China is manufacturing one of my files..advice?

So, I design and sell files, and today I found out that one of my designs has been picked up and is now being mass produced in China. It’s on Amazon, ebay, Wayfair (made in China under production), and many, many more…it’s even a product on the Real Simple magazines website.
Under my legal terms, I’ve said it’s ok for small business use, but not large commercial.

I’m feeling all kinds of things over this. I’m flattered, but not surprised, because I did expect this at some point. But I am also angry because it goes against my terms, so therefore illegal…and I’m feeling sad because it’s being seen all over and I get no credit at all. I don’t believe there is any way for me to shut this down, and I don’t have the money to copyright everything I design. It makes me want to keep my stuff to myself, but then that defeats the purpose of why I decided to do this in the first place.

I just don’t know what to do about all of this, and had to share somewhere. I knew this would happen with selling my files, and I don’t think I can stop it…and have no money to fight it.

Does anyone have any advice (or encouragement) for me? I’m just a small, one person business, just trying to bring in some extra money for bills…but I don’t want this to keep happening. And I’m feeling pretty bummed about it.


This doesn’t really help your current situation but I would try very hard to tighten up your licensing.


  • use these files to make a physical product, for personal AND small business, to keep or sell.

I don’t know how many definitions of Small Business exist, but I believe that the Small Business Administration defines a small manufacturing business as 500 employees or less.

There are other definitions (based on industry); I think retail industry is considered somewhere around $6 million average revenue.

So - probably quite a bit bigger than you are thinking when you are trying to give what I would perceive as a crafters license.

As for filing copyright, someone probably knows more about that so I won’t pretend. I do know that you can file multiples at one time, which will lower the cost (per item). You can also file retroactively (within a certain timeframe - I think 3 months of being published). The 3 months thing is why many photographers do it every quarter and do it with multiples.


First of all, I’m sorry, because this sucks.

You technically own the copyright without any further action, but I know that can be difficult to prove. I’m also wondering if you defined “small business” vs “commercial” in your terms. Some businesses specify that you can sell 100 of something, as an example, before having to purchase the license again. It’s hard to police people going over a small amount, but it’s very clear when it’s mass produced.

I think at this point, if you don’t want to hire a lawyer, I’d gather all the documentation you have about when the design was created and start contacting all of the businesses who are selling it. Let them know that the design is being produced illegally and see what happens. I doubt anything will happen without legal assistance (and even that’s not a guarantee), but it can’t hurt to try.


Ok, I didn’t realize a small business could be that big. Looks like I’m going to be changing that from here on out.
Thanks for pointing that out. I have never been very good with the left side of my brain, but my right side excels.


Here is an example of the University of Texas crafting license:

I imagine this is more what you had in mind. Like @ChristyM said, enforcing 500 units exactly, or $2500, like these terms say, is kind of impossible - but it’s also not hard for them to find flagrant violators of the terms.

This is a big line:
Crafter’s License option for artisan crafters that make handmade goods and sell them through direct sales. Direct sales may include craft fairs, street festivals, farmers markets, flea markets, events put on by religious groups, communities, or governments, or online sales. This program is not intended for vendors wishing to sell wholesale to retail stores or other third parties.


Yes!! That’s what I had in mind when I wrote what I did in my terms. Looks like I’ve got to go rewrite and update them all.
And @ChristyM, trying to chase everyone down feels so exhausting. And I already don’t have enough hours in the day to get what I need to done. Sigh.
I might just have to write this one off (which stings because it was a personal file I designed just for me, but decided to share because everyone loved it so much). It’s kind of why I haven’t released anything new in awhile, because I’ve also had people reselling my files. The digital world is so full of theft, it’s really discouraging, but I love to create and I won’t let people’s bad decisions ever stop me. But man, even if I could get some credit for it my heart wouldn’t feel so sore.


I totally understand. It’s really frustrating that people think they can just take whatever they want and claim it as their own…


I designed a pool beverage float Here is the link and everyone took the idea and claimed it as their own, even Rachael Ray used it on her show (with my permission) and said that one of the people on her show made it.

