringement and decide to make a big time example out of someone.

              And if you’ve been using their property for years and making thousands and thousands of dollars from using said property? You might just be the one that gets to feel the hurt. And all that hard work you did? All that money you earned? Might be ripped from your hands and given to the people you took it from.

              If you don’t have anything they can take, and want to keep on keeping on, by all means, no one here can convince you otherwise. Etsy can shut you down if you get multiple DMCA complaints filed against your shop and that will stop you.

              But I do hope there are still more people than not that will do the right thing just because it’s the right thing, whether there are consequences for doing the wrong thing or not.

              If you want to use things that are well known, there are plenty of things that have fallen into the public domain that you can use and be inspired by. They may be old but they’re still popular and, I think, using these things can give them a new life and bring them to a new generation. (And it’s perfectly legal!)

              (Just make sure that they are actually in the public domain….I think a lot of people think “public domain” means “available to the public”…Google Images is not the public domain. Pinterest is not the public domain.)

              Do your research, always!

              I am not a lawyer, though I did used to work for some, so don’t take my opinions as the final word. They are just my opinions.

              • THANK YOU Kathy!!! What a great explanation! And thanks for making the point that the “public domain” does not mean that it is on the web, so it is free for the taking! A couple of people that literally stole my work, removed the watermarks, claimed they found it on a “free clip art site”. Well, if it was free- why were the images watermarked- they absolutely knew what they were doing and one of them made over $3000 selling pillows with MY artwork on them on One King’s Lane (yes, I got my attorney involved).

                And I also love that you mentioned that it doesn’t matter how big or how wealthy a company is, they don’t deserve to be stolen from. That is like saying I am going to steal this apple from Kroger because they are huge and have plenty of money, but you wouldn’t steal from your neighbor at the local curb market. Stealing is STEALING, regardless of how large or wealthy anyone is. And for those of you that still don’t get it, the big companies have BIG attorneys, and plenty of money to sue you and they will.

                Thank you so much for taking the time to write this in the first place and then to share it here! I hope EVERYONE will read this so they can understand better how much it hurts when people use art, words, lyrics, anything that belongs to someone else that you don’t have the right to use.

      • This is the problem. You came to etsy and I’m sure you were led there by a copyrighted item, you like many others probably entered trademarked keywords to find what you wanted. Then when you decided to sell, those items started moving. All original work has no interest so if you didn’t have copyright, chances are if one of your other items sold you might not even process it because it takes so long for one of those non copyright items to sell. I have shops on zibbet and other sites that I straight up abandoned because they sit dormant forever. The fact that you made money is what motivated you, the fact that you made money is what motivates the rights owners because they don’t get any compensation for their work. I can certainly understand from their side. I think most people lack the creativity to do their own thing. If you removed all those people from etsy it would be a ghost town.

        • I disagree that original art doesn’t sell- I have all original art on my Great Graphics shop and I have sold over 16,000 sets of ALL original art. On my One Sassy Sister shop where I sell products, again, all of the art is original and I have been very busy even though my shop is new. Maybe this applies to things like invitations, but I know there are sellers selling copyrighted graphics and they don’t have nearly the sales I do- so I just don’t think it is true that you can’t make money except to use copyrighted material.

  41. Hi Beth,

    Thank you for writing this post. I have an invitation business on Etsy and have found this blog post very interesting and helpful. I have tried researching information about copyright infringement and it has been confusing and really frustrating. I had no idea John Deere owns the copyright to tractors that are green with yellow wheels. I have since taken off the green tractor items that I once offered in my shop. I have tried finding information on Etsy in regards to how many strikes it takes before they shut down a shop but have not found any clear answers. I have read the comments that people have posted and it looks like people are saying it’s 3 strikes. Do you know if that is 3 strikes from the same company that is making the copyright infringement complaint? Or is it 3 strikes total from different companies? I appreciate your time!

    Thank You,

    Kelly

    • Hi Kelly,

      I don’t think anyone knows for sure how many strikes, I do know that it doesn’t have to be from the same company. Because I know people that got warnings from several different ones and then got shut down for totally different things. It is hard to know what is and what isn’t copyrighted when it is as vague as the tractor colors from John Deere, but most of the things I see people getting shut down for are pretty blatant copyright infringements. It was smart for you to remove the tractor! I hope this helps a little, sorry I don’t know the answer about how many times you can be warned, but no matter what- better safe than sorry!
      thanks,
      Beth

  42. Hi Beth and all,
    I found this thread very helpful and appreciate everyone’s questions because they seemed to answer some of my own. I recently had a print removed because I used song lyrics, I thought by crediting the artist it would have been less likely for copy right infringement. Guess I thought wrong. Now I am thinking that using the Artist’s name is what drew attention to the fact that they were song lyrics. I also think it was picked up because I was using a promotional site that re-pinned my etsy items and I was getting alot of views. So again a target on my back. There are alot of quotes and lyrics I want to use to make my prints but now I am hesitant to do so. Any insight on how I can avoid having more items removed or worst case, being shut down. Do I have a red flag on my shop now that I have had an IP filed against me? Also, should I be worried that the person who filed is going to sue? I mean it was a $5.00 item, is a big pop star really going to sue a girl making $4.60 off of her song lyrics. seems a little petty if you ask me!! Thanks again for the great article and the helpful info!

