Monday, January 28, 2008

Copyright Issues

First off, thanks to everyone for the spirited discussion concerning Etsy and Polyvore in the comments on our last post, even if it was a bit (ok, completely :-) off-topic. A forum would obviously be better for these kinds of discussions, but we understand that sometimes people just need to reach out however they can! Second, I'd like to offer our apologies for not officially responding sooner. We've been inundated with emails both from members of Polyvore and Etsy shop-owners, and we're responding to all of them as quickly as possible.

At Polyvore, we take copyright issues very seriously. Our goal is to be a place where both Polyvore set creators and the owners of the items in those sets will benefit from the community. It's in everyone's best interest for these items to link back to where they were found. First, it gives the owner proper credit and hopefully drives traffic back to their site. Second, in many cases it allows anyone to discover and buy these products.

For example, these Etsy earrings are the perfect accessory for this outfit:

Someone wondering what to wear with a dress like this can find inspiration from a set such as this one, and they can click on the green Etsy link to purchase those earrings. In a perfect world, that's how Polyvore should work.

In the case of Etsy, some product images have been imported that do not link directly back to the shop. When this happens, it can obviously be very upsetting. This is mainly a technology issue that we're currently trying to solve (see Pasha's explanation here). The best we can do now is to respond to requests from individual copyright owners as soon as we receive them.

In some other cases, Etsy artwork has been used in a way that the owner dislikes. Polyvore members create collages that can be very artistic in their own right, but we will always respect the rights of the original artists. Many Etsy folks are fired up about this, and we understand. These images are copyrighted by their respective owners and they have the right to request that their images be removed from Polyvore at any time. Any Etsy shop-owner can write an email to "copyright at polyvore dot com", and have their items removed from Polyvore if they so choose.

That aside, you should also be aware that many Etsy folks are quite happy to have their products featured on Polyvore, and have already been using Polyvore to promote their products. In response to the recent Etsy uproar, we've blocked importing products from Etsy and some Etsy members have been complaining in response.

So, what can we do now? Well, as good citizens of Polyvore, please be sure to import images from the page where they can be purchased - never download Jpeg or Gif files to be imported into Polyvore. Doing so makes it difficult for us to know where the image came from. And to the Etsy folks: we're very sorry for the situation and any ill feelings it has caused. We will be running an Etsy promotion on Polyvore once these issues are solved. However, please, don't take it out on our members - just send us an email! Our success depends on the happiness of our community, and as such, we'll do everything in our power to accomodate your requests.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Sarah for clarifying that! I'm a big fan of esty and really love to showcase unknown artist that don't necessarily get picked from the thousand on that website!!! I fully understand and support their concern, so thank you!

henedina said...

lol, sorry Sarah, that was my comment above

Ali J said...

As an artist what I do not appreciate is the fact that my artwork has been uploaded them manipulated, changed, recoloured and 'edited' beyond it's original format.

It's got nothing to do with not wanting people to feature my work. It has to do with the simple point that no matter where you are in the world, as soon as you CHANGE an artwork you are infringing on the copyright of the artist. Only the artist of the works has permission to alter the image.

In addition many watermarks have been removed off the works, punishable by law. A lot of member will find themselves being contacted and receiving fines of $2000 for removing those watermarks.

All these offences are beaking the law - and yes, they are punishable.

Anonymous said...

Although I am not an offending user, I have to put my say into this before retreating back to my hole:
So, people are going to fine users as young as 12 or 13 (possibly younger) because they haven't been taught about copyright laws yet (and this is not Polyvore's fault because they don't claim to be a copyright-instructing website, and much less would tweens/teens want to look at a website to learn all about copyright laws... ooh, boy, sounds fun) and innocently thought it was ok to change an image?

Sounds like the most just thing to me. (Sarcasm definitely intended here)

Anonymous said...

Thank you again for responding back to the community at large about this issue. I feel that a response back or comments should be directed to you and the blog because you are the ones running this site or have a inside connection to Polyvore. The issue with uploading pictures from free image hosting sites and other websites....I think this would be put to rest if Polyvore would offer a private folder, which I think people have been asking about for quite some time now. Not a permanently private folder but perhaps for a certain amount of days it could be private. Even one step further when we do upload an image if you could let us title (rather then tagging which only goes to organization really) what the piece is or who it is designed by, I think this would help also in the situations where just a picture pops up when you click on a item. I'm sure you have millions of emails to answer and suggestions to filter through but it also seems that the people on here have to run into obstacles first then a solution is figured out later. This site is wonderful and I'm sure you can see with all the interaction online how it really has exploded. One of the things I do love...which I think most of the Esty artists the promotion you can have for certain items or even designers and decor, the cross pollination is amazing on Polyvore! I look forward to seeing all the new things Polyvore has to offer.

archiac said...

many etsy artists would love to be featured on the polyvore site. but, this is the main issue with most artists, they want you to ask PERMISSION TO USE before you take photos or an image. polyvore needs to educate the users on this site on copyright law. preteens and teens are capable of understanding the basics of copyright. please educate your users.

