Jul 1, 2013

DON'T IGNORE COPY CATS!

Two weeks ago I did a stupid thing and typed the words hangry into Etsy. What I saw made me felt like I had been punched. And then I got really annoyed!! I have written before about being copied and I know lots of people think its "flattering" and to "not worry about it" etc but I am not one of those people. I cannot ignore it and it is STEALING! It is theft! I saw that three sellers were blatantly copying. I mean WORD FOR WORD!! 

The top one is my original cushion design, that you have seen me flog a million times and shown here as a comparison:

These ones are the copies: 



Addition: I removed the photos of the items as one of the people who originally copied me feels that it will be ok if she just changes some words on the design and keeps selling them. SERIOUSLY!! 

                                                          

I am not claiming to have made up the word hangry. But I made up THIS definition. I made it up myself. I also came up with the idea of putting a definition of Hangry on something. No one was selling anything with the word hangry on it when I started selling it- I searched extensively at the time, in September 2011. I came up with this idea, the cushion was first published here and on Etsy in October 2011. 

So I sent a convo to all the sellers saying basically you are copying please don't. I got a reply from the pyrex dish person who said they had been "inspired by " a hangry item they saw and  they wanted to see my copyright. I knew enough at this point to know that in Australia you do not have to register  copyright, it is automatic. I also knew that copying someone who has copied me was still copying. So I remembered a while ago a few people had seen a solicitor at the Creative Womens Circle  speak and recommended her to me. So I rang her. She agreed to write a letter of demand to Etsy, as outlined in their policies. 

Etsy removed the offending items immediately after they got the letter. 

This is basically the crux of it:

1. In Australia copyright does not need to be registered to be covered and is automatically protected under the:Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).Both Australia and the U.S are signatories of the Berne Convention, an international agreement covering copyright "

2. The Berne Convention requires its signatories to recognize the copyright of works of authors from other signatory countries (known as members of the Berne Union) in the same way as it recognizes the copyright of its own nationals." 

And: 

"Copyright under the Berne Convention must be automatic; it is prohibited to require formal registration (note however that when the United States joined the Convention in 1988, it continued to make statutory damages and attorney's fees only available for registered works)." (Meaning if you want to sue for damages you need to register copyright- not the case in Australia) 

So the story could end there but it doesn't. This is the amazing bit! The t-shirt guy, lets call him Bob, contacted me. He was very genuinely apologetic. He had the design submitted to him and didn't realise it was a copy. Bob sells a lot of T-shirts. Bob designs a lot of his own tshirts and he gets really upset when people rip off his design. Bob gets it.  So how great is Bob? 

This is what Bob did: 

Bob gave me ALL THE MONEY HE HAD MADE FROM THE SALE OF THE HANGRY TSHIRT. Yep. Into my paypal account. Cash. he offered to do this. 

But that's not all. Bob is also going to send me all the tshirts that were already printed. So I can do what I want with them. How great is that? I think Bob deserves three cheers! 

I don't think you should sit by and do nothing when someone blatantly copies you. I hate the thought that others may think I copied someone else. I think it's really important to protect your work. I am so glad I listened to my gut and did something. I felt really good about standing up for myself.

Also thank you to Lisa at The Red Thread who told me about her experiences  in the past and also Stacey at Veggie Mama who  explained all this stuff to me a while ago when I was having a similar issue but was not in the headspace to pursue it. 

And thank you for all of you on Twitter who recommended a good lawyer. 

and  THANK YOU  to everyone who sees my Hangry design and tells me if its not credited to me - yes FACEBOOK I am looking at you.


42 comments:

  1. Wow! What a story!!
    It is crazy to think there are people out there who think imitation is acceptable, but I guess the Bobs of the world and all those who cheer from the side, kinda balance it all out and allow for a happy ending. Yay! xx

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  2. high five for Bob!!
    Amazing.
    (But the rest is DUMB...sorry it had to happen to you)

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  3. Well done Cath! Sometimes we feel powerless to stand up for ourselves, but all kudos to you for doing it!
    And super-kudos to Bob too : )

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  4. Way to go - it is very daunting to actually stand up and be counted but as you have shown it is well worth the effort. And how good is 'Bob' - there wouldn't be too many out there like him. Thank you for the links re. copyright - I am heading across to them now to read up. Have a great day, powerful lady!!

