Sunday, December 19, 2010

have some integrity and be unique...

Back when I first set up my Etsy shop, I had this GREAT idea about what I was going to sell.  It hit me like a ton of bricks when I was brainstorming.  Out of nowhere, this perfect idea came to me.  I was going to make dog beds like sleeping bags, with an opening for dogs like Bez who have a burrowing instinct, where they could climb in and cuddle in the folds.  I even had a name: the Burrow Bag.  Seriously perfect idea.

My enthusiasm was crushed about 5 minutes later when I typed "burrow bag" into the Etsy search.  Up popped not only a dog sleeping bag, but it was already named the Burrow Bag.  Seriously defeated.  I mean, technically to me it was an original idea, but obviously it wasn't new to the world.  I still have the goal of adding sleeping bags to my Etsy shop, but the point is this:  original is hard to come by.  The world is full of talented people, and from music to dog beds to artwork, coming up with something unique is tricky.

Selling dog cowls is great, but I can't be credited with the idea.  My sister is the mastermind behind it, and when she spoke those words "you should sell cowls for dogs", I had a similar 'hit me like a ton of bricks' experience.  It was perfect!  Upon searching, I realized that people were selling (at that time) cowl-y neck warmers, but not what I had in mind, so I set to work with enthusiasm.  I have loved selling on Etsy, and more and more cowls are popping up on there for dogs.  This doesn't bother me, I mean, it isn't my design or anything (although I'd love to have the market cornered).  However, a couple of recent listings, upon further inspection, were totally ripping off my descriptions.  This was maddening.  If you are going to try something you see from another seller's shop, please, in the name of plagiarism (and your personal integrity for crying out loud), write your OWN WORDS!

It made my blood boil.  I politely contacted one woman who was blatantly ripping off my wording and she not only denied it, but continued on a course of grade school-ish taunting about the fact that she had done it.  The second time I saw it, I decided to let sleeping dogs (cowl wearing dogs, of course) lie and walk away from it knowing that at least I had my integrity intact.

And then, I came across this blog, sent to me by my mom.  Designs copied not just once, but over and over by the same seller, and put into a catalog!  It might as well be a "look what I ripped off from Etsy sellers" catalog!  I get that the rip off-er is trying to make money here by cashing in on the designs of TRUE artists and crafters, but this is low.  Down right dirty and stinky LOW.

This happens on Etsy all of the time, and really, there is no way of you or me knowing whether we're buying an item from the original design source. However, if you are buying locally or handmade, you are increasing the odds that you are buying it from the person who deserves your $.  If you head on over to this blog you'll see even more examples, including artists with New York gallery shows ripping off smaller artists and Disney stealing a ring design from a jeweler!

My new shop will feature some items already found on Etsy.  I mean, hey, if you type "cowl" into Etsy at the time of this blog posting, you'll pull up 23,152 results.  But, if you are going to sell something, at least try to not rip off someone else's design and make your item different.  By giving it your own spin, it makes it unique, upholds your integrity and even increases the chance someone will see it and want it because it is different.  Don't steal the designs of others just to increase profits, and at the very least, write your own descriptions!


  1. yes yes yes! i studied this capitalistic-copy stuff in my thesis a bit. very interesting. it's hard being "alt" and "crafty" and no matter what, if you put it on the internet, then "the man" owns you (by copying it and making $$).


  2. Spreading the word and making people aware may not solve the whole problem, but at least it gets them thinking. Hats off to the artists and craftspeople who continue to create despite the obstacles. What amazed me when I read the information on the blogs was that not only were designs copied, but it was done in such a blatant way.

  3. it happens even with photography. i've watched a few "photographer's" images mirror mine, one after the other. sure, pet photography has some 'standards' when it comes to shots ... or at least, i have my own standard shots. i deliberately don't check out other pet photographer's blogs very often (if ever) because I don't want to inadvertently mimic an original idea of someone else's.

    but it becomes pretty clear when i see one image after the next of mine (my 'standards') being ripped off by the same so-called photographers. not a creative bone in their body...

    and, of course, i've been victim of outright plagiarism of my words ... another established pet photographer ripping off my session descriptions practically word-for-word. when i called her on it, she argued that they were her own words ... and only later did she back-pedal and admit that she must have written my descriptions down when she was doing a lot of pet photography research and must have mistaken the words as her own.

    if she'd been honest from the start, admitting her mistake, I might have actually believed her.

    to me, it's just sick when people can't come up with their own ideas, but the kinds of goings ons on the "wolfie" website is downright disgusting.

  4. that is so frustrating, to see your work and words copied like that. and you are so right, if you can think it, it's probably on the internet somewhere and someone is making a living off of it already :) ... but, i read something recently which has stuck with me. paraphrasing, but it was the idea that something truly unique has a certain energy to it, that the person who made it or thought of it has poured into it... whereas something that is a copy may be identical, but it lacks that glow. it lies "flat" without the creative spirit behind it. i don't know if it's true (i am leaning towards yes) or if it's something to make those who have been copied feel better... but it's something to think about.

    off to visit your etsy...

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Ana, I like your take on it...I'll keep proudly making my stuff with 'glow' and I do believe that there are those who lie 'flat'.