Copycats & Copyright: Keeping Our Handmade Community Safe

copyrights & copycats, copyright for artists, copyright and handmade, dippylulu

{be original & don’t plagiarize card by dippylulu}

by Jessika Hepburn, Editor
First off I want to chat about the difference between copying and stealing-Picasso said that “good artists copy, great artists steal” what does that mean? It means that any work of art involves elements “stolen” from something else. A beautiful photograph steals an image of a place, person or thing, a painting steals elements of artistic styles developed over centuries and a new purse steals techniques from other sewers. The stolen elements are taken and incorporated into something new-that can then be stolen and developed into something new again. Really stealing is at the root of any innovation.

Copying though is entirely different-copying means to replicate something that has already been created, not to reinvent it but to duplicate it. It is also a form of stealing but without the originality implied in the Picasso quote. It is a shortcut to doing the actual work of taking an idea and making it your own. It is also highly unethical. Think of the time and effort the artist dedicated to developing a new idea, the love put into the creative process, and the joy they felt when they created something entirely unique to their style. Then think of how it would feel for someone to come along and think “Hey-that’s a great idea, why didn’t I think of that!” then copy it to sell to their own market. That’s yucky on all kinds of levels and in most cases illegal.

But it happens ALL the time. From big businesses like the Gap and Anthropologie copying the work of indie artists to small businesses or individuals copying the work of bigger artists so they can capitalize on their success. It also happens in blogland-bloggers see photo spreads or content they love then copy and paste it word for word into their own blogs. Copying is the ultimate example of a lack of creativity and awareness of the time, energy and talent that went into the creation of the original. Copying is a massive issue in the handmade world right now and is dangerous for all of us. It creates an atmosphere of distrust and unhealthy competition. While competition has it’s place it is not what we are here for, we are here to support each other’s creativity and celebrate our talents!

copyrights & copycats, copyright for artists, copyright and handmade, dippylulu{keep integrity & don’t steal card by dippylulu}

Let’s look at some cases of blatant copying then we’ll talk about how you can protect your designs, words and images + how you can be a whistle blower and stop copycats in their tracks. We have a responsibility to talk about these issues and protect each other so that we can ensure our creative community thrives-so let’s get to it! 

In these examples ideas were stolen directly from indie artists by big business-typically it is a designer who works for these companies taking the idea, altering it a bit and taking the credit for the design. As wonderful as Etsy has been for handmade it is also a gallery of ideas for lazy designers to copy. It is the responsibility of the company to make sure their designers are only developing unique ideas but quite often they don’t. Companies like the Gap, Tiffany’s and Paperchase should know better and take responsibility for doing their due diligence but as we can see that doesn’t always happen. Trying to make these companies accountable for their theft is hard when indie artists obviously don’t have the big budgets for legal expenses. This is where our collective power comes in-the ability to spread the word via Twitter, Facebook & blogging to make companies accountable, to demand ethical business practices and to protect each other’s rights.

I am not doing side-by-side examples of the copying-think of this as an ethical investigation. Please visit the links/evidence, look at the images on their sites & decide for yourself where you stand.
copyrights & copycats, copyright for artists, copyright and handmade, dippylulu

{show respect & give credit card by dippylulu}

Case #1: Gemma Corell & The Gap
This just makes me furious-Gemma Corell has a very unique and individual style, her work is typically instantly recognizable and she is a well known, published artist. The Gap quite obviously copied her design but because they made changes to the original she is unable to do much in terms of making them accountable. Shame on you Gap-you ought to be embarrassed. Gemma has created a Facebook group called Designers & Illustrators Against Plagiarism to help raise awareness of copying in the industry so be sure to visit it & see what’s happening there.

The Evidence: Gemma shows her designs + the copies here on her blog.

Case #2: Su Blackwell & Tiffany & Co.

Su Blackwell is one of my all time favourite artists and is an innovator in the world of paper cutting & book sculpture. Her work is immediately recognizable. So it is really disgusting that mega-store Tiffany’s consulted with her then took her ideas & had someone else do the work based on her concepts without crediting her. Then to deny it? Shocking. Really, could it be more obvious?

