Trade Marks and Copyright issues…

I see this all over the internet, in many many embroidery design stores:  copyright infringement.  The thing that burns my butt is that these people have hugely “successful” stores- meaning that they sell a lot of designs, using images from Disney Movies!  Have a look on Etsy, most of the designs from the bigger stores are all copyright, restricted designs…and they are the ones making the most money.   I am absolutely shocked in some of the Facebook groups on a daily basis – that people post designs for sale, and the vast majority of them are not their designs to sell.  EVERY DAY!!

It is unfair, isn’t it?  Yes, yes it is.  It is unfair to everyone out there.    It’s unfair to any digitizer out there trying to start a business and make some money, because everyone spends their money on Disney designs that they can put on anything instead of going to the Disney Store and finding that awesome Disney character on a t-shirt and paying $30.00 for the shirt, they can buy the design on Etsy or Facebook for the low, low price of $3.50!  But really, how much of a deal is it?  Not much in my book – do you want to support a digitizer that is breaking the law?  She is selling designs that do not belong to her, so where does that end?  Is she using pictures that are not hers?  is she using designs that are not hers?  Did she create the designs?  It’s entirely possible that the designs are not created very well, because obviously they are just out to make money, and they don’t have the creativity to come up with something of their own.

Let’s look at the other side of the fence – the company that has spent millions of dollars in creating the character, the movies, the shirts and all of the items with that character on it.  I have heard a few answers to the question “what about the company that owns the designs” and i was again shocked at the answers, something like “oh its a big company, they can take the loss”  and “i need the money more than that big company does”  and “they can manage just fine with loosing $5.00”.  Well,  let’s think about that.    Sure, the company many not miss that $5.00 that you spent on a trademarked design, but its actually more like $25.00 loss for the shirt that you didn’t buy – and that is much different.  I have seen in a store that one Etsy owner, who only did Disney embroidery designs on towels, had something like 1500 sales…so that would mean that she made $7,500 from those designs.  I know what you are thinking, that is a lot of money, and yes it sure is.  But lets keep thinking of the big company – they sell their shirts for $25.00 each, and now 1500 people are not going to buy them and therefore they have lost more than $37,000 on that one design.  Do you really think they are not going to notice that?    And here is the most important part that most people forget:  WHERE DO YOU THINK THAT LOSS SHOWS?  Well, it’s not the big CEO that is going to take a $37.000 pay cut, it’s going to filter down to the people creating the designs, the animators, the movie makers, everyone who has something to do with the characters and movies that you all love.     That means someone’s job gets cut, or they don’t hire another young person and give them a job, or everyone works less hours but everyone gets paid LESS.  And that is just from one design – imagine, if you will, how huge this would be if 200 people each sold 1 trademarked design per day, for 6 months.  Selling 1 design per day is not a lot.  Do you realize that number is $180,000?  And that number is only for one design…most stores have 20 designs from Disney, at least.    If you take those numbers, and put it into the losses for the company  (that they won’t be able to sell a shirt to that person for $30.00), then the final number becomes a whopping $1,080,000.

If you think buying copyrighted designs for $5.00 each doesn’t hurt anyone, think again.  You are taking money away from the company that creates all these wonderful characters and movies that we love so much!  You are taking away jobs from PEOPLE who create original things, from university graduates wanting their first job, or for someone to get paid for their creative abilities.

So stop.  Everyone stop.  Stop making Disney designs, stop selling Disney designs AND STOP BUYING DISNEY DESIGNS.  OR POKEMON DESIGNS.  OR NINJA DESIGNS and any designs that you don’t own.

If everyone stopped supporting small businesses that are selling trademarked items, then small businesses (LIKE YOURS?) might have a fighting chance to get started!

What can you do to help?  go on Etsy or Ebay and start reporting stores that sell Disney designs.  If someone posts for sale on Facebook (I see them every single day) then add a comment ” are you allowed to be selling this design”  or “do you have a licence to sell this design?”  or something super nice like that – you don’t have to be a butthead, you can be nice about it.  You can also report them to the admin, and they can handle it, if you want more of a quieter route.  But do something.  Anything.

I do as much as I can, but this is one thing I will not even bend on. If someone sends me their file to look at to help them if they are stuck digitizing- if it is a Disney design, I will not help.  Nope.  I will NOT be teaching anyone how to create a Disney design in any class or any video (so can you please stop asking me to?) and I won’t give embroidery advice on any trademarked design, and I won’t let anyone post anything trademarked in the group.  So if you want to post your new “Transformers” design that you just created, I will delete it.

