Have you experienced receiving a notice from someone on Etsy telling you that your products are a copyright violation?

USounds like bunk to me.

Here’s an example by Melissa from BusyBeeBeadSupplies:

“I just received a notice via Etsy convo that my antique silver tone tree of life pendants are an infringement of copyright. They said their website has a copyright on those charms. They said if I don’t remove my charms they will contact Etsy about my shop. I have not received an email from Etsy directly. I looked at the charms and they are not even the same ones I am selling. Theirs are sterling silver and even look differently from mine. I searched the term “tree of life charm” and over 8,000 items came up. I do understand copyright infringement and I go out of my way to make sure all of my items are safe to sell on Etsy. I kind of feel like this person is just trying to bully me. I would love to hear what other people think about this.”

I searched the term “tree of life charm” and over 8,000 items came up…

The reason is, someone on Etsy (most likely, YOUR COMPETITION), reported you to the company that owns the rights to the images or copyrights. They didn’t report you to Etsy, Etsy doesn’t care, if they did there wouldn’t be over 8,000 items of “tree of life charm” that will come up on the Etsy search.The companies do care!

The Solution For Copyright Infringement Notices On Etsy

If you are notified of copyright infringement issues, ask them politely to send you proof that they own the copyright for that item. And until they deliver, you leave your item up. If they actually contact Etsy they will have to provide proof of copyright.

What if Etsy shut you down for copyright infringement? The best thing that you can do is to contact the company who reported you and fix the items that involves their name on it to get them to remove the complaint and for Etsy to allow you to put your shop back up.

What You Need To Know About Copyright Infringement?

When we create something — let’s say a photograph — we own the copyright, which is our exclusive right as the author to own that work. We control who else can use our work and in what manner. For example, I could allow someone to print a photograph of my products or adapt it in a piece of art. Rather than establishing verbal agreements, I can distribute my work with a license that sets the guidelines for use. The things that are copyrighted are sometimes referred to as “intellectual property.”

Licenses are granted by an authority to allow a usage; in my case, the use and distribution of resources by the copyright owner (i.e. me). I may decide to offer my photograph for free or charge a price; either way, I can include a license to limit usage, and I maintain the copyright. Just because someone pays money doesn’t mean they have full control or rights to what they’re buying. Licenses can dictate the number or uses, the bounds of use and even the length of time until the license expires.

Moreover, under “work for hire,” the employer holds the copyright, not the author or creative; in many cases, this is a company (such as a creative agency) or its client (by contractual agreement). In such cases, the creator retains “moral rights” to their work, including the right of attribution. This is partly why published articles refer to the author, although moral rights can include anonymity.

Copyright laws are incredibly complex, but this should be a good start.

What Is “Fair Use”

“Fair use” is an exception to the exclusive rights held by the copyright owner. It exists in some countries such as the US and UK. Under it, in certain cases, using work without permission is possible. If someone’s usage is defined as fair use, then they don’t need to obtain a license. Essentially, using copyrighted material is a legal right. Examples of fair use might include:

  1. Educational purposes, such as teaching and student research;
  2. Making commentary and criticism as part of a news report or published article.

There’s a misconception that noncommercial or nonprofit use is always acceptable. It isn’t. Fair use is a legal term and is judged case by case. Always research thoroughly if you think your use of copyrighted material is legal.

What Is “Public Domain”

Work that falls in the “public domain” basically has no copyright owner. You can use, modify and redistribute it to your heart’s content. An author can forfeit their copyright and, thus, put their work in the public domain. Copyright ownership expires after the author’s death (generally 50 to 70 years after death in most countries).

Legal Jurisdiction

Every country has its own interpretation of copyright law, but there are many agreements between nations. Licenses are enforced under copyright law, which is different than contract law. The distinction here is questionable within certain jurisdictions, each of which applies the law differently.

The Berne Convention (for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works) was established in 1886 and is an international agreement that governs copyright. It states that each member state must recognize the copyright of work from other countries, and it must extend the same rights to foreign work that it gives to those of its own citizens. It also makes clear a minimum standard of protection for copyright owners. To date, 164 countries have signed this agreement.

Licenses can be limited to certain jurisdictions. So, while something may be free in one country, the copyright owner could reserve all rights in other countries.

License Terminology

A license can be written from scratch, but most people choose a well-known one. We’ll cover the common licenses that relate to our industry of website design and development, specifically those that allow for free usage — “free,” meaning that no money is required. Generally, licenses that govern paid resources are written individually, but all licenses have commonalities.

There is obviously a fundamental difference between, say, development code and stock photography. So, it should come as no surprise that a range of licenses exist. Each is tailored to the usage. Before we dive into them, let’s go over some common terminology:

  1. Copy – A simple copy of the original work.
  2. Modify – To alter copyrighted work in some way before using it.
  3. Derivative work – The result of modifying copyrighted work to produce new work.
  4. Distribute – The act of giving someone your work under a license.
  5. Redistribute – The act of distributing work and its license after obtaining it under license from the original copyright owner.
  6. Share alike – Permission to distribute derivative work under the same or a similar license.
  7. Credit or attribution – The act of identifying the original copyright owner.
  8. Copyright notice – A written phrase or symbol (©) informing of copyright ownership (not necessarily required by law).
  9. All rights reserved – A common copyright notice declaring that no usage rights exist (again, not necessarily required).
  10. Warranty – A written guarantee included with the license (or, usually, not).

Creative Commons

Lawrence Lessig founded Creative Commons (CC) in 2001 to create a series of easy-to-understand copyright licenses for online creative work. You will usually find this term on Flickr. These licenses established the notion of “some rights reserved.”

The basic Creative Commons license is CC Attribution. It allows for all copying, modification and redistribution (even commercially), provided that the original author is attributed (with no implication of endorsement). Work under CC Attribution is essentially free to use.

The CC Attribution license can be extended to CC Attribution-ShareAlike. The same rules apply, except that all derivative work must be licensed the same way. This distinction ensures that all resulting work remains free. Wikipedia uses this license for its text.

Source: David Bushell Of Smashing Magazine.

That’s an overview of what you need to know about copyright and licenses for your handmade business.

We’re getting into political and legal territory here. Remember: if in doubt, get legal advice.

Check our free A to Z Handmade Business Guide to help you on issues similar like this

Gary Capps

I live in the one of the most beautiful places in the world on the Sunshine Coast in Australia with my wife and our 2 dogs, Poppy and Mia. Since 2009 I have helped over 15,000 handmade business owners to grow their business with our software and free tools designed for todays entrepreneurial artisan.

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