Sunday, January 31, 2010

Etsy Thoughts: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

I love love love selling my creations on Etsy. I really enjoy it 99% of the time. But right now, I'm not feeling the love. When I began selling my little flowers on Etsy, there wasn't really anything quite like it out there. But even a cursory look through the "recycled wool flower pins" available on Etsy today, and I'm seeing rather a lot of "striking similarities" between some other offerings and my own. And so I write to clear my mind and possibly offer moral support for future victims of idea theft :)

Now, it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm not feeling very flattered. There was one shop in particular that took a little more than inspiration from my shop... she began using some of my very own wording, titles and descriptions to sell her very similar items. About a year after she asked me how I made mine! I, of course, did not give away any information at that time, but when I bumped into her products recently, I immediately had an uneasy feeling about the presentation. The photography was clearly attempting to mimic mine, and, with the identical title, I had legitimate concerns about buyer confusion.

While options are incredibly limited in these situations, I did contact the offending shop to politely ask that she (a) not use my wording and (b) make her items more distinct, for both of our sakes. She wouldn't want potential buyers to accidentally buy from my shop when they were intending to buy from hers, would she? Our interaction ended without incident, thankfully, and she has since changed her titles ever-so-slightly, is no longer blatantly plagiarizing me and has seemingly taken some of her pins in a little different direction. I'm grateful for that, at least, but it does leave a bitter taste in my mouth and a hint of paranoia anytime I see knockoffs of my own items.

In many ways, the world of Etsy is a wellspring of inspiration, but it also breeds copycats. Etsy itself cannot police copyright or intellectual property disputes for obvious legal reasons, and most people who copy do not realize they are in the wrong. They feel inspired and want to see if they can duplicate something. And, no suprise, many crafty people can recreate things they like. Once they rationalize that they've figured it all out for themselves, they decide they might as well sell it too. And so it goes. If a burned seller goes to the Etsy forums to ask advice or just vent, there is much electronic rolling of eyes and very little sympathy for such a common and over-discussed problem.

The best advice I've read about these situations is to just get over it and move on. You can't make it go away, but you can make your own offerings better, present them better, and treat your customers better. I'm completely sure I'll always have more ideas than time to explore them, so I'm ready to stop whining about this. Starting... now.


Brenda said...

The flip side of success. I could write books and books about my own thoughts on this subject, Karen, but you've captured it beautifully. And handled it beautifully, as well. :)

Diana said...

Kudos to you in the way you handled that situation.
I guess I live in my own little world and never realized it was such an issue for crafters on etsy.