How to Protect Your Printable Designs from Being Copied or Stolen- A Must Read Guide

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Disclaimer: It’s important to note that we are not lawyers, and the information provided in this blog post should not be taken as legal advice.

Selling printables and digital products on Etsy can be an incredibly rewarding and profitable venture.

With the rise of online marketplaces piracy and plagiarism are common issues in the digital world and quite common when selling on Etsy.

It’s become increasingly important to safeguard your hard work from being swiped or duplicated without your consent.

In this blog post, we’ll explore some ways you as designers can protect your printable designs from being copied or stolen.

how to protect your printable designs from being copied or stolen

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property, also known as IP, refers to the legal rights that are associated with the creations of the mind.

These creations can include literary works, artistic works, inventions, and symbols or designs used in commerce.

Intellectual property laws are designed to protect these creations and give their designer the exclusive right to use and profit from them.

There are several different types of intellectual property, including:

  • Copyright: Copyright protects original works of authorship, such as books, music, and artwork. Copyright gives the owner the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and display the work.
  • Trademark: A trademark is a symbol, word, or phrase to identify and distinguish a product or service. Trademark law protects the owner’s exclusive right to use the trademark and prevents others from using a confusingly similar mark.
  • Patent: A patent is a legal right granted to inventors for a specific period, usually 20 years, to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention.
  • Trade secrets: Trade secrets are confidential information that gives a business a competitive advantage. Examples of trade secrets include customer lists, manufacturing processes, and business plans.

As a printable Etsy seller, it is important to understand your intellectual property rights and step the proper steps to protect your designs.

By doing so, you can ensure that your hard work and creativity are not stolen or copied without your permission.

In this video, Taylor will teach you a few ways you can protect your digital products from being copied or stolen and what you can do if you find someone has taken them.

Ways to Protect Your Printable Designs from Being Copied or Stolen

We’ve compiled 7 ways that you can help to protect your printable designs from being copied or stolen.

Add Watermarks

One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect your printable designs is to add a watermark to your listing images.

A watermark is a translucent image or text that is placed over your design, print, or artwork, making it more difficult for others to steal or copy your work.

When creating a watermark, it’s important to choose a design that is subtle enough not to detract from your product or image but prominent enough to deter would-be thieves.

Here at Gold City Ventures™, we don’t recommend that you add watermarks to listing images as that can distract potential buyers and can reduce your overall conversion rate.

In addition to a watermark added to your listing images, you can add your business name, logo, or a copyright symbol to your printable itself in a space that does not take away from the product. This too will make it difficult for others to use your designs without permission.

Use Password Protection

Another way to protect your printable designs is to use password protection.

This method is especially useful if you’re selling digital products that are delivered to users either via email or using download links.

You can password-protect your files so that only those who have purchased the product can access it, as well as adding a password-protect can prevent users from making unauthorized changes to the product, then reselling and claiming it as their own.

This not only protects your designs but also ensures that only paying customers can access your product.

This method works best for certain types of printables like Excel files.

Keep in mind if you choose to password-protect any of your products, it may cause more customer service issues than you would like and may not be worth it.

Limit the Number of Images Displayed in Your Listing Images

If you’re concerned about your unique designs being copied, you can reduce the number of images displayed of your product that is being seen by your potential buyer.

listing image example
Showing only a few pages of your product helps to reduce your competitor’s ability to copy any text from your design.

For example, if you are selling a printable product that has multiple pages, you might only show a few pages of the product throughout your listing images so that competitors cannot copy the text that is on your product.

In addition, you can also add elements to your listing images that block some of the text on your printable designs but do not take away from the overall design.

It is important to note that doing this can also reduce your conversion rate, as buyers typically like to see all, if not most, of the product they are purchasing before deciding to buy.

Creating these kinds of listing images can be done using Canva!

What Can you do with Canva?

Canva is the #1 tool that all printable sellers should learn. You can make designs very quickly using Canva and can use it to create materials for your business or start a new business with your Canva designs! Learn more about what this platform can do.

Related posts:
The Best Ways to Make Money with Canva
The Ultimate Guide to Using Canva to Sell on Etsy

Register Your Designs

While Registering your designs with the US Copyright Office is a powerful way to protect your printable designs, it is rarely done when selling printables on websites or Etsy but is possible.

Once registered, your design is protected by law, and you have the right to take legal action against anyone who copies or uses your original work without permission.

Registering your designs can be a lengthy process, but it may be a worthwhile investment in protecting your unique IP.

Use DMCA Takedown Notices

If you discover that someone has copied or stolen your printable designs, you can use DMCA takedown notices to have the infringing content removed.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a federal law that provides a framework for removing copyrighted content from the internet.

To issue a DMCA takedown notice, you’ll need to provide proof of ownership of the copyrighted material and provide a statement that the use of the material is unauthorized.

Monitor Your Printable Products

Being vigilant about your printable product designs and on the lookout for infringement is crucial to safeguarding your creative work.

