Not-So-Top-Secret: Policy Sneak Peek (Oct 20, 2009)

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Original Post

Hello Etsy community,

It’s been over a year since we last updated the DOs & DON'Ts of Etsy. During that time, we have received feedback on our existing policies from the Etsy community — through the Forums, emails, Virtual Labs and in-person meet ups. Thank you for your input! Keeping our policies clear and up-to-date is one way we can help preserve the integrity of the site. We want to continue working with the community to better our services and our marketplace.

This week, we're offering a sneak peek preview to provide another way for us to improve the site together. The revised DOs & DON’Ts will be posted on a special page for about a week to offer the opportunity to read through the document and respond with your thoughts about the proposed changes. If necessary, we may make final tweaks before we go live with the new DOs & DON'Ts. Our other policy documents, as well as Help content, will be updated to reflect the revisions to the DOs & DON’Ts at that time.

Please see this post on Etsy's blog, The Storque for an overview of the updates to the DOs & DON'Ts of Etsy:

And be sure to visit this special page to see the revised DOs & DON'Ts in their entirety:

Thank you!

Posted at 10:38am Oct 20, 2009 EDT


If you would like to join in the discussion, please come on over to this thread:

Posted at 10:39am Oct 20, 2009 EDT

Since the discussion thread ( ) is getting lengthy already, I will re-post my responses or otherwise sum up a few of the main themes and questions brought up by community members.


On pages 1-2 of the discussion thread, artisanwoodcrafting has raised a few points about Transactions. We have been asked over the past year about the expectations for both sellers and buyers within an transaction on Etsy, so we have now formally outlined in the DOs & DON'Ts the expectations Etsy has long held for members in transactions. We do encourage buyers and sellers to work things out between themselves when a dispute arises. If the two parties find a resolution that satisfies them, then that's wonderful. If not, Etsy needs to have a standard set of expectations so that not everything is handled on a case by case basis.

On page 2 of the discussion thread, uknowuneedanother says: "IF a venue has a hands off policy regarding transactions between buyer and seller, it needs to be consistant and in accordance to what Paypal require of us. PERIOD"

Not all transactions on Etsy use PayPal as the method of payment. Etsy cannot hold members to the standards of a third-party who has the option to change their own policies at any time without notice to Etsy.

And I posted on page 19 of the discussion thread:

Thank you everyone for your insights surrounding the Transaction policies, specifically as it related to the shipping address. At this point, I think I understand the depth of the confusion and concern here, but of course, you are free to continue discussing this matter.

I am reading and taking note of your concerns, and I will bring everything back to the policy committee for review. I can't promise any changes right now, but I will make it known that this section is confusing and causing concern among sellers. Hopefully we can clarify it further. This is precisely why we feel it is important to offer the community an opportunity to preview our policy revisions.


I responded on page 16 of the discussion thread:

A few people have noted concerns about the enforcement of Etsy's policies, and I appreciate this being brought up, as it's a critical element to preserving the integrity of Etsy. What good are rules if there are no concrete consequences for breaking them?

Improving our customer support systems is always a priority for Etsy's Support Team, whether it be a general help question, a transaction dispute or a flagged item listing. As part of this policy review and revision, we have been working to overhaul our Help content to make it easier for members to find the answers they need. I know there are a lot of frustrations in particular about flagged items, and this is an area which will be receiving greater attention as we transition through the grace period for the revised policies. Will it be a magic bullet? Honestly, there is no magic bullet.

But as you may have read or heard from Etsy's CEO Maria Thomas, we are considering ways to make the on-boarding process for new members (especially new sellers) more comprehensive to better put into practice our policies as people join our community. This is a multi-faceted approach to better policy enforcement, and some of these systems take time to develop and implement.


I posted on page 23 of the discussion thread:

Regarding the new charitable shops and listing policies, Etsy is not dictating how you use the proceeds of your sales. Our concern is about using the charitable giving angle as a promotional tactic on Etsy in which the buyer is not offered any reassurance that the money actually ends up where it is promised to be used. We love that our members have a giving spirit, but unfortunately there exist bad actors who use this strategy to take advantage of others. This policy is similar to that of other venues.

Posted at 1:30pm Oct 20, 2009 EDT

On page 101 of the discussion thread, I posted in to address a few more common questions/concerns. I'm copying those responses here so they are easier to find for those who may not wis to read such a long thread page-by-page.


