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Dec 2, 2009

Etsy: The Perfect Place for Craft Sellers ... And Thieves

So I've been selling my videogame crafts for about 2 years now on Etsy and is been a good little side hobby for me. I don't make a lot on the bead crafts but I do it for the fun of it. Lately the craft has been losing its fun side do to the huge amount of copycat artists and idea thieves on Etsy who are selling both the exact same designs as me and other sellers or just stealing our good ideas and making their own versions.
Now a lot of people sell videogame bead crafts on Etsy and a lot of us use original videogame sprites from retro game system, so I'm not complaining about other people selling the same Secret of Mana set as me because well, I don't own the rights to those sprite designs. That's not the issue here because the game companies encourage fan art. Hell, I've sold some of my work to Sega, Blizzard and Sony employees, so I don't think they have a problem.

What I'm talking about here today is when I come up with a unique bead design like my Patapon magnets or Loco Roco keychain (as seen above) which don't come in pixel sprite form in the first place and someone starts selling them on Etsy. See I know I don't own the rights to those characters - Sony does, but I did create the design for those magnets and that keychain, so when someone else comes along and starts selling that keychain or magnet design without my permission that's what irks me.

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See how I run my store is this: All game sprites are open season. Anyone can use them and no one can complain when someone else sells the same one because it's no one's property. However custom sprites, no matter what they are based on, trademarked or not, are not open season unless you get permission from the original artist to sell them.

Also what irk me are store stalkers: people who follow your store and steal any good ideas you have. You can tell who these people are because they always post a similar idea to yours at least 2 weeks after you post yours. These people will steal concepts, pricing or will flat out post the same item as you down the wording and claim the item is original.

Now the biggest problem with all of this is that you can't do anything about it. Sure, you can ask people to remove your work from their store politely, not politely, etc. but in the end, Etsy can't do anything about it because we use trademarked characters in our work and you can't legally do that. So they can continue to steal your ideas all they want.

All you can do is out them on your blog like I'm doing today and hope that they will back down instead of face another round of what's so and so ripping from me or this person today.

This all started with a Pac Man design I created back in 2007 when I first open my store. I wanted something I could put on a keychain, so I modified the original Pac Man and Ghosts to create a mini version.

Next thing I know these little guys are all over Etsy in about 5 different people stores and I couldn't get most of the sellers to remove them. Most of the sellers I asked admitted they didn't come up with the idea, knew the design wasn't a game sprite and wouldn't remove it from their store. Luckily for me, listing times run out, people tend to not renew things they don't sell and now only two listings remain from those 5 sellers.

This was my favourite Pac Man design thief because I found out in my research for this article that she not only stole my all my mini Pac Man designs for her necklace and earring set but she also stole the love design from another seller on Etsy who does this necklace in a clay charm. She's a real class act. She can't come up with anything original. Now originally I tried to get even with this seller when she refused to answer my messages about the removal of this item from her store by using the necklace and earring designs in my store as I figured the design was 50% mine anyway (didn't work, she didn't care) but since then I found out in my research for this article that the Pac Man love necklace concept was stolen from another seller. So I removed the necklace from my store out of respect for the other seller. I will keep the earrings though. Those aren't stolen from another seller and they are based on my design.

Beyond the designs thieves, there is the problem with the store stalkers - the sellers on Etsy who follow the more popular stores and copy your prices, listing or ideas and you definitely can't go after them as easily because they tend to find ways to hide their stalking from Etsy like by modifying their stolen ideas so they don't match yours exactly or by matching other small details of your store like item wording, pricing, photo style, etc.

Since I deal in videogame sprites, some people can be completely obvious and copy everything from your items to your pricing on some listing but you can't do anything about them other than bitch.

One seller, Magnet Games loves to steal your good ideas and modify them into her own. She cyber-stalked a store of a friend of mine, Lost Mitten for a while. First it was an obvious item, her popular 3D Mario Question Block which she first sold back in May 2007 which Magnet Games used almost the exact same design even down to the perfect fitting lid. Lost Mitten tried to get her to remove it and failed.

Then Lost Mitten comes up with an underwater Mario magnet set and within the same month, Magnet Games comes up with her own Mario Underwater magnet set. Next there was Lost Mitten's Domo Kun Notebook in August 2009 and then Magnet Games comes up with a Domo Kun ring in a week later.