And one more thing to consider:  DO YOU KNOW THAT THE PENALTY FOR SELLING TRADEMARKED DESIGNS ARE HUGE??  Do you know that just because someone has been operating their Etsy store for years making tons of money selling these designs,  that they don’t get to keep that money that they made?  YES, YOU HAVE TO PAY IT ALL BACK, PLUS SOME.   So that one lady that made $7500 in Disney sales this year is going to have to pay it back, plus a penalty, plus a charge and usually plus lawyers fees?    So now we are talking around $10,000 they have to pay back, but what if their store ran for two years?  Now that total is $20,000!!!  Think about that for a minute…$20,000…where are you going to get that kind of money in a hurry?  Your house.  Your embroidery machines.  Your computers.  Your savings.  Your bank account.  Your kid’s futures.  If you don’t have it to pay back, Disney can AND WILL take your house and everything in it, because you owe it to them.

Now I ask you, IS IT WORTH THE RISK?  They can catch up with you years later…and you have to pay it all back.

My advice is and always will be:  do your own thing.  Think outside the embroidery box.  Create your own designs.  Start off small, and get bigger.  Be original.  You have no risk starting a business that way.  No risk at all.  You are safe.  If everyone stops wasting money on people who sell things they shouldn’t be, you might have a good chance at actually creating that business.   And really, if you are starting or maintaining a business, do you really want to risk any of it?  Ever?  No.

Think of yourself sometimes…how different are you from the animator just starting out?

21 responses to “Trade Marks and Copyright issues…”

  1. Jean Avatar

    Sue, that was a good post. Sometimes we don’t stop to think about things like that. It is a warning to those digitizing and selling them and a remind to us all to support the creative people digitizing their own designs and at least legally purchasing the artwork if they are unable to create their own.

  2. AngieG Avatar

    I agree with you on this subject. It is plain out and out theft! I would not use licensed designs on any of my items and sell them with out the written permission from the actual designer. I would like to see these people face the penalty for doing that, however… What i find interesting are the people who create sewing patterns, and say you are doing a copy right infringement if you sew and sell this item ( using their pattern) , now I am not talking about coping and selling the actual pattern, that of course would be an infringement and as far as I am concerned theft, I am talking about using the pattern to create an item ( apron, bib, dress,blouse, scarf,…..,) and selling that item. This is not copyright infringement I have seen people having patterns and saying it is ok to create something for you personally but you are not able to create these items for sale. Now I am not talking about creating a sewing line and mass producing this item, i am talking about a few items selling at craft show and such. What are your thoughts on that subject. Thanks for an interesting post.

    1. OML Embroidery Avatar

      I am not a lawyer of course, but if I am understanding you correctly, the answer is its the same thing. If you sell an item that has a copyright image on it – its the exact same thing. If you use a pattern to create an apron, or bib, then it is still a copyright pattern. And those people who say that its OK to create something for yourself, or as a gift are incorrect as well – that is still not supporting the people who originally designed the character or image. It takes everything one step back further, If you buy a copyright design and use it to make a disney gift for one of your kids, are you not still supporting someone who did not create the design? Are you in any way supporting Disney? No. Selling anything at a craft show or any show is the same as selling it in a store, same exact thing. In my opinion of course – if you buy/use/use a design on something and sell it – it is all the same thing – just different ways of doing the same thing – if you are not supporting the original designer, then you are stealing from them. Take a look at the BIG embroidery design places – Embroidery Library or Urban Threads – do you see anything at all that looks like disney? Even close to anything disney? NO. and you never will. Take your cues from the successful business and don’t deal with it.

      1. Jean Avatar

        Sue, I also wondered about what Angie mentioned. No embroidery, no image on it, just an apron, or a pillow or a blouse. It seems there are so many hundreds of sewing patterns out there – and have been for many, many years, that the chance of developing one that is really new seems so remote. And there are so many crafters that sell just a few items, relatively speaking. They really make very little. I have done it. Many allow you to make the item in small numbers for craft shows. Some require a label with their name and website. But some don’t want you to do that. In a sense it seems sort of like if Microsoft Word couldn’t be used to write articles that you sold for profit. It is certainly a work of creativity. Or Publisher, that people use for parts of a craft project – at least I used to:-) I get that people want to protect their rightful designs. It is just that it seems to get kind of sticky with some craft patterns.

      2. OML Embroidery Avatar

        Ok, maybe i misunderstood? I am going to guess that sewing patterns have different rules, aren’t they created to be used in that way? I guess that might be a good question for a lawyer, too. I have not bought a sewing pattern for years, so I wonder if there are any rules printed on them? Maybe something like “for non commercial use only” might give you a hint of what the rules are – but then you have to find out what they consider commercial use – using the pattern for items more than 300 times? 500? If that is what you are doing for a living, it will be worth checking it out.

      3. AngieG Avatar

        Ok we are talking Disney, but what about the designs FROM Disney, the one’s you can buy on line through Brothers iBroidery website those ARE Disney designs. I don’t think the problem is putting a Disney design on something to give as a gift or keep for yourself, by purchasing that item from the company or person who created it,they than give you permission to use that item for YOURSELF and they made their money on it when you bought it. . However this does not give you permission to sell that item with the Trademark item on it. .. I think the real problem is putting an illegal or bootlegged Trademark design on something than either, keeping for yourself, give as gift ,or selling that item. This would be theft. Right?