    • HI Katelyn,

      I think anything that is copyrighted- even song lyrics, unless they are in the public domain are subject to copyright infringement, unless you have permission to use them. I think there are tons of quotes that are okay to use- but song lyrics– probably not. Since you do have one strike against you, I would remove anything you think could possibly get you into trouble- sometimes it only takes one more. I don’t think Etsy really flags you, but whoever turned you in, could possibly turn you in for other things if there are items that could be in question. I doubt seriously that the artist will sue you, by them contacting Etsy to get you to remove it, that is pretty much the same as a cease and desist. Like you said, I don’t think they are going to be too concerned about your making a few dollars, however if you continued and disregarded their wishes, they probably would.

      Best thing to do is try and find out if the songwriter or artist would allow you to use them, it can’t hurt to ask, the worst they can do is say no. At least that way you would know you were okay, although I would get something in writing stating they said they would allow you to use them for your prints. Otherwise, I would steer clear.

      Hope that helps a little and glad they didn’t shut you down!
      Beth

  43. Hi Beth,

    I have had three IP notices filed against me and I have counter filed in both. In the first two, I purchased art from designers on Etsy such as yourself. (But not you) or used art that was in the public domain. I had the license for the art from the purchase, but the person who filed against me purchased the same art from the same vendor.

    The third time, I purchased art from an Etsy vendor who I corresponded with. Who knew what I would be using the art for. I paid for the art and in the listing it stated, “Once you’ve purchased and received the PDF, you’re free to use it as often as you’d like. I’d only ask that you do not claim it as your own artwork.”

    Several months later, she filed a claim and Etsy removed the items. I filed a counter claim, but do you know if I have any recourse? Have you run into anything like this happening before?

    You aren’t selling exclusivity… How in the world am I supposed to know every one who MIGHT use that same designers art??

    I’d really appreciate any advice anyone has…

    Thanks!

    • HI Jan,

      I am at a loss. Maybe I don’t understand clearly. If you bought things from digital sellers on Etsy, it is possible they sold you something that was copyright infringement to start with. They SHOULD NOT do that, but there are those that do- so if that is what happened, there is really nothing you can do, except steer clear of buying any graphics that might even closely resemble something, so as to be mistaken for copyrighted artwork.

      My next question is how do you know who filed a claim against you? As far as I know Etsy doesn’t reveal that information- and if they were both graphics bought from someone else, unless your design was an exact copy of whoever turned you in- I don’t see how they could file anything. They don’t OWN the copyrights to the graphics and they can’t copyright anything using graphics owned by the artists- regardless of whether they bought them or not.

      I don’t understand what happened with the 3rd one at all- can you explain a little better. What did the seller file a claim about you doing?

      Bottom line, it seems mostly you are talking about graphics you have bought- and NO ONE owns the copyrights to those graphics EXCEPT the artist, and for that reason I am not sure how anyone can report you for anything- this has me so confused.

  44. Hi Beth,
    I’ve just been led to your site via an Etsian post, thanks for all the info very interesting. Thought you might like this http://everythingisaremix.info/watch-the-series/ especially the last video which talks about copyright and intellectual property rights and what its doing to the world. If you watch each video do keep going until the very end as the producer adds more content just when you think its all over lol
    I thought it was very interesting where a lot of ideas have actually come from and how “we stand on the shoulders of giants”(even that quote was a rehash of a previous one). So it seems the old saying “there is nothing new under the sun” is true or to remix it “nihil novi sub sole” lol :-)
    Oh and P.s the narrator has a lovely voice so its worth watching/listening just for that lol

    • HI Jane,

      Sorry it took me a few days to get to this, I loved watching the videos and it is ALL so true. When I started art lessons, all of my art teachers had us copy different artists to get the “feel” of how it was done and then hopefully move to our own “style”. I think the videos are absolutely right that all the “legality” is making a mess of something that has always been and will always be, nothing is really “new”.

      And you are right, I loved his voice, and the videos were well done, and glad you told me to “keep going” since I thought they were ending a few minutes short of how long they were supposed to be. Thank you so much for sharing this!
      Beth

  45. Hi Beth do you know were I can buy clip art images that I can use in my business?
    Or someone that can make them ?

    • HI Savonne,

      There are tons of places to buy clip art and digital papers. All of my graphics on Great Graphics are able to be used for small commercial use, which I define as you are selling directly to the customer yourself.

      One thing to be careful of is people selling copyrighted images, like Disney or Pixar, etc…do NOT buy these. They don’t own the rights to sell them and even if they did- YOU would have to own the license to re-sell them for things of your own.