The linking policy is one that many people have asked about. Eclipse summed up the primary question well on page 66 of the discussion thread: "How many hops are you including in "information sufficient to locate the other venues"? For example, in my Etsy profile I link to my blog. I don't have a shopping cart on my blog, but I do have a link to my artfire store on my blog. (as well as a link to my etsy store)."

In general, our concern is a "one step" path. If you were to link from your Etsy shop directly to another venue where you sell the same items, that would be a violation. If you were to post something along the lines of "Email me to buy direct" or "Look for my username on ___ venue" then that also would also be a violation.

Linking from your Etsy shop to a blog/Flickr/Facebook/Twitter/etc where nothing is available to purchase, and then linking from that site to other selling venues would be more than one step. This is acceptable. We do want sellers to be able to share their stories, press/blog features, portfolios, etc with the community; what we don't want is sellers directing customers from Etsy to purchase items off-Etsy.


TheMusesCall says on page 66 of the discussion thread: "Does this mean I am now required to contact every blessed org that I donate money to asking their permission to DONATE MONEY to them??? This just seems absurd! Hello, I want to fundraise and donate money for you, is that ok?"

While many organizations are happy to receive donations and free publicity, many also have to protect their interests and trademarks by knowing who is promoting them and in what manner, especially in a commercial setting (for example: an animal rights organization may not take kindly to a taxidermist advertising a relationship between the two in order to make more sales). As I noted yesterday, the charitable shops & listings policy is similar to those of other venues.

Posted at 1:13pm Oct 21, 2009 EDT

Again, reposting some of my replies from the discussion thread to common concerns...


Several people throughout the discussion thread have mentioned concerns about the changes to the mature content policy. We love the creativity of our community and do not wish to prohibit items that portray the nude figure or mature content. (In fact, we highlight items like this on Etsy's blog, The Storque on occassion.) This is an area in which we have received lots of feedback from the community over the years. This policy is about striking a balance. The policy is carefully worded to say that "photographic or photorealistic frontal nudity, sexual activity or content, profane language or graphic violence" will be considered mature content and therefore needs to follow the special rules for listing mature content (namely, make the first image appropriate for general audiences, tag/title with "mature" so shoppers have the option to filter out these listings in searches). Non-photographic or non-photorealistic nudity (for example: disembodied plush breasts, an abstract painting of a nude that is not sexual in context) would not be considered mature content under this revised policy. We removed the "artful representation of the nude human figure" language because it seemed to be unnecessary to state that to which the policy does NOT pertain.


In the discussion thread, excely and others have asked for more clarity on the policy that says, "Each unique item must have its own listing" specifically as it related to offering customizable options such as size, color, scent for an item. I will bring this back to the policy committee for discussion to see if we can further clarify the rules. I believe this would fall under the section in the DOs and DON'Ts for Shops and listings > Handmade by you > Custom orders, but I agree that it may need another look for better clarity.


archeress says on page 103 of the discussion thread: "It seems that the current linking policy's phrasing of having "the same items" as in one's Etsy shop is forbidden. Can you please clarify this? Are you stating that it's OK for Etsy sellers to point to another location online with DIFFERENT items.... Or are you saying that Etsy sellers should not be pointing to any non-Etsy shopping site at all?"

The linking policy is concerning the SAME items that are listed for sale in your Etsy shop. If you sell ABC on Etsy and XYZ on another selling venue, then that is fine to link from Etsy to the other venue. If you sell ABC on Etsy and ABC on another venue, then posting a link or other info directing shoppers to the other venue would not be allowed. The policy is in place so as not to direct transactions off-Etsy for items that could be purchased on Etsy. I hope this helps clear that up.

Posted at 3:03pm Oct 21, 2009 EDT

Another highlight/theme from the discussion thread:


A few people noted that the introduction paragraph to the revised DOs & DON'Ts doesn't quote Etsy's mission statement, and concerns were brought up as to whether this meant a change in the mission.

On page 114 of the discussion thread, I posted:

This is an explanatory introduction to the document. It's not necessarily meant to be Etsy's mission statement, though I realize in the previous version of the DOs & DON'Ts that the mission statement was included there. I have made note of the comments about the language used here, and I will bring it up for internal discussion.

Posted at 6:58pm Oct 21, 2009 EDT