Copyright Etsy – Is someone copying your Etsy material?

Copyright Etsy material- Recently, a client called and asked if our firm could help her stop someone from copying her flyers (Copying Etsy) and selling them on Etsy cutting into her profits.  Let’s review the law.

Copying Etsy

Copyright Law

Copyright is a federal law in the US. It is found in Title 17 of the United States Code. A copyrighted work must be an original work of authorship and fixed in a tangible medium of expression.  That means the author created it without copying someone else, and it’s down on paper, canvas, saved to a hard drive or in some other tangible format.  Copyright is the right of authors to protect and control the use of their works. Works are literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recording, such as advertisements, books, databases, films, music, paintings, sculpture, to computer programs, maps, and technical drawings.  Copyright protection begins when the work is created. Registration is not required, although registration does have benefits when it comes to enforcing your copyright, such as statutory damages per infringement.

An expression of an idea is copyrightable, but the idea itself is generally not. Also, in general, there can be no copyright on diagrams, formulas, forms, procedures, and processes or things with a limited number of ways to express. Idea/expression merger doctrine.

According to the US Copyright Office, the following typically are not protected by copyright: titles, names, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols or designs, ideas, procedures, methods or processes.  These might be protectable through other forms of intellectual property, such as trademarks for slogans used in commerce and patents for new methods. Learn more about what is and isn’t protected by copyright here.

Etsy Example

Let’s work through an example- Copyright Etsy. You created a template for a flyer or an announcement and you want to sell it on Etsy.  The flyer template covers an idea, such as a form wedding announcement, a party invitation, or a school bake sale.  You have a layout, original text, and graphics that are works of your creative expression and the work may be the subject of a copyright.

However, if a competitor creates a similar flyer form using a different layout, original text, and graphics than yours, there is likely no copying of your form, and thus, no copyright violation.  Content such as the title of the form (Wedding Invitation) or stating its purpose (you are invited to attend…), entry space for date information, names, and addresses, and other like information is the idea itself and not protectable via copyright. So even though you were the first to come up with the school bake sale flyer you cannot prevent others from making bake sale flyers, provided the other party does not directly copy your original layout, text, and graphics.