      The key is to read the artist’s terms of use. For instance, I don’t charge extra for people to use mine for small commercial use. Some artists do- their graphics are for personal use only and they charge extra if you want to use it for things you make to sell. I don’t allow my graphics to be used for large commercial use (like wholesaling or selling through retail stores). Some artists may do that. Usually there are other things you need to be aware of as well. For instance I don’t allow any of my graphics to be used on fabrics, no pillows, bedding, shower curtains, no printing on fabric at all, because this is something I am pursuing myself ( I do make an exception for pillow cases- a lot of my customers do personalized pillow cases and that is fine).

      There are unlimited resources for you to find clip art and digital paper that you can use for your creations, just make SURE you read the terms of use.

  46. There is still a caveat when using your ‘own’ website – if a copyright holder contacts the webhost/server and claims you are breaking their copyright, your site will get shut down for breaking the terms & conditions of the agreement between you and the webhost.

    • Thanks Denise,

      I do know that is true, however, I think that some sort of proof either from the person holding the copyright or from the website owner proving they are not infringing must be presented, otherwise people could go around contacting hosts “claiming” that hold the copyright to some content or images, or words on someone’s site and have them shut down. I think most companies would send a cease and desist BEFORE they contacted your web host, unless of course they have sent a cease and desist and it has been ignored. Hopefully no one would ignore a cease and desist, and if they do, then as far as I am concerned, they will get what is deserved.

      Most of what I have seen is people that are unaware they are infringing (I am not talking about people copying Disney, Hello Kitty, etc…) more like the “Onesie” issue with Gerber- and for that, I do think it is unreasonable for Etsy to shut their shop down, at least without some sort of warning- and I would hope that before Gerber contacted a web host, they would contact the website owner first and make them aware of the situation and give them a chance to change their wording to not include their sacred “Onesie” word.

      I guess from where I sit- no one can possibly know or spend the time to find out every word that is copyrighted (I am not talking about images), so I think it is reasonable to expect that you should get some sort of letter or email indicating that you have infringed, and then you can take actionable steps to right that wrong. If you don’t, then whether on Etsy or your own website, if the only way to protect their copyright is to shut you down, I guess that is a reasonable action, I do think you get fair warning first.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  47. I have deciding for two years whether to sell my items on Etsy or my own website. I love making my jewelry, I buy things on Etsy all the time, I think Selling my items on Etsy is not for me, This has been an eye opener. Thank you for that. 3Dcart looks like it would be great and they don’t take part of your earnings.

    • HI Lena,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I think as a jewelry seller you would have less trouble with copyright infringement than graphics people. It has a huge audience, but I do know for jewelry there is a tremendous amount of competition, probably more than any other category. You are exactly right about having your own site, they don’t take any percentage of your sales, you have complete control and you can set your own terms for everything. No matter what or where you sell on a venue, you should have your own site, just in case…..

  48. Hi Beth,

    Wow. I just stumbled across your blog post and I am floored at what’s been happening on Etsy. Copyright/trademark infringement is one of those things that Eleanor (my business partner) and I worry about constantly. We don’t want our store to get shut down for reasons that sometime seem rather arbitrary. Thank you for all of your advice, sharing your story, and allowing others to share theirs.

    • HI Rachel,

      I checked out your shop and since you knit (and your things are REALLY cute) unless you start knitting Mickey Mouse, Hello Kitty or use the word “Onesie” to describe one of your cup cozies- I think you will be fine :) It’s good that you are aware and everyone needs to be aware that using copyrighted images or yes, even words is wrong and if you are using them on Etsy, it will eventually catch up to you. Thanks for leaving a comment, it’s good to know people are still reading about this and that it helps

  49. Wow! Now I don’t feel so alone, I had my shop closed 11-7-13 literally went to my shop and it said this Seller does not exist. I was like nooo, and in my email it said after multiple copyright infringement notices that my shop was deactivated.

    And I was on etsy for almost 5 yrs, so it is definitely like loosing a job. I am still trying to figure out what is next for me. Luckily I have a Facebook page where I still take orders. I don’t miss etsy butI sure miss all the fabulous customers!

    • Hi Angela,

      I am so sorry that happened to you! I do suggest you get your own website though because Facebook can do the same thing to you for lots of reasons they have in their rules and regulations. I know people this has happened to as well and they didn’t even know they were breaking any rules. If you have your own website, YOU are in control and no one can shut down your website but YOU. Also, you could go to your Paypal account and possibly if you can still get into any part of your Etsy account and get your sold orders and grab the emails of your old customers and direct them to your new website!

      If you want an easy website host, cart, blog, newsletter- all in one, I use 3dcart and LOVE them. It is easy, you don’t have to know any code, their tech support is GREAT and they do a great job of pushing your stuff to the search engines. Here is a link to try it out- (it’s my affiliate link and I have a special deal for people that sign up through me- you get a free month after your first paid month) You can use the free trial to try it out. Let me know if you do sign up and I will make SURE you get your free month. I have referred so many people to them, all my members in My Friend Beth and lots of other because after trying a lot of other hosts, carts, etc… I stumbled on them and have never looked back. They are the BEST!

      I hope you continue to grow your business and don’t look back. Being kicked off Etsy is not the end!

