I browse Etsy listings quite often just to see what the current trends are, and I notice that a lot of sellers are violating copyright and trademark laws. First, let me explain what a copyright is. A copyright is a legal protection for creators of original works. This means that if you are not the original creator of your artwork and you have not purchased rights to sell these items not created by you, you are essentially violating copyright laws. The same applies to trademarks – which are phrases.
What are some examples of copyright infringement on Etsy?
Examples of copyright infringement include selling a dress with a Hello Kitty image on it. You cannot sell an embroidery patch with the Elsa character from Frozen. You also can’t sell a digital invitation with an image of a John Deere tractor on it. In fact, you can’t even sell an image with a GREEN tractor because only John Deere owns the rights to sell products with green tractors! Crazy, right?! You cannot say “Elsa Inspired” “Frozen Theme”, etc in your title or descriptions. Let me repeat, the word “inspired” does not get you off the hook!
What will happen if I sell copyrighted items on Etsy?
Listings that violate copyright and trademark laws are not allowed on Etsy. Etsy can and will shut your shop down for good if you don’t remove these listings. More importantly, it is a crime. The outcome of copyright infringement can result in a legal battle and having to pay the rightful owner money for damages. Not to mention you will lose multiple selling opportunities if you can’t sell on the Etsy platform.
Even if you think it’s okay to do it because you witness other shops doing it and “getting away with it”, DON’T DO IT! Eventually karma will catch up with these shop owners and the listings will be removed.
When it comes to trademarks, I highly recommend referring directly to the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, which offers tons of educational information. There is a 42 minute video that you can watch at the following web address that includes information on how trademarks, patents, copyrights, etc all differ from each other:
If you aren’t sure whether or not your items violate any type of law feel free to also ask in the Etsy forums or any groups on Facebook that are for Etsy sellers. There are a lot of knowledgable people online who are always happy to help you out. Or, even better advice would be to contact an attorney directly.