Monday, May 10, 2010

Etsy is powermad

What Etsy maketh, Etsy taketh away. That's the moral of this story, and if you don't have your own domain pointed to either your own website or another venue this could be your story too. It doesn't matter how much or how little you sell. Etsy will get you, if they want to. Or just one admin feels like it.

LildecalShoppe will attest to that. Etsy is shutting them down.

We've been sitting on this for a week, hoping not to have to publish this. We were honestly hoping Etsy would do the right thing, but it appear Tim has started playing the God card so we've been give the pass finally to announce what top seller (who just broke into the top 100 with almost 5000 sales) has been shut down (see last post).

This seller has been featured a number of times in the new defunct gift guides, front pages and Dorque articles, they got tons of exposure online for themselves as well as Etsy, they are also slated to appear in InStyle Magazine, but now will not be providing their Etsy address.

They sent us this brief summation of the whole incident:

So basically after 6 months of great customer service, Etsy banned us. Our customers loved us for not only our fast service but also that we would customize anything and fix ANY issue quickly.

Etsy declared us to be in cahoots with another decal seller. How we have anything to do with this Etsy store, we don’t know. They had a few sales and only 73 percent feedback and being allowed to stay open, we had over 5000 sales with 99% feedback and are being shut down. The guy lives nearby us, but other than that, we have nothing to do with him. It appears Etsy may have just used this as their excuse for getting rid of our account.

My business partner and I have many theories as to why they really shut us down but I assume its because I made another account called “craftyguydecals” to combat yet another decal seller (whose name we were playing off of) who basically just copies ours and others work. It also may be that the hipsters don’t like us. Regardless of that, Etsy’s user agreement states nothing about having a second account and we did no wrong.

So Etsy now loses an active supporter (you have no idea how many people we turned onto Etsy) and the cash flow we provided them. We paid them well - over $3000 in fees during our brief 6 month tenure.

So if you want to support somebody that Etsy screwed over, you can find us on our new website, and also soon find us on Artfire; a website I am going to support fully. If I have any hand in it, will overtake the poorly run Etsy as the top handmade website.

After answering all of Etsy's questions, agreeing to what they said and having near perfect customer satisfaction, we were banned without any warning or chance to comply with whatever it was they wanted us to comply with...we still have no idea what that was"

We got to see some pieces of correspondence between this seller (but we will not share them here) and Etsy Admin Tim, who seemed to be on a bender with his godlike power all but stating he can do as he likes with arbitrary rules and no actual procedure, or answers. All this seller kept asking was "what can we do" and was repeatedly met with accusations of unproved wrongdoing which he provided answers and clarification for.

First this seller was accused of not being handmade, for which they provided video of the two of them working in their shop basement actually making the items. Then they were inundated with accusation of running or being involved with a number of stores (ironically ones that copy them) that have no relation whatsoever. They even helped other sellers in their field and Etsy accused them of collusion. Every time they'd answer an accusation, they'd get hit with another one. It's clear Etsy was pulling shit out of thin air trying to find a reason. Then they were accused of having an undeclared shop, which they did but had fixed. (How many admins have had or do have undeclared stores now? More than we can count.) I can truly say there was nothing this seller did worth the treatment they've received.

The store is inactive, we hope by publishing this that Etsy will be reexamine shutting down a seller that gave more than it got and will flip the switch back.

Shame on you Etsy. You have resellers with months worth of flags and you pick a upstanding handmade store who has made you tons of money to go biblical on?


Christie said...

Ummm. . . look at their sold items, folks. Apple logos? Disney characters?

Copyright infringement much?

The Cranky One said...

The apple logo is ON the macbook - not the decal - get over it. Not illegal to show the logo that is actually there and legal. What would you have them do blur it?

And it's snow white as a a thief, that is original artwork (notice the bandana over the mouth) and largely can be attributed to popular culture/parody. Which is allowed, despite copyright.

Anonymous said...

She should forget Etsy and move on. She'll have to keep appeasing them. Why bother?
Glad to see she'll be selling on AF. Etsy has become a closed market by even excluding buyers they don't like.

Yep said...

I'm glad they're coming to ArtFire! It's a great site with lots of potential and the admins actually care about and listen to their customers' concerns. Can you imagine?

It seems Etsy has forgotten that without their sellers, they are nothing. Why they're working so hard to alienate artists and sellers is beyond my comprehension.

