Hey, everybody! I have some pieces that I’m working on that I’ll be sharing next week, but something has been on my mind a bit lately and I wanted to chat about it for a minute. Sorry to be posting about a bummer instead of beads, but it is what it is.
So, earlier this month I got a very sweet message from an Etsy customer, warning me that someone had contacted her, explicitly asking if she could make copies of the pattern she had bought from me and send them to her. I’m attaching screenshots of the conversations, but I’ve blocked out all the user names for privacy.
My customer sent me this:
She included a screenshot of the request she received:
Guys… That sucks so bad. How infuriating to find out that someone has been messaging my customers asking for illegal copies of my patterns. I mean, ouch.
Luckily, my customer was very protective of my intellectual property and let me know what was going on. Turns out that she’s a designer herself and recommended I report the user to Etsy.
My first concern was to figure out how this person even knew that my customer had purchased my Odessa pattern. That information shouldn’t be available to just anyone, you know? Especially since my customer had purchased it back in 2017!
It took a bit of sleuthing, but I eventually figured out that this person had gone through the feedback attached to my listing, found a positive review, clicked on the person who left it, and contacted them from there. I have no idea if they only contacted the one customer or if they sent that message to a bunch of folks. I really saddened by the idea that they might have contacted multiple people and maybe one of my other customers actually did make the copies. It really bummed me out.
Once I found out who was contacting my customers and how they had found them, I decided to report them to Etsy. That was it’s own mountain to climb, geez. It is NOT easy to put in a help request on Etsy. There is no “report User” button. You can report a shop or a listing, but not a buyer. So I had to run through a bunch of hoops just to get to the point where I could send a message to representative. I finally got an email out and, to their credit, Etsy did get back to me by the next day:
Ironically, I also received a message that morning directly from the would-be thief. I didn’t respond, but I guess this means no one sent them copies of the pattern?
I messaged Etsy-Keith back to let him know that I had been contacted by the person directly and asking if there was a way to block them as a buyer. This was his response:
So… That’s that I guess.
I didn’t tell this story just to whine about the situation or to drag the user for trying to get my products for free. I’m trying to be respectful by blocking everyone’s names and being vague.
But I wanted a chance to talk about a few specific things.
1). I sell my copyrighted patterns on Etsy and making copies of them is theft. This person was asking my customers for illegal copies of my intellectual property. There is a lot of ethical gray areas in beading that we have to sort out for ourselves. We have a lot of conversations about ethical pattern sharing, teaching licenses, techniques and stitches vs patterns, and how to credit designers. Some of it is legitimately dicey and as a community, we have to sort out what we think is ethical. But this is not one of those situations. Making and distributing (for free or profit) copies of a copyrighted project is illegal (and against Etsy policy) and I’m so, so angry that someone was soliciting illegal activity from my customers as “a favor”.
2.) I’m very concerned that there is no “block buyer” function on Etsy. Even if this person was willing to pay for my patterns, I don’t want them to purchase from me. They clearly don’t respect copyright, so I don’t trust that they wouldn’t copy and distribute my patterns, but I can’t protect myself from them. Keith says I can “refuse service to a buyer”, but since my patterns are instant downloads, I don’t see how that would help me if I can’t prevent them from purchasing in the first place.
3.) This one is important.
I never, ever want to be the kind of person who responds to someone saying that their on a tight budget with “Well, it’s only $5”. Everybody’s life is different and there are definitely people in situations who don’t have $5 to spare. I get it. I really do.
But… I don’t sell food. I sell instructions to make luxury items out of craft supplies. It’s not a necessary product and this person’s life won’t suffer without it. The materials to make the bracelet will cost more than $5. It is totally possible to bead on a budget. It’s tricky, but being strategic about what beads you buy can help and there are SO MANY free patterns and YouTube tutorials available. You don’t need to steal patterns to bead on a budget.
Those are the things that have been on my mind a lot this month. The user’s profile is still on Etsy, so it seems like they haven’t been banned. I really don’t know what’s been going on, since Etsy won’t keep me in the loop since the original message wasn’t to me. I don’t know if the user has been given a warning or actually punished somehow. I’ll probably never know.
But, one thing has been consistently cheering me up.
My customer let me know what was happening. She warned me and protected my pattern and she isn’t even the first one.
I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten messages from you guys letting me know that a YouTube channel was making a video of my design without my permission, or someone was using my photos without credit, or to let me know that a site was advertising my design without my permission. Sometimes these have been false alarms or designs that were accidentally similar (it happens!) and sometimes I had already had contact with the person in question.
But that’s not the point. The point is that: You guys reach out to me so often and it makes me feel so protected and loved. It means the world to me that you guys have my back and value crediting designers and want me to succeed. It warms my heart. Really.
So, when I start to feel bad about people not respecting my designs, I’m going to make a conscious effort to replace that sadness with gratefulness.
I am so grateful for all my customers. All of you who read this blog. Any of you who comment on my Facebook or Instagram or support me in any way. For any one person trying to take advantage of the system, there are so many more of you who support and uplift me.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I can only spend so much time on this because of your support.
Thank you for letting me do what I love. I won’t let the spoil-sports get me down.