Etsy sellers of handmade goods were dismayed to discover their items for sale on Amazon.com without their knowledge or permission. What was puzzling to them was how one-of-a-kind items they listed for sale on Etsy could be for sale on another venue – at much higher prices than they had set.
But is this in some ways a case of the shoe being on the other foot? Often sellers object when brands and manufacturers try to prevent them from selling their items online, so is there a difference when these sellers’ items are offered for sale by other third-party sellers?
The issue is particularly sensitive for sellers of handmade goods who take great care and pride in their often one-of-a-kind creations, and think of themselves as artisans, not “manufacturers.”
Debbie Pearson, owner of Creative Chics on Etsy, participated in an online discussionabout the issue in a thread titled, “Amazon Seller Image Violation on Etsy Aprons, Cutting Boards, Rugs and Pillow Covers.” She pointed to a seller whom she said copied her Etsy apron listings along with many items from other sellers as well.
“Anyone can buy our product and resell at their own price point today whether online or in a brick-n-mortar store,” she wrote. “We only sell our product at our retail cost and do not offer wholesale pricing; so if a customer is willing to buy our product at current retail price, mark it up and resell it, more power to them. I received what I set out to make on my product so I don’t have any complaints. If an online shopper didn’t shop around, they only have themselves to blame.”
However, she said, she did take issue with Amazon sellers lifting her photos, as they are copyright material. She said she believed Amazon should have a trigger in place that any new store uploading thousands of new items within days needs to be verified as legitimate and not allowed online until due diligence is performed.
She also said, “Etsy should have our images protected in a way that it is not possible to perform a bulk export of images from the Etsy website. However, I am aware there is a flip side to this. We receive a lot of free word of mouth promotion on blogs, Facebook and elsewhere when people review our products and use our images for that review.”
When contacted, Pearson told EcommerceBytes she felt the biggest problem was that the Amazon seller had products listed that she had since sold out of and were no longer available, and she worried about how shoppers would perceive her brand.
“Our product label is sewn into each product so if the apron is drop shipped, the customer would be able to see it is a Creative Chic’s product along with our product inserts and contact info we include with our aprons. However, I do not want to have any negative reputation by an Amazon seller selling my product with poor customer service or non-delivery of product or taking buyers money without giving them product.”
She also said her images and apron designs are copyright protected.
Etsy was aware of the issue after sellers complained to the company. An Etsy spokesperson said its legal team and security teams were investigating the issue, but since the alleged infringement was taking place on another site, sellers could contact Amazon’s administrators.
“As a venue, Etsy cannot provide legal advice to its members, and it’s unlikely that there’s a “one size fits all” solution. For specific advice, sellers may consider consulting an expert for help, such as an attorney. It’s up to each seller on Etsy to make important business and legal decisions for themselves and their business.”
Amazon spokesperson Erik Fairleigh said the company is very sensitive to IP rights and said there is a process for sellers to report IP violations, but said he could not speak to the specific case reported by Etsy sellers.
We asked both Etsy and Amazon if the companies communicated with each other in such cases, but neither spokesperson would provide an answer.
Rights holders can report intellectual property infringement on this Amazon page.
Pearson said she notified Amazon through the required process of copyright and intellectual property infringement. “We were required to provide a link to every single image that was copyright protected and being used illegally, well over 200 items. This is a painstaking task and the responsibility appears to be all on the part of the victim, not Amazon to perform due diligence before allowing a seller on their site or having checks and balances in place when a seller goes online and loads 1000 of items for sell in a period of a few days.”
By the time this article went to press, the seller no longer had aprons for sale on Amazon, but still had an active account with other listings that sellers had suspected were from other Etsy sellers.
Read more and comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.