  50. My shop wasn’t shut down but I did have 80+ items removed by Etsy. My shop sells embroidery designs, mainly dealing with sports related themes. Etsy sent me the notice with the name of the company that claimed the copyright. I contacted someone there and they explained that if someone could look at your item and believe it represented “company X” then it was in violation. So, for example, if I had a large navy blue M advertised in an athletic font, people may assume it represented the University of Michigan, even though there was NOTHING mentioned about the school, state or mascot. But if that same M (in athletic font) was advertised but changed to pink ( or another color not used by a collegiate institution) then it wasn’t in violation of the trademark. I was able to get around half the items reinstated but I live in fear of the next time I get reported. I had another violation last week for a generic fleur de lis because I used the term “who dat” (apparently a copyrighted term) in the ITEM TAG.

    And also, I did have my own website as well. The NCAA collegiate trademark management company told me to remove these same items from my website or they threatened to sue me. I ended up just closing the website all together instead of risk them coming after me there too. They also referenced my Instagram and Twitter accounts although technically I don’t think they could have me remove those items as I just posted photos of the designs and didn’t advertise them for sale. They never mentioned my Facebook accounts though, but I don’t know why not. It all sucks, though. It seems the best way to make any money is to copyright all words!

    • Hi Bettie,

      Well the good news is they didn’t shut you down! The NCAA is pretty protective of all their stuff! The University of Alabama (where I happened to go) sent a cease and desist to a lady with a shop in Tuscaloosa who was making COOKIES in with the red A on it. This caused a pretty big backlash, people thought it was ridiculous the University would not let her sell her cookies. Now, the University has a small crafters license you can buy for $100 for the year. You can sell up to 500 items or $2500 worth of goods. Several other colleges like Texas A&M and a few others have done the same thing. I think that is very reasonable and thank goodness they are realizing people would be willing to pay that to make some of the things they want to make and sell.

      I remember the NFL trying to win the trademark of Who Dat- I am pretty sure they lost and also not sure who owns it, but I did know that was trademarked as well.

      Thanks for sharing Bettie, maybe it will keep someone else from getting in trouble with their shop!!! And just always it is better to be safe than sorry!

      Happy New Year!

  51. Beth, I appreciated your posting and the other’s’ comments. I was amazed when looking for some baby shower stuff, to run across a website that has all kinds of Dr. Seuss themed items…with pictures directly from the covers of the books, for example! Wow, such a copyright infringement. See (link removed- no reason to give them free publicity) for example. Amazed with so much stuff it’s still here. Hate to be a whistle blower, but I don’t think this is right. Most of the other people have legitimate complaints about being shut down. Not this person!

    • HI Katy,

      I agree completely! What you referenced is one of the most blatant I have seen and as you can see I removed the link because I didn’t want to give them any free publicity or have anyone going from my website to theirs. HORRIBLE that people just scan the covers of books, or steal them off the web and use it for things they sell. And the seller you referenced also has Thomas the Train, Disney stuff everywhere, almost everything is infringing on someone’s copyright and yet, her store is still open. There is nothing fair about the way these things are handled on Etsy- not fair at all.

  52. I’ve recently had the same thing happen to me. I had my shop shut down (they only shut you down if you’ve had 5 reports on you. They’ll just remove items until then). I never saw notice of the other items but yes, Hello Kitty! I’m not fighting those because I understand that. What is getting to me is what JUST happened to me…

    Anyways – so I had this decal I made that said “TEAM DARYL” with a crossbow that we drew. This was reported by someone, who sent it to AMC and they contacted Etsy yadda, yadda. Thing is, according to the site and copyright law “copyright does not protect titles, names, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols or designs, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, or mere listings of ingredients or contents.” I am battling this like crazy! I’ve reported it to the Better Business Bureau, I’ve contacted the United States Patent and Trademark Office (in case of trademark and not copyright) also the copyright.gov website. It’s a WORD, a NAME, and am image of a crossbow that was created by hand.

    In Etsy policy it states: “If Etsy removes or disables access in response to such a notice, Etsy will make a good-faith attempt to contact the allegedly infringing party (“Member”) so that they may make a counter notification.” They removed the item, sent me an email, it was removed and they never once gave me a chance to make a counter notice.

    I am so tired of this site and wish I could make the money I did elsewhere! My santa hat glasses were ridiculously popular! They go after sellers for not following policy yet they do the same thing. My income is completely gone now and Christmas is less than a month away! Screw these guys. I can only hope everything works out for us trying to fight the policy they do no follow!

    • HI Christina,

      Etsy doesn’t give you the option to make a counter notice prior to removing your item. If they are contacted by someone that claims the copyright they HAVE to remove the item to keep themselves out of trouble. You can then make a counter notice after making sure that you are not violating someone’s copyright. I searched and didn’t see copyright or trademark for “Team Daryl”, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one- there are so many ways to search. If they removed your item you should have gotten an email with information of who to contact about it at AMC, you can contact them find out if your item is in violation of their copyright and find out the details. If it is not, then you can notify Etsy and have them email Etsy as well to remove the complaint and then hopefully they will reopen your shop. You have to get the complaints removed in order for them to do that. I am not sure about the 5 reports, as most people I know who have had their shops shut down only had 3 strikes and they were out.