      4. OML Embroidery Avatar

        Yes, you can actually buy Licenced Disney designs from Brother – and this is the right way to do it. However, they are pretty darn clear about what you can and can’t use it for. It is for personal use only – just for you – and you cannot do anything else with it – you can’t do anything with the images of the design or change the design in any way. Here is what they say ”

        The Images are licensed, not sold, to you. You have a nonexclusive, nontransferable, limited license to the Images for your own personal use within the United States and not for republication, distribution, assignment, sublicenses, sale, preparation of derivative works or other commercial use all in accordance with BIC’s download policy. The Images which may be downloaded from the Site are for personal, private use only. Any commercial or business use is strictly forbidden by copyright laws. You agree that you will not distribute or otherwise provide the Images to any third party. You further agree to keep confidential and use your best efforts to prevent and protect the Images from unauthorized disclosure or use, including, but not limited to taking necessary steps to prevent use of the Images by individuals not specifically licensed to use the Images under these terms and conditions. BIC reserves all rights, title and interest to the Images not expressly granted to you under these terms and conditions.”

        So it is a very limited PERSONAL use only – whether or not that includes gifts, I am not sure.

        There are two problems going on – one is embroidering a disney design on something like a shirt and selling it. Even if you bought a legal Disney design, it is not legal to sell anything with it on it. And the second big problem is creating/selling/buying a Disney design that was not created by Disney – thats a double NO – and of course embroidering that on a t-shirt and selling it is still the same thing.

  3. AngieG Avatar

    Good subject here. Sure would be awful to find out that 10 yrs down the road you are creating something that “Aunt Millie” from Way out West in Texas made and feel this is her original and now she wants ALL the money you have made over the last 10 yrs. UGH wonder why the ability to start and maintain a small business is not easy….. UGH!!!! I really think it’s all about registered trademarks. Aunt Millie I don’t think can trademark a blouse, now if she has a logo, emblem something like that ON the item than you would be infringing if you copied the logo, emblem or some other type of trade name. I think?

    1. OML Embroidery Avatar

      It would be awful to loose everything 10 years down the road…scary, isn’t it? I am not sure if Aunt Millie can copyright a blouse design, but maybe? but yes, if you copied the logo, emblem or trade name that Aunt Millie has, then you would be infringing. And yes, it is so hard to get a business going and keep it going – people are making tons of money doing disney designs…LOL, i giggle because I have been digitizing for 10 years and I think I could probably make the best of the best awesome Disney design and make tons of money…but I never, ever will. I would rather do it the right way, and hopefully some day come up with a super popular design that is all my own!

      1. AngieG Avatar

        Outstanding!!! I was raised in a family business. My father started many people in business. When I was young he wanted to do the same for me but awwwhhh love, marriage and having babies was all I was interested in at the time. Now here I sit 52 yrs later a lot older and a whole lot smarter but still wishing i would have listened….LOL. My dad always said integrity, honesty, and trust are three of most important things in business. Glad to hear there are people like yourself who still believe in those things. Good Blog!

      2. OML Embroidery Avatar

        Thanks for commenting! Oh, i so wish I had that opportunity when i was younger!! Great story 🙂

  4. Lenora Porzillo Avatar

    This is the most informative article I’ve ever read. Thank you for taking the time to write this. I have a very large Facebook group and have recently become the target from another Facebook group because I will not support copyrighted designs. It does take courage to take a stand on this. One digitizer took Disney’s Golden Girls image from their new vinyl dolls. She referred to them as “Granny’s” and at the same time played a game with the members if they knew who the designs were of. She mentioned “golden years” and “thanks for being my friend.” I mentioned the designs in my group and reminded our 16,500 members that we will not support copyrighted designs. I paid a price and the gossip and criticism is unbelievable. The name calling is so inappropriate. They’ve searched my personal information, home page, criticized my Christianity and more. Most of her members who commented see nothing wrong with copyrighting and copyrighted designs. Sadly, her husband is an attorney.

    1. OML Embroidery Avatar

      Wow…I don’t know why I am shocked, but I am. That is terrible and shameful that it happened to you! I know it’s out there, but geez, people can be mean!! I am sorry you had to pay such a price, but I will say HANG IN THERE, YOU ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING. I am not sure why people think that copyright infringement and keyboard bullying like this is OK? Please stick to it and stand up for the right thing, and feel good that you are not putting yourself at risk. When their “reign” ends, it will not be nice when they loose everything they have! And yes, it is sad that her husband is an attorney, he should know better. I also know of a few crafting groups that the owner and admins received letters from lawyers because they allowed copyright infringement in their group – people sharing files, selling designs. They freaked out because they were very close to being in big trouble, even though they didn’t create the designs, they allowed it.

