Service of One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Is Etsy Too Big?

June 22nd, 2020

Categories: Art, Artist, Arts & Crafts, Copyrights, E-Commerce, E-tailing, Theft

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

I was in awe of the Etsy platform when it launched 15 years ago as “a virtual storefront for hipsters’ arts and crafts” as Taylor Majewski wrote in It went public in 2015 and describes itself as “an American e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. These items fall under a wide range of categories, including jewelry, bags, clothing, home décor and furniture, toys, art, as well as craft supplies and tools.”

According to, last year it reported 2.5 million sellers and 39.4 million buyers around the world.

I’ve loved and bought crafts for decades, promoted one of the big east coast shows for years and was thrilled that talented artisans had another vital way to expand their customer bases and generate sales.

Something happened. Carlene Gleman founder, artist and owner of Greymount Paper & Press, described her predicament in a series of Facebook postings. If her name and company are familiar it’s because I featured her in “Service of Ordering Online During a Pandemic,” last month.

Gleman claims that Etsy’s new off-site advertising program has “directly led to our artwork being repeatedly stolen.”  She found over 20 instances of theft in three months. Before Etsy introduced this new program, it had only happened once in five years.

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

While the platform appears to be helping promote some of its successful vendors’ products without repercussions, for a business like Greymount based on an artist’s creations, it is at huge cost. She said while the company’s new marketing approach should work for furniture makers, for example, “it creates trouble for shops whose artwork can be stolen with the click of a mouse.”

With a simple fix her work wouldn’t be in jeopardy, but in the last year, the brand has begun to insist on 2,000px high-resolution images for all listings. “A thief can download, copy, and easily remove watermarks from photos with this resolution,” said Gleman. “Lower resolution images, which Etsy allowed in the past, discourage theft by largely preventing enlargement and printing.”

Sellers who generate $10,000 gross profit according to Etsy’s calculations, [they include postage in the sales total!], must participate in Etsy’s new offsite marketing program, and, Gleman reports, are excluded from the platform’s internal search engine. [You know–the toolbar that helps you find “greeting cards” or “art featuring otters.”]

Upon learning about the new program, Gleman immediately turned off all advertising for her shop, to prevent her listing images from appearing on websites thought to be resources for copyright theft.

She checked her seller dashboard after she realized that her images were being stolen from her Etsy listings. She was incurring advertising fees. “Etsy was blasting my artwork across the web without my knowledge.”

She has hired a lawyer to fight the art thieves and has turned off her Etsy shop, permanently. She now sells her greeting cards, art prints, and gifts exclusively through her own website.

“See if an artist has a website and if it’s possible purchase through them directly,” Gleman recommends. She has decided to never again sell on a 3rd party platform that forces her to participate in advertising programs where she can’t control where her artwork appears.

The world of craft is diverse. The marketers at Etsy aren’t taking this into account. Do you know of other businesses that have tripped up when they haven’t recognized the differences in their clients?  Can you share other examples of copyright infringement?

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press



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7 Responses to “Service of One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Is Etsy Too Big?”

  1. EAM Said:

    EAM wrote on Facebook: That’s unethical and disturbing. Unfortunately, happens too often.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Carlene is going after the art thieves so let’s hope she discourages some. Etsy can help by not requiring high res images from its sellers.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Terrible thing to happen to anyone. Hope the thieves are caught, and forced to make restitution to their victims. It’s high time for the tail to stop wagging the dog!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t know whether there is a way for Carlene Gleman to be compensated for the stolen art but stopping it from happening in the first place is her priority. She has cauterized the situation by removing her business from Etsy that was posting her high res images on sites from which art thieves poached her work to enhance their products.

    I will keep an eye out for updates which she is good at posting on Facebook.

  5. Carlene Gleman Said:

    Carlene wrote on Facebook:

    I think it’s important to put more positives into the world than negatives, and I’ve been a Debbie Downer lately with our designs being stolen and needing to warn everyone, etc.

    However, one emotion outweighs the frustration, violation, anger, and helpless feelings of the last few days, and that feeling is gratitude, toward all of you.

    Without your detective work, 🕵️‍♀️ I would be “up a creek without a paddle” and yes, there’s a swear word I’ve left out that you’re welcome to mentally replace. And, that help MATTERS. During a period in history where we’re all feeling a bit helpless (for SO MANY REASONS), being alerted to these thefts directly helped me stand up to the “bad guys”.

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Thieves can only take, they can’t create. I consider it a compliment that they thought our artwork was worth snatching…even if it really sucks to deal with (hey! I have a card for that!).

    And now, I’m gonna kiss my husband and smooch my baby, dust myself off, and get right back to the drawing board (which I suppose is now an iPad?). It takes a lot more than one jerk or one shady company to throw this lady off her game.


    See? Excelsior! (ever upward) 😊🙃

  6. MarthaTakayama Said:

    Intellectual property should be respected. Violation of copyright law and unauthorized stealing of visual material is inexcusable. Apparently Estsy offers no protection for its vendors. One basic caution is to keep web images to a relatively low resolution and/or use watermarks. I once tried to register for Etsy, but found it incredibly and irritatingly complicated and terribly pretentious. Its precious self-promotion did not impress me.

    My recommendation to any artist, artisan, or individual wishing to sell online would be to try to market directly with an attractive website, seek assistance from non-profit or professional associations or reputable vendors or look at other venues or platforms.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Carlene Gleman agrees with your advice. She does her own advertising on Facebook and has an active social media PR program with lots of followers. She’s a savvy business woman as well as a talented artist.

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