The Evidence:

A. Su shares the images & info about her consultation with Tiffany & Co. on her blog

B. Su is asked to remove images from Tiffany & Co. because she didn’t “ask permission”

Case #3: Hidden Eloise + Paperchase

This case is a tangled web of denial and accusation that is too complex to summarize here. Follow the story through the posts/evidence listed below. What I want to focus on here is that it was the power of Twitter and social media that generated some kind of admission from the company. When faced with hefty legal fees in order to push her claim that Paperchase had knowingly sold items featuring designs stolen from her images, Hidden Eloise took to Twitter asking the art & design community to do the right thing by calling for accountability. And they did!  For all that we love making pretty things the handmade community can be fierce when justifiably angered.

The Evidence:

A. Follow the story through these posts: 1, 2, and 3.

B. An article from the Guardian on the Twitter movement to support Hidden Eloise.

C. Dealing with Infringement article from Try Handmade

What you Can Do To Help Others:

Really, public censure is the best way to cause enough of a fuss to make big companies accountable. Blog about it, Tweet about it, send them a letter. Send another letter. Also, whenever you spy copying be sure to let the creator of the original design know. The biggest most important thing you can do is to shop carefully, buy your products right from the source and support the artists directly. If you have a relationship with the artist you are buying from you can be sure the work is original! Choose retailers that are well known for their support of handmade and that have a good reputation in the handmade community. Pay more for quality-handmade is not about economy or getting a good deal-handmade is about treasuring the love and talent that went into the creation of the product. It’s worth every penny to know that you are supporting another person’s creative dream.

What You Can Do To Protect Yourself:

1. Be Original: Focus on creating a brand and style or product that is uniquely yours. If you are constantly evolving and developing as an artist, designer, writer, blogger and you always let your own style and voice infuse whatever you do, it will be easy to spot a copycat when they come along. Other people will recognize your authenticity, they won’t want a bad imitation-they’ll want what you have to offer and will call out the copiers when they see them. There is this great new blog called Be Your Original Best that is “an effort to promote a COPYCAT FREE artistic industry & creative community.” The message of the blog is to encourage the creative community to: “ be inspired. be creative. be ORIGINAL. be your best.” I agree wholeheartedly. If we create a strong community based on integrity, originality and genuine support of handmade then there will be little room for the copycats and lots of back-up when we are faced with them.

2. Educate Yourself: Get familiar with the copyright laws specific to your industry and country, read examples of cases that could have been you and find out what the outcome was, check out what resources are available to you and take a look through some of the links listed below under resources.

3. Stake Your Claim: Make it clear on every image you put online or associate with your work that you are the creator and that your work is original.  If you are listing on Etsy or online anywhere, make it clear in the item description that the item is an original design and copying is not allowed. Add a watermark or prominent logo to images you put online. You can also formally register your designs. Read more about giving notice, registering your work and deterring would be copycats in this article written by lawyer Kara J. Jensen Zitnick over on the LaunchHER blog.

4.Gather Evidence: If your work has been copied the first thing to do is take as many screen shots & gather as much evidence as possible in case they remove the item after being contacted. Keep records of your own artistic process and make sure you date them too! Sketchbooks or blog entries that document the creation of your items, as well as sales information will all help reinforce that the original design was yours.

5. Put Your Foot Down: Send a very clear letter telling the copycat to Cease & Desist meaning to immediately stop selling the copied work. This might be all you need to do to get the offender to stop making money off your work. Keep records of any communication between you and the copycat.

6. Seek Legal Advice: I know, it sucks, not only has your idea been stolen but now you need to PAY money to get accountability. Before you spread the news to your online community though-especially if you are up against a BIG business, get some counsel. If you can’t back up your claims you might find yourself getting sued for libel or slander! So be sure to talk to a lawyer you trust with experience in copyright law.

7. Ask For Help: The handmade community is loving and supportive so if you’ve had your designs stolen you can spread the word and ask for help in applying pressure on the copycat. If you are 100% sure that your designs have been copied and can back up your claims, especially if you are trying to get another small business to ‘fess up and stop copying then blogging, tweeting & sharing with other online friends can definitely help apply some pressure.



In the US:

US Copyright Office: Offers lots of information and PDF’s on copyright law & registration.

