Competition is getting fiercer on Etsy — and some sellers of handcrafted knickknacks, jewelry and home furnishings are accusing their rivals of dirty tactics.
Over the past month, Elyza Davis has racked up 43,000 “likes” for a viral TikTok post in which she claimed a competitor had shut down her Etsy shop, abruptly halting sales of her witchcraft-themed holiday ornaments by falsely claiming that she had violated a copyright.
Davis said the competing seller, who runs the Etsy store MimAndTheAnvil, had a trademark registration for “fairy orbs” that she claims had nothing to do with her $8 to $12 “spell balls” — which are filled with herbs, charms and other witchcraft-themed ephemera.
“I find this frustrating not just from the perspective of one small business attacking another,” Davis told The Post. “This has happened during the holiday season — meaning that my product has less time to sell before the USPS shipping cutoff date for Christmas.”.
Etsy yanked Davis’s ornaments on Nov. 9 and she wasn’t able to relist them until Nov. 24. The seller who initiated the complaint against Davis declined to comment, citing “upcoming legal proceedings” in an e-mail to The Post.
Etsy’s “take-down notices” for sellers of homemade toys, clothing and furniture jumped 60 percent in 2020, the most recent data available, to more than 54,000, according to the company’s Web site. The takedowns spike around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and “it’s typically competitors trying to slow down someone else,” according to Brent Sausser, a partner at law firm Sausser Summers PC, which represents sellers in such disputes.
For its part, Etsy appears to be complying strictly with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA — which can result in taking down sellers’ items on a single, unsubstantiated complaint. The problem, Sausser says, is that Etsy is effectively relying on the “honor system,” taking the “word of the person who submits the infringement complaint.” Sausser said sites like Etsy do little — if anything — to vet complaints, but they’re quick to remove targeted listings.
Asked by The Post for comment, Etsy said that “abusive notices or other misuse” of the policy could result in a seller’s termination on the site. It declined to comment further.
Complaints of poor policing abound. One seller who listed an owl keychain saw it removed after a complaint claimed it violated a “Harry Potter” copyright.
“It is, indeed, an owl keychain — and there is, indeed, an owl in Harry Potter — but that’s where the similarity ends,” the seller said. “I looked at my listings/tags, and there is no mention of Harry Potter in there at all.”
The owl complaint purportedly came from a representative of “Harry Potter” distributor WarnerMedia. But another seller who had also been flagged claimed on Reddit that reps for the entertainment giant said they hadn’t filed the Etsy complaints. WarnerMedia reps couldn’t be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, sellers targeted by the bogus claims say they have tried in vain to get help from Etsy.
“They literally have zero seller support,” said one Reddit user, who also was shut down by the fake Warner account. “They don’t have chat, phone and they NEVER answer the ‘e-mail’ feature.”
Filing a copyright-infringement claim on Etsy requires no proof aside from a signed attestation of the claim’s truthfulness. The complainer fills out a three-page form, including links to the offending merchandise. Targeted sellers can file a counterclaim, and if the other seller doesn’t respond with a lawsuit within 10 days, the items can be reinstated.
But Etsy can also withhold revenue from the targeted seller’s sales for up to 90 days if it considers the seller a “risk,” according to letters Etsy sends sellers that were obtained by The Post.
Another Etsy seller who received a takedown notice shortly before Black Friday, Mona Weiss, said, “The infringement process is very one-sided.” Weiss got slapped with a complaint alleging that she was infringing on a copyright for decorated animal skulls, despite the fact that at least a dozen other sellers are offering similar items on Etsy.
Even more frustrating, she said, the complaint didn’t list a copyright. Weiss, who runs Laughing Skull Studio in Ohio, said she searched the federal copyright database and came up with nothing.
“Anyone can file an allegation,” Weiss said. “I believe the seller wanted to knock me out of the game for Black Friday.”
It’s not just Etsy. Chris McCabe, a former Amazon executive who’s now an e-commerce consultant, said the take-down requests are a “common practice” on the site of the Seattle-based e-tailing giant, and are sometimes sent from fake e-mail accounts.
One of McCabe’s clients who sells on Amazon lost more than $1 million in sales due to a bogus copyright complaint — and another seller was attacked with such complaints 14 times, he said.
“These complaints are usually competitor abuse,” McCabe told The Post. “It’s the allegations that matter and Amazon is afraid to be accused of not protecting trademark rights.”