There are also these other similiar items between the two stores:
Tetris Blocks - Lost Mitten - Magnet Games
Nintendo Controller - Lost Mitten - Magnet Games
Floppy Disk Magnets - Lost Mitten - Magnet Games

In all those items, Lost Mitten had her item for sale first.

Now like I said before, Magnet Games never uses the same designs but as you can see she loves to shop in Lost Mitten's Etsy Shop for ideas. There are six of the same ideas out of one person's store sometimes only a couple of weeks after the first person posted their idea.

I also believe she could be shopping for ideas from me too because soon after I started having a problem with mini Pac Mans popping up all over Etsy she created her slightly modified version. She's on the same forum as me and read in the forums that I couldn't do anything about removing the items from the other artist's stores. Here's a list of similar items in her store that could be modified ideas from my designs.

Mini Pac-Mans - Mine - Magnet Games
Mini Goomba - Mine - Magnet Games
Santa Mario - Mine - Magnet Games
Master Sword set - Mine - Magnet Games

Magnet Games denies completely that she shops for ideas in other Etsy stores and flickr pages, and even posts on her store's item descriptions that her ideas are completely original.

Of course, you could search Etsy for hours and find a ton of idea shoppers running stores on there. For example, type in the word Tetris and Perler in the search engine and you'll find another known copycat under that search. RustyKDesigns who I caught uses my Mini Mario Mushroom design in the beginning but they were kind enough to remove now just copies my Final Fantasy VI deal, buy 3 for $10 and rips off Magnet Games 3D Nintendo controller design in a notebook form. Ha, even the thieves aren't safe from other thieves.

Heck, if you even google Etsy and idea theft or stolen idea, you'll see how many stories pop up from other artists that have been the victims of stolen designs and ideas on Etsy. And even the original artists can't get justice sometimes from the site. I've even found Etsy item descriptions with owner having to state theirs is the original design and others are ripping them off. I have to do the same in hopes that my customers will refuse to purchase from the copycats.

All in all, I hope this little blog post will get the thieves to back down and stop ripping other Etsy sellers off. We all share the videogame sprites in the end but people need to stop shopping for ideas and stalking our stores. Come up with your our damn ideas for once!

I mean honestly the whole point of art is to come with new and excited ideas on your own. I love making bead art based on videogame sprites but at the end of the day, my custom fan art pieces are what makes this hobby enjoyable for me. If all I did was make original sprites all day, I would hate this. I actually removed a Chronotrigger set from my store because I was sick of making the same damn 7 characters over and over again. It wasn't fun.

When people fail to come up with anything new or original on their own, they are failing themselves as an artist and may as well call themselves photocopiers instead.


Anonymous said...

Curious. Are you officially licensed to use those characters in your product?

Faith said...

Apparently you didn't read the whole article, as I stated and I'm not saying this again. I don't own the rights to these character nor does anyone else selling on Etsy but it still doesn't give any one the right to use my custom designs in their store.

When Andy Warhol painted the Campbells Soup cans, did that give everyone the right to go out the next day and start selling the same damn painting because Campbells soup is a trademarked image?

I would have no choice but to remove items from my store if a game company asked me to but I don't see how that gives anyone else the right to steal my ideas. The game companies encourage fan art - I don't encourage copycats.

Anonymous said...

There are no honor among thieves.

Faith said...

Apparently not. Not from what I've just in the last day.

Mike said...

Well at least most of the stuff from enchanted future's store i wouldn't put on my dog. A fucking pac man necklace? Good grief.

Tony said...

So, if you don't steal ideas, then you came up with the pacman necklace idea on your own, and it just happened to be the same as one another person put together before you? Or did you steal it in the first place, post it and sell it, and only remove it once you posted this article?

Faith said...

@ Tony

I explained that point in my article.

Enchanted Future had taken my designs and used them in her earrings and necklace. I was trying to get her to understand how it feels to have your work taken and sold by another artist which honestly wasn't that wrong since I thought the necklace was 50% mine and 50% the thief's design.

However when I wrote this article, I found out that Livethislife had original created the concept for a Pac Man Love necklace out of clay charms and I decided out of respect for her, I would remove the necklace from my store because I felt I was hurting her more than teaching Enchanted Future a lesson.

Enchanted Future stole from both me and Livethislife to create her necklace.

I don't steal other people's designs. I only took back at the time what was half mine in the first place.

The earrings are completely mine because she didn't put any thought into those. Those are just my mini ghosts on a hook.

Anonymous said...

An industry with no copyright protection? Lessons from fashion's free culture [TED Talk] on Reddit right now