Curious said...

Uh, I do think copyright infringement is an issue with this shop, though I don't know why they wouldn't have said that upfront, or just shut down the items with infringement. Say WALL-E and Transformers....

I agree the 'snow white' one might not be a problem, but the others pretty clearly are.

Ennui said...

It looks like there are a lot of characters used that are trademark protected. The Dalek, Mario brothers, multiple turtle characters...

I'm not saying Etsy's right - besides, there are scores of sellers whose trademark violations are just as blatant who aren't even doing the handmade thing, and admin never says boo.

I just think there might be a little more to the picture.

Anonymous said...

They've got Hello Kitty, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Marley, all sorts of stuff that looks like it could be copyright infringement. However, everybody knows Etsy does not get involved with copyright issues, and I didn't see that stated in the correspondence.

overit said...

Exactly what I was going to post Christie.

And Cranky One, they are still using very popular names & characters. What happened to being creative and developing your own designs? Why make a buck over what someone else has created?

So yes, I will "get over it", with not having any sympathy. If only Etsy shut down all the shops that did this.

And the fact that you are pleading their case makes me question why - you are so quick to criticize Etsy (and deservedly in most cases), but this is not one of them.

jusshar said...

I would leave Etsy in a heartbeat if I could only get folks to come to my website.

I'm SO sorry this happened to you. Haters got to hate, right?

The Cranky One said...

Oh and these are men sellers.

Bootsy said...

It doesn't matter if they put a bandana over Snow White it is still a trademark design of Disney. Are you seriously sticking up for that?

Is Lego not going to care that they are using their likeness just because he's holding a gun??

Come on EB, you can do better than this. This is NOT something to stand behind. They were closed for GOOD REASON.

Bootsy said...

I also wanted to add that usually parody fair use can be claimed when it is done for NON COMMERCIAL USE.

overit said...

Using it legally = getting permission from the copyright holder.

That's how I & many others feel.

Many of us slave away on our own designs & concepts only to have people capitalize on popular culture. How is that fair?

Andrea said...

So they created a sock puppet to harass another owner? Did these owners do the original snow white illustration? Or any of the other illustrations in their shop? They all look like low quality traces. Not really feeling sympathy for these people.

Quinn said...

"The Walt Disney Company has prospered by keeping an extra-tight leash on its animated critters. Publish a comic book depicting Mickey Mouse as a sadomasochistic smoker, as a group of underground cartoonists did in the 1970s, and prepare for a not-so-magical encounter with copyright lawyers."

"Disney’s view is starkly different: any unauthorized use of Disney property is stealing. Still, the company picks its battles carefully. While it closely monitors the Web for infractions, Disney will not discuss how it evaluates potential cases of copyright infringement"

Andrea said...

Even if you do believe that the Snow White is a parody, or that Iron Man is fair use, there are a dozen other violations which qualify for neither by any stretch. The transformer logo, jedi symbols, etc. I don't believe the seller is being honest about etsy's communication.

Ennui said...

So did this seller have permission from the trademark holders?

Is there a specific list of what this person was accused of? I realize you likely can't publish the emails, but an item by item might make this all a lot more clear.

crankier said...

Because you like these sellers it's okay for their copyright infringement. What about all of those other times that you screamed bloody murder over other sellers partaking in the copyright infringement fun. Can't have it both ways bitches, just because you like these guys.

Jen said...

I'm sorry, I don't know the whole situation, but I can't get outraged over a shop full of blatant copyright infringement, whether or not that's the reason they were shut down.

There are so many shops on Etsy that play by all the rules (even the intellectual property ones) and still get treated terribly, so I don't deny there are problems for you guys to address....but this doesn't seem quite right.

The Funny One said...

There are a lot of sticky issues with this example, from bad to worse. Whatever reasons for the shutdown are used, there's little doubt with sellers who have been "warned" by Etsy (from minor to major) that the "rules" shift with the wind. But with a biz that has absolutely no quality control, what does anyone expect? That "rules" actually mean anything?

I'd like to put the spotlight on why these kinds of seller issues are coming up more frequently on Etsy with its almost-5-mil-items. Not only was this bound to happen on a site with millions of items, Etsy set up the whole damn scenario.

Etsy only promotes a few kinds of product types, and then blogs forever about the same products for months/years. They put out a monthly Merchandising Report that tells seller what to make to FIT into Etsy's marketing plan, thus openly encouraging sellers to make the same kinds of products.

