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Image Theft and Etsy

I had a bloody great shock on Etsy recently. While testing out my tags in an attempt to get this damned SEO thing nailed on the head I spotted a set of my product photos, for a listing in a shop that wasn't mine.

I don't want to put too fine a point on it, but I felt like I had just been punched in the chest. I just sat there, not moving, not even breathing, staring at this photo set and WILLING the shop name underneath to change to mine. I really couldn't believe that someone would steal my photos, I assumed it must be a joke, a twisted one, but a joke nonetheless.

When I finally regained the power to move my hands (and remembered to breathe) I clicked on the shop and had a closer look. This wasn't just a one off, this person had taken multiple photos of mine and combined them into several listings in their shop.

This was the point when the tears started to threaten. It was almost as if someone had stolen a child from me and then posted photos of them on Facebook with a new name. To say I was relieved when I checked this shops sales and found they hadn't sold any of those items would be an understatement. I then checked their Facebook and Twitter pages (both were linked to the shop) and found that they had posted links to their stolen-image listings. The Facebook one was the worst, they had several likes, from people who genuinely believed that they were great items and the shop owner was brilliant for coming up with such an idea. Except it wasn't me or my shop getting the credit.

But I didn't cry. I felt hurt, but it was soon replaced with anger. Actually anger would be an understatement, I was bloody furious. Since my housemates weren't in and there was no one to disturb I indulged in a few loud curses and phrases that turned the air blue for a few seconds. I was determined that I was going to destroy this other shop completely. I was going to go on Twitter and denounce them, post on their Facebook showing that they were a thieving little sod, rage on Tumblr, bellow on Pinterest and find their address so I could get a damned lawyer involved.

Then sadness came rushing back in because I can't afford a lawyer and I was suddenly very worried that if I contacted this shop and pointed put the wrong then they would simply brush it off and accuse ME of being the thief. This person has far more Facebook likes and more Twitter followers than me, not to mention more sales and therefore more positive feedback. I've been on the internet since dial-up, I've seen people get ripped apart on DeviantArt when I've known them to be in the right, I've had to moderate a few disputes when I volunteered on a large forum. The person with the biggest following wins, hands down.

So instead I filed a DMCA with Etsy's Legal team. Actually I had to file it twice as I didn't do it right the first time but they explained the best way to fill it out properly and I took their advice and got it sorted. I sent them links to this other shop and their listings, and included links to my shop and my listings where the photos had been taken from. I explained that I hadn't given any permission to this person to use my photos and wanted the listings taken down, and then offered to provide any more evidence if it was needed.

I had to sit back and wait. I have very little patience at the best of times, but this was agonising. I had to go back to this shop at least once a day to make sure they hadn't sold any of these listings.

Luckily Etsy's Legal Team dealt with it within 48 hours, a remarkable turnaround given all the complaints I hear about Etsy. Maybe it was because I had plenty of evidence, or maybe they were having a slow week and so there wasn't much in the queue in front of me. Either way I got an email back from them informing me that things had been dealt with. I then also got an apology from the shop owner. Things have been dealt with to my satisfaction, and dealt with very promptly.

The thing is, I know this happens. I just never thought of my products being possible victims for it. I'll be the first to admit my photos are a bit rubbish, I don't have a lightbox, I live in a flat that doesn't get much light, I only have a basic understanding of how to use the DSLR my Dad gave me, and me and Photoshop have an awkward relationship. Not only that, my items are unique. Seriously, it's a small market, no one sells anything like this. Of course I would spot someone using my photos, so I assumed it wouldn't happen to me.

I have gone to lengths to not to say who this was, or even identify which of my shops was involved. I could have ranted, I could have screamed, I could have accused them on Facebook and possibly ruined their reputation to a few of their customers. But I'm happier for having kept it between just me, them and Etsy. To be fair Etsy did encourage me to contact the seller myself, but I was too angry and upset for that. I can only assume it was a silly mistake on behalf of the shop owner, there's no point in me naming and shaming anywhere.

One thing that has come out of this is that I will be writing a post on how to contact Etsy with a DMCA. The language they use is legal and therefore complicated and when you're angry and upset and on the verge of tears it is almost impossible to understand it. I hope no one following me ever has a need to use it, but hopefully it will be useful for someone who is going through the same experience I did. It should be up next week.

Have a nice everyone :)

3 comments:

OOoooh that is infuriating! I had someone take my photos of some of my handmade flowers and turn them into digital scrapbook paper on a big digital scrapbook/graphics site. I found out when I went to a fellow blog teamamate's blog and she had my flowers as her header and was SELLING them as downloadable graphics! I checked her Etsy shop and her banner was my flowers! I tried to contorl my feelings but as you said I felt like I had been punched! I just convoed her with a What the Heck? and a link to my flower photos in my shop.She apologized and pointed me to the site where she BOUGHT them. I contacted them and they took them all down..some lady in Croatia or someplace and she had several papers with my photo images all over them! The nerve of people is ridiculous! Glad you got resolution!

13 April 2014 at 00:52  

AND I can barely keep my fingers out of my photos too! Not like they were professional pics!

13 April 2014 at 00:53  

Terrible thing to go through. I hope this never happens to me. I looked at your etsy shops but I don't see any photos. Have you decided to remove them from your shops?

14 April 2014 at 04:12  

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