A nifty trick to help you spot any unauthorized usage is to conduct reverse image searches of your listing images.

This clever technique can quickly alert you to any instances of your designs popping up elsewhere on the web without your permission.

In addition, you can periodically scan Etsy and see if there’s anything infringing on your designs, and follow the steps above if you do find something.

Educate Your Customers

Finally, it’s important to educate your customers on the importance of respecting your IP.

Include a note in your product descriptions or on your website that explains the importance of not sharing or copying digital products without permission.

terms of use example
Adding a simple terms-of-use page like this one can deter others from copying your products.

Some sellers also include a page with usage rights within the printable itself.

Protecting your printable designs from being copied or stolen requires a combination of strategies.

By using the above-mentioned strategies, you can help to safeguard your intellectual property and ensure that your creative work and designs are protected.

Why Would Someone Want to Copy My Printable Design?

There are several reasons why someone may want to copy your printable designs on Etsy:

  1. Profit: One of the most common reasons why individuals copy designs is to make a profit. They may see a popular design and believe that they can create a similar item and sell it at a lower price, thus undercutting the original creator.
  2. Lack of Creativity: Some individuals may not have the skills or creativity to come up with their own designs. They may see a successful design and believe that they can recreate it to sell to their own customers.
  3. Quick and Easy: Copying someone else’s design can be a quick and easy way to make money. Rather than spending time and effort coming up with their own designs, copycats can simply take an existing design and sell it as their own.
  4. Lack of Understanding: Some individuals may not understand the importance of respecting intellectual property rights. They may assume that if a design is available online, it’s free for anyone to use.

Regardless of the reasons why someone may want to copy your designs, it’s important to take steps to protect your IP.

By enforcing your rights and taking action against copycats, you can help deter others from stealing your hard work and ensure that you receive the recognition and compensation you deserve.

What Do I Do If I Find Someone Has Copied My Design?

There is nothing more frustrating than coming across a copycat or discovering someone has copied your design or original work.

There are steps you can take if you come across any infringement, however, it is important to understand the difference between what the actual infringement is.

We’ve created a guide on everything you need to know about Etsy copyright infringement, so be sure to give it a read!

Infringement happens when your intellectual property is used without the person’s permission.

When it comes to copying, the word can vary from person to person.

One might think that because another seller’s design looks similar to yours, they are copying you.

But there is a difference between creating similar-looking items and using your name or posting your photos without your permission.

Etsy offers an ultimate guide to understanding infringement and what to do about copycats.

If you find that someone has copied your design, it’s important to take action.

However, before taking any steps, it’s important to determine if the person has actually copied your entire design or if they’ve created something that’s simply inspired by your work.

If it’s the latter, unfortunately, there may not be anything you can do about it.

However, if you’ve determined that your design has been copied, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Contact the Seller

The first step you should take is to contact the seller who has copied your design. You can do this via Etsy message and politely ask them to remove the listing.

Sometimes, the seller may not realize that they’re infringing on your copyright and may be willing to take down the listing once they’re made aware of the issue.

  1. Report the Listing to Etsy

If the seller is unwilling to take down the listing, you can report the listing to Etsy.

Etsy takes intellectual property infringement very seriously and has a dedicated team to handle such issues.

report this item to etsy example image
To report a listing, go to the listing page and click on the “Report this item to Etsy” link.
  1. Take Legal Action

If the seller is still unwilling to remove the listing or if the infringement is particularly egregious, it may be worth exploring what options you have legally.

This can be a costly and time-consuming process, so it’s important to weigh the potential costs against the potential benefits before pursuing legal action.

While copycats are a part of the printables world, you should not dwell too much on copying. It can waste a lot of your time.

The best advice would be to focus on improving your business. Even though it is frustrating, copycats are not original sources and will eventually fail.

Don’t Let Fear of Copying Stop You from Creating an Etsy Shop

While it’s important to take steps to protect your intellectual property, it’s also important not to let fear of copying stop you from creating an Etsy shop.

Every business has some level of risk, and copying is a risk that comes with selling digital products online.

However, the rewards of opening an Etsy shop can far outweigh the risks.

By creating a quality product and marketing it effectively, you can build a loyal customer base and create a successful business.

Protecting your intellectual property is an important aspect of selling digital products on Etsy.

By using watermarks, password protection, limiting the amount of your printable that is seen in your listing images, registering your designs, using DMCA takedown notices, monitoring your products, and educating your customers, you can help to safeguard your designs.

However, if someone does copy your design, it’s important to take action by contacting the seller, reporting the listing to Etsy, or taking legal action if necessary.

Finally, don’t let the fear of copying stop you from creating an Etsy shop. With the right strategies and mindset, you can create a successful business and build a loyal customer base.

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Meet Julie & Cody

Julie Berninger and Cody Berman of Gold City Ventures™ have made thousands selling printables and digital downloads in their Etsy shops and on Shopify. They help others start printable businesses with their programs and templates.

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