Then they post FS and QYDJ and get an occasion piece in the NYT about a $140,000-making seller and send a clear message that "if you make what Etsy likes to promote (for free)" you too might end up as an Etsy FP Fave.

And everyone is shocked that copying and same-looking products are showing up by the hour? Or that sellers are copying the same products that Etsy picks for the front page day afer day?

Etsy has been telling everyone to make the same stuff for the same price to fit a product-type that Etsy likes to promote for 5+ years. It's just that the mass finally exposed the total crap out what was once about handmade is now about mass-produced because Etsy set it up that way.

Which is why Etsy is chock full of the same kind of products that look the same, are priced the same, and can be interpreted not only as copies, but as mass-produced. I don't think anybody could have twisted the meaning of handmade into anything worse than the recent epidemic of cowls in 2009 that is about to be repeated with another "Top 10 Etsy Faves" that look mass-produced because, surprise! they are. Thousands of stores listing stuff that looks the same because Etsy may pick them for their next NYT feature article.

Anonymous said...

Didn't see the stuff, account is closed now. Even if the items were trademarked, Etsy has always vehemently refused to to be involved in trademark issues.
Etsy plays by its own rules

REALLY? said...

Yeah and what is up with making a second account to combat a copycat? I wonder if the exact details of this situation were conveniently left out so your side would look better. What did this combat entail that could have gotten you shut down? Harassment? Or were you selling the exact same items as your original shop? (which is not alloed according to TOU) I also have a feeling there is much more to this story that is being left out.

The Cranky One said...

The reason copyright was not mentioned is it's often overly bitched about on etsy tt he point of blurring out all other things - and it was NOT in the list of charge Etsy was fronting.

I'm not saying there isn't some, what I am saying it was NEVER on the list of charges.

Eveline said...

If copyright was the problem, why not say that copyright is the problem? But then again, Etsy always says they don't interfere with copyright infringements, hence the massses of Twilight, Hello Kitty (eventhough they were told to get rid of all HK items), Harry Potter etc. etc. etc. items...

This sounds more like a personal issue Etsy has with that one shop rather than an objective problem. Etsy fail!

Not Liken the Suggested Shops said...

For your next topic, can you lift the hood on the new suggested shop feature? Another seller and I noticed many of our competitors appear on the first 3 pages.

Why would the same 3 top sellers be suggested on the first few pages of BOTH of our suggested shops?

Anonymous said...

The mathematics of Etsy just DO NOT work out for the seller. Perhaps it would work out for a seller doing this kind of volume, in which case the seller would be the one making good money and not Etsy. And perhaps Etsy is shutting down these high rollers because ONLY ETSY SHOULD MAKE MONEY FROM ETSY RAWR!!! Thats the only reason I can think of.

That being said, again I'm not sure where (or if) the math starts to benefit the seller. I surely know that it doesnt for me!

Amy said...

Thank you for explaining more fully the reasoning for backing the seller. I can agree with the reasoning behind featuring their dilemma since Etsy never brought up the copyright issues. I've recently gotten off of etsy as a seller. I can't say that I'll leave as a buyer but if I'm buying, I check to see if the seller has other venues first.

The Funny One said...

I don't know how Etsy could even have rules about copying, copyright, or question sellers about whether or not their products are handmade by demanding proof. What a can of worms.

If they encourage copying, which they do, how can they then turn around and judge who is the original maker and who is the copier? Because they encourage copying by sending a constant message that only certain products get free Etsy promotions and therefore more sales, who are they to judge which stores are "violators" of a bad biz practice they created?

Not only has Etsy created a mess, they've created a level of competition between sellers that is beyond belief. Etsy's whole promotion structure (including Suggested Sellers/Items)pits sellers against each other at a level that's never been seen in any other online selling platform.

The handmade product and the person who made it has been completely replaced with the Etsy-picked product that fits the Etsy aesthetic. And it has nothing in the world to do with one of a kind, unique, handmade, or artisan.

It's about the "Etsy product" at the "Etsy price" for the "Etsy audience" which is about just a few hundred fave products a year that all look the same because Etsy encourages sellers to list all the same stuff (handmade or not).

No wonder Etsy doesn't have a clue about resellers; to them, everything looks the same because they set it up that way.

Amenhotep IV said...

