Sunday , 20 June 2021
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!

You have all heard it- “My shop on Etsy was shut down for copyright infringement”

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 infringement, 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. 

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  1. There is a lot of bullying around this issue as well. I’ve had shop owners contact me claiming to own the trademark for a certain saying only to find out (when doing my own research) that they own a trademark for something SIMILAR. In addition, I’ve been reported for trademark infringement when the trademark owner only had rights for the saying in certain uses (for example, on coffee cups and apparel) and not for the kind of wall art I make. Etsy refused to research the matter and I had to get my attorney involved. There are many, many sides to this issue. If you are confused or concerned, I recommend doing your own research or using an attorney. Not all Etsy sellers have a good heart where this is concerned.

    • I have a shop on Etsy and they removed one of my item because I used “Pandora-like beads” and they told me I can’t use that name. I posted beads similar to the one mentioned because I saw many stores on Etsy using it and on Ebay too. I told the person who sent me the letter that I didn’t know that because many people use that name for comparison and he should do a search on Etsy so he can see that a bunch of people are using that name to refer to those European beads. I’ve been looking to see it the items of other people have been removed and to my surprise they are still there! I feel discriminated, why me? and all the other people are still there using the name “Pandora” style-like on their items!

      • I get it! I had items removed for using a tag for chan Lu. I Didn’t have it in my description or title. Yet anytime you go etsy and search chan Lu , there are pages of items with chan Lu as a title, description and tags. I understand its hard to keep up, but I’m assuming someone is reporting… So in YOUR case, it is probably someone who felt it wasn’t fair and reported others with the pandora name used.
        Instead of reporting people, I just started warning sellers to remove the chan Lu. Assuming they really didn’t know.

        • Yes! I was thinking on contacting people about Chan lu or another person with “Pandora-like” beads but I guess Etsy reads our conversations, and I don’t want to have any more problems with Etsy, they told me not to contact anybody about the email about Pandora, and now I’m doing it here. I just opened a store and I haven’t sell anything yet. Jewelry-paintings and vintage, I’m so upset and sad about this.

          • I actually did contact Chan Lu to apologize. I felt it was required. I also panicked I’d never be allowed to sell on etsy after they removed my items!
            Chan Lu actually has a fraud department and specific email. Probably how someone reported me. I know etsy didn’t see my item, I’m sure it was reported by another Seller. Shame they’re so harsh and competitive.

      • In 2010 I used to have my own glass beads manufactured for me and I used to sell them on Ebay. I was doing really well until one morning I went to check my orders and found that Ebay had closed me down. The email said it was because I was using the name “Pandora” – my listings were headed “Handmade glass beads to Fit Pandora, Chamilia, Troll bracelets”. Apparently Pandora had made a complaint and such was their threat that Ebay closed down 200 sellers overnight and 2000+ within 7 days. The majority of the sellers only related to the brand name to show what the beads would fit – this is not illegal, I checked with a lawyer – but as he said “how deep are your pockets because theirs will be deeper” – in other words you cannot fight the big boys!

        • The thing is not that Pandora think it’s copyright infringement, its them competing too. If someone says their beads will fit a Pandora bracelet, then that person is not longer buying the beads from Pandora, they’re buying from you. So Pandora kick up a fuss and try to say “Copyright Infringment!” which will long term be profitable because now you have to buy the beads for your Pandora bracelet from Pandora.

          • I am a very well known bead and glass designer in Europe and here in the states. You can not use the words Pandora its trade marked.. You need to address that it is similar to it, but do not use that name.

            I sell all my bracelets using Swarovski.. but I see others stating its Similar to Swarovski.. You can not use that.. The word similar is telling that person that you are using fake products.. Similar is and meaning its some what like that product but NOT that product. So I can understand that Ebay and Etsy closed you down. IF you can not USE that same exact product then do not post it. simple as that.. and as far as designs. becareful out there most designs ARE copyrighted and trademarked… so if you use them without writing in permission you can be sued and also removed from postings as well.

      • So I just came across this and I too had my item removed, but my shop wasn’t closed. Will the company come sue for infringement. . I don’t believe my item was even an exact look of their items, but now I’m worried I’ll get sued. Have you encountered any legal action on the company’s behalf? Not etsy, but the copyright owners?

        • Hey,
          I was a rep for a baking manufacturer for nearly 20 years. I covered the areas of teaching retailers’ employees how to bake our products and basic cake decorating skills. I encountered many decorators who would use just about anything off the internet or even draw something their customer would ask for. Yes, many were copyright infringements, but the biggest thing I always heard was, they won’t come here. We won’t get caught. They don’t come after small businesses. Wrong answer.

          The OP was correct. It only takes one person to turn you in. And it doesn’t even have to be your competition. It could have just been a mother of another child at your kid’s birthday party who just happened to work for Disney or any of the other copyright owners, bands, artists, etc., that you copied from. There are many more ways to get noticed besides being sued. And many “things” that
          have copyrights besides pictures.

          NEVER follow what someone else is doing. Just because they haven’t been caught yet, don’t mean you won’t get caught. Kind of like “hey officer, all the other cars were speeding. too.”

          Here’s how they will work it if you get caught:
          They will send you a cease and desist letter. If you ever get one of these from a copyright owner’s legal counsel, take it very seriously. Yes, if you have doubts or think it’s a prank, go ahead and research who it came from and even call them to verify. Lawyers are registered. You can even check them out to see if they are legit. And they will be happy to help you understand what you did wrong whether you choose to stop or not.

          If you do not comply with the cease and desist letter, they will contact you again. You may get a second chance to take it seriously, or you may get hit with a very scary letter telling you that you are being sued for an enormous amount of money. Which would you rather do? (Personally, my choice would be not to use anything I didn’t make, draw, photograph etc., MYSELF. That is the ONLY way to ensure you’re protected from copying someone else’s work.)
          In the cake world, and this applies to all other types of “artistry or craft”,
          if you are caught using copyrighted images, words, logos or other materials, your fine will NOT be subject to that particular item. If you own a company, do many of the items at home or work for someone else’s company and do the work FOR them, they will take a GUESStimation of how many of these copyrighted items you have made and sold. (yes, people use edible ink printers to do copyrighted images for cakes daily. And yes, you can find them for sale all over places like Ebay, Etsy and even private websites. And yes, you may have even bought one from them).

          Once the lawyers decide how many of each copyrighted item they THINK you might have sold, and possibly how many years you’ve been open and could have sold, per year, and even times how many stores the owner owns…(simply put, if you’re making this item in one store, you’re probably doing it in all of your stores…).they will then give you a grand total which is something like $10,000 PER INCIDENT (cake, greeting card, wreath, yard art, hair bows, jewelry or whatever else it is you’re making and selling). Meaning if they think you’ve sold 10 of these items, say…per year…for 10 years….you’re already looking at a $100,000 fine. And if you’ve been using LOTS of their pictures…this will apply to each picture you used or have in your possession and COULD have used.

          Once again, I know many of the readers are going to scoff at my message and say it won’t happen, but trust me, it happens…and it’s real. Don’t put yourself in a position of losing everything you own to pay a gianormous fine just because “Frozen” was popular or “Roll Tide” is all the rage or “everyone else is selling it”.
          If you want to build your own business, use your business head and build something nobody else has. Oh, and be sure to copyright it first. ;)

    • Etsy is discriminating against small sellers. It is not just other sellers reporting infractions or mistakes.

      I see stores open for 1-2 months selling thousands of dollars worth of mass merchandised products that I see all over wholesale sites.

      I asked Etsy how this could be allowed stating that I didn’t want people to lose their income, but would like the opportunity to sell wholesale products myself.

      I got an enormous runaround and basically a threat to shut me down if I didn’t shut up about it. With thousands in medical bills and a terminally ill spouse, I LIKE to MAKE things, but NEED to make money. I am not the only one who is noticing this. Just read some of the threads on Etsy complaining that Etsy is not shutting those huge shops down after being notified.

      Hundreds or more large shops are allowed to do this and Etsy actually told me that they make “look similar” to mass marketed items and I was badly mistaken, they are hand made items. Sorry, not true. Many of the sellers are not even trying to look authentic and are using stock photos of the mass produced items and selling them for 4 or even 20 times more markup from what they (and I or anyone) can buy them for on wholesale sites. Unfortunately, these wholesalers want a cut and are selling the items for rock bottom prices on Ebay, so small sellers such as myself can’t sell there either and make a profit.

      This is unethical, unfair and discriminatory, period. I JUST got an email ad from Etsy. Guess what was on the page? Photos of products for sale with 5 items out of the 15 or so in the ad that I see regularly on huge wholesale sites. They are not home made replicas or similar items. They are very clearly mass produced items and again, some are using STOCK photos that the wholesalers use.

      In my opinion, sellers who are making a lot, good for them, but what about the rest of us who would like to do the same?

      Yes, keep the handcrafted portion for artisans but allow the rest of us to make a living too! How hard can it be for Etsy to have two different seller platforms?

      I must work from home to care for a family member with advanced illness. We live in the boonies, can’t afford to move, have no family in the area to help so I have no choice but to try to make money online. I’ve had an Etsy store for years and if you read the forums, it is a very difficult uphill battle to sell there with all of the competition…unless you are one of the lucky mass marketers who are not being called out. I get it to an extent…Why would Etsy want to lose the huge profits they are making from their cut of the sales?

      No problem there for those who are artists, enjoy selling on Etsy and can afford to do so as a hobby or for a little extra cash or who are talented and clever enough to come up with products that are doing very well. I admire them and try to do the same. It has not been working for me. I am not a born artist and DO try, but…

      I see sellers who have been on the site for as little as a MONTH making THOUSANDS of dollars by reselling mass produced items and I am lucky to make 50 bucks a week after spending hours making products, taking photos, writing descriptions, etc. Okay, I may not be a great artist, but their scare tactics to shut me down for pointing it out and asking how I can do the same and BE IN COMPLIANCE only to be threatened with shutting me down is downright discriminatory and unacceptable.

      It seems that this may even dare I say…illegal?

      Any suggestions? Any attorneys out there who think this is grounds for a class action lawsuit or something along those lines? I am ready to give up my store just to call them out on their unethical practices and make them sweat to pay THEIR bills. On the other hand, I don’t want to have sellers lose their income. I will contact the BBB at a minimum. Other than that, their blatant lie telling me that I am mistaken and that the items I “believe” to be mass products and “seem” as if they are the same is ridiculous.

      I sent them copies of the wholesale products with stock photos from the wholesalers that are being sold by hundreds of big stores making great profits for their “hand made” creations. The only thing they are making by hand is moves on a keyboard to list mass produced items and transfer money online to pay for bills or vacations from their large profits. After seeing photos, Etsy reps still pretended I had no idea what I was talking about and threatened to shut me down.

      It is sickening. If anyone can suggest a place where I can share this info that may get Etsy to shape up, I’d love to know about it! Since I don’t want to face the wrath of Etsy, I am literally afraid to give my store name and identity. I have tons of medical bills and regular living expenses to pay and literally, as for many of us, every dollar helps.

      • Angelina, I am so sorry this happened to you… it definitely doesn’t sound right! Could you post the substance of the correspondence you received from Etsy, keeping it anonymous? I would really like to see where and how they threatened you in their emails, and this should definitely be reported to the attorney general or BBB.

      • I am totally in agreement with you about Etsy’s poor corporate statement/moto/brand. It first started out by a guy looking to make a market place for artisan to sell their work. I had nice warm fuzzy feeling about it. But as it got more popular, more overseas sellers and wholesallers heard it was a thriving market and set up shop. Honestly, they really don’t enforce this at all, maybe like a token enforcement effort. At one point I heard about sellers being shut down for even the ‘rumor’ they were drop shipping their bracelets from a factory, when they were actually making them by hand at home, but those days are gone. I honestly think the staffer just picks and chooses their cases based on how much money you make for them, or how their mood is that day. They like the added income or the factory sellers, cuz its a seriously nice chuck of change, so I would not be at all surprised if staff is told to ‘look the other way’. They complaints that truly get a reaction are ‘legal’ type letters, and honestly they could care less if complaints are true or not. It’s just easier for them to shut you down, then actually look into it, the last thing they want is to go to court. They like to stand behind their warm and fuzzy ‘artist’ ‘handmade’ ‘not factory’ branding campaign, but it is totally false and fraudulent branding. Would I care if they went totally corporate like ebay? Maybe yes, maybe no. But don’t feed me crap and tell me its chocolate.

        • EBay is even worse. They ALLOW the Chinese sellers to sell fake, handmade jade, amethyst, topaz, etc and swarovski beads, passing it off as the real thing when clearly it’s not. But they don’t care because they entered into an agreement with the US government and the Chinese government. So it’s all about money. Meanwhile we get ripped off by paying for scratched beads with uneven facets that don’t shine and these sellers call ME dishonest when I tell them it’s not genuine swarovski. EBay takes their side which is even worse. Does swarovski even know or care that their name is associated with this garbage?

      • I do not own an etsy shop but my daughter did. even with an attorney involved – etsy shut her shop down because someone complained she was nstealing their copyright. she wasn’t – attorney did the research – etsy didn’t care I am so in favor of a class action lawsuit!!!!

        • I don’t like Etsy, and stopped selling there years ago when it became obvious that the site’s dedication to handmade was beginning to waver, when the vulture capitalist investors became involved and began populating the board with the likes of WalMart execs, etc.; long before the now infamous announcement in the Town Hall of October 2013.

          However, it’s rare to see a shop immediately closed for IP infringement, the SOP prescribed by law, for them and every similar venue, is to remove the listings they have received a complaint about and issue a warning to the shop owner. The way the DMCA is written, the site’s hands are pretty much tied. They have to follow procedures set out in the law or they could lose their safe harbor status, taking down the site and all the innocent sellers there with it. Shops are usually closed down after having had to be warned more than once regarding either the same infringement issue or additional ones (some sellers think it’s a three strikes rule, but Etsy isn’t saying and some actions also haven’t borne that out.) If a shop has been warned on various issues, they can elect to close the shop.

