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Thomas Swartz
Thomas Swartz, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 3176
Experience:  Twenty one years experience as a lawyer in New York and New Jersey. Former Appellate Law Clerk.
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I'm an etsy crafter/seller, and another seller has accused

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I'm an etsy crafter/seller, and another seller has accused me of copyright infringement. We both make christmas ornaments using strips of paper curled from old books. Our products are similar, but not exact copies. It seems to me this other seller is claiming a copyright over the idea or process of curling the paper and putting it in an ornament. Can they copyright that?
JA: Do you have a registration record?
Customer: No. This seller does not have her copyright registered.
JA: Have you talked to a local attorney? Has anything been filed in court?
Customer: Nothing has been filed in court, but based on their claim, Etsy was obligated to take down my listings. I haven't talked to a local attorney yet. I wasn't sure where to start. For such a small business, it seems like a huge undertaking to bring this to court.
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: If needed I can provide examples of the listings.


You are correct that you cannot claim copyright over the idea or process of using strips of paper to make Christmas ornaments. Copyright does not protect ideas, it only protects how particular ideas are expressed in works of authorship. This is clearly set forth in the copyright law at 17 U.S. Code 102(b) which provides:

(b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

So, the other seller really has no legitimate claim of copyright infringement against you for merely using the same technique or process of making these ornaments. If you copied the particular ornaments the other seller made there might be a legitimate claim. But if your ornaments are different there is no legitimate copyright claim.

In terms of Etsy, the only thing I can suggest is that you point them to 17 U.S. Code 102(b) and simply argue that merely using the same technique is not copyright infringement.

I hope this helps.


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