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these past couple weeks have been tough. among other things that happened (and some really good things that happened, too!!) i got an email from someone saying they saw a copy of one of my pins for sale.

and i clicked the link, and yes, it was an exact copy of my pin.

someone very strategically traced or copied every detail of my artwork, and made their own counterfeit pins of a drawing i did of my cat peechee.

  • it was on shopify.

  • it was on pinterest.

  • it was on tumblr.

  • it was on instagram.

  • it was on Facebook.

  • it was on twitter.

  • it was personal.

the thief was very strategic about protecting their anonymity. (but I know who they are now and where they live and i even have their phone number if anyone wants to talk to them)

they targeted me and knew what they were doing every step of the way, even after they had been publicly confronted by other artists.

they targeted several artists and they thrived on (and continue to thrive on) knowingly stealing the work of independent artists like me.

- - -

and as i researched where else this person's counterfeits appear, i found tons -- TONS -- of my stuff copied and for sale on Alibaba.

i mentioned this to a lawyer i know who markets as an intellectual property attorney. he didn't really react. it was clear he had no professional interest in what was happening to me.

after all these years, i guess i still find it surprising that i have to be my own advocate 99.999999999% of the time, even if i'm willing to pay someone to help me in a situation that will exclusively result in a loss of a money for me!
i've been helped tremendously by lawyers in the past in protecting my artwork -- I love my lawyers -- but I also think that they tend to blow me off unless a corporate name is involved.

*8/10/16: i want to edit this to say that i recently found a lawyer who was incredibly awesome and responsive re: all of these issues and seemed as concerned as I am. if you need a referral, please feel free to reach out to me.

- - -

so if you happened upon this post, if you know me, or if you're just devastated because your artwork or your etsy photos or your products were copied on Alibaba (or anywhere else), here's what you can do.

^ This link details the process of writing and sending in DMCA takedown notices, which is what you'll need to do for sites like Shopify, Instagram, and Twitter. It's worth doing because:

  1. it helps keeps the originality and integrity of your work intact

  2. the infringer may learn from their bad behavior

  3. if it's a repeat infringer, they may lose access to the services they use to profit on stolen goods

  4. it prevents your work from being exponentially distributed from the initial theft

  5. it establishes that you care about your rights, and it's not just about money, if a bigger infringement happens down the line and you need to prove your history of taking infringements seriously in court.

seriously, i had to do that (prove my value and history in court, to show that i'm not a frivolous complainer) and it was the single most stressful experience of my life. do your work now. lay the ground.

- - -

Alibaba is a different monster.

Alibaba doesn't accept DMCA Takedown notices.

If you file a complaint about an individual listing by clicking the "Report issue" button, it will not be responded to.
If you contact customer service, even though GOOD LORD YOU ARE *NOT* THEIR CUSTOMER, it will not be responded to.
If you contact the seller, it's possible they'll take down the image, but it's also possible they won't.
And why would you give someone who knowingly stole from you the benefit of the doubt like that?
Like, they're using your actual hard work and original photos to sell something?
This is not their oversight. This is theft.

Here's what I'd do if I were you, which I did, because I'm me and I went through this and it was hell because there's no clear guide on how to file a copyright complaint with Alibaba:

Do not contact the seller directly. They stole from you.

Register for an account on ipp.alibabagroup.com (click English for English)

Go to "IPR Management" and Submit IPR

IPR Registration Number: Your shop name or artwork collection
IPR Name / Description: Description of your shop or artwork or copyright
IPR Owner: Your legal name
IPR Type: Most likely copyright (for photos?)
IPR Registration Region: Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, or OVERSEAS
IPR Validity period: when your shop opened to a long time into the future.

Add Documents:

  • a DMCA takedown notice

  • a contact sheet of every photo you aim to protect - ie. your catalog (I printed my entire etsy shop to PDF, scaled up 16 pages per sheet, and submitted literally every listing from my shop as a JPG in this contact sheet form. It took time and effort.)

  • a screen shot of your shop

  • a screen shot of a sample listing

  • Upload this exact signed copyright claimant form: http://img.alibaba.com/images/cms/upload/Onlinesecurity_used/2012/copyright_claim_statement.pdf

Identity verification:

  • Upload your driver's license

  • Upload your business permit or reseller permit

this is very invasive but required.