          They can only remove listings the copyright/trademark holder issue a take down notice on. For example, if someone has a shop full of Disney listings, the DMCA requires Disney file a separate and individual notice on each one of them, no matter how many there are. Etsy (or any other similar venue) is only permitted to remove the listings they receive notice for, so if the shop has a hundred Disney listings, but Etsy receives notices from Disney on only ten of them, those ten are the only ones they are legally permitted to remove. If they filed a notice for each of the hundred items, well there isn’t a shop anymore at all, is there?

          It’s also illegal for someone to claim copyright/trademark infringement when none exists. As the DMCA is written, Etsy cannot allow an item to be relisted or, a shop to be reopened, in these cases unless the claimant has officially rescinded their claim, or it’s been legally proven that the claim of infringement is fraudulent or in error, which in some cases may require a court ruling. A shop owner or their attorney can argue with Etsy over it all they want, the law requires that the infringement claim be officially reversed or nullified before they can legally agree to permit the items to be relisted on their site, they are not legally permitted involve themselves in settling such disputes or to make those calls themselves, nor will they.

          So if an attorney wishes to handle their client’s case properly, according to DMCA procedure, they have to seek that the infringement claim be rescinded by the person who filed it or by the courts, should it become necessary. If your daughter’s attorney didn’t proceed in that manner, then he/she didn’t do their job for your daughter, and it’s he/she you need to seek redress from, rather than Etsy.

          Not to say Etsy can’t be heavy-handed, uncommunicative and uncooperative, or hasn’t made mistakes when closing shops down, just that it’s not to their financial advantage to do so (witness all the resellers that are permitted to remain, and the denial by the company they even have a reseller issue, let alone acknowledgement of how large it’s become.)

          Also not saying that this is the case with your daughter’s shop at all because I don’t know her, what it was she was selling or any of the circumstances, but if there is a claim of infringement and a shop owner refused to follow instructions on how he/she is required to deal with it, who merely continues to argue with the admins or even airs their grievances in the forums, publicly shares the communication they received from Etsy, or there have been various valid complaints filed against the shop woner before for this issue or any others, rather than continuing to deal with someone who bears watching with regard to the site’s TOU, they might elect to just close the shop down.

        • copyright if applicable does not have to be registered. A copyright protected work is protected the moment it is put in a tangible form. Like the words to a song or a sentence in a book. from the government, see below

          Do I have to register with your office to be protected?

          No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

          Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?

          Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration” and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works.

          I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?

          The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.

          Is my copyright good in other countries?

          The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other’s citizens’ copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country. For a listing of countries and the nature of their copyright relations with the United States, see Circular 38a, International Copyright Relations of the United States.

  2. I was contacted by Etsy, who was contacted by Chanel, for some vintage Chanel pens I had listed. They were a pen set that were scented with Chanel No. 5. Who knew they were knock offs, from the 1960s? They were taken down. Then on my jewelry site, I had a charm necklace with a fireman’s hat and a heart charm that I called “Hearts on Fire”. I was contacted by a diamond company that had trademarked the name “Hearts on Fire”. I had never heard of it, since then it seems like I see ads for it everywhere. I’ve always wondered how the Disney images have snuck under the radar, since I’ve always heard they are real sticklers for their images. Anyway, its not just you – others have had the same happen. We all need to be careful. We wouldn’t want others stealing our ideas and images, so we have to be careful not to use or take theirs. Chin up!

  3. Catherine Todd

    Thank you Beth for a great and informative, if frustrating article. With all these crazy copyrights, are we even going to be able to say, write or design ANYTHING one of these days?

    I understand copyright protection is necessary to protect some things and I hate having my own designs stolen, but in the old days, artists trained under “the masters” and the masters would sign the artist’s work as their own! And this was considered the highest honor! Some cultures still believe this.

    Copyright is a difficult and sometimes dangerous thing. It’s supposed to protect things, as well it should, but lately it seems to have gone crazy. Thank you for the very important information contained herein.

    More and more, I’m glad I don’t sell on Etsy.

    • Hello i do not even last a month on etsy when they shut down my shop, claimimg that i am
      Not following the guidelines! What ??? I was selling waist cinchers! There are tons of items like mine! And they are treating me like a felon! Where can we go to report an abuse and discrimination on Etsy?

  4. You are right Catherine it is difficult, and bottom line, it all boils down to MONEY! No one wants to have their work used if they are not getting compensated for it. Which I totally understand, as I was the victim of this recently in a very bold way.

    Someone stole my graphics from someone’s blog post, and used them on pillows they sold on One King’s Lane. Not only did they not buy them, but even if they had, they would have violated all of my terms of use- but yet they made $2100 on the sale of the pillows- beyond frustrating.

    So in many ways I appreciate the copyright laws and in many ways they are useless. Better safe than sorry I guess.

    • catherine todd

      Beth, I agree but would change one thing in your statement above: “No one wants to have their work used without permission.”

      I’ve had a number of artists be more than happy to allow us to use their designs for the beautiful beadwork we do with the indigenous Mayan artisans here at lovely Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, and for NO CHARGE! All but one person has agreed to this via a simple email on my part. The main thing seems to be asking permission and “giving credit where credit is due.”

      My husband is a professional photographer and I can tell you if his work gets ripped off it’s a very bad thing, since this is how he makes his living. Beadwork by artists can be a bit different but again it’s asking permission that counts the most.

      You story about someone making $2,100 on a sale with your designs is more than “frustrating…” I would be really angry about this! Did you go to court over this; or could you? And especially having someone steal your design when it was posted on someone else’s blog. Wow.

      I have had someone on photobucket go through all my photos of our beadwork and post them as their own, and for me to get them taken off this person’s photobucket page would have taken me eons it seemed. Many pages of information I was going to have to provide, half of which I didn’t understand. And I’m pretty smart! So I gave up, and closed all my albums on Photobucket and now only post images which have been watermarked. But the thieves still do their worst!

      This copyright discussion is very important and I am so grateful that handmadeology has given us a forum to post questions and experiences. A lot of necessary information I had no idea about. Thanks to every who has participated here!

      • Its a sad situation. I do genealogy and I wrote a book on my family and shared a lot. I found one lady took all my work and posted it as hers. It had on it information of living people and I had a hard time getting her to take the living people off that web site. The took her off the website she was on for copyright infringement. The next website she used basically said do not bother them with it. It was not their problem and there was no contact number for her. She finally did take the living people off of the genealogy

    • Isn’t there someway that someone could do a class action against Etsy so they stop the insanity?! One of my items was turned in by a company claiming they had the trademark Smurf. I had a handmade crocheted hat on the Etsy that was deactivated by Etsy. How was I using their trademark? There are 100 Smurf hats on Etsy and they chose me (I only sold one hat!). Why aren’t they going after the big money makers and not the people just trying to sell their crafts for pocket money?
      I would love to see someone stop Etsy from being unfair to sellers. I do not believe in using someone’s copyrights or trademarks but making a hat similer to one I see in the cartoons should not be infringement. It is simply a hobby.

      • I also have my store closed because I make phone cases in cat shapes using glasses and they say it is infringing Hello Kitty property, can anyone that had this experience let me know if I will be sued? It is so unfair, they make us feel, we are criminals, and when searching the word “Hello Kitty” on etsy, I got not only one but 26,000 items being sold and they even use the Hello Kitty name on their title. Also we receive a message stating that it should not share with anybody in etsy, Why?

  5. Beth,
    I am so sorry this happened to you. I do stamping once in a while and I wonder if such things as “Blessed Be” are copyrighted. I like what you are teaching in this article. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

  6. Catherine, I did say that they shouldn’t use them without purchasing the rights, I guess I should have added “or without their permission”, but for the most part I was mainly talking about all the people that are making and selling invitations, decorations, etc… on Etsy using Disney, Pixar, etc…images- and none of those people will give you permission, nor is buying the rights even remotely feasible for most people.

    I did go see an attorney about the pillows. He is helping me and although he will cost more than I stand to get back, I am not going to stand still for it. Their defense “we found it on a free clip art site”
    1) that is a lie, I searched my images and the EXACT images they used were the ONLY ones shown on the blog post I found AND were watermarked- so they KNOW they did something wrong
    2)even if they did find them on the web somewhere or even a free clip art site, that does not give someone the rights to use them for large wholesale or commercial use- I am sure they just thought whoever they belonged to would never find out. Well, I did- and this person also sells to Neiman’s and Horchow- so let’s just say, she can afford to pay for her graphics- ridiculous!

    Thanks for all your insightful remarks! It is great to hear what other people think about this.

    • Beth, I am so glad to read that you have seen an attorney and are willing to pay to take action – even if you don’t recuperate more than you spend. I ALWAYS stand up for myself, regardless of the money involved. And if I can’t afford a lawyer, I have done it myself – oftentimes even better than paying someone else! These cheaters, liars and thieves have to learn there are consequences to their actions, and it’s not just “profit in their pockets.”

      I can’t believe they dared to sell your design to Neiman Markus and Horchow.. I wonder if you can contact them directly to let them know what is going on? That should immediately cost those thieves any more business there! I imagine you have already done this… let us know how it turns out.

      I am so sorry to read this, though. Given the fact that so many of the Guatemalan artisans use other people’s designs they find elsewhere, and there is little if any enforcement of copyright here (if it exists at all!) I always remind the artisans I work with to change the design somewhat to not steal it from someone else. Copying is a huge problem and I see things copied the very next day when someone comes up with a new design. I don’t know what to do but to try and stay one step ahead.

      The other solution has been to allow people to copy and if they can do a good job, pay them to create the product wholesale for me. I pay the designers a LOT for their new designs as they won’t be able to make much as soon as it’s copied, but at least that way they are reimbursed somewhat.

      I had a company who has taken over museum gift shops all across the country, keep our products for months AFTER taking them off the floor (where they were very successful) and apparently copied them all in China for less! Can you believe it?

      But our designs are not copyrighted in the states and I couldn’t afford to do it, regardless… seems like there’s nothing I can do about this. But another woman has taken the same beautiful handbeaded keychains we make and “written a book” giving instructions and claiming the designs as her own! The indigenous Mayans have been creating these designs for the past 40 years and now this American comes in to claim them as her own.

      So what to do? I really have no idea, except give credit where credit is due, ask for permission, change a design to not copy it to begin with, and take action whenever you can if you are being ripped off.

      It’s hard to stay in business in this ever-increasing competitive market with international access now, but let us know how things turn out with Neiman Markus and your competition rip-off. Can’t wait to see what pans out in this endeavor. And the more I read, the more I am glad that I’m not on Etsy right now. I think it must be a huge design rip-off site as well as sales site.

      Ah, the world would be so nice if not for (some of the) people!

      You wrote: “I am sure they just thought whoever they belonged to would never find out. Well, I did…”

      LOL!!! Good for you!

      “- and this person also sells to Neiman’s and Horchow- so let’s just say, she can afford to pay for her graphics- ridiculous!”

      Amen! Get them kicked out of those sales markets for starters. Let us know the rest of the story as it develops!

      Catherine Todd,

  7. PS: Did you send them a bill for using your WATERMARKED graphics? That would be my first step. Hah!

  8. Informative article, thank you!
    It’s sad, how things are stolen, used and credit isnt given, I think I was more bothered that someone went to all the trouble to find out the color schemes copyrighted by John Deere, just to report you.
    That seemed to me, to be a direct hit from a spiteful person looking for anything they could find to shut you down. Jealous, more than likely. People are mean. Thank you again for passing on your knowledge.

  9. Catherine,

    I have been in contact with them, and I am seeking some sort of compensation but working with my attorney on that, I would like to avoid having the expense of going to court, although I could stand to get more if I do, but I am trying to go the non-legal route first.

    And I did contact One King’s Lane, they didn’t do anything about it either, even after they were informed, so we will be pursuing that as well. She has not sold them anywhere else and said she would not. I hope that will be true.

    It is terrible how people do that all the time, and particularly someone selling your work as their own. Very sad- that is one of the reasons I wanted to do this post- because is infuriates me , particularly when someone uses my work or copies it and it happens ALL the time- but also the mindset that just because everyone else is doing it- that makes it okay somehow. A REAL person drew and created all the designs that people are using without permission and I don’t care if the person was Walt Disney, or Eric Carle- it is still wrong to use other’s people work without their permission or paying for it.

    • catherine todd

      Beth, I applaude you for standing up for yourself, and let us know the final outcome. Has the offender offered to pay you for your work? That would be the best outcome of course, regardless of the amount, along with a written agreement not to use your work in the future without written permission.

      GO TO COURT as a pro-se litigator (by your self). There are many legal letters and forms you can purchase and download online for your state that should address copyright infringement.

      I have rarely used an attorney except in a few cases, and I have always prevailed the few times I have had to go to court as a licensed contractor for unpaid contracts. Usually a notice of legal action and a court date is enough for people to pay up. Take a look on doing it yourself before you spend more on an attorney than you stand to gain.

      Since copyright infringement is a rampant and serious problem, I’m sure there’s lots of info on how to protect yourself online. Let us know what you find.

      Thanks to Rachel for letting us know that people are actually hired to ferret out offenders online and elsewhere. I had no idea! Especially that saying a “Pandora style bead” would be infringement. I see people using brand names and saying “influenced by” all the time. Seemed wrong to me and now I find out it’s wrong to them, too. So much important information here. Gracias!