      I did a search on Etsy and there are a lot of “Team Daryl” items for sale- so I would find out for sure about this and they are all over the web as well if you google it.

      Your santa hat glasses on your new Etsy shop are ADORABLE!! Hopefully you will get some sales there! Let me know what you find out. I read yesterday that the word “Quatrefoil” was copyrighted or trademarked by David Yurman but only applying to jewelry. I find this whole thing so ridiculous. Quatrefoil is a word to describe a pattern and has been around for hundreds of years. This whole copyrighting of words is out of hand- completely!!

      Good Luck and let me know what you find out!

      • Hi Beth:
        Thanks so much for putting this info “out there” for those of us looking for answers, which I am finding are increasingly vague when speaking to Etsy legal.
        Anyway, I was just wondering if you know for sure that Etsy gives you “3 strikes” before they take real action? I asked what their protocol was and they never gave me a straight answer.
        Thanks!
        Allison

        • Hi Allison,

          I don’t think there is a protocol, which is why you likely didn’t get a straight answer. I know people who have had their stores shut down on their first offense with ONE infringing item. Others get 3 or more strikes and stay open. Best practice- try to stay away from anything that could possibly be copyright infringement. I think sometimes it depends on who gets the complaint and what kind of mood they are in- I can’t find another logical explanation as to how and why they do the way they do :)
          xoxo,
          beth

    • Hi Christina,

      Very similar story as you and probably same time. Last month AMC also had a shirt of mine removed off etsy, the shirt had a crossbow and said “Dixon Crossbow Academy”.

      I was shocked because it said nothing about the show or the Characters first name. Bad thing is I see my design now on other sites selling it and I can’t sell mine.

  53. Beth,

    Thank u for your kind words and graciousness!! And thank u for coming to see my little bow shop! :) believe me, without this sense of humor, I’d be like Scarlett…still devastated and trying to make a dress outta curtains!

    Heather
    http://www.sweetsouthernspecial.com

    • You are a hoot!! Keep that great attitude up and you will go far!!! I just sent you an email- but yahoo thinks I am a spammer- so check your spam when you have a minute- I am sure I will be sitting there :)

  54. Same story…different member!! Shut down and banned like the dang Scarlet Letter! All for using “Country Girly”! Country Boy & Country Girl are trademarked…per Etsy legal. I called my clip “girly”. Closed. Banished. I asked them if they would sue John Denver if he were still alive for copyright infringement…everytime he sang…”Thank God I’m a Country Boy”. They didn’t find that funny…I didn’t find losing my bow shop so funny either.

    Heather
    http://www.sweetsouthernspecial.com
    (Build your own site…stop dealing with Etsy!!)

    • Hi Heather,
      Unbelievable!! I cannot believe those words are copyrighted and that you got shut down for that- not funny at all- but you are hilarious!!! What a great sense of humor you have and I LOVE your bows! I am going to pin one on pinterest as soon as I finish writing this- because I want to help promote your new website, which looks great and I am so glad you are venturing out into the great unknown. With your attitude and great sense of humor- you are going to do GREAT!!! Thanks for letting others know that those words are copyrighted too- but I am like you- c’mon…..they should cut people some slack for stuff copyright infringement like that and words like “onesie”. Good Luck Heather, let me know how you are doing!!!

      • Those words are copyrighted, they are trademarked. As is Onesie.

        • thanks Deborah, that is exactly what I said- they are copyrighted- not sure if you missed that in my previous post.

    • I too was shut down by etsy for copyright violations. I had a shop there for 5 Years. I had used onesie unknowing that this had Trademark protection and right after I removed all instances of this word in my 800 item shop, I got pulled for a little romper with Country Boy on it. Devastated is not an overstatement. I was selling up to 40 plus items every day and had that income abruptly yanked. It was suggested to me by someone that I was probably turned in by a competitor since onesie is everywhere on etsy. I could never do that to others even now when I know it is illegal to use. From here my only chance is that I had vigorously tried building my wholesale biz and I am tripling my efforts with that. It is horrible to lose your livelihood and as bad to have your reputation smeared.

      • Hi Kelly,

        That is so terrible!! I have got to look into “Country Boy” and “Country Girl”, I hate to say that I don’t even know what that is, and I am amazed that those words can be copyrighted- images- yes, words- I am so surprised, but I will do some research on that. I do know that they only way Etsy acts on anything is if the company that holds the copyright contacts them- and believe me if the companies were looking on Etsy they would be spending all day, everyday, removing items, so they don’t do it that way. They only act when someone contacts their company (your competitor) and sends them links to the infringing items- then in order to protect their copyright, they have to contact Etsy.

        Personally, since our shops are OUR shops- I think it would be a better practice for the companies to contact the owner directly and ask them to remove the infringing items, and then if they aren’t removed report them to Etsy- at that point, I guess it is fair for Etsy to shut someone down, but NOT when it is because someone has NO IDEA that some “word” is copyrighted. This is getting so ridiculous and infuriates me. I would not think that your reputation has been smeared, an honest mistake and I am sure there are plenty of others making the same mistake unknowingly.

