Tuesday, 12 April 2011

More on being copied

When I first got to Etsy I sold something completely different. Within three weeks I was being copied by an aggressive seller. This seller put her prices down at below 50% of my prices. She had signed up to my RSS feed so, every time I listed something new she listed three of her products next to mine. As expected, I sold very little and she sold large quantities, I had to content myself with the numerous emails saying how much better my work was.

I am tired of being told to be flattered by copyists…I had my arse well and truly kicked!! It was not a flattering experience, I can assure you. Not only was my idea ripped off, I was shown to be useless business woman! To this day I feel nauseated when I remember that period of my life and how soul destroying it was.

People who suggest I should be flattered, I can only imagine haven’t thought it through sufficiently or haven’t personally experienced it.

Regarding that creative idea, I gave up and I resigned myself to moving on to something else. That is when I started creating lichen and moulds. This time I have a great deal more to feel threatened about. This is my niche on Etsy that I have been working at for two years, sometimes 14 hours a day. How do you expect me to feel? To those who don’t approve of my anger in this situation, it’s NOT a hobby, it’s my living. Being copied can mean the total destruction of your business.

Also, people often pipe up with the old chestnut ‘It’s not an original idea’ so and so has being doing this for years. Sorry, in two years of working I haven’t seen anything like my moulds (until now). Yes, I’ve seen plenty of people who make textural pictures of lichen and very occasionally mould. I’ve exhibited with the British Lichen Society right alongside some of these folks. But sorry, I’ve done something different and it’s been lifted by another seller. If you can send me a link to something that really is similar I’ll admit defeat, but until then….you ain’t right!

I recently attended a seminar run by the Intellectual Property Office in the UK. Many aspects of what I do could be registered under ‘design rights’ because of their originality (which I would do if I could afford it). Places like Etsy are a free for all, most people think by you just putting it out there, it gives them permission to set themselves up in competition with you using your idea.

What is the universe telling me? I should get ready to get my arse kicked again? Well, that’s really peachy isn’t it.


Purple Photokitty said...

Those who can't think, copy. Those who copy, do it poorly. I wish you all the luck. I have had people lift my photography from my website to use in all manner of things and it frustrates me to no end. Your work is truly original and very unique. It saddens me to think people could even dream of copying it.

nina said...

I think that there is nothing on the Internet close to your work, the technical and art quality of your products is just uncomparable to those plagiarisms. I hope there'll be other (less expensive) way to stop these people from ruining your gainings...be sure that that's not just meaningful words, because if I'm lucky, I'm future fiber art student :).My point actually is to say to you that people who buy those "made-up" products can't appreciate the value of textile art.

fionachapman said...

Always sad to hear about copying in art. Your work is wonderful and will continue to stand out from the rest. I am also inspired by microscopic life, it's a fascinating area.

Marianne said...

First, I love your fire and your passion for you work. I'm so sorry to hear this happened to you. I know I would be mad as h*ll. Perhaps you need to write in your descriptions: Don't settle for cheap copies of my work here______(name of shop). Buy from a working artist whose designs are original and made with great care to detail.

Also, I think that just because this person copied you and competed so ruthlessly does not mean that you are a poor business person.

I love the pieces I have from you ~ a pincushion, earrings and a brooch. They are so perfect.

anastasia said...

well, one thing you're doing which is different from your first experience is that you're establishing a space for yourself outside of the internet world by being accepted in shows and publications. the people who see your work know it's yours, this is a strength which this copyist doesn't have. hopefully they grow lazy soon and move on to stealing someone else's brilliant work. stay strong, focus on the opportunities to exhibit, surround yourself with positive energy, and wait for the storm to pass.

Raven said...

Elin, I DO understand the pain and frustration of putting something creative out there, only to have it 'vultur-ized'. I've listed work only to see imitations the next week. Unfortunately, I see that senario becoming more common. The internet gives everyone access, thievery crosses borders and has no consequences. Perhaps if we held companies like Etsy more accountable, that would be a start? (tho Etsy may have already fallen too far from grace) I've gone back to brick and mortar shops; less exposure but at least no one can copy/paste with just a click.
Don't give up.

Jesse said...

I'm so sorry to hear this has happened. It's absolutely shocking that people do this kind of thing, and get away with it.

Anthropomorphica said...

I understand your frustration, the seller who copied you recently also had a half hearted attempt at felt I used to sell through Etsy. Her shop has more than our work in it too. I'm sad for her lack of creativity, but empathise with you.
I've moved on to doll making and I pray it won't suffer the same fate! As I said before copies are shadows of the original but someone else is making money from your creativity and it should be you, it really sucks!

material witness said...

Hmmmmm...Try again. Your work is beautiful and I like it very much.
Your interpretation and working of lichen is delicious.

Jane Kenyon did some beautiful machine embroideries of lichen at least five years ago and showed with the largest environmental group in the West Coast of Canada. Her next show is at the Surface Design Association, international conference.

I started showing small embroideries in petrie dishes in 1996. I did again at the Artropolis Show in 2000. Other than the petrie dishes...no similarity at all to your work.

I once had a work rejected in a big show. I was surprised because the work was very innovative. The next year one of the judges submitted and was accepted to the same show using my work transformed very little. She almost copied my artist's statement word for word and won a huge prize. I was more than choked.

Losing business to a person who copies is a complete drag. Taking someone to court requires absolute proof and is expensive. The law is probably different over there. The protection here is nebulous and is covered under intellectual property.

I had a friend support me through another experience I had with being copied. He looked at me and said, "Too bad for her. She has no ideas and copied you. Another idea for you is just around the corner."

Your lichens stand on their own. Contact ETSY and put in a complaint. Organize other people to complain if they don't listen to you alone.

Good luck with your struggle.

ELINtm said...

Thank you all for your intelligent and thoughtful comments :)

Thanks Purple Photokitty, I'm sure the concept of 'free' stuff on the web creates a sense that photos etc. can just be consumed like anything else 'free'.

Thank you for your kind words, nina. I think I will take a different approach to new products from now on. They need to 'launched' in a different way, definitely not on Etsy!

Thank you fiona, I have seen your work before on Flickr and admired how beautiful and superbly crafted it is :)

Hello Marianne, Great to hear from you! Hope all's well with you.

Thank you re: the business woman thing...I suppose I felt I had nothing to fight back with, at the time. I now know I'll never be able to make 100 petri dishes in a week. But, I can make one, solitary diamond encrusted one...for the right buyer! :)

Thank you anastaia, very good advice! I think you're right about me aiming for a higher profile with my work. I think there could be zone where copying is less common, certainly in the UK, as there is a smaller craft market.

Raven, thank you, sorry to hear it's happened to you too! I just don't get Etsy sellers. The potential people power there could be truly revolutionary. I think you are right though, it's too late. Or it's a job for more idealistic types, with a great deal more energy than me! ;)

Thanks Jesse, I agree :)

Anthropomorphia, you've hit on one of the good things about this. They say 'don't get mad, get even', for me that energy resolves itself (like you)into making something different and better. It can only make one's voice stronger :)

Thank you Material Witness, your story made my blood boil!! It reminded me when my art teacher retired he took four of my best drawings. What a damn cheek these people have!
I'd love to see your work, do you have a website? :)

material witness said...

Blog is at www.materialwitness.blogspot.com
Website being worked on this week.
I love your blog.

material witness said...

Lost my comment earlier.
My Blog is at
So glad you have so much support.