    • I'd rather not say I don't trust etsy


      I’m eager to hear if you’ve had any success resolving your issue with etsy. My shop has been closed for 1 1/2 months after running for 4 years. I’ve been going back and forth with them and haven’t heard back after sending all the details they requested. I design jewelry and I work with someone using a 3d computer program to create the wax sample. Countless rings and necklaces are made this way to create a seamless jewelry piece. They claim I didn’t have enough involvement in the design process. My questions is if I didn’t design the product who did? At first I was able to request a phone call now that feature is gone (after calling 4 times). I’ve provided CAD drawings, original drawings, email correspondence with the 3d programer requesting design changes. I also have a signed letter from him stating he works with me to create the sample using my designs and direction. I feel like etsy is splitting hairs when there are other greek shops mass producing jewelry from China. Why I’m singled out I don’t know. I’m interested in finding a lawyer next and curious if anyone’s had success after seeking legal council. I love running my shop and have a 5 star rating and hate to think of no longer running it :(

  10. Why not call out the person by name who stole your designs, showing visuals of your work and the work of the copier along with their distribution channels. Post the information on the web and use key words so that it receives a prominent listing should anyone research that person’s name/company. I don’t think this would be slander if you can visually prove your work was stolen and reused. Embarrassment can be a powerful motivator.

  11. I opened a destash shop to rid myself of my overstock and did have an item deactivated by Etsy; I foolishly called a bead a ‘Pandora style bead’, and someone FROM Pandora complained; so don’t think the big companies won’t come looking on Etsy!
    Until I reworded my listing and got permission from the woman at Pandora (because you’re right, Etsy doesn’t care) could I reactivate my listing. And I know people who work at Disney whose sole job is to look for infringements. They be big, but they be pissed if you use their art! So don’t ever be fooled into think you’re too small and they’re too big; they don’t care.

  12. Another good resource can be found at

    It does a good job of explaining how even if you have a good understanding of whether you actually are violating copyright you can still get smacked by Etsy.

  13. Thank you for a great post on this. I have an Irish stout soap in my shop that uses a particular brand of stout. I leave the name off because I contacted thd company and they declined my request. Meanwhile every other soaper on Etsy uses the name. That is frustrating.

  14. Oh my, has it been challenging to be a tutu seller on Etsy! My images have been stolen countless times, and I have filled out more DMCA notices than I care to remember. When one of my images is stolen, the most upsetting thing is how blatant and justified the thieves attitudes are. I have been told that my tutu images are in a different country, and so fare game. What? Also, that my stolen images were feeding someone’s children. Please! I am not responsible for feeding their children.

    I have also had several people kicked off Facebook, sadly because they don’t stop stealing copyrighted images. At this point the amount of time spent protecting copyrighted images can be well beyond what one etsy store owner can manage. The only prevention measures we can take seem to be using low res images, and watermarking them to the point that even alibaba and dhgate won’t bother stealing them. Trust me. Their sellers are probably stealing one of your images right now.

    • catherine todd

      The best advice I had from someone about copying was “let them, then hire them to produce your products cheaper for you!”

      This, of course, won’t work in all situations, but it will work in many. The next important step is to gain MARKET SHARE. That’s the only thing that keeps the copyists at bay. If they can’t speak English, they can’t sell in your market very well, and vice versa.

      Then you can offer to sell them your design instead of taking them to court (if that’s possible), although I’m not sure what the laws are in other countries or if an American copyright is valid in another country. I would doubt it.

      The only worst case scenario is the type of copyist who makes a big sale to a major dept. store. That hurts! And can be a problem in your own individual market. That’s where branding comes in. We little people can’t compete with the big guys, but we can set some standards and find online legal forms to send letters and file in court if need be.

      But more and more we are going to have to learn to SHARE. Now that we have the internet, not much is proprietary anymore. We have many jewelry designs here in Guatemala that I later find in a book or a magazine and who knows if it was “the chicken or the egg?” I have no way of knowing.

      The only thing I know to do for myself is work on my own market, contact people who I believe have stolen my work, and file the legal forms possible in my own country. I can’t do much about anything else, but build up my own clientele and work as hard as I can to keep new, fresh designs coming. And WATERMARK all my images!

      Competition is the hallmark of our economy, which has become world-wide. We can’t stop it, but we can learn to work with it by pointing out that we are the “original” and we use the “best quality” and so on, and also consider giving away our designs after a certain amount of time, asking for credit to author. What else can we do?

      But stand up for ourselves and use the legal system wherever we can. There’s lots of online legal documents that work for whatever state you are in, and you can file pro-se (“by self”) without a lawyer. Go that route if you think you and your market is actually being damaged by competition in your area.

      Otherwise, bless them and let them go and know that no one can move you out of your spot, since the originators always come up with the best stuff! A copy is never as good.

  15. catherine todd

    And trust me, “stealing an image” doesn’t mean they made a sale! It’s the SALES that count! Or look at it like being a teacher, and GIVE BEAUTY & KNOWLEDGE TO THE WORLD!

    And protect your own personal market to feed your own family!

  16. catherine todd

    Rachel, you mentioned having a problem listing as a “Pandora Style Bead.” Not knowing what this was, I did an online search. Thousands of listings for this large-hole bead, including instructions on how to make them! Lots of sellers using this term.

    How could this be a problem? Here’s one example:


    • Good question! Why pinpoint little ol’ me on Etsy, when all I’m trying to do is sell my unwanted beads, and there’s a company out there doing the same thing? It is UK based, so what copyright laws apply there, I don’t know.
      I just think Etsy got scared when the woman from Pandora filed a complaint and they deactivated my listing. They don’t want to be held responsible for my actions.

      • It’s important to understand that Etsy’s policy is much harsher than the actual copyright laws (at least the US laws.)

        In practical terms: If an infringement is alleged, they will remove the item until the copyright holder is happy. NOT until you prove that you are within your rights. It keeps their costs low and keeps them from being nuked to death by court costs from the big guys like Disney.

        That’s why you can’t say “inspired by” on Etsy.

  17. I had a related unsettling experience. I make jewelry with vintage buttons, and one of my necklaces had buttons with motifs similar to Chanel’s logo (back to back, rather than interlocking Cs). Naive and ignorant, I made the mistake of describing them as “Chanel-like,” and consequently received a letter from Etsy, stating that my item had been deactivated. Chanel’s legal beagles had complained to Etsy, claiming violation of their copyright logo.

    A contact email address for the Chanel corporation was provided. I sent an apologetic “won’t ever happen again” email, but never heard back, which I surmise is a good thing!

    Needless to say, I removed all references to Chanel and re-listed my necklace…a valuable lesson learned:)

    • catherine todd

      Paula, thanks for your experience. I had no idea, as I see “Chanel-like” or “gold-tone” or whatever listed all the time. But I can see that the big brands must be checking Etsy, since at least copyright laws are in effect in the U.S. They have a terrible problem with knock-offs all over the world who also cheapen their brand by using inferior materials, etc.

      But I didn’t know legal rights can extend to not adding “like” to a brand name / copyrightten name (s?). I guess they figure they are the only ones who can use their name in any form at all. Good thing we have this discussion board to learn about these things. I’m surprised Etsy doesn’t have a “do and don’t” page about this themselves.

        • Thank you Paula. I swear, this discussion is making me so glad that the only problem I have is people copying our designs! And I thought that was bad enough. We don’t sell on Etsy and now I don’t think we ever will. But what this has all brought home to me in a very big way is that MARKETING and CUSTOMER SERVICE is going to one of the big things that separate the “men from the boys,” or really the good businesses to deal with and the bad.

          Even though I have found people copying my images and jewelry designs, I haven’t seen them being sold (yet) in a big way somewhere else. God forbid I see them sold at Neiman Marcus one day, though. The company that copied all our products in China that we sold in museum gift shops are finding out they can’t produce “museum quality” beadwork, so we may have a chance at getting those customers back. If not, I will brand our work in a better way as I can’t stand the thought of our indigenous artisans losing all their work overnight.

          This is such a huge problem for so many artisans in so many countries, that the countries themselves are passing laws against importing cultural products that have been copied (stolen) from the indigenous culture that originally produced it. I’m going to look into that more, too.

          Did you see the notice I posted about Disney trying to trademark the “Day of the Dead” phrase? Talk about the world going crazy! Something is going to have to give. I don’t know what it will be, but surely becoming the best or the newest or the most innovative is going to be the grease that keeps our exchanges going. Competition is a way of life; we just have to find a way to do it that will benefit all.

          “The winds of grace blow all the time; all we need do is set our sails.” Dear God please show us The Way.

  18. catherine todd

    Rachel, I can hardly believe that this huge company Pandora would complain about a “Pandora style bead” listing when there are thousands of descriptions just like this! Not just the one link I sent. But perhaps they monitor Etsy in particular.

    It would be interesting to write to the company and ask them what their rules are, or if there is an acceptable way to describe a “large hole bead” that can be added as a charm or strung on a necklace. They make a big deal (as they should) about being “authentic” and it’s important to protect one’s brand and not have it devalued by inferior quality products being mistaken for it (hence Kodak and their copyright on their particular shade of yellow) but in the case of beads, I just can’t imagine.

    Pandora might not be willing to respond at all to questions as to how others should describe their beads, but it’s worth a try. Etsy stinks as far as I can see when it comes to treating their own vendors properly or even correctly. I know it’s a huge market but I’m glad I’m not on there. It’s ruined as far as I can see by copyists, rip-offs and third party sellers. I’m glad Handmadeology has started something new.

    • Well, what can I say? I got an email from Etsy, they wouldn’t help me and told me to write to her at Pandora. I did, and she responded that as long as I change the wording in my listing, we’re all good. They obviously don’t want to be associated with anyone that isn’t Pandora branded or authorized. Their right.
      I dodged a bullet 2 other times, as I had listed 2 others as Pandora style, saw that in my stats as something as being searched. One listing sold before she caught it, and I caught the other and changed the listing before Etsy caught it and deactivated it.
      Big companies do this, as is their right, and they will defend themselves against the counterfeiters and copycats. As Ripley would say, believe it or not.

      • catherine todd

        “They obviously don’t want to be associated with anyone that isn’t Pandora branded or authorized. Their right.”

        Good point, and being an “authorized dealer” or representative means you can expend the same high standards from sellers as the company itself. So there are good reasons for protecting one’s reputation and brand name.

      • Hi Rachel

        The same thing happened to me! I have a shop on Etsy and they removed one of my items because I used “Pandora-like beads” (it was a bunch of beads that I was not using and I wanted to sell) and they told me I can’t use that name. I saw many stores on Etsy using that name and on Ebay too. I told the person who sent me the email ” do a search on Etsy and look how many people are using the name “Pandora-like” or “Pandora style” I’ve been looking to see if the items of other people have been removed and to my surprise they are still there! I feel discriminated, why me? and all the other people are still there using the name “Pandora” style-like on their items!

      • Again, it isnt branding, it’s use of a Trademarked name. Pandora, the name, is trademarked and describes the patented jewelery. I could make a handbag using the exact same leather with the same hardware minus the logo that Doonie uses but if I said it was Doonie like or Doonie style I would get the same result…a C&D letter.

  19. catherine todd

    sorry, can’t edit / fix spelling:

    “means you can EXPECT the same high standards from sellers as the company itself. “

  20. Lori Lee-Weber

    I got nailed by the Power Ranger people for using Mighty Morphin in my description of my rag rug woven of sheets with the dang Power Rangers on them. I recycle fabric for my rugs and often use kids sheets with popular characters on them. I was a little frustrated that I was being criticized for telling my customers what my rug was woven out of. I still cannot see how that is a copy-write infringement, but I changed the listing. I have not used another Power Ranger sheet again. The whole thing left a very bad taste in my mouth.

    • Lori, how in the world are you supposed to describe what the rug was made out of, if not “Power Ranger” sheets? The sheets paid for the use of the image and name; were you supposed to use that small “trademark” mark perhaps?

      If that wasn’t the issue, how can anyone describe anything that is being recycled or resold? Is there some kind of magic wording that is supposed to accompany a brand name?

      This makes no sense. I wouldn’t want to use anything by Power Ranger ever again, either.

      • Lori, that is not a copywrite infringement, it is a Trademark infringement. Mighty Morphin, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Ranger Nation, are all trademarked. Yes you used old sheets with the caracters on them but to use the trade marked names gives perception that they are lilcenced or sanctioned by SCG POWER RANGERS LLC who owns the Trademark. may try made from sheets depicting a popular 90′s kids TV show? if there is a photo you know its Power Rangers.

  21. What about using fabric that has the logo on it? Still ok to use that? I thought it was as long as you are reproducing the logo.


  22. By the way, CASE tractors are red. I do not know if they trademark their color scheme the way John Deere does, but you wouldn’t want a repeat…! Good luck.

  23. This article confuses copyright with trademark. Copyright protects works of authorship, such as writings, music, and works of art. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. The use of the term ‘Roll Tide’ and the John Deere tractor are trademark violations, not copyright violations.

    It shouldn’t matter how many other people are selling Disney, Pixar and other copyrighted material. You, as a business owner, are responsible for making sure that your individual products do not violate copyrights or trademarks.

    I do not feel sorry for any Etsy seller that gets shut down for violating someone’s copyright or trademark. How many times a day do you hear about an Etsy seller’s images being used without their permission, or their products being copied? Just as you wouldn’t want someone to steal your work, you shouldn’t be stealing someone else’s work. And selling copyrighted materials, or using trademarked phrases/logos, without permission is doing just that.

    • Julia you are correct- there is a difference in copyright and trademark violations. I guess I really think of copyrights because I am an artist and that is what I am used to dealing with- but the green and yellow tractor colors and the slogans for the college teams are indeed trademarks- sorry for not being clearer about that.

      I do feel sorry for some of the people that have had their shops shut down. I know people who lost their shops for using the word “onesie” and I just don’t think until that happened to a bunch of people did anyone know that word was trademarked by Gerber. There are a lot of things like that that are just not general knowledge and how would you even begin to think that a word you have known for years (unless it is something like Kleenex) could “belong” to someone.