GabyG said...

Thank you Sarah for clarifying a few points for us. But I still have a few doubts, one of them being: I am not a teen nor a pre teen but I don't understand how anyone was capable of removing a watermark? Maybe people are talking about people covering it with another item, but it is still fully visible once anyone clicks on the item? Now I am not that technologically savvy but I don't understand how people managed to remove it all together? On one of my first sets here I remember someone asking me if I knew how they could remove the words stockphoto from an item and I replied there that not only I didn't know but didn't believe they should do so anyway, as the watermark is there for a reason. And I recall that person replying to me that they had discovered it was impossible anyway. So I am kind of lost here.

Anonymous said...

This is mostly in response to the other comments.
It is unrealistic to require members to ask permission every time they are going to upload an image. it just isn't going to happen despite being required by law (and ignorance of the law is no excuse, although kids around 12-13 and under, depending on the jurisdiction, can't be found morally culpable criminally because of their age). But seriously, no member on here cares enough to ask permission every time they want to use an image. it takes too much time. so education would be useless.
As well, although punishable by law, members are from all over the globe, so good luck with trying to enforce those laws over multitudes of jurisdictions. it just isn't going to happen. furthermore, i haven't seen one member give their full name and exact address, so unless you live in a country where your internet provider gives out your personal information, there won't be any punishment for members (I don't know what the situation is like in the United States, but where I am from, I can still download songs and movies without any fear of being charged, and that is a much bigger issue than this).
The owners of polyvore might be faced with some legal action since they are easily accessible and haven't yet put in adequate safeguards to prevent copyright infringement. perhaps polyvore could ask individual sites owned by single businesses to either be included in polyvore or not. If they choose not to (despite the major promotion benefits) then polyvore can simply ban the site. For situations like etsy, etsy themselves should require the individual designers, when they upload their images for sale, to either opt in or out of use for polyvore and then ban those images that opt out of polyvore use. again though, polyvore is great for promotion as long as the link connects back to the artist and can be purchased from there.
For artwork that people manipulate to create new artistic pieces, someone is going to need to contact those artists and ask them to waive their rights. this is clearly the biggest issue because there aren't very many promotional benefits for this type of use, especially because their work has been distorted beyond recognition. Further, many artists may feel the integrity of their work has been prejudiced when manipulated using polyvore. i could ramble on for a long while regarding this issue, but i think some major changes will be needed. but again, good luck trying to enforce copyright legislation against members. this issue is very similar to the whole downloading music/movies issue so polyvore should look to what has been done in that situation regarding torrent software, as they also facilitate copyright infringement. I think most of them now have disclaimers and require you to certify that you will not be infringing any copyright, although they can't enforce it.
[my disclaimer: this is just my take on the situation and does not constitute legal advice.]

Sarah said...

Just an update - we're consulting with our lawyers about the watermark situation. As far as we know, no one has intentionally removed any watermarks, however watermarks may appear to have been removed if they are covered up in the collage or taken out when the background of the entire image is removed within the Editor.

Ali J: Please send all copyright inquiries to "copyright at polyvore dot com" - we ask that you please do not send copyright messages to Polyvore members. We will respond as quickly as possible, and we will remove your images immediately if that's what you wish - just as we've done for everyone else who has asked. Again, we will always respect the wishes of the original artists and if you do not want your images on Polyvore, they will be removed.

Sylvie said...

I, for one, could certainly live without any etsy images on polyvore. I think it's sad the etsy users decided that spamming the blog with legal threats was the best way of dealing with the situation.

Anonymous said...

Ditto what sylvie said.

YazzyYaz said...

I'm happy that Polyvore has brought some clarification to this copyright issue even though there is no definite resolution (that, I believe, will not happen anytime soon!). I want to reiterate Clove's suggestion on allowing us to give descriptions (in addition to tags, of course) to the items we upload, especially for those of us who often use free uploading sites. That way credit can be given to the right entities.

Of all the things I would like to see on Polyvore (and I have many 'ideas', LOL) I just wish for my proactivity on Polyvore's part. Speaking for myself, I am happy to give feedback/suggestions etc but I think more can be done on your part to actively anticipate and prevent some of the problems/issues we sometimes face on there. Like Clove said, it's like we first have to run into the obstacles and then a solution is figured out. I think that with a little more forethought, some of these obstacles could have been avoided in the first place.

