ETSY seems to be a place where thieves, pirates, and copyists of all stripes abound. The anonymity and easy access afforded by the internet has allowed the copyists to work quickly and with a great level of detail, and the wide swaths of creativity posted and hosted on ETSY seems to prove time and time again to be too much for the pirates to resist.
Below is what is claimed by one YTWWN reader to be an example of just such ETSY piracy. One user of the site purchased a work from the original artist, and later posted for sale a product that bore an eerie similarity to the original purchased piece.
Again, though, it is important to note that ideas are not protectable and only the expression of an idea will be protected. Courts in New York and California have applied what they call the "reasonable observer" test to decide whether or not illegal copying of artistic expression has occurred. Under this test, if a "reasonable observer" believes that the alleged copier took protectable expression from the original, then the alleged copier will be held liable for copyright infringement, and will be responsible for paying damages. Who decides what a "reasonable observer" would believe? Why, the jury, of course.
Ponder the below and consider whether you believe that the alleged copier has taken protectable expression from the original.
Most of us on Etsy worry about the evil "Made in China" factory knock-offs and see them as being our biggest fear when it comes to cheap copies of our art. This article is proof positive that home grown copyists are just as much of a threat. Below is a blatant copyist, based in Virgina, U.S.A. She (Micha Cole aka Pirotess) is a message therapist who sold makeup in her Etsy shop until she bought one of Jill Lawrence's very unique and original Steampunk Wire Wrapped Eyes in the summer of 2011 (Evidenced by her feedback). Micha then spent the next 3 months practicing, attempting to make exact copies of that eye and other items from Jill's Twistedsisterarts Etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/twistedsisterarts .
See Jill's original eye on the left and Micha of Abluerosescreation Etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/ABlueRosesCreation - copied eye on the right. You decide....
Unfortunately, Etsy does exactly nothing about this. So it's up to the artist being ripped off to pay a lawyer to send a cease and desist letter to the offending party.
Usually a nicely written note asking the copyist to stop, is met with defiance or vulgarities because they knew exactly what they were doing in the first place.