        Thanks for your comment Kelly, hopefully others will learn from your painful experience. I would love to see your website!!!
        Beth

      • Hi Kelly,

        The exact same thing happened to me with the famous word “onesie”. Even though I removed it Gerber kept reporting me and they shut me down! I’m devastated. Got shut down just before the Holidays 10/13. I’ve been doing my research and have checked out other selling venues like Artfire, Bonanza, Storenvy but they are just not as popular as Etsy. There’s not enough traffic. E-Bay & Amazon are all taken over by large China vendors! Their items are dirt cheap with free shipping etc..Dont stand a chance selling there. ;(

        • Hi Lynn,

          I am so sorry that happened to you too, especially before the holidays. I truly don’t understand why some get shut down and others don’t, it makes no sense to me. You are right about the other places not getting the same traffic Etsy gets, but the MOST important thing you can do is get your own website- no one can shut that down. I tell all of my members they MUST have their own site- that way even if their Etsy shop gets shut down they have somewhere for their current customers to go and a place for others to find them. I recommend 3dcart to all of my members on My Friend Beth- it is easy, you don’t have to know code and it works great to push your things to the search engines. It has a built in email sign up, newsletter and blog- and their tech support is great- you can check it out with a free trial- I have used them for my husband’s website and for mine for over 5 years- couldn’t be happier- here is a link you can check it out http://www.3dcart.com/796.html. Don’t let Etsy destroy your vision for your business- you CAN do it without them, it may take a little more time, but you will not have all the worries and you will have ALL the control. Good luck!

        • Lynn: I feel so awful for you, truly sorry :( . They closed my shop on 10/28/13 a day I will never forget. I agree with Beth…hang in there and find other venues and work like the dickens. I refuse to be stopped by Etsy, I built my business they didn’t. Right now I have soured so much about that site they disgust me. Sadly I doubt I will ever shop there again. They claim to be helping the little artisan when in reality they are as fake about that as they are about ” hand-made” gag. We should start an ex-Etsy society.

          Kelly

        • I would like to make a comment regarding the China vendor at Etsy, I have sent them many times conv how come China vendors are selling At Etsy, and never got an answer, it does not make any sense since Etsy claim to be a Handmade Place. I also got my store closed because I make cat with glasses phone cases and Etsy claims I am infringing Hello Kitty property. But, the funny thing is search on etsy the word Hello Kitty and the search will give you 26,000 items being sold, i don’t have money to pay an attorney and don’t know what will happen to me, any input will be greatly appreciated.

          • HI Carlos,

            Unfortunately, I think you are fighting an uphill battle with the Chinese resellers. If you look on the forums, people have been complaining about that for years. I don’t know why they don’t do anything about them, but they don’t.

            As for your experience, since I haven’t seen your “cat with glasses”, I can’t know how closely it looked like Hello Kitty, but if you were shut down, it must have been very close. You have to understand how this works, Etsy doesn’t just pick you out- someone has to report you to the company who’s rights you are infringing on. This is how it works:

            1) Someone, usually a competitor, will turn you in to a company- Disney, Hello Kitty, Gerber, etc…. by reporting that you have infringing items on your shop
            However, there are companies that look for infringers on Etsy, so it doesn’t always have to be someone else turning you, but I think that is generally how it
            happens. The company HAS to take action to protect their copyright.
            2) The company then notifies Etsy. Etsy has to take action because otherwise they would get in trouble with the company notifying them. So they notify the person
            who owns the infringing item and if they have been notified repeatedly (I don’t know how this part works- I have heard 3 strikes, but know of people who have
            been shut down on the first offense) they have their shop shut down.
            3) The shop owner, if not shut down, should remove the infringing items and NOT put them back up for sale. You can contact the company yourself- because you
            should receive an email from whatever company it is when Etsy informs you, and you can beg forgiveness, and ask that they remove the complaint. I have heard
            of people getting their shops reopened once the complaints are removed by the companies.

            As for the 26,000 things being sold under Hello Kitty- what can I tell you- just because other people are doing it, doesn’t make it right. They just haven’t been caught yet.

            As I have said over and over again here, just DON’T use copyrighted material, art, anything that belongs to someone else to resell, unless you have paid the licensing fees for them. That way, you won’t get in trouble, won’t have your shop shut down and will avoid any potential legal hassles. I know there are exceptions, like when no one knew that Gerber owned the word “onesie”, but once you know, you should fix that and not run the risk of having your shop shut down. At least that is my take.

            I am sorry that happened to you Carlos, maybe you can ask Hello Kitty to remove the complaint and get your shop reopened. Just don’t make the same mistake again if you do.

            Beth

      • Country boy was trademarked in 1925, but the trademark has been expired since 2006. I just looked in to it. There are also a handful of songs with the words in them.