  24. Since setting up shop on Etsy I was shocked at how frequently my designs have been ripped off. I keep telling myself it will push me to do something new instead of wallow in the misery of trying to protect my designs. It is so frustrating. I grew up in the Southwest United States and cherished the native cultures in this area. When the turquoise jewelry fads in the 60′s and 70′s forced the huge rip-off of native american jewelry designs and styles, I was horrified. The Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and countless other native americans know this all to well when white, asian, hispanic,and other cultures capitalized on reproducing Native American, jewelry, paintings, and other cultural art pieces and ran all the way to the bank, while the Native peoples were forced out of the market. I don’t know what the answer is other than to try to educate people about their purchases and the source from which they are buying.
    I saw an Etsy site that had the exact photos from JCrew’s dresses with the heads cropped, and being shipped from China……….. not sure what Etsy did about it.

    • Theresa, this is why I don’t sell on Etsy. I don’t have the larger market but I’m not ripped off there. How to keep being ripped off? I have no idea. We used to sell in museums in NYC and now there’s a company that has come in, taken over museum gift shops and they have copied our Guatemalan products in China and taken ours off the sales floor.

      The Guatemalan artisans I work with lost their market and income overnight. What to do? Keep designing new things that will be copied the next day… and increase your sales market and quality control and brand name and protect it at all cost, just like these companies are doing, I guess. But none of it is easy and little of it makes sense.

      But talk about the world going copyright / trademark crazy: Take a look at this! Disney was going to trademark “Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead.” Meaning anyone would have to have Disney’s permission to use this phrase! How is that possible?

      Disney backed down but there are others that won’t. Bill Gates via Microsoft has trademarked many of the our beautiful art classics that have hung in museums for years. He owns the internet rights to these public-domain artworks by the most famous painters in the world, from the last 500+ years. It’s not only insane, it’s criminal.

      UPDATE: Disney Day of the Dead trademark

      “Jesus Iñiguez,”
      2:57 PM, 14 May 2013

      Dear Catherine,

      We beat Disney!

      Last week, over ten thousand of you signed a petition telling the Walt Disney corporation that Latino culture is not for sale. They heard our voices and announced that they are withdrawing their application to trademark Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.


      By fighting back together we showed corporations that they will pay a price when they try to abuse Latino traditions.

      Below is an image of Disney’s trademark application that staff were able to dig up–share it with your friends if you’re as inspired as we are by this big win!

      Share on Facebook.

      Not on Facebook? Share from our website.

      It’s unfathomable to think what would have happened had Disney been successful in trademarking Day of the Dead. Many Mexican and Latin American communities in the US would need permission from the Disney corporation to use the name Dia de los Muertos.

      But because you spoke up, that’s not going to happen. And we sent a strong message to corporations everywhere that Latino culture is not for sale.

      Let’s celebrate this victory–and be ready to speak up again anytime our community is threatened.

      Thanks again and ¡adelante!

      Jesus, Arturo, Gabriela, Kyle, and the entire team

      P.S. Can you donate $5 to support our work? We rely on contributions from people like you to see campaigns like this through.

  25. Julia, how can someone describe the sheet they are using in the recycled rugs they make without using the trademark name of “Mighty Morphin” which was considered a “violation.” Were they missing the trademark symbol or some kind of text?

    You “may not feel sorry” for people who get their site shut down, but many people – including myself – would never guess that describing something for what it is, or using the color green on a clip art tractor could possibly be a violation.

    How do you think people are supposed to describe things? No one can have a picture of a green tractor with yellow wheels except John Deere? I’ve never heard of that, ever.

    What is your suggestion in these cases?

    See Lori-Lee’s comment (pasted below):

    “I got nailed by the Power Ranger people for using Mighty Morphin in my description of my rag rug woven of sheets with the dang Power Rangers on them. I recycle fabric for my rugs and often use kids sheets with popular characters on them. I was a little frustrated that I was being criticized for telling my customers what my rug was woven out of. I still cannot see how that is a copy-write infringement, but I changed the listing. I have not used another Power Ranger sheet again. The whole thing left a very bad taste in my mouth.”

    • Catherine Todd,

      The main problem with using the MMPR sheet is, more than likely, that the fabric is not licensed for commercial use by you, the consumer.

      That means it doesn’t matter if you paid for the sheets retail, at a garage sale, etc., you still cannot use the fabric for anything you are going to sell commercially — it simply *is not* covered in the license granted to the fabric manufacturer by the copyright owner. You can take those sheets (or a sweatshirt or bag) and sell them as-is on a personal basis (garage sale), but you cannot repurpose and sell them as a business.

      Same goes for all collegiate and otherwise copyrighted / trademarked fabric designs. Most have a disclaimer that runs along the edge telling you the fabric may only be used for personal projects / purposes.

      • Thanks for the info, Amanda: “The main problem with using the MMPR sheet is, more than likely, that the fabric is not licensed for commercial use by you, the consumer … That means it doesn’t matter if you paid for the sheets retail, at a garage sale, etc., you still cannot use the fabric for anything you are going to sell commercially — it simply *is not* covered in the license granted to the fabric manufacturer by the copyright owner…”

        I don’t repurpose anything and haven’t had problems with Etsy or copyright, so I’m not sure who this is supposed to be addressed to. Perhaps I asked a question earlier in the discussion? But what you wrote is valuable to everyone here I’m sure.

        The entire problem of copyright and trademark drives home the importance of being creative, creating your own designs, and then having to enter the fray when our own designs get copied. Happens to me all the time, and it is frustrating. We offer so much more in customer service, price, quality materials and unique designs that we so far have been able to “stay ahead of the pack of copycats.”

        It’s not easy, that’s for sure.

      • Thanks for the info, Amanda: “The main problem with using the MMPR sheet is, more than likely, that the fabric is not licensed for commercial use by you, the consumer … That means it doesn’t matter if you paid for the sheets retail, at a garage sale, etc., you still cannot use the fabric for anything you are going to sell commercially — it simply *is not* covered in the license granted to the fabric manufacturer by the copyright owner…”

        I don’t repurpose anything and haven’t had problems with Etsy or copyright, so I’m not sure who this is supposed to be addressed to. Perhaps I asked a question earlier in the discussion? But what you wrote is valuable to everyone here I’m sure.

        The entire problem of copyright and trademark drives home the importance of being creative, creating your own designs, and then having to enter the fray when our own designs get copied. Happens to me all the time, and it is frustrating. We offer so much more in customer service, price, quality materials and unique designs that we so far have been able to “stay ahead of the pack of copycats.”

        It’s not easy, that’s for sure.


        UPDATE: Oops, didn’t read above at my question posted on May 14, 2013. I did ask the question about using certain materials and designs, in a general sense. I just want to make it clear that our own business is based on completely creative designs and we use nothing that is repurposed or has copyright of any kind. CT

        • And all these problems are one more why we don’t sell on Etsy. We have our own website with watermarked photos and that helps keep the thieves at bay. Doesn’t completely stop them, but helps. Etsy used to be wonderful for real artisans to sell their work, but those days are long gone.

        • No problem! And I meant “you” in a more general sense, as in any artist — sorry for the confusion. :)

          I have to deal with copyright and trademark law at work quite often (as well as with my own personal artwork and creations), so I am generally aware of things like the green body and yellow wheel caps being trademarked by John Deere.

          The average craftsperson or artist may not have had training or experience with these types of laws — I learned about them through art school — so it is easy to see how someone would not realize a violation.

          • Thanks, Amanda, for clearing up the “you” part. And yes, I had no idea or training about copyright myself. I just feel very lucky that we do unique work and I have always done my own artwork for everything we’ve ever done. Especially after reading the problems people have run into for the most seemingly innocent things, such as selling tie-dyed Nike socks! Who would have guessed that would be a problem?

            I just trademarked our business name, Atitlan Arts and I’m not sure if I have to pay again to trademark the name with “.com” added. It was about $325.00 I think, so it’s not cheap (at least not for me) and of course I have had to buy all the related, similar domain names such as singular to go with plural (“Atitlan Art” for example, to avoid copycats of our website! And I guess I will have to trademark those additional names as well, along with all the extra .com, .org, .net and misspellings that go along with it.

            It’s expensive and time consuming to protect your work, but I guess it’s part of the job. I’m grateful for this column and website that lets people share their experiences (good and bad) and I can assure you, I would never put all my eggs in the Etsy basket after reading things here. I know a number of Etsy sellers who have done really well for a long time on Etsy but after seeing so many problems, I only have my business name with them and haven’t posted things for sale.

            I can just see me doing it, someone copying my designs, and then “turning me in” to Etsy for copying them! – or some such nonsense. I already see lots of people who sell work that is everywhere here in Guatemala made by Mayan artisans as their own, when I know good and well they did not make it as the designs are typical for this area and we have developed a number of them ourselves! Oh, it’s hard and it’s hard but somehow with the grace of God and a good product and good service we manage to make a living. It’s a miracle, really. Gracias, amen!

          • Catherine, upon further and more recent research into infringement and fabric use specifically, I have found a few cases (noted on where the court ruled there was no infringement, as the fabric could have no other use but for making new items, which could be sold commercially — the license granted to the fabric manufacturer is not transferred to consumer.

            However, the court did say the consumer must use wording that *clearly* states the consumer is not licensed or affiliated with the producer / copyright holder / trademark holder. This is to help prevent confusion of buyers as to what and from whom they are buying. can be used for descriptive purposes when using a legally-purchased

            I found a few court cases in particular where first sale doctrine came into play with repurposing or using licensed materials, and it was ruled not to be infringement. Several cases also noted that using the name (like Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers) would be appropriate in describing materials **as long as the use would not cause confusion**.

            So, it seems, using “a rug made from a licensed Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers blanket” would be acceptable (and even more so with a disclaimer), but using “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers blanket rug” would not. A court may rule differently on material *not* in raw fabric form (like a bedspread being turned into a rug), but I did not find any cases noting that specifically. After more research, I would think that use would be protected on the first sale doctrine, but I am not a judge. :)

            To me, and I am not a lawyer, it seems these cases set a precedence for using licensed, copyrighted, or trademarked items that are purchased legally REGARDLESS.

            So I could, perhaps, legally use a licensed T-shirt to make a purse or a book cover, but I couldn’t copy the marks or designs on that T-shirt and decorate a purse or book cover with my rendition of those designs.

            From what I have read, I could take scrapbook paper and use it in a collage, as long as I didn’t make a copy of said paper and am using the originally purchased sheet, and sell that collage — even if the scrapbook paper has copyrighted characters or a trademark. I could not, however, call it “Disney’s Toy Story Wall Art”. I would need to call it “Wall art made from licensed Disney’s Toy Story scrapbook paper”.

            Of course, this is all very complicated; some of these cases have lengthy dissent from other judges who do not agree with the interpretation of the law. Anyone who is repurposing and selling would be well advised to speak with a lawyer to make sure there is little possibility of being on the wrong side.

            Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

          • Thanks Amanda, for posting your research here, which is very spot-on and helps clarify a confusing issue. What you wrote about makes a lot of sense, and the judges in the cases make rulings based on reasonableness as well.

            But please don’t use my name in the responses, as I’m sure your responses are actually meant for the people who have had these problems and don’t understand why (I don’t understand why either, but it’s not “my” problem).

            I don’t want people to think that I was “shut down for copyright infringement!” You’ve never said that at all, but because I got myself involved in this discussion, and used my real name, I may turn up in google searches under “copyright infringement.”

            Everything we make for sale are our own designs, or the designs of the artisans we work with, and I don’t sell on Etsy, so I don’t have these problems and I won’t! Why? Because after reading all these stories, I won’t sell on Etsy, that’s for sure! What is happening to people here seems so unfair and I really feel for them, since it’s their own small home-based business and I really am sorry that they are losing their shops and their income by Etsy who doesn’t apply their rules fairly, evenly, consistently or clearly.

            I think people should legally take Etsy to task, but I’m not one of them because I don’t sell on Etsy. We have always had our own website and we always will! I hope others do the same. There’s lots of good sales platforms out there now, and Etsy is not the only one. I wish everyone the best here and good luck to everyone! Stand up for yourselves… if you don’t do it, nobody will!

          • Haha, no problem — I don’t see anywhere to edit my post, unfortunately! :/ Thanks for the reply!

          • I know what you mean… I wanted to edit my reply to clear up any potential confusion, and couldn’t find one. Not even a way to delete my comment, and worse yet, not any way to contact the web owner! They have a facebook, twitter etc. account but no email address is listed. Can you believe it? Almost as bad as etsy, although they are doing us all a service with this web page and doing it for free (unlike etsy).

            You’ve given some very important information here thanks to your excellent research and examples, and I hope it helps everyone in this kind of quandary.

            Yours, CT

          • Part of my sentence accidentally got deleted in the second paragraph:

            “[Trademarks] can be used for descriptive purposes when using a legally-purchased item.”

            I meant set a precedent, not precedence. I should not type so quickly sometimes. :)

            And another part that got deleted:

            “…REGARDLESS of any warnings of infringement, etc.”

            Pressed for time, so here’s hoping I corrected everything. :) :)

  26. I use Mary Engelbreit fabrics for my fabric covered magnets on etsy, and was worried I might get in trouble, but I checked her website and she encourages using her fabrics in crafts and even for things you will sell. I wish more people/companies were like that!

  27. I’m so shocked that such a thing could happen! I never would have believed something so illogical could be possible, if not for your real life example. I’m sorry to hear that you had to go through such a horrendous experience. Just reading about it has made me see Etsy in a different light. Green tractors being sole property of a single company in the whole world, psshh!

    I don’t know what it is, but another shop’s been shut down because Etsy didn’t believe the owner was building his own synthesizers. He told his story on his tumblr blog and made a very good point that I wanted to highlight. For those whose shops have been closed by Etsy and been asked to prove they made their items, how do you protect yourself? Isn’t that an infringement of intellectual property?

