Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Plagiarism: Controversy, Calling out and Someone Finally Made Me Mad Enough to Yell Uncle!

From the Etsy Forums, another copier is discovered. This time, the perpetrator is not copying a design. We’ll stay away from that controversy. Copyrights or trademarks on a design is very difficult to prove. Even the recent Urban Outfitters scandal is replete with “who copied who” accusations.

I am talking about blatant and obvious plagiarism.

Plagiarism which does violate U.S. copyright laws. Copyright laws that our government support and enforce. But what happens when the plagiarist is from a company overseas? Is it okay for another sovereign country's corporation to copy another’s stuff? Does U.S. copyright law have no effect pass our own borders?

A company based overseas has been systematically stealing photographs and product descriptions from Etsy businesses. I found this out through an Etsy Forum post. The plagiarist company website, based in China, copied photos and descriptions from several handmade artists’ work with the intention of selling the items themselves.

Huh? I know, it does not make any sense to me either.

What really made me mad is the plagiarist company's reaction to the artists' complaints. Instead of taking down the plagiarized listings, the copycat website just changed the wording on the item descriptions. They missed the point completely and still left the stolen photographs on the website for sale. To make matters worse, one of the artist who asked to have her listings removed from the copycat’s website, found out that not only did they not take her listings down, they changed back the description to her own words again with the exception of not copying her shop name this time. Clearly this plagiarist company is not backing down anytime soon.

A quick scan of the plagiarist company’s website will reveal that they didn't even bother doing that for the other Etsy artists’ photos and descriptions they stole. For some items, they changed the wording at the beginning but basically cut and paste the rest of the original shop owner's descriptions below it. Ironically, some descriptions still included copyright notices, store names and specials, and promises of handmade-ness.

From these actions, we can correctly conclude that this overseas plagiarist company is basically laughing at the Etsy shops they stole from and the United States copyright laws. It’s almost like egging us Etsians on - "what ya gonna do about it?"

Some will say, “well, this is not new.”
Everyone copies someone. “There is nothing original under the sun.” But, my question is: is it right?

When I was in college, copyright infringement was basically the worse thing you could do to a colleague. Plagiarism was tantamount to torturing a puppy while smoking cigarettes while carrying your unborn child. Obviously, it was not allowed. Not only was it not allowed, if found out, you were disparaged by the whole community. Short of having you wear a “Scarlet C” on your chest, you were humiliated for the rest of your college career. You were better off changing your major, changing schools and while you were at it, changing your name.

Now, in the real world, copying is just a matter of fact? I cannot accept that this is our new reality.

Some will say, “well, too bad. Move on.”
So the general attitude is, “it does not involve me, so it is not hurting me.” Well, I differ in opinion.

The problem is the plagiarist website is promising to send off handmade, vintage, and high quality creations to their buyers. The trouble is, they cannot possibly deliver.

What are they planning on sending the unsuspecting buyer exactly? How is that overseas company going to get a hold of the vintage French map or bullet with specific markings to make cuff links out of? How are they planning on fulfilling their contract for wholesale orders of said items?

If the plagiarist website is planning on scamming their buyers, then that action affects us all. And, I do smell a rat.

Whether we are directly affected or not, it gives Etsy shops a bad name. How, you ask? The pictures and descriptions which have been lifted off Etsy can easily be traced. It took me 20 minutes with my hamster run internet to find 5 shops and their copied listings solely based on clicking around the copier’s site and then googling the shop names which were blatantly left on the descriptions.

The poor Etsy shops who were copied will have some explaining to do. Their name is on the copier’s website. How can they disassociate themselves from such large scale scamming?

No answers.
Unfortunately, for this post today, I have no answers. No moral story; no lesson number one. I only have some proof shown below of the plagiarism and I have a lot of angry emotions. One thing I am thankful for is that my personal copy was not stolen by this company. In fact, I just joined the Etsy Forum discussion to let people know about what copyrights they hold inherently. That was it. And, I suppose, I just care a little too much about my fellow Etsians.

One of the artist's (somethingextrapspecial) Blog Post about it

Some of the Etsy Shops which were plagiarized are linked below along with the plagiarist's listing.

Two Peas in A Pod Cuff Links

plagiarist link

France and London Cuff Links

plagiarist link

Black and White Bespoke Cuff Links

plagiarist link

Bullet Shell Cuff Links

plagiarist link

Toy Robot Brass Cuff Links

plagiarist link

Etsy Forum Post about the Plagiarism

FBI Fraud Division

If you found this article helpful, or you are as angry as I am about it, please tweet it or share it on Facebook. Thank you.


  1. Very well written post. This kind of stuff also makes me mad and it's particularly frustrating when nothing is/can be done. I did vow last week not to shop at Urban Outfitters again, which is the least I can do.

  2. Very well written, you have it in a nicely lengthed nutshell. I was so mad I couldn't think straight to write and just wrote and burbled. Thank you so much for your support, as we seem to be getting little from anywhere else, and now that some daft person has mentionned another shop the thread has been closed down! I'm going to link this to mine, cos you have written yours much better than me!!
    Thank you again

  3. Thank you Sue for your kinds words. I am not even directly involved and I could not see straight either! Very frustrating. I am linking your blog post as well as tweeting it. Good luck!

  4. Great article. Ironically, I just googled my etsy shop name tonight, and found one of my listing descriptions being used for someone else's image. They had changed 4 or 5 of the words but it didn't sound like English was their first language. Under that were three of my other print images, one of them hadn't even been listed yet. It was pulled from my blog as a work in progress. I feel a little violated.. I think tweets have something to do with mine....

  5. @Primal Painter. I am so sorry about your situation. It is never a good feeling when anything is stolen from you. Some just do not comprehend that the written word is inherently copyrighted. For me since I was in grade school this was instilled in me as one of the worst things anyone could do to someone else. So sad.

  6. First, I am very sorry to hear that this has happened to you. I actually came across your posting while searching for "jewelry plagiarism" . I will be opening up my own jewelry shoppe online within the year and I have seen some jewelry artists completely rip off others and I cannot believe that they are allowed to do this. What I am referring to specifically is this scenario: If a jewelry artist watched a specific television series and continually created and sold replica jewelry from that show, isn't that plagiarism? The artist selling this jewelry is most certainly not the artist who created it for the television show. I an artist, even though I do come across pieces that I have seen another artist make and would absolutely LOVE to have, I would rather purchase those items myself rather than try to recreate them and then put on my own price tag... What are your thoughts?