Copyright It or Not, but Protect It

What is that one thing apart from sales that Etsy shop owners worry the most about? It is plagiarism, they fear that their creations may be copied and sold by others without permission, harming their business. And they are right about it. There are plenty of sellers on Etsy who use their skills and creativity to create wonderful items and they deserve to gain out of it.

There are many instances where best-selling designs on Etsy are copied by large scale manufacturers. These manufacturers start producing those designs in bulk and sell them at prices less than that of the original item. This scenario has two possible outcomes, none of them are good for the makers of the original product.

  1. The copied products are cheaper than the original ones that are being sold by the creator. People will start buying the rip-off from large format stores or other physical and retail shops instead of ordering from the designer’s Etsy shop or online store.
  2. If the manufacturer makes and sells a substandard version of the product, the reputation of the original seller will also take a hit. It will affect his/her overall sales too.

copyright your designs

An ideal example for plagiarism by big manufacturers will be the recent case of #merica and Target supermarket. Melissa Lay from Oregon who runs an Etsy shop named SandiLake and SandiLakeClothing.com was apparently shocked to find one of her best-selling t-shirt and tanks design for sale at a Target store. The Target’s version of clothing bore a worn-out version of her design printed on a low quality material and selling at half the price. She has reported it to Target management and still waiting for response.

It is not an isolated incident. People can find many such copies of various articles being sold on ecommerce sites like Alibaba.

How to prevent it

The best way to prevent such things from happening is to get a copyright for the design (especially for those bestselling designs). Registering the design with the Copyright Office confirms the design as your own and empowers the person to file a lawsuit against those who plagiarise the work of an original owner.

Keep monitoring the internet to find out if there are any places selling a similar products. Searching for relevant keywords and doing an image search on Google and other search engines will help find any similar product listings.

Copyright violations can be reported to the site administrator or the company management, and further legal action can be pursued if the design is copyrighted.

Filing for a copyright

Copyright filing is a simple task involving 3-4 steps. Nowadays you can easily register your claim online. In order to register your copyright, you have to visit the relevant copyright office’s website and create an account. Then follow these simple steps-

Step 1

Fill in the Copyright application form

Step 2

Pay the Copyright registration fee as applicable for your jurisdiction and the process

Step 3

Submit a copy of your work that you need the copyright registration for. You can upload a copy of the file on the website itself. The size limit may vary. On US copyright website you can upload files of size upto 500 MB. If the size is more than 500 MB, you may have to compress it or split it into multiple files, each not exceeding 50 MB

Step 4

In cases where you have to deposit a physical copy of your submission, you can send it by post. If you are sending by post, then you have to download and print a copy of the shipping slip after payment is completed. The shipping slip needs to be stuck on the package in order to avoid misrouting.
Few copyright offices may require you to send a physical copy of the submission regardless of the type of work. The same process applies to them also.

Once submitted, the process may take anywhere between 8 to 12 months, before the copyright is granted.

The copyright will be valid for 50 to 70 years after the death of the creator/copyright holder.