    All of this irrational shop-closing, copyright/trademark madness is really making me think twice about selling on Etsy now.

  28. Great article. I am just beginning to learn about this potential issue- very scary. I have an additional question with regard to Etsy selling. Is it a copyright violation to use the copyrighted term as a key word or in a description? For example, the invitations posted in the article- can you tag them dr seuss style? Or are they only fair game if you do not use Dr. Seuss’ name at all?

  29. Great article!

    Having grown up on a farm, I can tell you that red for a tractor is classic so it makes more sense in your clip art set anyway. I can see John Deere’s point, the green and yellow is what sets them apart from their competition and is part of their branding/marketing.

    I’ve experienced copyright infringement. One time with another Etsy seller. They listed a piece of artwork that was almost identical to one of my pieces. I spoke with a lawyer and then sent the person a Cease & Desist letter (very professionally, no angry rants). Thankfully, the Etsy seller promptly removed the item.

    Also, I have discovered a large corporation using my artwork on one of their products.

    A few days ago, I had someone contact me trying to get me to commit copyright infringement. They showed me a painting from another artist and wanted me to paint the same thing just a different size and color.

  30. I actually believe that Etsy is too lenient on what they allow to be sold from the website. They certainly handle situations after the original artists sends a snail mail, or fax, to notify them of the copyright infringement details, but only then. The site does absolutely nothing to prevent obvious copyright infringement from being profited from. Thousands of people can visit a site, and notify Etsy that the shop owner is blatantly selling reproduced trademark characters from Disney. But Etsy doesn’t do anything about it until they hear from Disney.
    Calvin and Hobbes are very well known characters. But it is lesser known that their creator Bill Watterson, absolutely refused every single offer made to him that didn’t use his characters in the art form he created, which was the comic strip. He turned down cartoon offers, movie offers, mugs, tshirts, etc. The only thing he allowed, was collections of his comic strip to be made into books. Every time you see an image of Calvin and Hobbes on an iPhone case, or a cute coaster, it is Copyright Infringement. It is terrible enough to profit from another artists’ original hard work that it took to get their art well known, but to transform it into uses that the artists themselves refused to profit from, is maddening. Bill wanted his work to remain pure, I know this from reading his books. But, until Mr. Watterson comes along and tells Etsy to make it stop, they will continue to profit from his work, and others like it.
    Etsy once had a name of being a company that introduced consumers to artists that sold their original ideas. But because of their lack of concern for blatant copyright infringements, I will not be creating a store on their site. What protection does the small business have if the big business can’t even get respect?

  31. Beth – any update here or is your store still closed … our recently got shut down (Holmes Stamp) we sell rubber stamps… and holy cow we got to the point of selling alot of them … then in a 2 day period they accused us of very similar copyright infringements … closed us down – its not real fair, and no one to talk to :(

  32. “Fair Use Act” passed in 1976 ammended in 1994 allows an artist to use another’s image in a creative, inspired, or expressive manner. Disney for example: most all of their characters and storylines are that of anothers. They didn’t get permission on all of their works, that’s when fair use act falls into place for them. Unless u are using exact replicas/copys that u didn’t change around and saying that they r your own u should not have got shut down. I for one was ignorant to all of this and firmly belived that u could not use any other image, published work etc., in fact I used to say “oh that’s wrong” and what not. It’s only in recent years that I have been enlightened on these issues, by further research and great sources, disney being one of them (went straight to the horses mouth so to speak :) ). I hope u can get this resolved in a positive way :)

  33. Etsy just closed my shop for copyright infringement. I had been warned before because I used “Pandora Style” when describing my Memory Beads. I changed all instances to “Will fit your Pandora Style Bracelet”. That was a violation as well so I changed everything to “Large Hole European” and that was ok. My mistake was being too busy and cut and pasted copy for a new item I was listing that had a Pandora Style bead as a piece of the bracelet. It was a careless mistake, I immediately took changed the item and sent an apology email. They returned my courtesy email of conformance by shutting down my shop permanently. It took then a week to respond to my request to please reconsider. They will not budge. The shame is, I have done much more in sales using “Large Hole European” than I ever did using “Pandora Style”. It’s like saying Polo Shirt, I am sure Polo wishes everyone would call that style shirt something else. And when I used “will fit your Pandora Style Bracelet” isn’t that like saying that these brand x tires will fit your Ford Truck? How in the world is that infringement? If anything it would spur people to buy a Pandora Bracelet if they didn’t have one. I am just so frustrated since I have built a branding with repeat customers that may not be able to find me. Everyday in my stats on Etsy several people searched for Yonder Star Designs. Hope they find my website.

    • When are people going to go to a lawyer and file a lawsuit individually or as a class-action suit against Etsy? Yes, they “own” everything on their site, but there are consumer protections in the USA. Surely a lawyer can find a few grounds to file a complaint. Plus look into tax laws and more.

      Etsy must be breaking some kind of law doing this and misinterpreting “copyright infringement” as described in Deborah’s story above. These repeated experiences are making me sick. I can hardly believe what I’m reading except I know it’s true, or people wouldn’t be writing. Talk about being helpless under Etsy’s domination!

      • Thank you Catherine Todd for the kind words. I would be interested in being part of a class action law suit. I am so angry right now, I thought we paid our fees to Etsy too work for us and they treat us, their customers, like this? Also, what’s with the auto renew fees if you have a quantity of 100, and someone buyes 3, Etsy charges you the selling fees, plus the auto renew, but your quantity dosen’t go back up to 100. That is illegal.

        • As we were told we are not allowed to discuss this(by etsy legal) I have been afraid to even talk about it. I was also contacted by their legal team and had several items were removed for infrigement.
          I was told my store would be shut down if I did it again. I used “chan luu” as a tag. As mentioned above, people look for a style and they are fortunate to be thought of when people see a stacking leather, beaded bracelet. My mistake was thinking I could tag as long as I didn’t put their name in my description or title.
          I then searched etsy for chen luu and 2500 items came up and i did my best to contact as many of the sellers to warn them to remove the tags.
          While I’m sure sellers are searching and reporting out of anger, I feel we all should work together not against each other. But, some sellers become spiteful and report….as I’m sure that’s how etsy knew about mine…..
          I heard onsie, Disney and so many other names are copyrighted, yet they are all still selling….., its confusing to me.
          I wish you all the best – .

          • Thank you Donna,
            I just received a letter from the 3rd party watchdog company that contacted etsy about me. They apologized for the mistake and acknowledged that I should not have been shut down. I forwared the email to Etsy legal, not sure when or if I will hear back or if they will reopen my shop. I did talk to a lawyer before receiving the email, he said Etsy is completely wrong, without question. There are 1,500 registered items under the name Pandora in some shake or form.

        • Deborah wrote: “what’s with the auto renew fees if you have a quantity of 100, and someone buyes 3, Etsy charges you the selling fees, plus the auto renew, but your quantity dosen’t go back up to 100. That is illegal.”

          There you go! Time for a class action suit. All kinds of major companies have been sued for just this kind of thing, and their legal dept. knows they are doing wrong and just wait for someone to come along and sue them to make them stop. It’s cheaper that way and they know it!

          You can start a petition on a number of websites, and you can also cull names from google searches and ask Handmadeology if they want to participate. (They are connected to Etsy but they do have this blog).

          Start contacting lawyers who do class-action suits. Find the ones who have already gone up against Apple, Credit Card companies and the like. Etsy has deep pockets so it shouldn’t be too hard.

          As far as the person who says they were warned “not to talk about this by Etsy’s legal team,” NOW IS THE TIME TO STRIKE! This is OUTRAGEOUS. Let the world know!

          Tell the lawyers this, too. If we didn’t use the court system, we would be ripped off all the time. Stand up for your own CONSUMER RIGHTS. Etsy is charging you for a service and you are not receiving proper or equal service. Look for a discrimination case as well.

          • I think that in regards to the quantity of items sold, and fees charged, that etsy is charging the seller .20 cents only after the sale is made. I thought that they did not bring the quantity back up to the previous number because sellers posting 100 of an item may now only have 97 remaining available. When you post 100 items in the start, the .20 cents per item selling fee is not yet charged.

            I hope that makes sense. It is rather difficult a concept to follow, and not a common one for Internet sale sites that I know of…

            Myself I feel rather afraid to ‘mess up’ in my etsy shop. A copyright infringement was filed against me from a third party, and I was truly unaware there was a copyright out there (in my case it was an extremely generic three word combo). I did make it right immediately, but do feel that they hold a threat over me that a second misunderstanding could shut me down.

            Not the warm and fuzzy ‘community’ feeling I was feeling when I first joined etsy.

    • I too had an issue with the Pandora beads. I was selling a 3mm chain that I advertised that a pandora or troll bead would fit on. Etsy pulled it. I’d was afraid to try European style bead because Etsy only gives you so many chances.

      I also sell some pendants in my other shop with sand and shells embedded. I heard from another Etsy seller that someone was trying to get a copyright for sand embedded pendants. I don’t know if it happened or even how to find out. I’ve been selling them for over 20 years at craft shows and on Etsy. Can you copyright sand? Shells? Ridiculous!

      And what about “love you to the moon and back”, “You are my Sunshine”, “when a Child is Born so is a Grandma”, etc? I sell a lot of word charms in my shop. I hope that is not infringement. I also do a little checking when mine aren’t selling and find them on a Chinese shop selling dirt cheap. One thing I am doing to hopefully help me is putting FAST SHIPPING on all my listings and hoping it will help. The Chinese shops can’t compete with that.

      I know I’m rambling and hope you can understand. I am currently off work for a workers comp injury and have been working furiously trying to move my supply shop forward. It is difficult when you research an item and don’t see many, if any in other Etsy shops and then all of a sudden you see several shops put up seemingly overnight with hundreds of dirt cheap items!

  34. whatever it is we all should stand up and give Etsy a lesson!

  35. My etsy store was closed as well. I do not do copyright anything. But, my competition does and they had me shut down. And because of it, I refuse to pay my fees. My etsy account was in a business name that no longer exists. So, etsy can take my $500+ fees and give it to my competition. She wants the business, she can have the fees!

  36. Lenn,
    Your comment is very confusing. Why were you shut down for your competition copywriting, yet reporting you?

  37. Hi Everyone :) I recently figured out that all of my Items were “Unsearchable” While Etsy looks into my shop. My Items can still be bought and still get traffic but only from outside websites like Wanelo, and google. I emailed Etsy and I got an Email back saying I might need to remove some items but they Never told me which ones! I’m thinking its my tie Dye Nike socks. I’m a little confused though because I am not Claiming that Nike is my own I just Tie dye the socks and Nike makes money from me because I buy the socks before I tie Dye them? If it’s wrong I will understand but I was hoping someone could explain? I know I’m losing money because my items are “unsearchable” and it sucks! I feel so bad for all of that have gotten your shops closed down! I see the comment above from JR saying something about the “Fair Use Act” passed in 1976 ammended in 1994 allows an artist to use another’s image in a creative, inspired, or expressive manner….. and that sounds like what Im doing so I’m gonna look into that. My store link is

    • I think the biggest mistake people make (Including myself) is not looking into copyright thoroughly ahead of time. Why risk having to start all over selling again somewhere else after putting in all the effort and time to start up an Etsy shop?
      It’s important to be very careful with the fair use act. It has very specific guidelines, and misinterpreting it could mean endding up getting sued. Without a lawyer behind me, I wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole.

    • I just tried to find your shop. did they shut you down? I just saw another etsy shop selling tie dye nike socks

      They shut my shop down for copyright infringement as well. Is what JR says true ( “Fair Use Act” passed in 1976 amended in 1994 allows an artist to use another’s image in a creative, inspired, or expressive manner.) and has anyone been able to fight back with Etsy on a shop closure? All of my images were used in an expressive manner, and not exact replicas.

  38. I was just shut down for the same reason, Copyright Infringement. The crazy thing was that I didn’t even use the phrase in my listing or product so I’m unsure how I was infringing on anyone. I’ve emailed support, but no response.

  39. Everything has copy write laws but ETSY is a little strict when it comes to it. I’m starting on a new marketplace . I would recommend folks look into that because it costs less than Etsy, they are not as picky and they are with associations to help everyone.

  40. Hi everyone. I’m in the process of starting my Etsy shop (I sell woodworking and wall art, etc.) and am about to post some of my first items. My question is about one item in particular that I make. It’s a wooden wall art cutout (from plywood) with common phrases making up one solid piece (only the negetive space of the letters is cut out) and some words are bigger than others. I’ve seen several items like this all over the place, like anywhere where home decor is sold, and wanted to make my own. After already starting work on this, I found an etsy seller who makes these also. This particular person wrote things in their description saying something like “my designs are copyrighted, so don’t steal them or I’ll come after you”

    So, my question is, is it even possible that this person can claim they own the rights to that style of art, when they just got it from pre-existing design trends? I made it a point to take the time to draw my own font that I will use, and will only be using phrases that no one else already makes similar signs for. The way the design works, the letters all need to be touching to become one solid piece of wood, so in that way, my font lettering slightly resembles his (it’s just basic block letters with the little lines on the ends, like most capitol letter fonts would have), but I purposely didn’t look at any of his pictures when designing them, so my font is a bit different. Does anyone think this could end up being a problem?

  41. i was banned for copyright infringement. I used a movie logo. I had excellent feedback and I begged for reinstatement. They would not consider it. My daughter tried to open a store and sell my items and they closed it down before it opened. How can I open another store without getting closed down and how do they link us? Its like big brother! anyone know?

  42. You do realize that “thing 1″ and “thing 2″ are terms trademarked by Seuss enterprises, right? The invitation you created IS a trademark infringement to sell.

    Also, check up on the differences between trademark and copyright law.

