Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Fri Mar 9 2012 14:27:09

Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

By: Ina Steiner

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The story you are about to hear is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Penelope is a designer who hand-sketches and then digitally enhances her art. She began selling her work on Etsy in 2010 and was happy with her commercial endeavors.

This month, she noticed a seller was listing her artwork for sale on eBay and saw that the seller was located overseas. Shocked, she wondered how she could make the eBay seller stop infringing on her work.

She realized she had a number of options, but was unsure which, if any, would bring an end to the eBay art thief. She could:  

- Ask eBay to stop the seller from selling her artwork;
- Use eBay's VeRO program to file a complaint;
- Ask Etsy to intervene;
- Take legal action;
- Buy some items from the seller on eBay and leave negative feedback.

What would you advise Penelope to do in this situation?




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Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

by: BetterThingsToDo This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 9 15:29:24 2012

I wouldn't hold my breathe on any of them.

Fleecebay doesn't care and neither does Etsy.

Legal action is expensive very expensive.

Paybacks are hell if she buys and leaves a negative. Kind of sleezy also.

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 9 15:50:15 2012

Option F) All of the above

I cant speak for Etsy, but in eBayland, fakes abound.

Vero is busy eating Cheetos and watching Gold Rush, Wife Swap or American Restoration on Hulu - they cant be bothered with actually doing anything.

Not having a phone number to contact them insures they get a good nights/days sleep. I tried to get their soda/candy route, but was beat out (sniped) by a Chinese Megaseller who is shipping in the snacks from Bejing - free shipping. He has 10k+ negative feedbacks (not as described mostly as the cheetos had no cheddar in them as promised), the rest shipping time complaints ... the machine was out of juicy fruit gum when the Vero cs needed it).

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Fri Mar 9 16:01:17 2012

First I would make a purchase from that seller so I have evidence of the fraud.

Second, I would determine if the seller is reselling the original artwork, or if they are making copies of your work and selling them without permission.

Third, with evidence in hand I would contact eBay VERO and see if they will act. eBay VERO is forceful over issues brought by major brands, how forceful they might be for an individual remains to be seen as eBay proves time and again that small sellers are not their preferred class of sellers.

After filing for VERO action with eBay, I would then evaluate the cost versus reward of pursuing the matter legally.

While you might be able to prove significant damages, the reality of getting a seller from overseas in front of a US court may be such that a lawyer would be hesitant to advise pursuing the matter.

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

by: darkstar519 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 9 17:24:08 2012

Contact the DMCA and SOPA and have eBay/PayPal shut down. Even if it does nothing it might prove something.

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 9 18:53:11 2012

This has been going on almost from day one.  Ebay does nothing about these sellers (and I bet he's probably from China).  Some don't even bother to take the original seller's name off the item.  They'll steal a copy from the auction...make a canvas print and sell it as an original.  You might have better luck with Etsy...I don't really know...but I do know you'll just spin your wheels on Ebay.

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

by: Jane Dough This user has validated their user name.

Sat Mar 10 02:26:17 2012

Reminds me of how creeped out I was once upon a time when I found a book I had listed on half.com listed on Amazon...they copied my listing which could not be mistaken as ''isbn written in tiny letters on inside page''...they were selling my book for more money and would have ordered it from me to when it sold.  In Penelope's case, I don't know wtf she should do with it being overseas and all.  

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

This user has validated their user name. by: Stockmiser

Sat Mar 10 07:27:23 2012

How about the most obvious...

- Write the seller and tell them that you own that artwork and any reproduction is illegal and that they must immediately remove the item or face legal action.

99% of the time, the casual "cease and desist" will work.

If the seller refuses, then use VERO to have it removed - and ebay will remove it to avoid any liability of their own (whether you own it or not.)  

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Sat Mar 10 15:22:18 2012

IMO, Ric's suggestions are the msot realistic.

Taking legal action in a foreign country isn't realistic.

Ebay and Etsy will do nothing, so that leaves VERO. I'd try that first but be prepared for the likelihood the seller will just re appear under a different ID.

If VERO doesn't work, then have several friends (preferably not near the artist) buy and leave 1 star ratings, negative feedback, and file SNAD complaints with both PayPal and ebay.

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

This user has validated their user name. by: Nan
Web Site

Sat Mar 10 18:43:09 2012

Ina, I'm not clear on something.  Is the overseas seller copying her work and selling it?  Or are they actually listing the artists work on ebay with the intent to buy it from the artist if it sells?

If it's the second scenario, simply block the overseas seller.  Then let 'em try and buy it.  HA!  

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

by: 10 year seller This user has validated their user name.

Sat Mar 10 20:05:06 2012

Fawgettabowdit!!



Chinese sellers, for years have stolen my artwork and, true they don't even bother to take my name off. They think its part of the
design.
They also put up a picture and a bio of the sweet Chinese artist from such and such province who painted the lovely painting.
I got tired of chasing them.  Not worth it.