ARS (Artists Rights Society):Represents the intellectual property rights of over 50,000 artists & is  a major copyright, licensing, and monitoring organization for visual artists in the United States. They also have an online resource library of copyright information.

LaunchHER: LaunchHER supports handmade and women owned businesses by generating buzz & exposure + offers professional public relations, branding, business development and legal services.

In Canada:

Canadian Intellectual Property Office: Has all of the information needed to help you register your designs.

Canadian Artists Representation Copyright Collective Inc. : Offers a variety of copyright enforcement services to Canadian artists.

CARFAC: Has a large online resource library of information about copyright & visual art in Canada.

In the UK:

UK Handmade: A great article about design registration in the UK

UK Intellectual Property Office: Design registrationFAQ

Design & Artists Copyright Society: A non-profit visual arts rights organization.


I consulted an insane number of articles before writing this post & have been reading on this topic for months now. Below is a list of some of the most influential articles I read while researching this post.


Copycats & Lessons We Can Learn

Creativity, Competition and Copycats

Jessica Hische:

Inspiration Vs. Imitation


What Happened to the Magic? Part 1

The Sidetrack Cafe #3-Copycats

Wolfie & The Sneak:

Drawing the Line on Design Theft

Scoutie Girl:

The Danger of DIY Culture

I hope that this quite epic post serves as a resource for all of you-please share your thoughts and experiences with copying & copyright in the comments below as well as any resources you know of that I have missed. I know we can all work together to make sure that originality is valued and that copying has no place in our creative community.


  1. jan says:

    great job on explaining everything – it’s a tough one to do well.

    i think your point on educating oneself is an important one, especially if you are new to the online world. because whats amazing is how very small the online world actually is.

    sadly many don’t know they may be supporting copiers or one’s that associate with them – so educating oneself if a good tip.

    great epic post Jessika!

    • Jessika says:

      Thank you SO much Jan, that means a lot to me coming from you because I adore & respect your site/blog- I really appreciate it! It is actually astonishing how small the handmade community is and how quickly news spreads, both good & bad. I think it is so important to step carefully because once you loose the trust of such a tightly knit community it is impossible to get it back.

  2. Yes it’s epic, but I read every word (and clicked the links to shriek in outrage at the blatant copying) so thanks for putting it all down.

    Some great resources too – am bookmarking! Thanks, Lucy

    PS The variations of ‘Keep calm & carry on’ posters made me smile – I’ve made myself one that says ‘Keep calm and write stuff’.

    • Jessika says:

      Thanks Kim-Luckily if your designs are stolen by a small business you have a lot more ability to apply pressure to get them to stop!
      Lucy I am glad you made it through & checked out the links-the postcards were my little nod to the Picasso quote since the pointing finger is so obviously from the Uncle Sam posters + the keep calm reference so it’s a great mix of UK + US advertising concepts made new again.

  3. Hands down one of the most informative articles I have ever read for my design business! I’ll be referring so many people to this post as I think it’s not only important for us as designers and artists but also for consumers. I’m actually shocked by what some consider acceptable and wonder if I’ve naive in wanting to express MY creativity in my artwork and illustrations. After some of the things I have read tonight on some other blogs I feel like I am the only person left in the world (I’m sure I’m not!) that actually draws my ideas from my mind without ‘tracing’ an image (istock photo or otherwise) and changing it ‘20%’. Is that really what other indie biz owners are striving to achieve? Changing it 20% to be legal, then it’s yours? I wonder why it’s seems to be ok to do this if you are a small business but when it’s Gap it’s wrong. We need to be consistent in what we are saying is acceptable and what isn’t. If we as a community are doing this to each other, there is no way we are going to be able to take as stand against the bigger companies.
    Please, even if it’s just on the point of legal, BE ORIGINAL, take pride and value that you are the only one in the whole world that can come up with YOUR ideas and implement them in the way that YOU envisioned.

