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Are Etsy and Amazon Taking Artisan’s Creative Rights?

When large corporations use lawyers to spell out their rights in Terms of Use agreements, it can cause concern among users. And when terms like “irrevocable right” and “license to use and reproduce” are spotted, sellers may question exactly what an ecommerce marketplace plans to do with their intellectual property.

The issue can be of even greater concern to designers and artisans, and online sellers raised the issue over the weekend on an EcommerceBytes Blog post about Handmade at Amazon, which Amazon is ramping up as it prepares to launch publicly.

One reader wrote of Amazon’s terms, “I’m giving them the right to reproduce my items at will?? Wait! What? While Etsy has a similar clause in their TOU’s the part about reproducing my items is most definitely not in it. With Etsy they just want to be able to use your photo’s at will for various postings both in and outside of Etsy.”

The issue had also been raised in a recent discussion board thread on Etsy, with a seller questioning the Amazon Terms of Use, specifically a section called License, writing, “Yikes, doesn’t sound like permission I’d like to give. Have the TOU’s given anyone else pause?”

The concerns led the head of Etsy’s Policy Team to post a clarification to allay some of the concerns sellers had over Etsy’s own terms of use. “While I cannot speak on behalf of Amazon, I can say that Etsy’s Terms of Use do not give us the right to take ownership of our sellers’ content,” Bonnie Broeren wrote. “On the contrary, your content remains yours, which you can read in section 5(B) our Terms of Use.”

“It is true that we may use your content for things like marketing, which we hope will benefit you and bring more sales to your shop,” she said – Etsy may feature sellers’ shops on its blog, for example.

We asked Amazon if its Terms of Use gave it the right to take ownership of sellers’ content, and whether the terms gave Amazon the right to replicate an artisan’s item and sell it.

Amazon spokesperson Erik Fairleigh responded with the following statement: “We respect the intellectual property rights of the Artisans who will sell on Handmade at Amazon. The goal of Handmade at Amazon is to provide customers with an opportunity to buy unique products directly from the Artisans who make them. The rights the Artisans grant us allow us to promote their products across multiple channels and help them grow their businesses on Amazon.”

Sellers debated the meaning of the word “materials” in Amazon’s terms – one reader said that referred to photos and text so Amazon could promote sellers. Another said Amazon’s terms were just not clear.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.