Last week I talked with Eloise of HidenSeek who found herself in the unfortunate position of having one of her designs copied by a large retailer. My post certainly captured your interest, and I found that a lot of you are concerned about finding yourselves in the same situation as Eloise, Gemma Correll and Laura of SheDraws. This week I share some of Eloise’s tips for handling suspected infringement.
1. Protect your work from direct duplication
If possible, watermark photos and images in your online shops. While this may not completely deter copyright infringement, it means that any images taken directly from your shops will be easily identified as yours. “I started putting a watermark on the images in my shop very early as a first step,” says Eloise. “I understood back then too that it is pretty impossible to protect your work from copying. The watermark for me is just a sign to big companies that you are willing to protect your intellectual property and of course they become unable to use the ‘I didn’t know it was copyrighted’ defence.”
2. Gather support from other artisans
As I learned from your comments last week, infringement is a huge worry for a lot of indie designers. There are numerous communities and even a Facebook group dedicated to identifying and stopping copyright theft. “The support that was offered to me so freely and the abundant kindness shown by thousands of people back then, still fills me with the warmest emotions whenever I think about it. I learned that people are willing to put themselves on the line for a perfect stranger that has been wronged and that when we the little people band together we make an unstoppable force.”
3. If you suspect infringement, contact the individual or company immediately
“When you are dealing with individuals…let them know of the problem and seek for a calm and quick solution, they will probably want to avoid any stress and trouble, just as much as you. If they show great resistance or indifference to your plea, you could treat them as a company. Companies will seldom reply to your personal plea. You should still immediately let them know of the problem and be very diplomatic about it, so no rough accusations, just ask for an amicable solution.”
4. Don’t back down…but keep your cool
If calm communication doesn’t work, don’t feel defeated. “Feel free to make your problem public and find any way to apply pressure to them. You could send them a proper bill for your services that they so conveniently appropriated or you could take them to a small claims court (that’s what it’s called in the UK at least and you don’t need a solicitor for the procedure). I wouldn’t suggest you go for a proper court case unless you are rich or can find a no-win no-fee lawyer. Even then, expect an excruciating few months, legal proceedings are a very tiring and dirty business.”
5. Don’t let fear of infringement ruin your passion
Particularly when you’re feeling powerless, it’s easy to think ‘It’s not worth it’ and call it a day with crafting – but don’t! “All in all, you can’t do much to protect your work, other than lock it in a box and never open it again. Since you are going to show your art to the world, might as well go all the way! The more your art is seen, the easier it will be to defend yourself if the unfortunate happens. The fact that everyone could see I had sold the specific artwork on Etsy months before Paperchase produced their own copy, made it very clear in everyone’s eyes that I was the one being copied.”
Have you got questions or simply want to share your experience? Post in the comments section below!