    • Jessika says:

      Oh I love this comment Isa! No you are not the only one-did you see the awesome interview with Gaia Cornwall from Friday?
      She and so many others are keep art & design fresh & original! Really the whole Pikaland website is FULL of original art & innovation. I also love doing everything from the ground up-from pencil sketches to buying raw wool & dying it by hand I take pride in owning every single part of my process. I can’t understand the justification behind taking someones design & shifting it just enough to be legal. Also just because something is legal doesn’t make it RIGHT, or ethical. It all comes down to being original-finding a style or design that is fully your own. Then evolving that style again and again.

  4. Shelley says:

    thank you for this article, I think that the comment from Isa is particularly poignant, I would question how well the handmade community sticks together around this issue…..I think everyone will rise up against “corporate” theft of original ideas, its just a shame that so many people who make things for themselves to sell seem to think its more than acceptable to either copy wholesale or change something slightly and then call it their own.

    I could really get into this lol (yes I have been copied and found them and got lawyers involved etc.) but so far I have been able to turn it to my advantage….Now I just concentrate on what I do and try to be better and more inventive.

    I do strongly believe that most copiers don’t have the heart to keep going like I do with our original ideas, eventually they will move onto the next thing to copy lol, everyone who has copied me has tried their hand at lots of other things first, no doubt they will move on soon enough, I on the other hand will still be here, being original and creative…….

    • Jessika says:

      Oh no! Don’t get discouraged Shelley! I know that there are many, many champions of handmade out there who would rally equally whether it is small or big business responsible for the copying. I hope you are taking steps to protect your designs by registering them! I agree, the best thing you can do it continue to do what you do well-that will build your customer base & grow your business. People who copy designs can’t have their own unique style if they are so busy trying to find ways to imitate what has already been done. But it totally sucks regardless.

  5. GRAND SLAM! After today’s post I officially adore you Jessika. This is such an important issue in our community + I’m so glad you addressed it so beautifully in this post + opened up a constructive conversation on the matter!

    Since opening my eco-friendly boutique + my blog I’ve gotten upset more than a handful of times about copycat situations. It’s scary what some people think they can get away with.

    With time, I’ve learned that it is best to contact people in a very sensible + polite manner + ONLY if I’m 100% positive they have stolen something from me. I’ve been falsely accused of copying in the past + it’s not nice!

    I have a group of loyal friend I really trust that I contact about these issues, to double-check ya’ know? Because our egos + subjectivity + emotions can something get in the way of things + fuzz our vision!

    Luckily we also have you to be a community leader + educate us all about integrity + fairness + love 🙂

    • Jessika says:

      Mayi you are so super sweet, thank you: ) I think we need to talk about ethical issues openly & as positively as possible so we can create change & I am really happy about the great response this post is getting here & on Twitter. Your comment reminds me of your post about negativity on Heartmade and your second option for dealing with nasty behavior-kill it with kindness ( I am a big fan of meeting nastiness with polite, logical, reasonable responses. Then it is in the other person’s court-also if you are dealing with legal matters it is important to keep your language respectful, no matter how hurt/upset you are. Having a support network of people you can trust is a GREAT idea too!

  6. Aline says:

    Excellent articel, thanks so much! Sadly enough I know blogging friends and other artists here in Holland experience the same. I’ll point them to your articel and hope it makes us all stand stronger together!

  7. alyssa says:

    this is a really important piece. i have, sadly, been copied more times than i care to count. i’ve learned that artists cannot copyright “ideas” and that if you are the “smaller” artist, or don’t have huge $$ for lawyers, you will more often than not lose. it’s disheartening, and it has sometimes made me cry. i’ve stopped fighting each one because of the emotional and financial toll, and cannot even speak of specifics because i’ve been threatened with defamation.

    it’s a wretched situation we designers–product, clothing, etc–deal with daily. it kills my soul a little every day.

  8. Jay says:

    Thank you very much for posting this article – I’ve only just started trying to sell my own baby knits and this is a subject I worry about a lot. I’ve done a lot of reading into plagiarism myself, but your article explains it far better than the stuff I’ve read so far and more succinctly, with great links. Cheers!

    • Jessika says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your link with us Anna! Your post is really excellent and covers some territory I didn’t go over like creative commons licensing. My favourite line is: “It all starts with you. You’re the source of creativity, art, and beauty. Not copycats. And that’s so much more important.” so perfect!