Is Etsy still promoting the idea that you are "allowed" to copy three items from another seller's shop? I remember that being a huge topic of contention in 2007 and 2008. Not sure if they still have this in the books somewhere.

As for the seller being shut down, sounds like Etsy got antsy (hah) about the other shops that had similar names or happened to be in a similar area. Sometimes things are just coincidence (seller offering similar items living near another seller).

Sounds like Etsy's adjudication system could use some work.

As for the copyright infringement--nothing new here, and it wasn't cited as a reason for this shop's closure. If they were to stop the infringement, Etsy would probably lose half its sellers. All of the people who snip Twilight photos and stick them on scrabble tiles would be gone, that's for sure.

The Cranky One said...

Yeah, in no place in the letters to and from was copyright even mentioned. When one charge was refuted, another was thrown in. Really read like a witch hunt.

Stifler's Mom said...

LOL have you seen the new feature: "suggested shops" teh forums are in an uproar

Justoverit said...

Wow, a big seller was kicked to the curb. When I read that they sold wall decals I immediately thought of this situation that happened to me a few months ago. I was on twitter and someone re-tweeted something from this person:
I immediately thought of the Etsy admin of the same name, so I checked out her twitter info only to find out that she wasn't copping to being the same person, (and maybe she isn't who knows). So then I checked out the Twitter Michelles Etsy store, ( and no mention of being admin, or anything related to etsy other than having a store. I thought about writing the the bitches about it but it seemed like a pretty weak correlation. Then I read this post and saw that Lildecalshop sold the same items and had no clear reason as to why they were kicked to the curb. Perhaps they were just too much competition for this shop that may or may not be the shop of an admin.? Just sayin...

TooToo said...

An aside re: the favorites feature. As soon as I saw that I went in a deleted all my favorites.
It hurts more than it helps those people with that asshole "feature". If the search was workable (but isn't due to the tagging setup) people could find what they wanted without having to jump through hoops.
Hence, no more faves for me.

Christina P. said...

Excellent news! Trademark and copyright infringement shouldn't be tolerated. It's illegal!

Andrea said...

JustOverIt, that's a pretty good conspiracy you weave, but if you look at michellechristina's shop and the shop that was shut down there isn't overlap. The closed shop sold mostly macbook covers and MC's is wall decor.

VoteAudrey said...

It's confusing for sellers because Etsy has regularly blogged and featured potentially copyright infringing items - Twilight, Alice in Wonderland, for example.

How many necklaces/pendants have you seen made up of a Scrabble or domino tile with a celeb face plastered on? To me, the style is rubbish, but these things sell. And these decals sold (well). And if you just want to make a buck and not original art, then great. (For you, not the art world)

I think the argument here is Etsy has a very open interpretation of their own lax TOS, and it's anyone's guess what will be a yay or nay one day to the next.

adios said...

My business partner and I have many theories as to why they really shut us down but I assume its because I made another account called “craftyguydecals” to combat yet another decal seller (whose name we were playing off of) who basically just copies ours and others work.

Sorry but that is complete bullshit to harass another seller when you are both committing copyright infringment against someone else. They weren't copying you, they were just another store copying Disney.

The Righteous One said...

I want to highlight a few things that are important in this case:
1) Etsy did not state or stick to the infringement being punished - they really lack clarity in their correspondence and rule enforcement
2) This could be any of you, any of us, that this happens to. Etsy has done this shop shutdown time and time again - big sellers, littler sellers, old sellers, new sellers - noone is safe
3) If Etsy is cracking down on Copyrights then good for them...let's see it made public and enforced equally! But alas...this points out more of Etsy's problems (see point 1 above).

We didn't review the seller's items with a copyright eye, Cranky reviewed their correspondence with Etsy for improvement in their communication and enforcement...and found neither.

If your shop gets shut down unfairly, we'll make it public if you want it to be...people need to know how Etsy works, both the innocent and rule-breakers are at their mercy. Unfortunately the flagged items and shops still sit there...Etsy needs to prioritize, but that's hard to do without a business model.

Buttercup Soup said...

As a tangent for @VoteAudrey and others: Just so you all know, Alice in Wonderland is in the public domain. As a general rule, anything published before 1923 is in the public domain. In the UK, a Copyright for literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (including a photograph) lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. Even Disney's chokehold on its intellectual property can't change the fact that Lewis Carroll's works are in the public domain.