        • Jason, it happens all the time- someone turns people in and others are left to use the copyrighted or trademarked items. Again, bottom line, it is not right, legally or in any other way to use things that are copyrighted or trademarked- even if it is “words” which personally I think some of these are wayyyy out of line- like “Country Boy”. Actually there are about 4 live trademarks for “Country Boy”. One is for beer, one for agriculture products and two for clothing, shoes and other things.

          I think the whole trademarking thing is out of hand and if people keep trademarking every word known to man, no one will be able to describe anything, and it is going to be a gigantic mess. Good luck Jason, but you are better off having it removed than being sued :)

  55. A while back I got an infringement notice from etsy and they removed some of my jewelry. The person who claimed I infringed filed the DMCA papers with etsy. What many people don’t realize is that you (I) every etsy user has the right to file a counterclaim. Once the counterclaim is filed with etsy, etsy will most likely reinstate my items. The only way the accuser can stop me is to take me to court (this is the law). The real question everyone should be asking is, “does this accuser have a legitimate claim against me”? What much of the public doesn’t understand is that the accuser can get in as much trouble as an actual offender if they file false DMCA claims without merit or without exercising due diligence before filing the claim. My educated guess it that most DMCA complaints are rubbish and can’t be defended in court. Most small time etsy users don’t have the time or (estimated $20,000) money to pay an attorney to go after you.

    There are obvious cases of copyright fraud on etsy and no one should copy. However, what constitutes copying is something that is very subjective. And it seems that everyone on the internet now days thinks they are Picaso and that their work is original. Obviously, you can’t fight John Deere and win and it’s best to comply in that case. But in the case of small time sellers on etsy that blanket launch DMCA complaints against other sellers, I think it’s time these bullies are stopped and punished by filing the counter notice.

    Within the very near future I plan on filing my DMCA counter notice with etsy. I will post back here when I get the results of my counter notice. I do plan on talking to a copyright attorney first. Yes it may cost me 500 to 1000 to get advise ( my due diligence) but it will pay off by having more sells etc. Over the period of our lives we can all be certain that these DMCA bullies will launch more bogus and impotent complaints against us all, I plan on being educated and fighting back.

    • thanks Charles!

      I agree that there are a lot of people that “claim” someone copied them when that is not really true. However, there are a LOT of people that do copy other artists on Etsy and you are right- they should post a counter claim- great advice!

    • Hi all,

      I found you buy searching under ****Etsy shut down my shop

      interesting to see I’m not alone, been 2+ monthsssssss fighting for them to open my store, talking to brick walls.

      They wasted lots of my time, my work, even my health.

      I feel brick wall has more sense and logic than this E.
      Been there for 4 years, with fantastic feedbacks. Just like that they or whoever they think they are, that my items NOW are infringed?

      It’s ridiculous, think we all have to join and open a case.

      The store is MY store, the work is my OWN work, my OWN idea, my OWN DESIGN, to say they got notices of infringement, infringement of what?? I asked them to send me the # of the infringement, no news.

      My store they burned it down, and not letting me go in?
      They do NOT have the right to stop me working.
      Think this is huge lawsuit.

      Wish you all good luck.
      Please keep me in mind with the lawsuit, let us join and stop these bullies.

      • Hi Jaz,

        If you got a copyright infringement letter from Etsy they should have cited what items and what company’s copyrights you were infringing on. At least that is what has happened with everyone else I know. I don’t know of anyone that just got shut down without being aware of what items they were deeming as infringing items. When you say your own work, did you create all the art, etc….since I don’t know what you sell, it is hard for me to know the right questions to ask-but I still think somewhere they should have sent you a notice of what the infringing items were.

        I know you must be so upset, as are all the others that are in the same boat, but actually since your store is on Etsy- it’s not really YOUR store and they have everything in place to be able to shut you down or do anything they want, anytime for any reason and I am pretty sure they are covered against lawsuits for this reason and have things in place in their terms when you sign up. The only way to have your OWN store is to have your own website. Then you are completely in charge. I recommend 3dcart that is who I use, and who I have gotten a bunch of my members on My Friend Beth to sign up with and they love it- http://www.3dcart.com/796.html this is my affiliate link and if you do sign up with them through this link you will get a free month- be sure and let me know and I will make sure you get your free month.

        I wish you good luck too Jaz- and know you are not alone- not by a longshot!!!
        Beth

  56. My Etsy shop was just shut down and they didn’t even give me a reason. I’ve emailed asking for more details, but haven’t heard back yet. It’s a small shop with pillows. Two of the pillows have the word “love” and “home” cut out in felt and stitched on. I freehanded the words myself. The other pillows are chevron fabric. I’m so frustrated that this happened! And I can’t even purchase now on Etsy. I wanted to buy some fabric from an Etsy store and it wouldn’t allow me to, I had to use my son’s account.

    • HI Susan,

      That is SO WEIRD! Have they ever contacted you before- or warned you about something in the past? That is so strange if all you have are chevrons and the 2 pillows you described- makes no sense. Please let me know when you hear back from them.

