One of my customers sent me a note recently letting me know she saw my ring on an online Chinese marketplace, so I did an image search, and sure enough, there it was! On several sites! (Many of which I’d never even heard of.) In fact, eBay alone had over 20 different listings for my ring.
Of course, I did what any outraged artist would do when she discovers that not only did someone blatantly rip off her design and go big with it, but they were also using all my own photos of my custom ring to sell it: I ordered one.
(Click through to read what happened next..)
It isn’t the first time this has happened. A couple years ago, I noticed some of my solitaire designs were being sold on eBay (again, using my photos from my Etsy shop). I provided all the documentation required to request the listings be removed by eBay, and was told that if I didn’t want their seller to use my images, I should just contact them myself and ask them to remove them. One complaint (even though it was for several different listings) wasn’t really enough to warrant further action on their part.
I also flipped through the seller’s listings and noticed several other shop items belonging to Etsy jewelers I was familiar with, so I sent them messages with the link to the eBay forms to also lodge copyright infringement complaints. They did, but they basically got the same reply. eBay told me that if I was worried that the seller would just relist my items later, I should just check back periodically into the infringing shop to make sure. Needless to say, eBay’s non-interest in a seller whose entire shop was clearly comprised of snagged Etsy images of other people’s work was frustrating.
In the end, I did send personal messages to the seller asking them to please remove the listings. They actually did too. Probably just didn’t matter enough to them, as mine were just 4 out of 900+ items they had in their shop. I actually asked them what they intended to do if they sold one? Would they actually copy my piece? Why not do this first and then take photos of it? That would just be a jerk move, but it wouldn’t actually infringe on copyright laws. They never replied.
Well. As you can see, my order arrived from China (shipping included in price!). I thought I should get some studio shots of this masterpiece and we could do a side-by-side comparison.
The verdict? It’s astoundingly crappy. And holy cats that color is something else. I have to say, I’m impressed that there was actually a deliverable product. I wasn’t sure they would even bother trying to send anything at all.
It’s actually really interesting to me to think of how this got made. Someone’s job is to comb through Instagram posts picking out designs to copy. Then they systematically download my images for their own listings (because let’s face it: Nobody in their right mind would buy this ring if they posted photos of their actual finished product). I assume they selected this ring of mine specifically because it did not have a stone (cheaper to reproduce en masse). Then a wax carver was given the task to copy the design as closely as possible. With upwards of 12,000 listings in their eBay shop, they must be a largish company I would guess(?), so I wonder if they have their own production staff or if they contract out to a jewelry factory. Whoever was given my design to copy did an extremely mediocre job—and that’s me being nice. On the other hand, I suspect they weren’t paid very well for it either.
These copies are clearly made as dirt-cheaply as humanly possible. And in order to do that, they must have mass produced bucket-loads of the things. So, are these rings potentially to be hawked on the street to tourists all over SE Asia?! The mind boggles.
Shockingly, about two weeks after I sent off my emails to eBay’s VeRO department, I got an email back from the Hong Kong division politely informing me that they removed the listings! I checked, and sure enough, they were in fact taken down.
Did I actually win this little battle?!
Alas: No. A quick search just now brought up 7 more listings on the first page alone with my original photos again being used to sell the ring (same sellers as before too). Even cheaper too: this time at a $0.41 cent starting bid.
So, I guess, if anyone wants a Cheyenne design on the stupid cheap, maybe even a godawfully crappy version is almost worth 41 cents. I’m pretty sure it includes shipping.