Annoneemouse said...

potentially copyright infringing items - Twilight, Alice in Wonderland, for example.

The copyright for the original "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll expired years ago, however the Disney movie version would still be protected.

michelle said...

I didn't get a peak at this shop before it was shut down - but I'm not surprised at all. i'd venture to say atleast half of the wall decal category is resellers & sign companies selling stock vector images - hence the overlap in designs amongst many sellers.

Also, because someone pointed it out in the comments here - I'd just like to clarify that i'm heymichelle on twitter & i'm definitely not an etsy admin. (You could have just said hello on twitter & asked if you were curious)

talliesin said...

Public domain: where non creative individuals go when theyre out of ideas.

As for etsy, it sucks ass.
etsy invented plagiarism amongst artists, and a huge kiss my ass to integrity.

It's like ebay with a fucked search.

Mr. Owl said...

For those of you screaming that these sellers are not creative artists I ask, so what? It is not a rule that you must be overflowing with creativity to sell on Etsy.
Just ask any vintage or supply shop.

Take a look at the top clothing sellers screen printed tee shirts. Is any of that original art? Maybe 2%. So what? Do you think DXO got permission from the man in black to sell his face on a charm? Who gives a fuck? If an idiot wants to buy or sell it, let them.

Copyright infringement is not an issue for Etsy. If it is it should be enforced across the board. This guy deserves our sympathy because we are human and Giant Co. are not.

AdidasWithYou said...

Etsy certainly is Power Mad!

My password was cracked and I was being harassed through convos from MYSELF and my wife was receiving them also!

After I realized that someone was on my account I changed my password immediately, but I was still receiving convos from the person on my account, apparently you have to sign out and try to sign back in for the password change to go into effect.

I started to get worried about someone being on my account, because I have all my personal information; Full name, Address, Phone number, Email address, and all my private convos and purchases!

I contacted etsy through

On the 3rd day Etsy finally responded to my cry for help, and they DEACTIVATED my account, and my Wife's account!

My wife nore I received a Email explaining why we were Deactivated.
Why her's was deactivated is a mystery.

I wrote them demanding why I was deactivated and telling them I didn't want to be deactivated and want to be reactivated ASAP.

This was my response:
Below is a message from Etsy's Support Team.

If you need help again, please let us know.

Etsy's Support Team is here to help.

Click here to access your issue on Etsy's Help site.

Etsy's Support Team (Erin) wrote on 05/17/2010 03:21 PM:
Hi Charles,

The account CETphotography has been closed.

The following links may be helpful;

Etsy Terms of Use:

Password: Keep your password secure. You are fully responsible for all activity, liability and damage resulting from your failure to maintain password confidentiality. You agree to immediately notify Etsy of any unauthorized use of your password or any breach of security. You also agree that Etsy cannot and will not be liable for any loss or damage arising from your failure to keep your password secure. You agree not to provide your username and password information in combination to any other party other than Etsy without Etsy's express written permission.

Provided that your e-mail account password is secure, your Etsy password can only be changed by you. Additionally, if you receive the lost password reset e-mail but did not request to have it sent to you let us know. You have the option of not confirming the change.

Etsy's Support Team"

WTF kind of help is that! I can't even access the links to their help site! I would need an active account in order to click that!

It's 3 days later and I've sent 4 email asking them to reactivate my wife's account, she had nothing to do with this and her account was safe.

Etsy has to have the worst customer service I have ever dealt with. They need to have a technical support phone number[s], where people like myself can speak to a LIVE person immediately! Not being sent some generic regurgitated emails. We've paid for services that are not being rendered.
Charles (CETPhotography)

tatum said...

ok...first of all, i just was also shut down on etsy for making custom handmade fondant cupcake decorations. I was "accused" of infringement. After contacting the complainant they made a withdraw on their complaint in email form and ask that my shop be reinstated. Etsy still refused just merely based on the fact that a complaint was made, valid or not...this is very unethical to 'punish' someone just for an accusation that was corrected mind you and further more was never giving me an opportunity to respond to this, make clarity or a chance to fix and discrepancies...what kind of world do we live in where we crucify people before an accurate assessment was made and a chance to make things right.? this world is so crazy full of evil people right now and etsy is right up there. I'm a single mom of young kids who has dealt with more than my fair share of hardships and I'm just trying to do my best to stay of government welfare....hard to do with so many factors against people who are trying to work hard and make an honest living based off their ability and talent.