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  5. Go Bob! And really glad you got the result you did with the copyright lawyer - shame you had to go there though. Sometimes I wonder if people think that the internet is so huge that you won't notice a rip off, but on the flipside the internet is also really good at searching and creating a network to let you know of rip offs. It's just not FairPlay.

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  6. Such a great end to the t-shirt story!

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  7. So glad it all worked out!
    YAY for Bob! What a dude :)

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  8. Wow wow wow!!
    Well done for sticking up for yourself - and so amazing what 'Bob' did!!
    He obviously knows what it feels like to be copied! (makes you feel sick to the gut)

    I've had a few emails recently from people who think that another doll maker
    is starting to make her faces more like mine. (their opinion - not mine)
    I'm not worried as I paint the dolls free hand, whereas they are using a template so all look the same.
    Its a fine line sometimes, the difference between something 'inspired by' or copied outright.xx

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  9. I'm so glad you dealt with it, bloody copycats! But, good on Bob. I don't think many people would have done that.

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  10. I LOVE this outcome !
    Well done to you for following it up and thank goodness for the Bob's in the world !

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  11. That's fantastic! It's such a shame that you have to face these battles. But what great outcomes. Well done for pursuing it and inspiring others to stand up for themselves too. Bob sounds like a champ!

    Hope this also discourages other copiers too. xx

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  12. That's a great story, Cath - and I'm going to share it, if that's ok with you.

    That Bob is a good egg. Wow. What a trouper.

    I once had an IP infringement that deeply upset me. Another creative person wrote a tutorial in an online magazine, using a method that I devised for a pattern that I sell. I checked our invoice system and found her contact details. A polite conversation later, and it became apparent that she had no idea that the methods I use are not time-worn techniques that everyone knows, and that she was infringing my copyright or endangering my livelihood. She immediately altered her tutorial to remove key components, and linked to my website and patterns as a resource for people to follow up if they needed more info.

    A lot of IP theft by small producers is ignorance and I think the more we talk about it, the less likely these "accidental" cases are going to happen. The bigger companies are a different story, and I think the only way to stop them is to case-by-case hit them with the law and keep the discussion flowing.

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  13. wow, Bob needs more than a high five and 3 cheers.
    So glad you got it all sorted out, must be a huge relief

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  14. So proud of you for going after this! And yay for Bob, he can have all the cheers. Knowledge is power, so when someone tries to bluff you and ask to see your copyright you can do exactly what you did. WELL DONE!

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  15. I'm so pleased for you! You dealt with it so well & found success!!
    Because you have great karma!
    Idea theft does my head in!
    x

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  16. I think Good Guy Bob deserves more than three cheers - he deserves our business. Would you consider posting his info? It's nice to know that there are still honest, ethical people out there, and I, for one, would like to support him.

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    1. Karma baby !!!! I agree, "Bob" deserves our custom.

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  17. That's so brilliant! Well done YOU! And utterly good karma goes out to Bob! too. You should subtly add a link so I can shop from him in future!

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  18. I am so glad you have had a win, yay Bob!

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  19. Go Bob! Super stink about the rest of them :(

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  20. Wow :: terrible story with an amazing ending. Bob is clearly a gem. The others are not. Go you!

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  21. What an amazing story, good Karma will come to 'Bob', what a great guy to do this. Good for you following up on this too.

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  22. Bob is a legend. Wish that there were more like him. Good on you for fighting, Cath. I wouldn't cope with just turning the other cheek, either.

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  23. Wow! This had me gnashing my teeth and then smiling broadly! How amazing is that for an outcome??
    Bob is definitely a legend. Does he want to remain anonymous? I'd have liked to have sent him a pat on the back.
    So happy for you Cath :) Kx

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    1. I am not sure legally if it is a good idea to name "Bob" as all that legal stuff confuses me and kind of terrifies me a little, so I think it's just easier if lovely Bob stays anon.

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  24. Go Cath! And Go Bob -- he sounds like a class act.

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  25. Oh hooray Bob! And Hooray you for being steadfast, following up and being generally awesome!