  43. I also had my store closed because I made cat phone cases with GLASES, and they claimed it infringes Hello Kitty, will I be sued, I don’t have money to afford a lawyer, any one passed through this before?
    Please give me some inputs.

  44. My shop was recently shut down, I am a stay at home mom to two kids, this is MY only source of income… According to ETSY’s copyright page:
    “What is not protected by copyright?
    US copyright protects expression. Copyright does not protect ideas. Copyright does not protect facts, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. 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.
    Copyright does not protect the mechanical or utilitarian aspects of a design. A “useful article” is an object having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information. Examples are clothing, furniture, machinery, dinnerware, and lighting fixtures. A useful article may have both copyrightable and uncopyrightable features. For example, a carving on the back of a chair might be protected by US copyright, but the design of the chair itself might not be protected by copyright. Some designs of useful articles may qualify for protection under the US federal patent law.”

    This line stands out to me: “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.”
    Particularly: “names….., familiar symbols or designs..” I used a name from a movie in my item description, Etsy sent me an email and had the wrong movie listed, totally different movie and title… Also I used graphics created in photoshop NOT screen shot or images created by the movie artists, I did use a movie title in the description… At what point is ETSY abusing it’s “Pick and Choose” policy? I would be interested in a lawsuit if started as well, it’s not fair to pick on one small business over any others…

    • copyright is copyright. this is correct
      trademark can protect things copyright cannot. These are legal terms with different definitions and applicable use, and are not interchangeable.

  45. Well, looks like a lot of us have had the take down by Etsy or eBay, and others I assume. I was selling handmade jewelry that was really making me a very good living. I re-purposed some old Chanel pieces and got completely shut down by Etsy. I have contacted Chanel and other designers, to look at Etsy allowing a search section that says , “Chanel in Handmade”, as does all the designer labels that are inspired. I didn’t use the name Chanel, in titles or tags and not even in descriptions, so how did I get shut down? I feel like others, that it was a disgruntled seller that didn’t like my success. Jealous much? I am disabled and was trying to make ends meet while enjoying making jewelry. People are crazy…uh, oh, I think I just infringed on a country song!

  46. Ok every one I have been struggling with this for a while and would like to know if what I’m doing is really leagal. If I buy let’s Say Florida Gator’s SEC Team fabric and I make it into a blanket or some thing since my profession is seamstress work would I be liable for Copy right infringement even if i bought the fabric even though I am not recreating the image?

  47. Yet Another Etsy Seller

    I got a copyright infringement notice a couple of years ago for a knitted item that I had vaguely named after a popular book. It was more just an allusion to the book’s title, not the whole thing. Imagine my surprise when I was told that was a no-no – it was certainly a wake-up call! So I changed the item’s name, apologized to the company that holds the copyright, and they were happy with that, no harm done in this case… phew. I did ask them why there were so many other items featuring the book’s full name, main characters etc. that were allowed to stay up on Etsy but not surprisingly, I didn’t get an answer. Even looking it up again now, I can see that there are thousands of items relating to the book and/or featuring the characters on Etsy. I do wish there was a more consistent approach!

  48. My Etsy shop was just shut down last week. Not for copy right infringement not because I broke any rules…it was simply because of zero reasons at all. I emailed them earlier this month because I had issues purchasing postage on Etsy. I would go to purchase a label and when it would prompt me to type my password it wouldn’t work. So basically I had to go and reset my password anytime I wanted to print a label.
    Etsy’s response to my email (2 or 3 weeks ago) was to spontaneously shut down my shop completely zero notice followed by an email right before the weekend when conveniently they would not be able to respond to until Monday…tomorrow 7/28/14. Currently my shop is completely down, can’t log in or access anything. I used my mom’s shop to request a phone call and they explained that they do not have phone support for account security issues.. lol But of course account security is not that important, why should it have support?
    I really feel as though I have been robbed and I also feel very dumb because I have read about some of Etsy’s practices regarding their implied ownership of your store. I could kick myself for not backing up my contacts and email lists and all of my listing descriptions. Very unfortunate because I actually really liked them.
    If they open my shop back up I am just not sure if I even want to stay after this. But I guess I say all of that to say this. In reality…Etsy can do whatever they want to do to your shop!

  49. Etsy banned me about two years ago over complete BS. I had a very small shop, like less than fifty items and had only been open a month. I had less than five sales. Obviously etsy had made no money off me yet. I sold about $75 of Czech glass beads to this woman in Canada, my first sale and I was super excited. Well, she has a few different stores which are very successful and obviously etsy makes a lot of money off of her. I was delayed in shipping her items, yes, that was my fault. But I DID provide her with tracking. So,the afternoon after I provided her with the tracking, she opens a case with paypal, saying she hasn’t received the item and she hasn’t received tracking info from me. I showed them proof it had been shipped and proof I had proved it to her! so they closed it in my favor, since she lied and was trying to get her money back. After she received the beads, she tried to say it wasn’t received, then she tried to say the items weren’t as described. when paypal refused to refund her, she complained to etsy and she started harassing me. I got mad and finally told her off, which was my mistake, because I should have ignored her. they banned me for it. IN my opinion, they got rid of me, because they were making no money off of me and she probably pressured them. Why piss her off, when she was giving them a lot of profit? After I was banned, she didn’t just go away. Since she was so mad that she didn’t get her $75 back, even though she did in fact get her order from me, she contacted the police in my town and claimed I was harassing her, when in fact it was the other way around. she told me her husband was a lawyer and she would sue me and seize my computer, she googled me and sent me nasty emails in regards to everything she could find on me, including accusing me of stealing a set of sterling silver flatware that I was selling on amazon, which was given to me by my wealthy great aunt! AND this nutter even took the time to mail me a package from Canada full of plastic shopping bags and about 15 2mm acrylic beads. She obviously had serious emotional problems. But the fact that etsy banned me over this, when they should have kicked her rotten ass off the site, was ridiculous. now they wont respond to my emails, they wont let me have access to my personal info on there, including my photos, inventory lists, etc, which I think is illegal. I contacted a lawyer and was advised there wasn’t a whole lot that can be done. etsy is full of scammers. AND they are run by 20 year olds. now etsy lets Chinese sellers on there selling wholesale crap. its unfair to us real artists. etsy will go out of business one day or be overrun by ebay. ebay is even worse, but at least they’ve been around for a long time. etsy is just full of arrogance and they think theyre something special, when they’ve proven themselves to be far from it!

  50. Thanks for this article, it’s hard to believe what they went after you for! But reading through the comments, I am seeing how this is not a unique situation. I’m surprised I hadn’t seen more of this until now.

    I have a question, for anyone who wants to answer, but after having items taken down by Etsy, has anyone ever been sued or had a C&D from the company who contacted Etsy? I just had an item taken down, and I am worrying about this. Is it that common for another seller to report you, or do the big companies actually look for this stuff? Of course, as other have said in their cases as well, there are many other similar items on Etsy which have not been taken down, so why me?

    • Etsy does not take infringement complaints from random people, you must be the holder/owner of the protected thing you are complaining about. Same thing for the legal system. I’ve seen C&D letters, usually accompanied by a copy of their registered trademark document, patent or what have you. C&D is not a legal action, it is a warning, how you proceed after could land you in court where only 2 things are possible, you could win or lose. Most of us probably have a good case and could win, but then there’s the lawyer fees.

      • You are correct that reports from parties other than the rights holders are not considered acceptable, legally actionable notification, and for good reason. It’s *only* the rights holder who can legally confirm that the party in violation hasn’t been granted official license to use their IP. Anyone else would either be guessing or acting on hearsay or assumption alone. Etsy removing items on that basis would be negating their safe harbor status and opening themselves up for legal action without actual proof of infringement. They are also not legally permitted to act on their own.

        As others have stated reports of infringement can occur one of two ways: 1.) anyone, competitor or not, can and many times will report cases of probable infringement to the rights holders directly, and 2.) many of the rights holders either assign the duty to staff or retain outside firms to locate violations. It really doesn’t matter which it is as it doesn’t change the fact that there is a violation of the law, and that trademark holders are legally required to seek out these violations and defend their marks or risk losing them altogether. Something none of them are willing to do, having gone to the trouble and expense to obtain them in the first place.

        The smartest thing any seller with a legally granted license agreement can do is to state it very clearly and prominently in their shop or on their website. If I were selling something of this nature, having paid all the money and jumped through all the legal hoops in order to be granted a license, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so in order to protect me own business and preserve my reputation. It makes absolutely no sense not to.

        Additionally, I have to disagree that a C&D doesn’t constitute legal action, because it does. It’s the specifically prescribed manner of notification under the DMCA. It’s also a violation of the DMCA to file a fraudulent C&D notification. If these two things don’t clearly define a C&D as a ‘legal action’, I don’t know what does. While most violators get off easy, with the C&D being the only and final action taken as long as they comply, it certainly doesn’t preclude the rights holder from seeking judgement in the court of law, it’s only the first step in establishing the violation and doesn’t rule out or negate future action against the violator, whether they comply or not.

  51. I know that this thread goes back a year or so but I hope that everyone receives updates to this. I am not an expert or an attorney but have done a little research on these topics as I am a leatherworker and also have to be careful what I make, embellish, carve or stamp. It’s terrible that so many of you have had your shop shut down as the majority seems to be innocent mistakes, BUT, we as makers must do reasearch to ensure we are not violating any laws because as some of you are or have experencied there are legal repercussions. That being said there seems to be a little confusion with copywrite, trademark and patent. The majority of what I use to make my item (holsters, spur straps, and belts) are copywritten…..the patterns. Again the PATTERNS, in paper or plastic form are copywritten. These cannot be photocopied, scanned, or reproduced in any way without express permission. I cannot sell or even give away reproductions of them. The ITEMS I make from these patterns are NOT and don’t violate any copywrite, they may however violate a DESIGN PATENT if such a patent exsists, but as i don’t really attach alot of jewels, studs, etc. this would be unlikely. There is however an ETSY Store owner that is on a leather forum I am on that did receive a C&D letter for a dog collar with shotgun shell concho’s that a patent had been applied for. It wasnt an exact copy nor did her collar in any way match the one in the patent ( her’s was actually far superior in construction) but she took it down anyway.
    In regards to that popular bead and bracelet/neckalce company, they hold patents for all their jewelry and are winning suits for violation of their patents but this mainly involves large company’s that are making similar products. Their name however, and I think this is where the confusion is, is Trademarked so saying that your beads work with Pandora bracelets associates your work with theirs giving the assumption that Pandora endorces your product. It isnt your actual jewelery its how you market it. Ever notice that there are 100′s of similar or identical items all over the market place but the companies marketing their copies or duplicates say “fits all major brands”? Interesting. I highly doubt that a mom of 3 that is trying to make a little extra cash will make beads in her home that actually screw onto a “major brand’s” bracelet or necklace. I would say that if you are making beads, charms etc. and they will fit alot of the necklaces and braces that are popular today, why mention them by name? Why not just put “all major brands” but make your own bracelet also then you won’t be associated with any other maker.
    There are TON’s of violaters on ETSY and to say “mind your own buisness” or “just relax” or “it’s no big deal” is ignorant just as stating that the only people that report violaters on ETSY are your competition and be upset about it is silly. Of course they are your competition but if you are…say using a NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, or NCAA team logo on your product without the shiny little hologram sticker on it(means you have paid royalities and received permission) then you are violating trademark law and gaining an unfair advantage by using not just the logo but the colors also. Plus you are also giving your trade a bad reputation. I see this all the time in leather work. Harley Davidson stamped or carved into wallets, or items for a bike, NFL team logos on all sorts of things. those are all trademark violations. Here is a link to a case between HD and a motorcycle shop owner for using a plain shield similar to the HD one and use of the word HOG .
    Thank you for allowing me to post here, and remember, the next time you find that cool clipart or pic online and wasnt to right click it to put in your shop, facebook page, etc. remenber thats copywrite infringement.

  52. I have found a shop on Etsy, selling digital stuff. I read all policies and so on, and I bought a blank kitchen label and tried to make something new with it. It was written in their policies, that their stuff can be used for creating new stuff, so I did and listed it on Etsy. A few weeks later the shop owner contacted me, saying that some people have written to them and I have to delete those stuff I made. I didn’t understand why, because some people just printed their digital items and started selling them as their own product on Etsy, and that was not a problem at all… I tried to talk to the shop owner’s but they didn’t even replied me, instead, they sent me an other message about a picture I found via Google (no copyrighted photo, not their creation!) which I used for my logo. They have a similar one and they thought I should ask for permission for using it …FROM THEM. Even they don’t own that picture!

    • THis would be like buying iron on letters, putting them on a tee shirt then hearing from the manufacturer that you don’t have the right to put the letters on things you sell or even worse if the tee shirts company warned you not to buy their tee shirts and turn around and sell them or you can only sell them with out letters. I hope you challenged this because without a trademark this person sounds like they are full of hot air. They probably believe this.

      I can go in the store buy a pack of Hanes tee shirts, post them for sale with some adornments and describe it with no issues from Hanes.

  53. Etsy is horrible period. It is comical to me that they can bother someone over small copy right infringements but allow all of the other things that happen to happen. Etsy will soon become another Ebay matter of a fact Ebay will probably buy Etsy out like Ebay has recently bought out Paypal and double charges you on fees. That is usually what happens to companies like this trying to compete. I sure sign that this IS going to happen is the fact that there is no phone support or really and form of professional support for any matters period. I wouldn’t get too comfortable on Etsy because I see it being sold and reorganized soon and if Ebay buys it count on your fees going up 10% plus 3.5% fees from PayPal (Ebays partner company)

    I have done 1,000% better since I have steered clear from Ebay and Paypal. At least Ebay has fair advertising practices and I can see that top sellers do not over saturate fair markets for smaller sellers. But Etsy I am pretty confident picks and chooses the shops that will be advertised the most by the site itself. smaller sellers are hidden amongst Etsy picks and international sweatshops. Good luck competing with that and not to mention the over saturated jewelry and art scene that is online right now anyways. I do not like selling on any of them except my own site. But I definitely like Ebay much more than I like Etsy although Ebays fees are almost 15% in total.