  9. This is a wonderful post and thank you so much for taking the time to not only thoughtfully put it together, but cite terrific resources!

    A few years ago I was the victim of a copycat – same city I live in and a business with a slightly similar name. They actually took one of my most popular Christmas designs that I was using for a page on my calendar and essentially copied it for their own calendar (same month even) and Christmas cards. The other company has a much larger retail presence than I do and were selling a ton into stores.

    I had sent samples of my Christmas designs to a handful of local retailers, unknowingly this company (with similar name) was already selling their line to these retailers. More than likely the buyer saw my designs and just assumed they were from the company (they already purchased from) with similar name and tried to order them. The artist just figured, why not? Sure, I can make the design too! I had to arrive at this conclusion because the artist is an accomplished illustrator with a “style” completely different than mine. Obviously just copying my design because her customer wanted it? I called her out on my blog and FB page and she promptly removed the item, then I removed the blog post and have never had an issue with this artist again.

    Although my situation did not have the same large impact as the artists in the post above, it is still a sad situation when it happens to you and we’re all in this together.

    • Jessika says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story Stacy! It just pains me to think about having that type of competitiveness being a part of the handmade community-but good for you for calling her out & standing up for your rights, quite often that’s all it takes. Especially another business in your area-would be truly awful to get a reputation for copying!!!

    • Amanda Lw says:

      well if you make stuff from patterns tihs is replocation it isnt copying yet people dont like this either, and as artists why print on to tshirts or paper or fabric or other things if you dont want it crafted with

  10. Erica says:

    Great article!
    I’ve had similar experiences in my business by one other retailer but so be it. I cannot believe GAP has done that and as for Tiffany’s I am left aghast at them.
    You’re the best Jessika! Thank you for such a great article.

  11. funkyshique says:

    Thank you!! I too am a copy cat victem. I was so tired of my art being ripped off, I went and got an attorney! This was after she made featured seller with MY designs! The copy cat recieved the certified letter, and her store has been closed ever since! Woohoooo! Ive got one more copy cat to go!! She is getting her letter next! Geez, how do they live with themselves?? Those discusting thieves!

  12. Bet Toosna says:

    Thank you for sharing this info. I too have experienced the world of copy cats. I have an idea…I share with a friend (who works at a local gallery/souvienier shop) imagine my surprise when I go into the gallery and find my idea of pieces all over the place. The owners were the creators. I’ve learned since not to share my info anylonger with the so called friend.

    • Jessika says:

      Oh that just shouldn’t happen-friends should never steal each other’s ideas-but did you stand up for yourself & tell her what she did was wrong? Maybe you need to get a set of the copycat cards I shared!

  13. Janet W says:

    Fantastic article. I’ve started a thread in the Etsy forums linking to your blog post, I’ve facebooked, tweeted, and passed the link on to friends. Bravo! Great post. I’m a victim of a copycat too, and it just makes me sick. I’ve been wondering how to tackle this issue in an informative and instructive way, but I won’t worry about that any more. You’ve done it for me. Thank you for the eloquent post. Clearly you’ve worked hard on it.

    • Jessika says:

      Thank you for your comment Janet, it means a lot to me! And thank you for sharing too-let it be known that we won’t stand for copying!Also your store is my idea of heaven, such gorgeous felt & colors!!!!

  14. Sarah Lee says:

    Great article. When I started Sarah’s Silks 17 years ago, I was the first and only one making: rainbow silk capes, fairy skirts, streamers, silk scapes, and many other items. Then the copycats started. Now all over etsy you can see the same products I first made. Every new product we make is eventually copied. This saddens me, but really I have decided not to pursue legal action but to try to make my products better! So, it is not just big companies copying small ones, but small ones copying small ones too!