  57. I wish I had a better story to tell. I am one of the unlucky ones. It has been too many months, now, and I still can’t bring myself to get over having my shop closed. My livelihood HAS been taken from me. I have no one to blame but myself. I knew I should not be creating character cookies. I take full responsibility for not taking them down from my shop. The truth is, I was so busy working 18 hour days on my dream-come-true business, that it never occurred to me what the results could be. I knew that the big companies could come calling, but my shop? It never registered. I was exhausted and just working to keep up with orders. My goal was to afford help so that I could think straight again. I worked for 5 years to build my reputation and customer base. Now it is at a bare minimum.

    What I can not accept is that everywhere I look, peoples’ shops are full of what I was shut down for. I know that is life. I know all of that. But I still can’t put it behind me. My business was very driven by the search engines on Etsy. I am lost without that exposure. I have researched all of the other marketplaces, but there are no baked goods for sale in them. Etsy grew a wonderful following in that category. I know I need a website of my own, but don’t have the means without the sales. Does anyone have any advice as to where to turn? I would be so grateful for any advice. What platform would help? Thanks for listening…

    • HI Lisa,

      I am so sorry that happened to you. Who would think they would do that to designs on cookies- As for a website you can get one on 3dcart.com for $19.99 a month to start with for 100 products- it is what I use and what I recommend to my members on My Friend Beth, it is easy to use, it is host, shopping cart, blog, everything you need to start- and the tech support is great, they really push your stuff to the search engines- I have been very happy- at least getting started with your own site is better than nothing.

      If it makes you feel any better, Etsy has changed how new people “browse” when they first come in to Etsy- and if you don’t know how to use the search bar- the “browse” is all curated (my guess is all Etsy employees shops) and my views are so far off from what they were last year- and just about everyone I know says the same thing- so my best advice- try out 3dcart- you can even get a free trial and see how you like it and tech support will help you before you ever pay a penny. I hope that helps a little bit- and in the meantime you could try selling your things on facebook, I know a lot of people that have luck that way as well. Let me know if you have questions and how you are doing. I really am sorry.

  58. How did you get your shop reopened? By fighting it with John Deere & having them remove the complaint?

    • They did not shut my shop down, they just removed the item, but I know people who have had their shops shut down, some got them re-opened if they got the company to remove the complaints, others that had been warned before for other infringements never got their shops reopened. As for “fighting” with any company- don’t waste your time, they don’t care- if you infringed whether knowingly or not, they own the copyright and you will never win against them- at least no one I know has ever gotten anywhere trying to do that.

  59. I learned the hard way that I was walking a thin line. I was one of those people who thought…well everyone else does it. I regret that now. I was selling bottle cap jewelry and got shut down for infringment. I started selling other stuff (NOT related to bottle cap and no where NEAR copyrighted) on another site. But now Etsy is getting completley crazy on me. They have shut down my husbands store that was his own personal artwork and had NOTHING to do with my shop. I’m guessing they noticed the matching mailing address? He opened his shop before I was ever shut down. I think its so unfair…. My shop was MY shop… MY mistake. They gave my husband NO warning before shutting him down and banning him from the site. I am so upset about this. Can someone please give me advice on what I can do? the few items I got in trouble for I MAYBE got $10 out of… I would gladly pay that back if it would mean leaving me and my family alone. Its just not fair

  60. Hi Beth thanks that was very helpful. What if I find my images on someone else’s shop or site? What is the best method to approach them if someone copied my images?

    • I would either send them a message on Etsy if they are there or email (or both) them and tell them that they are using your images without your permission. I have had to do this several times. Or if they have absolutely copied something of yours- I would include a picture of your image and the date you created it- and tell them that they are infringing on your copyright. However, if they have changed it in the least bit (I think 20% is the number) then there really isn’t much you can do…but you can always try! I hope that helps!

  61. Good post-
    do you mind if I copy it on my blog and link back to you? Or at least post a link to this on my blog? I’m compiling some copyright infringement stories.
    thanks
    Dottie

    • Thanks Dottie. I would love that- the more people that know better- can ONLY be better for everyone and I would appreciate the back link- send me a link to your blog too!!

      thanks,
      Beth

  62. I was reading a post on this over at handmadeology, I decided to very quickly moved my business from Etsy to my own standalone ecommerce site before they could also find any little excuse to shut me down.

    My sales are strong and best of all I don’t have to go to bed palpitating that I’m going to wake up and someone is going to decide when to shut down my business. You don’t have a real business if someone else can just shut you down like that with no explanation and take away your livelihood!

    I’m at a point my ecommerce sales are doing quite well I can’t afford that to happen.

    I am at piece and feel that this is what real business ownership is about FULL CONTROL.

    Thanks

    • Hi Kathleen,

      Sorry to be so late responding to this- something happened to my notifications and I didnt even see your comment- I do apologize. I think that is so smart to have your own site, so that YOU are in control and you are right, if someone else has the ability to shut you down at any point it is not a real business- or at least it is not YOUR business.

  63. Thanks for including me in your blog post! I hope it helps people- truly I know there are so many people that don’t know and I imagine things are going to get rough for people that are infringing pretty soon!
    Beth

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