Posted by: Suzanne Wheeler
At Etsy.com anyone can sell their hand made items for a 20¢ listing fee plus 3.5% site commission. The only stipulation beyond being hand made by the seller is that, “All listings on Etsy must be for a tangible object (note: a digital file is considered a tangible object)”. Digital files for sale range from wedding photo cds, custom graphics & website design, graphics collections, and embroidery patterns. It’s great for non-techy people to have access to digital services, but I’m concerned about the source of graphics for collections and embroidery patterns.
For longer than I remember I have owned software that will turn any digital picture into a needlework pattern. If I decide I cannot live without a needlepoint pillow of Sean and Brent all I do is copy their images off of the web site and I’m in business! Of course, I’m violating the copyright of the TechTarget network. When I decide to sell this pattern online, I’m violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. When Brent sees my listing and claims copyright infringement I can’t even use Fair Use as a defense. Fair Use of a work to create a Derivative Work mandates permission from the original owner of copyright.
I am not a digital copyright activist. I participated in the peer-to-peer music craze that Napster fueled. I am, however, really worried about the consequences these actions will bring. Embroidery patterns made from downloaded images of popular science fiction television shows are not legal without permission from the copyright holder. United States Federal law reads, “As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.”
An Etsy seller stated in an item description, “This is not licensed product, I am not affiliated with the trademarks or companies nor am I the creator of these images. You are only paying for the work I have done.” This is a blatant confession of copyright infringement. The copyright owner can claim infringement because a derivative work was created without prior permission. Though Etsy posts a copyright policy and FAQ’s this seller may not know the risk she is taking by creating such products.
Etsy’s copyright policy allows the owner to claim copyright infringement. There is no prevention policy in place other than this statement and the help files. Should a business be liable for preventing the spread of copyright infringement through its platform?
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