Well that's my 2cents :)

YazzyYaz said...

I meant to say that I wish for *more* (not *my*, LOL) proactivity on Polyvore's part :)

Sarah said...

Watermark update: Yes, there is a $2000 fine for 1) knowingly removing or altering watermarks from images and then 2) knowingly displaying those images. However, we are unaware of anyone knowingly doing this, and it has never been and will never be the intent of Polyvore to do so.

I sympathize with the Etsy artists who have been hurt in this situation. Their work is personal, and it takes time and energy, and we want to sincerely apologize for any grief this has caused. We will do whatever we can to respect your rights and your wishes in this matter. If you do not want your images on Polyvore, please send us an email and we will remove them from our index immediately.

We are also working on improvements to our technology that should address these issues in the future, however, until then, we will not be allowing any further Etsy images to be indexed by our site.

We all have love for Etsy and respect what it's doing in the marketplace, and we hope that handmade goods will have a place on Polyvore someday, for any artist that wishes to have them there.

threecatsmmm said...


Let me ask for clarification. When you wrote "As far as the sets being the property of Polyvore - all images found on the site are copyrighted by their respective owners." When you say "items" and "respective owners", I assume you are talking about the individuals pieces of a "set" or creation. This seems to be what your copyright rules are talking about.

There may be a misunderstanding. (The original e-mail is at the bottom.) I was talking about the creations or sets that members of Polyvore, such as I, are creating. Are you saying, for instance, that if I create a set (assuming no copyright laws are broken) is mine? I have a copyright of my own work? This is important to know.

If people do have a copyright to their own work, if someone copies it, do we report it to Polyvore? Polyvore must have a way to see who originated the creation. Sometimes the set is copied by more than one person or a person copies many sets. What do you do?

Thank you for answering these sticky questions.


--- polyvore com wrote:

Hi Lynn,
Thanks for your questions! Printing sets is a feature that we're hoping to add soon, but for now you can try using your browser's print function to print (I'd suggest previewing it first, though.) As far as the sets being the property of Polyvore - all images found on the site are copyrighted by their respective owners. You can read more about the copyright information here:
Hope this helps!
Sarah from Polyvore

On Jan 14, 2008 9:38 AM, wrote:

Hi, I have a couple of questions. First, can I print out my sets? Second, are the sets property of Polyvore? Thank you for your time.
Lynn Iwamoto

ZeMathLynn said...

BTW, threecatsmmm is ZeMathLynn on Polyvore. Sorry, I got confused when signing in.

threecatsmmm said...

By the way, I neglected to THANK YOU and Polyvore for the post on this blog and the scramble to respect the wishes of Etsy artists. The event shows as you stated that it is very, very difficult to please everyone. I hope we as a community can continue to be responsive as well as proactive in dealing with issues.

kittenspawn said...

As an Etsy Seller, I want to take a moment to thank you for educating your users on this situation.

It was extremely frightening for me as an artist to discover that Etsy sellers work was being used without their consent.

Thank you so much for stepping up and addressing the situation, and offering a solution.

It is appreciated.

DancingMooney said...

I personally sell on etsy as well, and had never heard of Polyvore until this issue came up. I'd be delighted if one of my items were featured in a spread from your site, however i'd like to be notified that it's been done as the photographs I take of my items are mine, and should not be used without my permission.
Great idea you have with this site...


Jael Paris said...

Well, that explains some things. I'd wanted to promote some of my favorite Etsy sellers (and I'd talked to them about it), but the clipper wouldn't clip. Now I know!

Anonymous said...

What's up with all these sets having "invalid items" all of the sudden? So many of my sets have been hidden!

Anonymous said...

First of all, the burden on individual artists for searching out/finding infringement should NOT be the main focus.

It is unethical of Polyvore to simply say, "we'll take it down."

You MUST create an environment that does not allow infringement in the first place.

The burden is on Polyvore NOT the artists.

Polyvore is really opening themselves up for some major lawsuits here.

And the notion that it's OK for a 12 year old to do it because they just don't get it is insulting.

You should not allow anything to be uploaded without a link back and you should actively police your own site.

I haven't really ever seen such irresponsible and unethical and immoral behavior from a "business" that claims to have legitimate goals.

Wake up. What you are allowing is illegal in the first place.

You bear the burden to follow the law and enforce lawful compliance by your members.

The burden is NOT on the artists to find infringement.

Take some responsibility. Despite your lovely words your actions speak much louder.

You don't care.

Anonymous said...