      I have to take my last comment back…apparently it was indicating that I was “taking sides” in any copyright issues. To be clear, I am not taking anyone’s sides in this issue, I am merely blogging about a long standing issue in the creative community. If you think this blog or any other blog was directed at anyone specifically, you are wrong. So please don’t get me involved in anything, or this blog involved in anything. Does my next blog have to be about cyber bullying?

  5. AngieG Avatar

    To Lenora How old are these people. Name calling, criticizing. If the group does not support you, find a new group Better yet start your own group. Start a group who are honest and trustworthy. A group that will not allow stealing in any form. Sorry this happened to you and No I am not shocked. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Brenda Secoy Avatar
    Brenda Secoy

    I have a question about using licensed fabric to make items you sell at craft shows. Such as pillows, doll clothes, scarves, hats, ect. I have been told that when I purchase the fabric, I can only use it for my own use or possibly give as a gift…but can not sell. Can you clarify that for me please.

    1. OML Embroidery Avatar

      I can’t clarify that for you – i suggest you consult a lawyer – I am not a lawyer or a professional in copyright law, so I don’t want to give you any advice. Sorry 🙂

  7. Susanne Ray Avatar
    Susanne Ray

    I love your article…very eye opening to someone like me. I was one of those people that bought design files from a digitizer for the turtles, minions, pokemon etc….
    I am fairly new to embroidery and when I saw those designs I fell in love with their cuteness!
    I was under the impression that if I buy from a business it has to be legal/legit for me to make and sell.
    I made a Go fob and showed to my grown boys and they loved them but said in the same breath”Mom they are cute, but you know you cant sell them!” No, I did not know. I started reading up on it and realized that they were absolutely correct. I will not make anymore of them: 1; because I dont ever want to be a bad example to my kids (or anyone else for that matter) or make them think its okay to do something fishy just to make a buck, 2; It’s illegal and I am an honest person and intend to stay that way. lol
    All that to say that I’m sure there are many more people out there like me , uneducated about copyright stuff.
    Great article!!!
    Thank you

  8. OML Embroidery Avatar

    OH HECK NO! IF YOU GUYS THINK THAT THIS BLOG IS A GOOD PLACE TO FIGHT ABOUT YOUR COPYRIGHT ISSUES, YOU ARE WRONG. No way. And I am aware that there are two sides to the story, but please don’t get me involved in any of it because I am not taking sides, clearly. I just wrote a blog!! And yes, believe it or not, I can take any “hot topic” and put it on my blog if I want to, there is no point trying to bully me about what I write, so you can take your drama and issues elsewhere. I am not taking sides and I am not investigating any sides and I certainly have NOT harassed anyone at any time for any reason – I WROTE A GENERAL AND SLIGHTLY HUMOROUS BLOG ABOUT COPYRIGHT ISSUES.

  9. lynn bailey Avatar

    I have attempted to ask this question from what i see to be some of the major players in the digitising of disney and other well know movie/tv characters and giving them a suitable minor adjustment to the name and sell the digitised files, and guess what by email, facebook message or question on their posts they have not taken the time to respond.

    I wonder how in the USA it is such big business the whole towel peeker with these designs used that it is continuing so rife under what must be the nose of players like Disney, and yet in the UK in Cornwall a couple were highly strung up for selling disney copyrighted stuff and face huge fines.

    ?? Seems one rule for one and one for the others.

    1. OML Embroidery Avatar

      Its the same rules on copyright infringement worldwide. However I have since learned that the UK polices everything much more thoroughly so more people get caught, I assume. We don’t have the same level of policing in North America because the people who got caught have yet to be sued by Disney – they were caught by the Trades regulators (i can’t remember the name, someone in my Hatch group explained it to us all). And no changing the name to Ice Princess for a Frozen design doesn’t make it right, it just makes it harder for the bots on Etsy to find them and shut them down. So same rules, same punishments – except apparently it is harder to get caught in the USA. I think things always catch up with people though, and if people keep reporting them to Etsy AND disney, they will get noticed and shut down at some point.

      1. AngieG Avatar

        Its like anything, supply and demand. If the demand for stolen items stopped, than so would the supply. So you have to stop and think, who is the most guilty, the thief or the recipient? I would think it is fairly even. If you know something is being taken without the permission of the owner, be it Disney or any other rightful owner, are you not the same as the person who took it? I think so. It is very interesting and discerning that in the UK this type of crime is not tolerated. I would very much like to see the USA be more diligent in prosecuting the people who feel it is ok to take someone else work and clam it as their own. So I agree if WE diligently report these types of web sites or any other type of criminal activity, I think that would be good. And yes changing a name of an item does not make it yours.

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