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Dec 4, 2009

More on the Subject of Etsy and Copycats

Now I don't want anyone to think I hate Etsy due to my last rant because it is a great site for artists to sell their wares. Ebay is too expensive and not targeted at the right market for us, plus it lacks the community that Etsy has. However what does upset me about Etsy is the lack of support they show artists when they need it the most.

Etsy claims that they will moderate between members when there are issues but honestly I have seen several stories where sellers who create original items had other sellers on Etsy steal their exact items and Etsy did nothing to help them. Most small sellers or hobbyists can't afford lawyers to defend their work and if Etsy doesn't step in, how can you stop other people from just selling your art without your permission?

So sellers are left to defend for themselves and disputes can get nasty. The harassing emails start, more items are stolen and people will go as far as attempting to destroy each other lives basically. Thankfully I've never had to deal with anyone like that but I've again heard the stories.

But all the finger pointing aside, isn't the idea of copying art just ruining the whole purpose of art? Why bother selling crafts if all you're doing is producing something created in the mind of someone else? You may as well go work in a factory then sell on Etsy?

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And as for the idea shoppers, I know that originality in art is hard to come by, so we all find inspiration in the world around us - I use pop culture as my inspiration - and sometimes it's hard to find the line between something being a source of inspiration and a case for a lawsuit but at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, am I creating art or am I creating some other person's art?

To answer this you only have to ask this simple question: When you scan all the new items on Etsy each day, are you looking for "inspiration" for your store or are you looking for a new cellphone charm? If you answered yes to the first question, then you need to start looking elsewhere for inspiration.

I can admit a lot of the stuff in my store is made from game sprites and it doesn't take much creativity to make a game sprite out of beads. I just follow some other person's designt and boom, a magnet is born. I know that's not real art, that's just a form of crafting - so that's why I starting making my own designs and incorporating other elements into my work. I made my own mini versions of characters and then moved into my own pixel versions of next gen characters like Patapons and Loco Rocos.

I starting painting, making frames and even branched out into completely original designs - no pop culture elements involved. I realized I didn't want to just keep making someone other guy's art all the time. Sure, I still want to keep the element of videogames in most of my art because that's what inspires me but I want to go beyond the original character art and makes stuff that other people don't.

Unfortunately my art is not 100% original because I work in the realm of fan art and I will always have to worry about other artists helping themselves to my original crafts ideas and patterns because some people seem to think that fan art is another word for public domain, no matter how original it is.

Either way, the message I'm trying to express here is that you only hurt yourself when you deny yourself the chance to create your own works of art. The joy of knowing that something you made is making someone happy is so cool and it's so much cooler when you know you actually thought up with the idea.

[Writer's note: Also I know this all this original idea stuff sounds hypocritical coming out of the mouth of a person who uses trademarked characters but fan art is a huge culture and is something the game companies encourage.

But if you still think they have a problem with it, I will point to you exhibit A and B on my flickr page. Yeah, all bought by a Blizzard Employee and they now hang in the Blizzard game studio. I still haven't gotten a cease and desist letter from them yet and considering they own the rights to those items I made for them, I would assume if they had a problem about me making money of their images they would have sent it to me by now.]

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