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  26. Good on you! And good on Bob. Great post :)

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  27. Bob is a champ! And good on you too xx

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  28. Oh, Wow Cath! Sorry to hear that horrible bug has bitten you too. Sad to say that these days when you create something that more than a couple of people like you can expect that someone will copy it. It shouldn't be like that but it is. So glad that your rights were upheld. And a big fat cheer for Bob!!

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  29. Such a kind gesture from Bob. I guess he made your day/ week/ month. Pity about the others. Congrats for taking them on

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  30. Good on you for 1. Doing something about it. and 2. Sharing the story with the rest of us. Thanks for standing up for what's right. And yay for Bob!

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  31. We done...brilliant story.I good lesson for everyone......and Bob, oh we love Bob.

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  32. This is an excellent result. I am really happy to read this and also thrilled that Bob has acted in such a kind manner.

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  33. THAT is awesome! Go Bob! I'm so pleased you did something about this and that they responded so well.

    I must admit that someone contacted me about something I sell telling me I'd copied her....I hadn't....I researched heaps before I made it and didn't find anything at all similar, our products were similar in nature but not the same at all. I got all flustered about it, consulted a few friends and emailed her back saying that I hadn't copied and that our items were sufficiently different. I knew I was in the right but I still get so nervous about it that I don't make many of those products anymore.

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    1. I think realistically people often have the same idea at the same time.

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  34. A few years ago, I had my writing stolen. Verbatim; word for word. It literally took my breath away, but I didn't have the confidence to address the person because she's quite well known on the Brisbane poetry scene. To add insult to injury, she accused me (on Facebook of all places, with her 1000 'friends') that I was copying *her* work. All I could do was ignore the unkind things she was saying and let it go. Next time I'll not be so forgiving. Oh, and hooray for Bob!!

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  35. oh golly. I always think of you when I see/ read this. Actually, I thought you made the word up, not only the definition. I can't believe there are still so many people who don't get the copy(right) thing. They still don't get it. It saddens me. I think it needs to be taught in design schools -and sewing schools. ha. at school I think before you sign up for Etsy or anywhere you should have to read something about what copying someone else really is. I'm glad that Etsy stands by their words and removes items. And yah yah yah to Bob.
    Also. Isn't it great we have blogs to state when an idea first happened. "it's mine, it's on my blog!".
    I'm always so scared of copying someone else. It's such a big thing in my head. But I do know that lots of people seem to be on similar wavelengths these days. Internet seems to speed things up; with us all morphing ideas. BUT - each idea is worked to someone's own interpretation, and not a copy of someone else. Inspiration is so different to copy.

    Also, love your Barbie zpaggheti. I've never bought it, but keep thinking it must be so easier than cutitng up tshirts and having all the fabric scraps all over my floor. And my husband doesn't wear hot pink tshirts - black and grey gets a tad boring!

    Happy holidays xxx

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  36. Thank you for posting this - it's encouraging to see someone stand up to the copy cats and also wonderful to know there are people like Bob in the world.

    I've had work copied recently and I really haven't known what to do, especially as what made it all the harder is that the person who blatantly copied me is the person who owns the studio/workshop where I do a lot of my work -I pay for the use of the workshop and its run as a very informal class. I never expected to have any of my ideas ripped off, least of all by the teacher/studio owner. I don't have a booming business but I do sell some of my work which helps me pay for making more materials to keep making things plus a bit of pocket money too. I'm still in shock after turning up a few weeks ago and seeing a whole production line of work blatantly ripping off something I had made a month before that - and it was nothing like this person had ever made before (subject, style etc, I actually have the feeling a template was drawn from a piece of work I'd had to leave there). I immediately took photos of my work and posted it online as verification and proof of when I'd made it (good advice from a fellow crafter) and thankfully seem to have finally found alternative workshop facilities which should be much better and hope to leave this behind me.
    I am still really upset by the whole situation and in particular how some people just don't care about what is right and wrong or just act dumb when they do something that is obviously ethically wrong.
    Thank you so much for sharing what has happened to you and it's made me feel more positive and empowered about this type of situation -especially that I don't need to just put up with it happening and feel helpless.

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  37. Sounds to me that bob the tshirt guy would be a good guy to collaborate with!

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  38. I just checked out Etsy after reading this post and I am stunned at the number of people who are using this Hangry idea of yours. I just wrote a note to one of them who sells coffee cups with the exact same phrase, letting them know that it's just not cool.

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