As an photographer who's work has been stolen from my website, I am disgusted by Polyvore.
It is ILLEGAL to take artists copywritten work without their permission, or at all, and to use it in anyway, as well as edit the art in any way.
The ability to send a message to get photos removed does nothing, because as soon is it is taken down, it can be readded.
If this is a fashion website, why are photos unrelated to fashion being stolen?
In response to those who said it would be unfair to fine Polyvore users who don't yet know about copywrite laws, they are neccessarily not in the wrong. The problem is that Polyvore is allowing them to do so, and that people who are wellaware of the fact that they are stealing art do it anyway through this site.
Also, of all the photos that were stolen from my site, not one of them was credited back to my site, so it is inaccurate to say that this happens.
You say that no one can buy the art off the site, but they can print their sets. That is even worse-- in addition to stealing and taking credit for other peoples art online, you are allowing people to print out other people's art, that could then be sold, or used in other ways offline.
I think I speak for the majority of artists who's art has been stolen in saying that this website is absolutely shameful and promotes illegal activites.

Anonymous said...

Regarding young kids infringing copyright, have you forgotten how kids (their parents) were sued thousands of dollars for illegally downloading music? You say kids don't put their correct or full address when they sign up for Polyvore, but every time you sign on with your computer, your computer transmits an IP address that leads directly to your internet provider, who has your full name, address, phone number.

And regarding removing or covering up of watermarks, Section 1202 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it illegal for anyone to remove watermarks from an image. Fines start at $2500 and go to $25,000 in addition to attorneys' fees and any damages for the infringement.

And are you forgetting that Napster and Grokster were sued and lost their court cases?

Napster's lawyers unsuccessfully tried to use the very same argument that Polyvore has been using on this Blog, that file sharing was simply an extension of fair use. But the courts ruled in favor of a zero tolerance approach, shutting down Napster until it had made the new effective filters. The new ruling made clear that every file-sharing system has to filter out items that are copyrighted. The court ruled that Napster's days as an instrument for electronic shoplifting are over. Polyvore will likely suffer the same fate.

She Who Shall Not Be Named said...

Wow. I agree that effecting the item's color and removing watermarks is wrong, but some of these Etsy shop owners need to lighten up.

Creating a collage that's not for profit and only for reference falls under fair use, if you don't manipulate the object in the image that falls under copy write law.
None of your lawsuits are going to go through.

Skylar Magazine said...

I do not see how Polyvore or it's members have violated any laws. Polyvore is a wonderful way to promote people's art, and products, but it is also a way for people to get to be creative in their own way by creating collages featuring various products, etc. Some of the items might be altered a bit, in order to make it work for the collage, and it's really not much different from what a lot of Etsy store owners do. A lot of them do DIY, or they take original pieces and cut them up and make them their own. Creating a collage on Polyvore is not much different than making one from home. Have you never clipped pics from magazines and made them into a collage? I see stuff like that all the time on Etsy come to think of it... Decoupage. Think of Polyvore is an online virtual Decoupage. Also, I've seen stuff that artists have done that feature people like Marilyn Monroe, or cartoon characters, or tv shows such as Big Bang Theory. I highly doubt those people have been given permission to use those images, or their names for their art. So, there seems to be double standards here. That's why I don't like the Anonymous commenting. Polyvore is an online DIY site really when you think of it, but viewers can see the original item the way it was, and if properly linked can go and purchase it from the artist. So, why are you complaining if it is a chance for you to make money. Don't bite the hand that feeds you!

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't Polyvore created a relationship with Etsy whereby if you were fine with your images being used, you would allow it. If you were not, the site would prohibit Polyvore's "clipper" posting the image to the set.

What I have found is that Polyvore says one thing, but does another. They prohibit using copyrighted materials, but don't stop it from appearing on their site. Same thing with their images that are not rated family friendly. They accept computer-generated images from sites each day, and do not filter what is posted in their Editor database.

It leaves me scratching my head how a company can get away with playing both fields.

Anonymous said...

Dear polyvore
i am a big fan of polyvore. i am a women shoe designer, a fashion illustrator and a fashion blogger as well. I studied at Parsons The New School for Design in manhattan new york city.
As a designer i also highly respect designers copyrights.
So i have two questions to polyvore.
1. is it regally okay to upload and publish sets i have created so far to my personal blog for ONLY my fashion hobby?
2. im planning to do my own personal fashion broacasting soon. Is it regally okay to make the best use of my sets that i have created so far now and sets will be created in future to my personal broadcasting?
My personal fashion broadcasting is going to be ONLY for sharing my fashion ideas, my sense of fashion creations, and how to mix and match fashion items etc with non-professional people and viewers.
It is totally NOT for commercial purpose but ONLY for my satisfaction and sharing fashion ideas with people.
Please answer to my questions as soon as possible you can because i already sent you a request but i havent gotten any reply email from polyvore.
I am looking forward to hearing clear answer from you soon.
Thank you

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