Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Etsy: Artists' friend or foe?

Wowsa! It’s been a while…

So we finally worked out our publishing problems and back in the land of bloggers.

The holiday season was hectic, but wonderful. The little dude continues to grow like a weed. Life has been rolling along smoothly and I consider myself lucky.

I’ve debated posting a entry about Etsy(www.etsy.com), but finally decided that this sort of issue needs some attention…and if enough of us write tiny obscure entries then maybe after a while it will get some attention.

No, I don’t mean that Etsy is too obscure and needs the attention.

I’m talking about, for lack of a more eloquent word, the “shitty” side of Etsy. The side that the big bosses running Etsy simply play ignorant to and claim no liability for. Copyright infringement and copycats.

For anyone reading this that is not aware of Etsy.com, in theory, it is a marketplace for artists and crafters to use( Ebay without the auction aspect) to promote and sell their HANDMADE wares. The big issue is that with over 30,000 users there are many many many sellers that are not HAND-making the things they sell. Worse yet, there are hundreds of items for sale that are blatant knock-offs of successful, established, small businesses…and even a few huge ones. Disney? StarWars? Dora? Thomas the TankEngine?

Overall, I’ve loved the quality and uniqueness of the items I’ve purchased through Etsy. There are many talented artisans finding success in its marketplace. Kudos to all of them. Keep up the great work and I wish you all success in your creations!

Maybe this is just urban legend, but didn’t Disney once sue a daycare for painting murals of their characters on the facilities walls?

Famous photographs of celebrities silk-screened onto clothing? How pissed would you be if you were the photographer seeing dozens of sellers turning your work and talent into their profit without offering you and compensation or asking your permission?. I could be wrong about this, but I’ve always understood that once you create an original design or piece of art it is technically protected under U.S. copyright law and anyone who wishes to use the image must gain your permission before doing so. I’m not certain, but I think that is true.

I realize that most crafters and sellers are probably not up to speed on U.S. copyright laws, but I’d bet a buck or two the folks running Etsy are. There is a “report this item” button that allows you to report items that you don’t believe are handmade or are simply illegal. I’ll admit I’ve reported a few blatant copyright infringements … the items are still for sale weeks later.

Personally, I could care less if Disney loses a few bucks from small artists, I’m not much of a Disney fan(don’t even get me started on “the vault”), but I do care about the small businesses that worked hard for years to establish a unique style and product only to have the Etsy monster come along and spew out a dozen sellers that rip them off and get MORE press, being a piece of the big Etsy machine.

I know, I know, there are a million ways to reinvent the wheel, but when one person buys a product from another business then turns around and sells their own copies of it they need to be held accountable and I am disappointed that Etsy does nothing. Just keeps on collecting their listing fees and sales percentages.

In the corporate world it is called industrial espionage, the only difference is that in the corporate world the businesses can afford the team of lawyers it takes to protect their products.

I’ll still visit Etsy occasionally to shop for unique pieces of artwork or gifts, but mostly I just go there now to make sure my hard work and designs are not being ripped off.


Tina said...

i totally agree with this. i felt weird putting up my little blog book because it is printed and not "handmade". but those celebrity silk screened shirts are making me mad. i mean, how lame are you if you think silk screening elvis on ANYTHING is cool? lame. i love esty, but am mad about these things too. it is also starting to get run over with "mom jeans" ladies. but that is another problem.

Suzy said...

oh man, tina

i wonder if Etsy really cares at all... i mean, from what i've heard it seems like most crafters on Etsy are tired of having to deal with these issues.
Going on week 3 that the items i flagged that are illegal (not just in an Etsy sense, but in a Federal Law sense) are still up for sale!

i still really think that at its core Etsy can be such a positive thing for artists and crafters...they just need to clean the place up and play within the law.
I also can't understand why people calling themselves artists would rather steal someone elses good idea rather than come up with their own.

groovyinclinations said...

Great points of view!

Just stopping to say hello and say that MY work is original and I would love for you to visit my Etsy shop. No celebs...or famous cartoons. Just my own quirky visions of life and objects.


Jhone said...

Way to spam, mtwilson....waaay too spaaammmm...