--- then ---

  • Wait 1-2 weeks to hear back about whether your account was approved

  • If they need additional info, fix your application, and send it back in.

--- then ---

  • Once approved, you can submit the listings by URL that are stealing from you in bulk, and Alibaba will auto-notify all of the sellers of the complaint with a record of their infringement.

It's a pain in the butt to do all this, but if shops are caught infringing repeatedly, their shops suffer severe but appropriate consequences.

It's worth doing, for all of us who make original work.

I'm tired of reading about people who just shrug their shoulders and say "oh well, what can I do?" when there's actually a lot you can do and it's a complete abuse of our shared rights if you just overlook it and turn a blind eye with some bs about how your customers care.

Yes, it sucks. But laziness on this issue is dangerous to you and to me.

I believe it's other artists' passive attitudes toward protecting their work that has made image theft and art theft so common.
Obviously the people stealing are the villains, but I think they're being opportunistic.
They know that people tend not to react when stolen from.
But it *is* empowering to stand up for yourself.

So I guess what I'm saying is:



( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 20th, 2016 06:03 pm (UTC)

Wow! People can be really terrible! Good for you for sticking up for yourself (and your work). Thank you for sharing, I hope others use all the information you've given, so that the crooks realize it isn't worth their time and stop.

May. 20th, 2016 07:30 pm (UTC)
thank you for this resource.

I don't think it's because artists are lazy or turning a blind eye though. At least I don't know a single artist who's been stolen from (and I know a lot of them) who wasn't upset and didn't try to have to copies removed. Many artists don't know about the theft of their work, and many of the ones that do don't think there is anything they can do that will really work without hiring a lawyer. As a 10 year Etsy veteran, I'll just say that Etsy perpetuates that idea unless you've got a big name behind you. I know this from experience.

May. 20th, 2016 07:42 pm (UTC)
I wrote the first link (with the info about hiring a lawyer, filing a DMCA notice, etc) in direct response to seeing how even when I sent all of this information to the other artists infringed upon, they didn't react.

i wrote the Alibaba info in direct response to an Etsy forum post where *Every single response* either said they contact the seller (no consequences for the seller) or they turn a blind eye because "it's endless"

I wrote this blog post because I definitely have noticed there are very, very few artists who take their legal rights head on. I totally get that people don't know what to do - which is why I wrote this post - but I also disagree fundamentally about artists turning a blind eye, because I see them turn a blind eye all the time. Not every artist, but I'd say a majority get upset about it but ultimately do nothing.

I wrote this to empower artists, not to blame them.

Totally respect your opinion & hope you can respect mine. I've been through a lot of legal battles, and I just don't feel like people stick up for themselves nearly as much as they talk about it.

Edited at 2016-05-20 07:43 pm (UTC)
May. 20th, 2016 07:46 pm (UTC)
This is the kind of passive attitude I'm talking about:


Edited at 2016-05-20 07:47 pm (UTC)
May. 20th, 2016 07:54 pm (UTC)
yeah, I do see a lot of that as well. (assuming you mean artaltered's continual insistence it won't help) I think people try and convince others it's useless so they don't have to try. Either that, or they are one of the copiers, lol.
May. 20th, 2016 07:56 pm (UTC)
the passive attitude (there are several people on that thread who all agree "why bother?" or "I've tried, too hard") is viral -- people feel like OK if one person doesn't care then i guess i won't care either.

so i guess i felt like it's important to say: i have no chill and you can, too!
May. 20th, 2016 07:57 pm (UTC)
ha. yes.
May. 20th, 2016 07:52 pm (UTC)
right, I agree, but when you get to "hire a lawyer", maybe it's just the people I know, but they quite literally cannot afford it, or if they can it's really difficult to find one to take them seriously when there isn't any real money in it. =/

(and I can't say enough how Etsy really really doesn't help with this. Sure if you're a big name or you get the DMCA, but they could be a far better advocate for the little people they claim to cater to. If they can spend time reading our convos, they could surely do a little photo and date checking)
May. 20th, 2016 07:55 pm (UTC)
I completely agree with you on both fronts:

finding legal representation is extremely challenging, contingency helps small artists like me (And is how i've been able to pursue legal battles with bigger names) - there are pro bono lawyers as well, but the more you can do independently, the better off you'll be.

