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Confused by copyright

So I've read the Terms of Use, and also the Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy, but just looking around at what others have for sale it would seem there is not actually any enforcement on items being sold - is this true?

The huge number of items people have for sale with the words "London 2012" and even the Olympic rings (IOC are renowned as being extremely protective of the rings and the word 'olympics' and all derivates) makes me think it is just something that isn't enforced by Etsy. There is no way the handmade items found when searching for "London 2012" are licensed. Similarly, searching for Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse throws up a number of hand-made things profiting from intellectual property not owned by the seller.

The wording of the CIP policy seems to state that the only way copyright will be enforced is if the copyright holder themselves reports it and not other users/shoppers, so do people on Etsy get away with making profits on other people's property just by being subtle and not heavily advertising their goods?
Has anyone here been asked to remove stuff?

As an IP holder myself I wanted to see how it was handled here before listing, but so far it appears to be an illegal backwater for people ripping off others work. Is this too harsh of a judgement? Obviously there are also a lot of talented people creating original works, so good on you if you are one of them.

1 Highlighted Response

Hi there,

Here's where you will find the article on copyrights:

If you come across an Item that may violate Etsy's TOUs, please follow the steps listed here in this article:

Any other specific questions, please reach out to and they will be happy to help!

78 Responses

From what I've read, Peter, yes the Copyright holders do have a blitz every now and then. Sanrio and Disney to name two.

It's pretty bad - luckily the more original Etsy designers far outweigh the rip-off copycats!

And you are correct - Etsy will do (can do?) nothing unless the Copyright holder complains.
Ok thanks for the info. It is good to know that the original designers outweigh the rip-off profiteers! Also good to know that the IP holders do have a blitz every now and then - but still a shame that such blatant infringement can happen in the first place really without Etsy getting involved.
Depending on how proactive the IP holder is, it could mean the pirates get a year or more of profiteering without any real consequences apart from a cease-and-desist, which in the real world probably just means wait for a month and then re-list.
As for whether they 'can do' anything, sure they could. The reason I searched for Olympic related infringement is because it is topical and big business, and there will be other topical infringements throughout the year (Superbowl, World Cup are obvious ones). It is usually pretty easy to tell whether an item is being made by someone who has licensed the right to do so - and if they do have the right then they will be able to produce documentation to prove it.
yes it is a constant complaint about how many infringers there are on Etsy

Some are ignorant of the law
Others know the law but use the excuse "everyone else is doing it"

Etsy will and does act promptly if the IP-holder contacts them, but cannot be pro-active as they have no way of knowing who has permission and who doesnt (and yes, even companies like Disney will issue license to small crafters on Etsy)

The sadddest thing is when Etsy actively promotes items that are infringing copyright/trademarks
Earlier this year they published (or maybe linked to one , can't quite remember now) an article about what you can and can't do with Olympics wording & logos - but then recently they featured a front page with many infringing items.
Makes it very frustrating for those sellers who do abide by the rules to see the rule-breakers get the publicity
So is the phrase "London 2012" trademarked in the US? Or in the EU?

I did a search, and yes, there were some using the Olympic rings, which are a very strong no-no. but most just has the words on something with a Union Jack type gee-gaw, or just in the title or tag as a draw. Most just seemed to be fan-type stuff that used the phrase to draw attention to themselves. In a week, they'll have to put them on sale or change the title!

The worst I saw were the use of the Olympic rings. All-in-all, it wasn't as bad as you had me believe.

Now as to Disney et al. -- well, that's another duck soup!
lol - oh dear! Front-paging illegal items is pretty slack.

" (and yes, even companies like Disney will issue license to small crafters on Etsy)"
Other places I've sold have required the seller to provide the proof for obviously copyrighted marks rather than relying on the IP holder to report the infringement. This does mean that less well known marks can slip through the net, unless reported, but the big ones never appear. Everyone recognises Disney characters, or the Olympics rings. Sometimes the proof is only required after being reported by the community as an infringement, but even that seems an improvement on what takes place here.
you mentioned your concerns about the licenses you hold before you start listing here.

sounds like you have a very good idea of how to protect those licenses. so i don't see that would be a problem for you. i am not a license holder. but from what i have read here in the forums part of the process is protecting the licenses you hold by taking actions to defend them. i think you will be able to do that.

you probably have legal support in place.

anywhere you sell online, i think. would be very similar. hold license and then protect it.

searching for licensed items has shown you pretty clearly the situation here.
those are the facts. some users of etsy do take the time to report items to the license holders, many others do not, and sweeps are made by license holders and items are removed.

and others appear, and the cycle begins again.
SafetyThird from SafetyThird says
So is the phrase "London 2012" trademarked in the US? Or in the EU?

Certainly in the UK, and most likely in the US as well (many countries have similar copyright restrictions - see final paragraph below)

From :

Can I use the Games' Marks in my business?
In the UK, the commercial use of any of the Games' Marks (or any other marks or logos that are confusingly similar to or likely to be mistaken for them), is only permitted with the authorisation of LOCOG, which is generally only reserved for official sponsors and licensees.

For example, subject to certain defences and exceptions (see FAQ 9 below), it is unlawful to use the Olympic symbol, the London 2012 logo or the words ‘London 2012’ in the course of trade without LOCOG’s written consent.

This means these marks cannot, for example, be used on goods, in business names, on business papers or in advertising.

It is also unlawful, whether through the use of the Games' Marks or otherwise, to falsely represent any association, affiliation, endorsement, sponsorship or similar relationship with London 2012, the British Olympic and/or Paralympic teams, or any other part of the Olympic and/or Paralympic Movements.

If your business operates outside the UK, you will need to consider the laws in that country. A number of countries have laws similar to those in the UK which place restrictions on the use of Olympic and Paralympic symbols and terminology.
If you see something which you believe to be a copyrighted or trademarked item, report it to the intellectual department of the company that owns and has rights to the copyrighted or trademarked item. If they're not already stalking around Etsy looking for their stuff, they very well may come looking when they get the report.
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Inactive Etsy Member 8:16am Aug 4, 2012 EDT
I don't know. I'm having a rough time competing with them. It seems like people want the well known characters rather than my own characters.

Even though I use ribbon, I didn't outright make anything that the company didn't collect royalty on. I use ribbon that I purchased. The centers aren't hello kitty. Just a moon with clouds.

This, I believe, doesn't fall within copyright issues because I didn't make hello kitty, minnie mouse, etc out of clay. I'm not sure if this is making sense. I just woke up, lol.

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