I am friends with the guy who invented the ‘x-hose’ - a Chinese company stole his design, and sold millions of them (they broke like 3 weeks later) ruining his reputation, he sued them to stop, a month later they where selling them again, under a new company name.

You should be proud that it was good enough to be stolen :stuck_out_tongue:
“Good artist borrow, Great artists steal” Pablo Picasso


All I can offer is words of encouragement and the hope that Karma takes care of the thieves in this world.


It’s worth hitting Wayfair and Amazon. Those guys get enough of these kinds of things that they’ll generally take the offending products down. Ditto Etsy and Ebay if you’ve seen some of those. That should put a dent in things. It’s not gonna stop the copying because it’s gotten too far, but by cutting out the bigger distribution channels it may help a bit. You will need to keep an eye out even on those 4 because the folks who get shutdown will often just fire up a new account and do it again.


there was a story a few years back, someone stilling art from people’s feed on twitter, printing them out and selling them… I can’t find the original story, but here is some Advice I found.


Well, the other side of that is I know lots of folks on Etsy are selling it directly from purchasing my svg, which I’m ok with. Ebay I’m unsure…probably mixed. Amazon, maybe too. But Wayfair, under the products info, says made in China, and there’s multiple sellers on there.
I may have shot myself in the foot because of allowing small business use (which I will be changing as soon as I can).
I may still try with the ones I know for sure are Chinese.

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Thank you, I’ll sit down and read that today.

I want to add, the ones being sold on Amazon are indeed from china as well.
I think I will contact them. And Wayfair. I have no idea how to word it…anyone have any pointers? I will do some searching as well, as my brain struggles with lawyer speak.

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Hire a lawyer. Getting free legal advice from a forum is a bad idea. Sanity testing your ideas there is OK, but not making legal decisions. That’s what lawyers are for.

Also, a company like Wayfair is likely to ignore you without the proper legal trappings. Complaints and threats to sue probably come in from irate customers all the time. Until there’s a legitimate legal notice those complaints are likely all going direct to the “round file”.


Within the US what you’re looking to do is a DMCA takedown request - read up on it, but most US companies comply since the person taken down has the right to object and provide proof they do have legal protections.

For foreign manufacturers - similar laws apply, but you’re mostly out of luck. Even if you have the copyright/patent it still continues under different names/corps. Think about how many faux iPhones exist - if Apple doesn’t have the resources to stop that… :frowning:


Sorry this is happening to you, there is lots of great advice here that I can’t add to, however I wanted to drop a line of encouragement. You have designed something amazing that everyone loves and people are selling for money. You can design other, better things, and it will be worth protecting yourself legally for these future designs, or just put them up for sale and if they sell you can outsource the manufacturing… don’t allow anyone access to the files.


For a number of years, my primary design outlet was Second Life and Kitely, where the number of ways folk can get away with every sort of scam and theft may not have many limits as all the “goods” are virtual only and thus infinitely copy-able.

The result is quite angering as you are indeed “ripped off” but there are several things you can do like filing DCMAs where it would do any good, but for your own sanity, it is important to not add to the damage they have done by damaging yourself by obsessing or refusing to make what money you can be worrying that someone might steal the idea to make money for themselves. If they are making an inferior product, I would note that in your sales that buying from them will not work as well. In most cases, they will not have the same market you do, so those were never sales you would have made. Last of all, you have the ability to design and sell stuff before they can steal it. In the fashion industry, there are no design copyrights and everything is fair game the moment it is seen and still folk can do well.


Which design is it? I’m intrigued.
Sorry about your theft.
I personally like your “wood poop here again” sign. :slight_smile: I don’t think my wife would be on board with us putting that up in our house though. Maybe in the herb garden… but then that reminds me of the SNL commercial wade blasingame.


I was thinking that it could be that sign, because I recently saw it somewhere else.