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Sun Mar 11 15:59:57 2012

@10 year seller - you are absolutely correct!  These sellers make a business out of stealing images of the works of good selling artists - they print them on canvas and sell them as originals from some phoney artist and the generally put that artist's picture up.  Ebay does nothing, VERO is slow and if they do contact that seller or take down his auction he will simply change his ID and continue on.  I've been selling my art on Ebay since 1998 and have heard hundreds of the same complaint!

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

by: cayenna This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 12 04:04:24 2012

You could perhaps contact ICANN. Even though they are to protect websites and domain names etc, they could also possibly protect you from infringement of your property that you are selling since it is ‘online’. Or perhaps get some advice or a referral through them; as a suggestion since they are 'internet' protection. Also, I found someone making a specific jewelry design that I had designed and has so far been unique to me for over 7 years and I found someone copying  & selling it on eBay. I contacted VERO and they told me that if I provided them proof of my trademark or copyright of my design that they would immediately have that seller stop selling the item upon investigation if they felt the item looked like it was like mine, and also request they not keep copying my design; on eBay. So this is what I did and they stopped them from selling it on eBay and they talked to the seller for me as a mediator. Of course this will not keep them from doing it somewhere else. So the only real recourse you have is an Atty that has a database... to keep an eye out for you that does this work for you which is wise to have when you copyright and trademark your items. This way the legalities can be handled timely and therefore with limited expense because they are experienced in this field already. And then of course it gets even more technical with it is Intl. because you need the correct people to correspond with Internationally. Another reason why you need someone experienced in this field as you likely will not know who to contact to quickly remedy your situation over there and to work with your Atty. As they (the thief) no doubt have legal counsel over there just as you should here if you have a business and are serious about your investment. You could prove that they are stealing your work through your copyrights or trademarks and therefore it would just be a matter of providing that proof through the right Intl connections through your Atty. Once the proof is provided then definitely something can be done. However you need help doing this, and someone that knows what they are doing. Otherwise you will not get anywhere. Not to mention you have to be careful who you are giving your information too. So another reason to have representation.
Another thing, since you have established ownership in many places online I would suggest that you make it known everywhere that there are forgeries out there so that the word spreads so that people will become aware, and also to have people watch for you so you can be informed. Have a unique way to identify your original that no one else would know about... Ultimately these days unless you put something into action and have a plan ahead of time, and do all you can to try and prevent it from happening first, people can pretty much do anything they want to. The more you get your newly created items out there 'quickly' and with unique identifiers showing they are yours and the proof, it will not be as easy for people to steal it from you. Raise awareness by adding to your listings that you have added specific, special proof of authenticity to your creations for protection in case someone does try to copy your work and that they will be prosecuted. And you can also state in your listings that you have people looking out for you and reporting to you in so many words. I have seen people do this and it is a good deterrent. Perhaps this would make them think twice. Hope some of this can help in some way it is what I have learned as I have  many trademarks and copyrights. What it boils down to is unless you are willing to prosecute you may as well forget it. Do what you can as I have described and anything else you can think of to protect your work. Also, perhaps go through the persons feedback on eBay etc, and contact every person that has purchased a copy from them of your work through their ID and let them know that they are forging your work, that they have not purchased the real thing… and to spread the word, and that you are in the process of dealing with this. However you run the risk then of the buyer contacting the seller and demanding their $ back and then they will know you are on to them, which may not be a bad thing, but you should once again get some legal counsel... I would also contact their local police Dept and report what is happening so that it is reported, documented, and so they are alerted that a business person in their community is doing something illegal. This way if action can be taken you have done what you can which will give you more support in the process. Best wishes and much success!

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

by: cayenna This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 12 04:30:26 2012

PS: As mentioned you can contact the seller outright and tell them that this serves as an official notice that you are aware that they are illegally selling your work without your permission and that you will prosecute them through your International Atty and you will have them contact the appropriate Intl authorities to prosecute them if they do not immediately stop now, that you have all the proof that you need, and this does not mean that you would not still also prosecute them for their financial gain. That they are illegally forging and profiting from your original work and that you WILL do what is necessary to prosecute them if they do not immediately stop their fraudulent  actions, and any future fraudulent acts. That this is what you pay your Atty for and you will not hesitate to follow through.
However you really should follow through then if you plan to say this…

Perminate Link for Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief   Etsy Dispute - The Case of the eBay Art Thief

This user has validated their user name. by: Bijoux Dragon
Web Site

Mon Mar 12 11:07:59 2012

Contact VERO and go through the process. If (when) they decline to do anything, file a suit against eBay and publicize it.  Yes, the thief is profiting but eBay is profiting from their crime making them an accessory after the fact.

Good Luck!  



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