    • eBay and PayPal are no longer affiliated, they have gone their separate ways. Etsy is now a publicly traded company, so while a buyout isn’t out of the question, it’s hardly likely as eBay is contending with their own financial issues. Not sure how anyone can be certain that eBay has ‘fair advertising practices’, since they have long been accused of using tactics such as mirroring and rolling blackouts, and several sellers have been able to confirm this over time by monitoring their stats very closely, not just the numbers but also the locations the views originate from. One month there will be tons of views and most purchases originating in Europe, the next in America, the next from Australia and countries in that area of the Pacific. I wouldn’t hesitate to believe both they and Etsy practice this regularly in order to keep from adding more and more servers to handle the constant increases in listings, which becomes quite expensive, and considering that they operate at a loss every year anyway.

      As another example, do a search on Etsy just using the word ‘jewelry’ and the number of returns are quoted in the millions (today the number was 9.36m), yet they only *ever* display 25 pages of 16 listings each, regardless of what the search criteria is. That’s a total of only 4000 items, and some are repeats due to promotional ads, some of which occupy the exact same page the original item listing does.

      As far as over saturation of jewelry, that isn’t in any way confined to online sales. Organizers of local art fairs contend with the issue, as well, having to restrict the number of applicants for booth space for jewelry sales in order to make sure there is a decent representation of other arts. They have to simply because there are soooo many jewelry makers everywhere, and their events would not be very successful if they weren’t able to attract a diverse crowd of attendees.

  54. I am starting to think Etsy is partnered with ebay. They are treating their sellers exactly the same way. Pushing out all of us small sellers and bending over backwards for the China and Hong Kong sellers. I had 100% good feedback and my account was my only source of income and being a single mom it was very important to me. After over 2 years of hard work they just shut me down because of a earring I sold 1 year before. I look and see overseas sellers selling the same thing and all their feedback is horrible but yet I’m gone and they stay. I have lost all respect for ebay and etsy and will only do business for bonanza, shopify and wish.

  55. I got banned a few weeks ago now.

    as a graphic designer and illustrator its very hard in todays world not to tread on someones toes, however I always make sure if it happens I contact the ® holder and work it out either by making changes or removing the item.

    I have had 5 minor infringements in 4 years the last 3 oddly in a 3 week period, all of which very minor and after working it out with the ® holder all were happy for me to relist …. but etsy banned me 4 years of hard work down the tubes, rather than a few months ban they banned me for a lifetime.

    They have no compassion the fact they are effecting peoples lively hood.

    If I was blatantly ripping something off then thats one thing but minor similarities is another …

    Also as I have expressed to them, its fine they have banned me for life as long as they adobt the policy to ban everyone else still selling similar designs who are actually completely ripping off designs and logos etc …

    one other thing I have demanded they remove all my images from their server and google as the cheeky sods leave them up acting as a gateway to their search engine effectively advertising off the back of my designs, even the designs they had taken down and banned me for … Ive threatened them with breaching my ®’s etc and have reported them to the attorneys that contacted me re the minor infringements to let them know etsy are still displaying the images on google …

    I have set up a stealth account with totally new designs I will have the last laugh !

    Btw considering you were banned for the tractor have a look at this current listing … this is my point its very unfare … even one of the attorneys who I got on with said I was reported to them by 7 emails all within the same day, he said its common and they believe it is gangs of sellers … he said they themselves dont have the time to scroll through etsy etc

    • Actually, Etsy has begun removing the photos of sold items that were IP infringements. And they hardly control what Google chooses to index and retain. That’s something that should be addressed directly with Google, but good luck with that.

      As far as compassion for affecting peoples’ livelihoods, where is that compassion for the rights owners, and their property that was stolen? I fail to see why someone who doesn’t extend compassion and consideration to others has an expectation of the same in such a situation. You don’t abide by not only the TOU of the site, but also violate federal copyright/trademark law, that was by your own choice, you assumed the risk, so you pay the consequences.

      You may or may not end up having the last laugh regarding your stealth account. If it has the same IP address as the one that was closed, it will also be closed, and may already have been as your post is several months old. This is something they rarely, if ever, miss. Even if you’ve been stealthy enough to set up the new account on a different computer at a different location, thereby presenting a different IP address, there are other factors that will give you away eventually, such as accounts with payment processors. Unless you have set those up in someone else’s name, using someone elses’ credit card or bank account, which would also be a violation of TOU with the processors, there’s very little you can actually do to become unidentifiable or go completely undetected.

  56. Is every photo on ebay or Facebook considered to be copyrighted?

    Is it illegal to pin a photo found on ebay to your pinterest page or share on your Facebook page?

    Can I share a photo found on pinterest to my FB page?

    • Once posted on a public platform it is what it is. Just don’t claim you own images or are licensed or a representative …etc if you are not. nothing wrong with it. Facebook claims to own anything posted on their platform.

    • It actually depends, Linda. If you’re simply sharing and not using the image for profit, or as a way of marketing your own products, and not altering it in anyway, then the rights holder may not take issue with it.

      But no guarantees, as the rights holder can, and many have, sent DMCA notifications to social media platforms to remove their images.

      Not every owner of IP sees it as a compliment and has the right to control how and where their property is used or displayed.

  57. Companies absolutely DO police their trademarks. Most large companies rely on intellectual property law firms and some have their own in-house service. The chances are almost certain they subscribe to a service such a Thomson CompuMark, which polices the mark for you and sends a sheet of possible infringers on a regular basis. At that point, paralegals or unpaid law student interns further investigate the reports and often run across even more that are not listed on the report itself. These firms are money making operations who get PAID to find infringers. If the companies find out that people rip their stuff and the law firm is not doing its job by policing such infringement the firm will be fired and replace by a firm that does their job.

    So, the whole scenario where another user turns your stuff in is very rare indeed. In fact, in 20 years of working in IP firms, I have never run across a tip from ‘concerned public’.

  58. I have read the majority of these comments and there is a huge misunderstanding of how this all works. I am no fan of Etsy. I stopped selling there years ago when I saw how they responded in the BaliGate scandal and the way they frequently deny they have a reseller problem. I agree they have no principles when it comes to handmade, which they proved when they started allowing items designed by a seller but made by manufacturers to be categorized as handmade.

    However, in the case of copyright/trademark infringement they are NOT picking on anyone and they are not due a lesson by way of a class action suit. LOL They are doing exactly what they are required to do by law. They can’t act to take down anything on their own. As a venue, they have ‘safe harbor’ protection under the DMCA. This means they can’t be held liable for CR/TM infringement of their sellers, but it also means they have to act only in the manner as prescribed by the law.

    1.) They can only accept an infringement claim from the CR/TM holder. It’s illegal to file a fraudulent infringement claim, so it has to be from the person who actually owns it in order for the process to be legal.

    2.) The CR/TM holder has to file an individual, specific DMCA take down request for *each* instance (read item being sold) of someone infringing on their CR/TM. The law does not permit them to send a broad complaint/claim to Etsy to have all of the items removed that infringe on their rights to their intellectual property.

    3.) Etsy can only act in accordance with the law in removing only the items they receive a DMCA take down letter for.

    4.) They cannot allow an item to be relisted until the claim is settled in the Etsy seller’s favor, in the case of a mistaken or fraudulent claim.

    5.) Sellers who continue to infringe are closed because to allow them to continue would jeopardize their safe harbor protection, and if they go down, then all the innocent sellers also go down with them. So they are protecting everyone by abiding by the law and acting in only the manner in which they are legally permitted.

    If there are others selling infringing items, but only you got the letter, it’s because the CR/TM holder only saw yours and singled you out this time, and sent a letter specifically asking that your listing be removed. Etsy does not/cannot pick and choose, allowing large sellers to keep selling and picking on small sellers. That is not how the law works. The others who are still selling items that are infringing on someone’s CR/TM will get noticed eventually.

    In the meantime, if you only had a listing removed with a warning, count yourself lucky that the holder hasn’t followed that up with a lawsuit. Many of you probably don’t have your businesses incorporated as an LLC. That means if you are sued, the plaintiff can attach your personal assets, not just your business assets, and depending on the amount of the suit, you could stand to lose everything you own.

    Owners of trademarks are required to defend them from infringement or they lose them. They spent a lot of time and money to obtain that trademark, too.

    Bottom line, using someone else’s CR/TM is theft. No one likes to have their own designs stolen or copied, so why do it to someone else? That’s just hypocritical. Does anyone seriously think they have a right to get upset because they were the first one to design whatever it is with someone else’s CR/TM slapped on it? Think about that for a moment. LOL

    And finally, if you consider yourself creative, create things, don’t steal them. Using the work of others only tells people that you have no talent of your own, and no scruples, either.

  59. As helpful as all of this was to me, I really have a question I can’t seem to find the answer to anywhere else. All of you seem rather experienced in the subject and others like it so I was hoping someone could help. I’m a teen and I run a rather popular twitter and vine account that a lot of young girls like me seem to be able to relate to as fans of the same bands, social media ‘stars’, etc. I created tshirt designs that use the names of “famous” internet stars, bands like 5 Seconds of Summer, or other artists like taylor swift and ariana grande. I made these just for fun without really thinking of selling them and many of my followers said they would be interested in purchasing them. I wanted to know if I would be breaking any laws if i were to sell them? The logo I have created is uniquely mine, but I don’t think I would be able to get away with using their names. The internet celebrities aren’t that well known by adults, but most teens would know the names and I do know that these people do sell their own merchandise. I would technically be making a profit off of their name which is illegal even if it is my design, right? And for the more well known celebrities such as 5 Seconds of Summer and One Direction (and the names of their members) if I do need their permission how would I get it considering their brand is so huge. I guess what I’m really asking here is, would I be breaking the law if I use their names and nothing else?

    • Lelya…yes, you would be breaking trademark law. You cannot use anyone else’s name or images without licensing from those entities. Licensing usually involves paying them, sometimes upfront, sometimes a part of the profits and usually both. Many entities also require that you submit your business registration and a business plan for how you plan to market these items, providing they give their permission.

      Most bands also already have contracts with entities to produce their official fan gear, and you will see them tabled at their concerts.

      Even using their names as ‘inspired by’ or ‘influenced by’ or ‘as homage to’ will get you served legal notice. Sometimes it will be merely a cease and desist letter, but depending on how much they’ve had to deal with this kind of issue and how frustrated over it they are, in addition to the legal costs they have to pay for the staff of their attorneys to catch and deal with this stuff, then the first notice could be a legal summons and damages will be assessed. You never can tell.

      Trademark holders go to a lot of trouble and expense to apply for their trademark and to defend it. And they are required to defend it from unauthorized use in order to retain it. They risk losing their trademark if they don’t. That encompasses their intellectual property, they have a right to control how it’s used and to profit from licensed sales. Unauthorized use of it by others would be considered theft.

      So best answer is to stay away from even a whisper of someone else’s name if you plan on selling something. And I would even say that it’s best to contact someone for permission to create fan art, as well.

    • Do a little more homework on the matter, talk to an actual lawyer. People make & sell all kinds of things successfully and legally with images of famous people, look at the President or Elvis. Reading blog commentary is okay, but not going to get you the best answers, mine included. I can buy Barbie cakes, replica art pieces, fan art etc…there is certainly a way for you.

      • You’re right, TaBATHA, there is a way. And that way is to apply for a licensing agreement from the companies that hold the copyrights and trademarks. Many times this involves paying a lot of money to obtain the licensing, and submitting a business plan for approval, and agreeing to pay a portion of the proceeds of each and every sale to the rights holders. That is if they actually grant licensing agreements, because not all of them do.

        It’s their right to control their intellectual property and reputation, no one else has the right to make profits off of their property but them, and legally granted licensees.

  60. Another way to look at this. You said you created your own logo. Selling things by using the names of these celebrities would be the same as someone else taking your artwork and putting it on their merchandise and profiting from it without your permission or a share of the proceeds from its use. They might even set themselves up to undercut your prices to make sure they got a larger share of the market, drawing sales away from you. In this case it would be copyright infringement, rather than trademark infringement, but it’s still theft of intellectual property, and is still illegal as well as unethical.

  61. I just had my bracelet pulled yesterday. It was a hunger games inspired bracelet with leather and a charm. I go and check etsy and over 4 thousand items with the same wording as mine are there. Someone is just a total Dick and reporting people over nothing. My listing does not mis-represent anything. I am not affiliated with them and state this very thing in the listing. Some people can’t handle a little competition on etsy it seems.

    • No one is being a ‘Dick’ about pulling your bracelet and it has absolutely nothing to do with competition. You illegally used the trademark belonging to someone else to make a profit. You cannot legally make a profit using someone else’s property. They have every right to control their trademark and are legally required to defend it or lose it. Disclaimers of non-affiliation or merely stating something is ‘inspired by’ doesn’t give you the legal right to use it. You can’t legally reference their trademark in your titles, descriptions or tags.

      There maybe 4000 other such items or a million, doesn’t mean a thing. The rights holder sent the legal take down notice for your item, and they will be sending one for the others illegally using it in due course. Problem is, as many as are taken down, even more continue to crop up. It’s a never ending battle for the rights holders because people either don’t do their due diligence and learn the laws or they don’t care.

      Not sure why that’s such a hard concept for some to understand.

    • I also had some hunger games item pulled. Silly me, I bought them as supplies from someone who listed them as someone hing like bows and arrows. I hadn’t seen the movie and didn’t know what it stood for. I see from another seller that ignorance is no excuse. I guess you have to research everything you buy!

