Taylor Swift threatens to sue Etsy sellers – Business Insider
Taylor Swift is going to war with fans on Etsy
Feb. 6, 2015, 5:57 AM
Taylor Swift is cracking down on fans who are using the craft website Etsy to sell products with Swift’s trademarks, BuzzFeed reports.
The online marketplace allows users to sell their handcrafted goods — a kind of boutique eBay. It is popular with fan communities like Swift’s, and numerous T-shirts, pictures, candles and other items on the site are emblazoned with the singer’s image and lyrics.
But Swift has had enough, and she is issuing cease-and-desist letters to many sellers on the site.
It is important to note that Etsy doesn’t produce these items. Anyone can sell products on the site without prior approval from the company. But the company does have a duty to respond to objections and potential legal issues if it doesn’t want to be held responsible for potentially illegal content sold on its site. (It’s the same reason YouTube deletes copyrighted material from its site.)
At this point, there’s no indication that Swift is threatening to take legal action against Etsy.
One seller told BuzzFeed that fans saw themselves “as part of the artist’s story, however small. They want to contribute and be creative and have fun.” While fans acknowledge the artist’s intellectual property rights, the seller said, the action left them “with a bitter taste in our mouths. It feels as though we don’t matter, that our ideas and creations never belonged to us in the first place … And for other fans who make art, I’m afraid this is going to be the future.”
EtsySome of the Taylor Swift-themed products still available for purchase on Etsy.
As evidence of the purge, BuzzFeed points to a list of Taylor Swift-themed gifts it published in November. Only three of the 15 products from Etsy on the list remain on the site. A search of Etsy reveals there are still some Taylor Swift-themed products for sale — for now.
Another seller said she was “shocked” by the crackdown. “We didn’t feel as if it had become popular enough to cause harm to Taylor Swift’s empire … We didn’t even make enough money for a lawyer and this seemed like a harmless and fun idea.
“We grew a little angry and felt targeted by her camp,” she added.
It’s rare for Taylor Swift to anger her fans, even inadvertently. The singer goes to great lengths to cultivate and support her following, including sending hand-wrapped Christmas gifts and helping one fan to pay off her student loans.
But Swift is also cracking down on unauthorized uses of her personal brand. She recently applied to trademark several famous lyrics from her songs. These include “this sick beat” and “nice to meet you, where you been.” That could mean that she plans on releasing her own merchandise featuring those lyrics in the future. Swift has reportedly been taking some action against Etsy sellers before this, however. The earliest takedown notice BuzzFeed saw dates from 2013.
Celebrities can also have “personality rights” to their image and unauthorized reproductions of it, but this varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In the UK for example, celebrities do not have a legal right to control the use of their image. But they can take legal action if a product is marketed in a way that suggests they have endorsed it. Rihanna, using this argument, won a long-running dispute with the retailer Topshop over a T-shirt with a photo of her on it.
Beyoncé had her own showdown with Etsy in January. The singer reportedly threatened to sue Etsy over mugs sold on the site with the word “Feyoncé” on them — a play on the words “Beyoncé” and “fiancé.”
Etsy has issued the following statement:
Because of privacy and legal concerns, we can’t verify specific information about who contacts us. However, I can share more information about our copyright and intellectual property policy:
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