  15. Thank you for the great article Jessika. I’ve been through so much of this over the years too. When I was selling only on Ebay back in the day, copying was so rampant there. And I was spending a lot of time fighting tons of copycats. When this is your livelihood, it really can take a toll on your emotions. It’s one thing to be inspired/follow trends and transform that inspiration into your own creation but to flat out copy or to literally steal an image and resell is just beyond me. Not even just the creations but your text and policies too. Right now there is a large company that is using my customer service text. I mean, really? Verbatim. Then there’s 3 popular blogs right now that have sponsors where I wonder if the owners know what their sponsors are doing or if they are turning a blind eye. I hate to think the latter but I know that’s been the case before. One industry ‘group’ supports a certain seller who’s whole business model is that of another well known designer, right down to their website design. The group has to know this, yet they choose to do business with them. I just can’t comprehend it. A couple of years ago I was accused of copying someone when in fact it was the other way around. My trademarked logo helped me here. But because I was the little guy, it’s easy to say I was the one doing the copying. It’s unfortunate and I’m sure there are tons of small businesses who go through the same thing every day.

    Make Google Alerts your best friend. I have found the majority of copycats this way. Also make sure anyone you hire isn’t copying. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of hiring an artist to do some work for me and then later find out they copied someone else. It also helps to believe in karma 🙂 That one hasn’t failed me yet lol

    • Jessika says:

      Thanks Gina-the tip about Google Alerts is a great one! I also noticed the copyright info at the bottom of your website too which is really important. I find the stealing of copy so bizarre-if you can’t find unique words to describe your business maybe you shouldn’t be running it!!!! Or at least hire a copywriter. And definitely a belief in karma helps; )

  16. Joy says:

    Thanks for this great content, I appreciate all the hard work and research that you put into your post! I feel for the hard working artists that you highlighted – I can totally understand their frustration – and I appreciate that they wanted to share their experience too!

    Also thanks for the “registering your work” link! Looking into that now… Epic is not the word here! Wow! What an awesome post, Jessika!

  17. Benny says:

    Ahh Jessika.. everyone above me has said it in just the right way.. thank you sistah for the research and references. I made the mistake though of clicking the Canadian Intellectual Property link and now have terms the length of my arm swimming in my late-night brain.. 😉
    I only wish that you were here to give some real-time advice and to marvel at the newly uncovered red dirt rows.. and who am I kidding, to share in this batch of chocolate chip cookies (or just the dough).

    • Jessika says:

      Oh sweet Sarah I wish I could come eat all your cookies too: ) But regardless I get to host your first ever giveaway right and share your handmade fabulousness with Oh My when you are ready. We can always chat in real time on Skype or the phone too…ps planning a visit to red dirt this summer & your are so on the map.

  18. Well done Jessika! This is such an excellent piece and well positioned to be one that people will keep revisiting for the quality insights and a comforting word. I’ve had my share of copycats – a few blatantly blogged about copying my designs and one even opened an etsy shop! The positive that has come out of this, and which I think reaffirms your first point of “Be Original”, is that I am challenged to be just that extra original with my designs – if I feel that the concept has been done before, I am almost less apt to want to develop it.

    Off to tweet about this!

    • Jessika says:

      Thank you so much Grace! It really all seems to come down to originality-if you have your own style anything less then the real thing is going to be a bad imitation and hopefully won’t affect your market & sales. It still is shocking that people are so blatant about taking another persons hard work!

  19. lisa lehmann says:

    thank you so much for your insight into this hot hot issue. I don’t think i have paid enough attention and i have often found similar designs of mine on other artists sites 🙁 big boo.

    i will definitely take a more active position.

  20. Stephanie Douglas says:

    Great thought provoking and informative post the kind of writing that should be printed out and taped to the wall for continous encouragement to think, investigate, self-educate and not only to be accountable but to hold others accountable as well.

    Thank you for another extremely well thought out and well written article.

  21. funkyshique says:

    Turns out, my copy cat is back again. She has reopened her store and fully loaded with duplicates. I didnt want it to go this far, but looks like the battle is on. Geez, why cant these people just admit they are WRONG and stop COPYING?? I just dont get it! Here are the links…

    my shop…
    the copy cat…

    Notice the words in her custom listings. Notice the photographs in her custom listings. Notice the BANNERS! Notice the sale dates! You tell me, is she a copycat or what? This girl is not going to be happy with the end result! She thinks she is the greatest thing since couch covers!

    • Jessika says:

      Oh no! That’s awful-I don’t understand why people push things like that instead of taking accountability and doing the right thing. It’s so much better to just own up to it & make a change, but maybe they don’t think you will actually follow through? I wish you all the best in trying to get some resolution & be sure to let me know if there is anything I can do or any information I can help you find. Best of luck!!!!

