What To Do When Your Designs Are Copied with Jade from Ginger Pickle
Welcome, welcome to Jade from Ginger Pickle! Jade was one of the very first people I met online when I started my business, so we’ve probably known each other almost 10 years! It’s been a pleasure to watch her business grow over the years and so I was particularly upset to see some of her work had been copied. Jade wanted to make sure others knew what to do if the same thing happened to them so she generously shared her process with us. Grab a cuppa and get to know Jade…
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Jade Murray, owner and founder of Ginger Pickle, which I launched in 2012 after graduating from Gray’s School of Art with a BA Hons in Fine Art. Ginger Pickle is home to cute and quirky laser cut jewellery and illustrated art prints, currently based in my home studio in the North East of Scotland in Aberdeen. You will usually find me with a cup of tea in hand, listening to a true crime podcast whilst making my jewellery or art! I’m due to be getting married in August this year to my other half, who I’ve been with over 10 years, here is hoping Covid is well and truly over by then!
Last year you were made aware that imitations of your designs were being sold on another platform without your permission. Could you tell us a bit about what happened and how it felt to have your work copied?
I discovered that three of my designs – the French Bulldog, Owl and Teepee earrings – had been illegally copied and were being sold on Aliexpress, both in single and wholesale quantities. Luckily someone spotted it, otherwise I never would have found out, as it just wasn’t on my radar that my designs would get copied.
This then sent me down a rabbit hole of searching and trying to find other places selling illegal copies of my designs, as I knew if Aliexpress were selling them in bulk then other places would have bought them to then resell. I discovered places such as Etsy, Amazon and independent shops were selling these illegal copies.
My initial feelings of course were shock and disbelief, I’m a small independent maker from Aberdeen, Scotland and someone in Asia was copying my designs, it really just goes to show it can happen to anyone. Then my feelings turned to anger, how dare they copy my work, pass it off as their own and get money from my designs? I’ve worked hard to create something from scratch, months and years of trial and error to get the designs just right. This frustration led to action and I got to work to try and solve the problem.
What kind of reaction did you have from family, friends and the online community? I was initially hesitant to put it ‘out there’ on social media, I didn’t want to seem like an angry person, but I thought my followers needed to know so I went for it. I showed my designs next to the illegal copies and it really highlighted the extent of the copying. The reaction from my friends, family and online community was just like mine, everyone was shocked this happened but also really supportive, I had asked for some help and got so many replies and resources to look into. It spurred me on even more to get them taken down!
What steps did you take towards resolving this matter? Were some more effective than others? I was a bit overwhelmed with it all, so I took a few days to take stock as I wanted a clear head to get going with getting it taken down. One of the best resources I was given was a website called https://pintheft.com. Although my designs are not pins, it was a great resource to call upon as it had all the links for where to report on Etsy, Amazon, Aliexpress etc.
1. One of the first tasks I did was to find all of the copied designs and take a screenshot or screen recording of them. In my case, I searched for ‘wooden french bulldog earrings’ on google image search for example and this meant I could quickly see the places selling them. Sometimes this wasn’t enough and I had to search on the marketplaces themselves, and I discovered more places selling them, so that is something to bear in mind.
2. Once this was done and I had all my screenshots, I then saved them to a folder by marketplace or website. For example, I had an Aliexpress folder and an Amazon folder.
3. I then made a file of all of my own designs that were being copied, so in my case I had a French Bulldog, Owl and Teepee folder. I saved a current picture of these designs in each folder, as well as an original picture of when I first posted the design on facebook, or instagram for example. I also wanted to show when I first listed these designs in an online marketplace, so I went to my Etsy account in the Finance section and looked back at my 2012 monthly statement and made a screenshot of when the first listing was made.
4. I then made a list of the places I would tackle first, as to not get so overwhelmed. I made a Copyright Infringement letter which I sent to the independent shops, along with the evidence of my designs and the copied designs from their website, I included a deadline for when they should take down the listings and they all did quickly before the deadline.
For the marketplaces, I referred to this page on the website https://pintheft.com/resources/ and it took me to links where I could report copyright infringement on each marketplace.
For Aliexpress there were a lot of steps involved, but don’t let that put you off, once it was all approved the listings were taken down quickly. I was required to prove my identity so I needed to scan a copy of my ID along with a form, once that is done you needed to do what is called proof of intellectual property right for each of the designs in question which was another form. Something to note was that this was required for each design along with the evidence, so if you had 50 designs being copied you would have to do this 50 times! And only when that approved I could then submit a complaint for each design, again one at a time.
The process for reporting copyright infringement on Etsy and Amazon is more straightforward, Etsy took down the listings very quickly, however Amazon took a while but I have managed to get all of the designs down for each marketplace and website so I am chuffed!
Based on this experience, is there anything you’d change about the way you work going forward? I find it good practice to keep records and evidence of the products you have created – photographs, screenshots, screen recordings etc. In the UK you get copyright protection automatically – you don’t have to apply or pay a fee. There isn’t a register of copyright works in the UK.
You automatically get copyright protection when you create:
original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including illustration and photography
original non-literary written work, such as software, web content and databases
sound and music recordings
film and television recordings
the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works
You can mark your work with the copyright symbol (©), your name and the year of creation. Whether you mark the work or not doesn’t affect the level of protection you have. Source – https://www.gov.uk/copyright
If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking of starting a small business, what would it be?
Businesses can take a lot of work to set up and get going, and managing a business requires constant nurturing and attention. Before starting out, ask yourself, why am I starting a business? How does it reflect who I am? Am I ready? You need to be passionate about what you are doing after all, after the initial excitement, this can dry up so just be sure you are committed for the long haul. Have a solid plan and idea and how it translates into the real world, will people buy it?
Get your costs right at the start for selling in shops, you may only want to sell online for now and that is fine, but one day you may get lots of lovely shops wanting to stock your work and you need to have the right pricing model from the get go. Clare Yuille is an expert on this: https://www.indieretailacademy.com/pricing-for-wholesale-and-retail/
I could go on with more practical advice, but the main thing as well to remember is that you will never have everything perfect and the beauty of a small business is that you will learn and adapt as you go along – I know I certainly did!
What are you working on next?
I’ve had some fantastic new images of my range from Holly Booth Studio so I am working on adding these to my new website which is about half way finished! I also have 7 new laser cut pieces which I will launch with the new website, as well as updating my wholesale catalogue, so it’s all go here! I am also discontinuing my older artwork and working on some brand new pieces, so will be adding to my print and card range in the coming months. Everything takes a lot of time, especially as I am also working full time at the minute, so it is definitely a balancing act and a lot of work in my spare time, but i’ll get there eventually : )
Where can we find your lovely work online?
You can find my work in the following:
My website: http://www.gingerpickle.co.uk