i agree that Etsy does almost nothing to help with this. their lack of image protection (WHY DOES ZOOM JUST LINK TO A FULL RESOLUTION IMAGE????) opens the floodgates, and their legal team doesn't advocate for their sellers. i've had some pretty bad experiences with Etsy, with Shopify, with a lot of these sites. But it's worth persisting. Be the squeaky wheel.
Jun. 4th, 2016 03:13 pm (UTC)
Wow, thank you for sharing all of that info. That sounds like a big pain to figure it out (and to apply for that account). Seeing a copy of your work for sale is always a punch to the gut.

I have the problem where most of my work is used for tattoos, and people don't consider asking before using artwork for a tattoo. And I can't really chase down everyone with one of my tattoos and demand they remove it or pay me $10. If I do a Pinterest/Instagram search, I can find hundreds of examples of my designs, it would actually add up to a large amount of money that I'm losing each year. :(
Jun. 4th, 2016 03:21 pm (UTC)
the tattoo issue is a huge one and one that has bee troubling to me for over 10 years!!! see also: http://boygirlparty.livejournal.com/109155.html

the comments are insightful.
Jun. 4th, 2016 03:42 pm (UTC)
Yes, I often hear the 'you should just be flattered' quote too! (And while it is flattering to see that so many people like it, in this case there is a specific cost associated with using that design for a tattoo that is not being paid each time.)

And with the internet people often say 'oh, I didn't know who made it or how to contact them', even if you stick a website address on it.

The tattoo world is particularly bad about it. I found the comment about adding a copyright sign to your work so the tattoo artists wouldn't use it rather funny. That is definitely not the norm!
Jun. 4th, 2016 03:45 pm (UTC)
Loved your comment ~ "it [the internet] is definitely a double edged sword - on one hand, there's the exposure, but it's all fragmented, someone may see something and save it to their harddrive and never realize where it came from, so it just gets lost in the void."
(no subject) - gaegergateh - Aug. 23rd, 2016 03:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sarah Anderson
Aug. 31st, 2016 06:00 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for this post. Having experienced only a tiny portion of the design theft that you've endured, I can say that it's so much more deflating and demoralizing than I thought it would be.

I can hardly bear to look at the listings on Alibaba, but you've made it seem possible to tackle. I'm starting the process of filing complaints tonight.

Thanks for giving me hope that it's something I can handle, for giving me the tools to get it done, and also for creating such great stuff.

Wes Black
Nov. 26th, 2017 07:18 pm (UTC)
Business Permit
Thank you for taking the time to write this!

I have been dealing with copyright infringements for awhile now and I have figured out that they are mostly re-sellers. Theses re-sellers are buying counterfeit items off of Aliexpress/Alibaba, who is the one that has stolen our images.

The re-sellers explain that they didn't know the images were mine and that the Aliexpress sellers told them they could use the images.

Now I have been successful from the most part with taking down the re-sellers with DMCA notices. However, this is only treating the symptoms and unless I get my images removed from Aliexpress I will be submitting DMCA notices until the end of time.

So here's my question for you. I have no problem doing everything here but I don't have a business permit or re-seller permit. Is this something Aliexpress requires? I didn't know I had to have a business permit to claim rights to my works.

Again, thank you so much for this article.
Nada Kalmoni
Mar. 24th, 2018 11:26 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for sharing these information!!
Is Aliexpress same as Alibaba ?? A vendor of Aliexpress is copying my images from my Etsy shop and I wonder if I should follow your steps as you did with Allibaba.
Nada Kalmoni
Mar. 24th, 2018 11:26 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for sharing these information!!
Is Aliexpress same as Alibaba ?? A vendor of Aliexpress is copying my images from my Etsy shop and I wonder if I should follow your steps as you did with Allibaba.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

About Me

Hey, I'm Susie. I'm a painter, illustrator, crafter, musician, keeper of various pets and proprietor of the website boygirlparty.com

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