  22. Thank you SO MUCH, Jessika, for the wonderful post about a topic that really needs to be talked about more. Bringing light to this subject will certainly help the fight, I am sure. The examples listed here just break my heart. Thanks also for mentioning LaunchHER and me as copyright infringement resources to those in the handmade community. Long live creativity!

  23. jessika – thank you! wonderfully said.. great (yet, very unfortunate, examples..) sometimes… I just DO NOT know what people are thinking – copying is not ok – it is the lazy way out… and it is saturating our industries and creative communities with same ol’..same ol’!

  24. earthegy.. says:

    Thanks so much for this article! Just a few days ago I came across someone that not only copied an intricate necklace design of mine, but she copied my written description verbatim! Thankfully the listing has been removed, but I don’t ever want to see it happen again.

  25. Shelley says:

    This is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve come back to this article and I still love it & the comments taht its provoking! Just a thought but what support do Etsy and the like provide to people who find themselves in this situation, after all they make money from peoples ideas as well? We looked at Etsy and Folksy and deliberately didn’t list with them because of the potential of people copying us without us having built up our business & now that we have we don’t really need to list with them… for thought maybe? x

    • Jessika says:

      Definitely food for thought! I have been doing research into an etsy ethics post & you can be sure we’ll be revisiting the topic again. Etsy doesn’t provide support exactly but there are clauses in their policies that can be used to help you if you have been copied.

  26. Koey says:

    This’s a really good article.
    That’s so sad to see plagiarism around us. I can understand the feeling of something importnt being stolen.
    Recently, there has been a quite serious trend of plagiarism in the handmade industry in Hong Kong too. What, they, the plagirists, care is simply money.
    I’m angry that I am not able to stop them.

    • Jessika says:

      Hi Koey-yes it can be a helpless/angry feeling when you see someone doing something wrong & are unable to stop them. The best way to defend against plagiarism is to have a strong & supportive community who can be each other’s back up & who have no tolerance for idea/design theft. I wish you all the best of luck & hope you can connect with others!

  27. ellen says:

    I have looked at many work here and let me tell you that patterns are available freely on the net.. I am only a customer but also sewed for my children and the nappy ruffles ive been making for over 30 yrs.. Many clothes look the same but different material is used and with home sewing everyone of them got ideas from each other patterns or family passed down.. So you see with hand made from mums at home how can it be copyright because to them they are only making something they have seen more beautiful. and when i read a pattern called nappy ruffles that means anyone can use that name and when i see a dress reversible they have the right to use that name,, so copyright as far as i am concerned in hand crafts is not stealing someone’s work because they all got inspiration from somewhere in the first place.

    • Jessika says:

      Hi Ellen, it’s one thing to buy a pattern and reproduce it for yourself but it isn’t legal to reproduce a pattern and sell it. Most pattern designers offer a commercial license and it usually says it clearly on the pattern or download page. Ideas from family passed down isn’t copying it’s sharing of information-a whole different ball game. If you buy a pattern that says personal use only and then reproduce it for sale you are breaking copyright laws, doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. The same thing for names-you can buy a pattern called “nappy ruffles” but if someone has trademarked the name and you use it in your product descriptions it’s not a good thing! Yes we all get inspiration from some place but copyright laws are important too, more important is respect for your inspiration. So if you buy a pattern & want to sell the items, buy a commercial license, email/contact the designer-say thank you!!!!!

  28. lizzy ellis says:

    hi if you use a pattern that got from a book or online are you copyrighting or stealing as they have given the pattern in the book

  29. tiel says:

    And don’t forget us here in Australia. 🙂
    I too am a victim of copyright infringement. Not once, but twice. Both by large, well known, international companies. I took the first case through the legal proceedings and was compensated, but signed a document so that I would never reveal the details of the case publicly. But I won…it was something. Then 6 months after, I discovered an even more blatant copy. However, because I had signed over the copyright to an independent design company for the use on their products I had no control over legal proceedings. They did take them to ‘court’ and won, but I received nothing…just the sadness and heartache of having my designs stolen in the first place.
    I’m so over this new copying behaviour from large corporations. Never will I release copyright again, only lease my work. But sadly I am reluctantly wanting to design anymore, instead I choose to paint.
    Sadly, I think though, that your post is only a ripple in the ocean, but thank you anyway for making it happen.
    The internet may be a place that makes copying easier, but it is also a place that can prove ownership by recording times and dates of origins.