  62. Im looking to maby start a court case of what not. lots of research to do..
    I recently had Harley Davidson contact me with some legal crap they pulled out their ass. First Sale Doctrine is my case. There is a case, international issue, that went to appeals and is to go to the supreme court. god help us.
    The first sale doctrine, codified at 17 U.S.C. § 109, provides that an individual who knowingly purchases a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder receives the right to sell, display or otherwise dispose of that particular copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner. The right to distribute ends, however, once the owner has sold that particular copy. See 17 U.S.C. § 109(a) & (c
    interested and maby smater than me? would love all them help. we have the right to sell our own belonging as we please. you pay for it!

    • what did they allege you infringed and how? Our Harley local is a huge supporter of fan art. they have scouts that hold contests & sometimes they’ll contract with the winner and exclusively sell that item for a special event or period of time. Sorry for your luck, I love our local.

    • First sale doctrine only applies to reselling an item you own just as it was created by the licensee or rights holder. It does not cover taking an officially licensed item and altering it to create another item. For example, if you have an officially licensed t-shirt, first doctrine allows you to sell it as is. However, you cannot take that shirt and make a throw pillow case out of it and sell it, as that is not an officially licensed product. Same with any item that has been copyrighted or trademarked. These companies have every right to protect how their intellectual property is used.

      In the example TaBATHA cites with the fan art and the scouts selling their art for a special event, that is different because in that case, they are officially sanctioning it as part of a contest. They are not permitting the fan artist so sell at will, nor will they ever allow this.

      Please do contact an IP attorney, or Google any of the Ask a Lawyer sites on the internet, there are many of them that have answered intellectual property questions, and you’ll find this to be correct.

    • Emily, First Sale Doctrine only permits you to resell and item as is. If by chance it wasn’t an officially licensed item to begin with, counterfeit merchandise, even if you didn’t know it, they can still have it removed. If it is officially licensed merchandise and a seller alters it, uses it to make something else out of it, then they can legally have it taken down. First Sale Doctrine does not cover a seller in these cases.

      TaBATHA, the sort of situation you are talking about would be a contest officially sanctioned by HD, allowing people to create the fan art. The local isn’t permitted to do that all on their own without HD’s express permission. They are then offering the winner an actual *contract*. In other words, they are granting the winner a limited license for only that event or period of time.

      Otherwise, the fan art being sold outside of that agreement is infringing on trademark and illegal.

  63. Hi Ladies,

    I too was shut down by etsy. I used my own photos etc. They told me that my Vera Bradley items were not old enough to be considered VINTAGE. Even though plenty others are selling brand new ones. Not to mention just like ebay the CHINA manufacturing market has taken over. So this is where etsy and ebay are making their money.

    Sad but true!!!!!

    If anyone is interested please contact me at

    I have a new website going up for handmade items etc. The only fee is $5.00 per month and this is to pay for a large data server to host our site. And your items will always be rotated for viewing.


    • Brenda! good for you striking up your own thing. I know it can be frustrating with the E sites, but they are making room for people like to innovate, be more, do more in spite of them. much success

  64. I just found this on LegalZoom….it seems as though if you transform someone else’s work (in this example Disney) to where it is no longer a mere copy of the character then that is acceptable use of copyrighted material? This would seem to include fan art and the like.

    Transformative Use
    Another way to legally use Disney characters could be to use them in what the law refers to as “transformative use.” Transformative use requires that you change, or transform, the character enough so that it is no longer a mere copy of the original. The resulting transformation is sometimes called a “derivative work.” For example, if a painter created an original oil painting of his family and included the Disney character Tinkerbell as a family member, his use of Tinkerbell would be fair use because of its commentary that the artist considers Tinkerbell a member of his family. The use of Tinkerbell in the painting could be could be characterized as a transformative use, and the painting could be called a derivative work.

    • Cassie…the problem with this is not only still using the work of others, but who decides where the line is drawn, at what point is it transformed/derivative enough? Many times that ends up being decided in court and judgement can go either way, no guarantees. Who among the handmakers out here has the financial wherewithal to even attempt defend themselves against Disney, Sanrio, or anyone else for that matter, in court at all, let alone with probably only a 50-50 chance of winning? It’s better to just not hedge your bets and create original work instead.

  65. In my case, I had a painting for sale of the Loveless Cafe in Nashville. It’s a night scene and you can’t see the sign on the building. It’s just a picture of a building, a public restaurant. The Loveless Cafe people contacted Etsy to complain of infringement. Still not sure what the infringement is, actually. People paint buildings all the time. It irks me that I am not competing with items NOT handmade, my sales are not great, my prices are not high, and I am treated like I’m a threat to someone. I find it harder and harder to sell on Etsy.

  66. You toke someones image, that someone else made and you’ve tried to sell it. That is stealing believe it or not, and moaning about it isnt gonna change that. Not knowing the law isn’t an excuse eather. And just coz everyone else does it doesn’t mean you need to do that too. Would you want your kid to follow a bunch of other kids that are stealing lollipops in stores? I can not believe you would even make a blog post about it, not like its something to be proud of. In fact the opposit.

    • Kristta- I didn’t steal anyone’s images- I create all of my own art- I simply didn’t know that green and yellow were trademarked colors for a tractor- and I don’t think you read the whole blog post- I am not moaning about anything- I am warning people NOT to use copyrighted or trademarked anything-and I believe I even say that not knowing isn’t an excuse- I really think maybe you should read the post before blasting me for writing something that was meant to help people understand the whole problem better.

  67. I drew some geometric dresses, and they resemble Disney princess dresses; can I legally sell the image? It is just the dress, and it is made up of shapes, like triangles, squares, etc…

  68. What always amazes me in these discussions regarding copyright/trademark infringement are the questions such as, “Well, if I change it this way or change the name to call it this, can I still sell it?”

    What is being asked is for ways to take something that’s sometimes illegal at worst, stealing someone else’s work and creativity, and paring away at it in order to make it at least appear undetectable, or unethical at best. Attempting to piggyback a product on the original concept of another and changing it just enough in an attempt to escape immediate detection is still unethical and speaks to a total lack of creativity on the part of the person trying to do this.

    I see all kinds of things I wish I had thought of creating, not for the money involved, but for the beauty and genius they exhibit. But I long ago decided that copying someone else, even if it doesn’t fall into the legal realm or definition of infringement, isn’t what being an artist is about. I didn’t design or create that thing that entices me, because it wasn’t mine to design or create, it belongs to the person who did, it’s theirs. That doesn’t in any way take away from what I do design and create in my own style and from my own imagination.

    Imitation isn’t always the highest form of flattery, and staying true to my own creativity means so much more to me as an artist than the money I could make copying others, or piggybacking on their creativity, even if it’s *legally* acceptable, such as in the areas of things that can’t be legally copyrighted or trademarked. I have to live with myself and I much prefer a clear conscience and the ability to be proud of what I have created because it’s mine, a reflection of my own creativity and imagination.

    • thanks for being such a great voice of reason on so many posts here- I really appreciate it and agree with you 100%!

      • Sorry it took me so long to get back here and respond, Beth. But thank you. I just want people to understand this clearly so not only are the original creators of the work they infringe on remain protected, but so people who want to make and sell these things are kept out of serious legal peril.

        Thank you for beginning the conversation. It goes a long way in helping this situation which has gotten so much worse with the advent of the internet.

  69. Just to clarify- my shop never got shut down- I just had a couple of things removed because I was unaware that “colors” could be copyrighted- it is so hard to stay on top of everything that is trademarked or copyrighted- other than the obvious things. For instance, David Yurman owns the trademark “Quatrefoil” when referring to jewelry, you can’t use “tiffany blue” because Tiffany & Co. owns the trademark for that- all I can say is be careful, search the trademark website if you have any doubts and NEVER use someone else’s work without permission- not photographs, not graphics, song lyrics, etc… Better safe than sorry!

  70. From the original posting, “You have all heard it–My shop on Etsy was shut down for copyright infringement”:

    “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! … 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?

    John Deere’s claim is a trademark rather than a copyright!

    It’s important to distinguish between copyright and trademark: In short, the former deals with “creativity” (selling/licensing/displaying art, photo, music, etc.), while trademarks identify the source of a product or service in competing categories. When you see the checkmark-looking “swoosh,” Nike immediately comes to mind (for the sporting goods category). The large yellow letter “M” sign that you might see just off the interstate, means there’s a McDonald’s nearby (for the fast-food restaurant category).

    Companies spend millions of dollars marketing their products. Developing unique, eye-catching, or other special identifying (non-descriptive) marks helps brand products and services (Avis [rental car service] “we try harder”; Roto-Rooter [plumbing services]).

    TRADE (commerce/business) + MARK (logo [Apple], tagline [Rice Krispies’ “Snap! Crackle! Pop!”], sound [Pillsbury Doughboy’s childlike human giggle], color [UPS brown trucks], shape [Coke bottle], etc.) = TRADEMARK, an identifier that helps consumers distinguish products in competing categories. Nike uses a swoosh, while Adidas uses a “three stripe” mark. I can quickly determine which running shoe is which by simply looking at the respective logos—that’s the purpose of a trademark (to identify products/services).

    When consumers see a farm tractor or a sit-down lawnmower with a green-colored exterior body with yellow-colored wheel rims, many identify it as a John Deere product. John Deere’s green & yellow tractor color scheme is a federally registered TRADEMARK, rather than a copyright!

    Your art/Etsy business is probably using trade/service marks (logos, taglines, etc.) to identify your products; you just may not realize it.

  71. Beth, for my info only. Is it copyright infringement if you get free images on line and use them for your own personal use?

    • There are very few “free” photos on the internet. They are usually owned by the website they are posted on or the photographer, and you should ask permission first.

  72. I love this EXCEPT for the Dr suess part. Adding thing 1 and thing 2 clearly make it Dr suess.those are characters from his books and there for protected by trademark or copyright. If the holders of the estate wanted to they could say something and make it be taken down. They may not. Bur they COULD easily. Saying that is OK is misleading and I worry it will confuse other sellers. I was in love with the article right up to there.

  73. My niece just opened up a shop a few months ago on Etsy selling dyes and cut/styled wigs. She started to get lots of sales. Suddenly, she gets shut down.
    She found out she used 1 stock photo. Okay, she’s sorry, but nope, they shut her down, and won’t let her sell again.

  74. THANK YOU SO MUCH for writing about this issue. I now understand why I seem to be the ONLY one getting items removed. I was told last year that I could not use the word ONESIE, because it is trademarked to Gerber, yet I was the only one in my category that was removed. THEN, yesterday I was told I was infringing on a trademark, so I did my research ONLY to find out that I have been using/selling the saying LONG before the trademark was requested, yet again I was the ONLY one hit with the removal and infringement notice from Etsy.
    WHY is the competition so threatened?!?!?!?!

  75. The frustrating thing is that they’ll shut your shop down for things that are reported even if those things don’t violate copyrights. I had my livelihood taken away from me right after giving birth to my premie son… and they wouldn’t let me protest. Nevermind that there was no copyrighted aspect to the design in question. My advice? Find a less vitriolic company to work with than Etsy or at least have a back up shop somewhere because they’ll shut you down without notice and without reason, and they won’t care. Period.

    • I haven’t read this thread in quite a long time and you probably won’t see this, but for the benefit of others, when you sign up for Etsy, or any of the other sites for that matter, the TOS explicitly say that they can close your shop for any reason at their own discretion. When you complete the registration process, you are agreeing to that and all of their TOS.

      I’m really sorry to hear about your own personal situation, Beth. Unfortunately, if the take down was done for a reason that’s incongruent with their TOS, then the only way to fight that is with an attorney if you can afford one. Some attorneys give a free initial consultation and could take as little as a letter to Etsy from their practice. Depending on the situation it could take more. No one can give you the advice you need without all the details from both sides, you and Etsy, except an attorney.

  76. Another thing to keep in mind (sorry if this was brought up, I didn’t go through the comments) but was that Seuss font actually free for commercial use? Most “free” fonts are only free for personal use- invitations to your party, holiday cards, etc. You should be careful of that as well!

    • If I read it right, she is only selling the paper. The invitation was just an example, showing how she used the paper for her personal use. Here is my questions, can you sell part of something and give away the “licensed” part? For example, the Jack Daniel’s distillery is located in a dry county in TN. If you tour their facility, you can buy a bottle and they fill it for free. If I’m making key chains, for example, can I sell the key chain and giveaway the charm hanging from it?

    • Some fonts are also protected work, such as Disney’s font, if I’m not mistaken. Bottom line when using or buying fonts or clipart from someone else, you have to make sure it’s not protected. You also need to be sure the person providing has the rights/license to do so. Even if they do, unless it says specifically that the license also passes to you for commercial use, it’s for personal use only and can’t be used to sell items for a profit.

      Even protected work can be used for personal use, whether it be fonts, artwork, etc. You can even create a whole Mickey Mouse doll or plushie, or whatever you wish, as a gift for someone or yourself. The problems occur when you decide the sell the item and that’s where protection of the work kicks in. It is illegal to sell online or anywhere, because it’s totally illegal, not just unethical.

  77. Wanted to note that fonts are also copyrighted. Not all “free” fonts can be used for commercial purposes. You need to check the terms of those too.

  78. I was wondering how one goes about getting permission to print classic book covers. I have seen a million on Etsy, but of course I can’t ask them, and if it is actually illegal! But is there some website you can go to and pay the royalty fee? Like buying royalty-free “Digital Download” sheets for scrabble pieces?

    • Liz, if they are truly in the public domain, then you don’t need permission. U.S. copyright extends to the work for the life of the author/artist plus 70 years which allows for their heirs of a single generation to inherit their legacy as anyone else’s parents leave money in a will to their children.

      Once that time period is exceeded then the work is in the public domain unless something in the situation has changed that caused a court or U.S. congress to extend it, as Disney has been able to achieve on some works.

      Always do your research thoroughly and/or consult an IP attorney for assistance.

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