    If independent artists/designers don’t step up to the podium when their work has been stolen/copied and do something about it, then it will make it easier for the bigger companies to keep stealing.

  30. Bree says:

    Great post. I know all situations are different, but it’s so hard to know who is copying and who has just had the same idea.
    I could say that people are copying my artwork but the truth is they probably have never seen what I do but have had the same idea. There is usually no proof that someone is copying you. Unless the two items are identical.
    I am going from my own experience of feeling like people have copied me and of being accused of a copycat.
    When I was accused it was downright hurtful and upsetting. I had not seen the other persons work and just had the same idea on my own. The two artworks were not even identical just had the same idea going around. I was abused and attacked by her friends on my facebook page.
    I know how horrible it feels when you think your work has been copying but please think before you accuse, make sure you know for sure that the person has actually copied you.
    Thanks for listening.

  31. Janet says:

    I agree that people should do their own work, however, my daughter was wrongly accused of copying another designer (really a pseudo designer because she uses others’ actual designs in her products) She made a public spectacle, encouraged her friends to harass her and basically humiliated her in the industry. She doesn’t have the desire to go after her legally and knowing that she wasn’t the only one who was bullied by this girl helps some.

  32. TravlynWomyn says:

    Great information and resources. Thank you so much for taking the time to help us through this horrendous dilemma. Why can’t people enjoy creating their own, unique styles? I cannot believe they feel good about the damage they do through theft. And to hear of such notable, formerly-respected companies being such outlandish offenders is gut-wrenching. Thank you so much for helping us open our eyes more wisely.

  33. Trish Goodfield says:

    I agree this is an issue however there are also artists, designers & crafters who copy from the large stores, many have blogs dedicated to it. I’m certainly not defending the large companies but these other people are equally unethical.

  34. I just found a similar design to mine on a online handmade site…okay, so its possible for people to come up with a similar idea to mine…but when I saw they had copy and pasted my description also, I was mortified, sick and hopelessly paralysed that someone could be so blatant!!
    THANK YOU for your article. I am working on my best course of action, but in the meantime, you made me feel a little bit stronger about being so exposed in such an industry!!

  35. Kay Tee says:

    FANTASTIC article – and I’m spreading the word. Facebook and Etsy are the new breeding grounds for artistic theft – and people need to be aware of how they can protect themselves – and FIGHT.

  36. stephanie says:


    i came across this entry looking for advice on a fine line topic in the crafting community i craft in – is it copying when you take a technique that another crafter and crafter’s all over the world use – to make your own version of that item? my problem is i want to make my own range of up-cycled plates with sweet images of birds and teacups and phrases on them – another crafter has screamed at me for doing so and accusing me of stepping on her toes – when she does tattoo and religious plates – is this copying or craft bullying? Advice would be greatly appreciated

  37. ghost says:

    I find it ironic that in an article dealing with artist theft and unoriginal ideas you chose to show these place cards that are obvious rip offs of the “Keep Calm & Carry On” British propaganda of WWII.

  38. squiggysmom1 says:

    What about copyrighted fabric? I would like to make a doll based on an idea I have had for years, but with all the copyright laws today, I feel frozen. How far does the reach of fabric copyright law go? If I make dolls with the intent to sell them, is it possible, in theory, for the designer of each material I use to claim copyright infringement?

  39. Bernadette Leedom says:

    Hi there, I need help and don’t know what to do. I handmade a baby Outfit back 2010 and sold it on Etsy. 2 years later I saw someone copied inch by inch of my design and they even used my photos of my work to sell their copied Outfit. I have been struggling since It’s all over the net now for almost 1/8 the price of my work. Now ai just saw a US based company used my photo to advertise their Outfit on a sponsored Facebook post. I almost die after seing it.. I don’t know what to do… Please help.

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