Ebay and Machine Embroidery
Please note: Due to an internet hiccup, this blog was corrupted. I’ve recaptured all the comments and the blog itself and posted again.
Ebay is probably one of the most favored places to search for just about anything under the sun. About eight years ago, I started my Ebay career by selling machine embroidered quilt blocks, quilted items etc. Then as I set up my website I included ME designs as well. That was before the “Pirates of ME” decided it was a great way to make the extra cash by selling bootlegged cds. With thousands of designs offered on a single cd for simply a few dollars, I could not compete; neither could I continue to list items only to have Ebay receive the listing price with nothing to show for it. So, I decided to shut down my Ebay store and concentrate on my website. Meanwhile, a wild fire of ME designs started up on Ebay and anyone who had any ME designs, whether bought or downloaded from pirate websites/groups, set up their stores to sell, sell and sell ME designs. The story is old, I know and you probably have read it many times on my blog by now. But, there is a reason why I am writing this story.
Several months ago, when I was communicating back and forth with the Internet Crime Division, one of the remarks sent to me was interesting and it really didn’t register well at the time but with certain recent developments, the “aha” moment occured. Internet criminals (yes that is a term) tend to flock together. Watch a few and the rest will follow…. (interesting how it resembles birds of a feather, don’t you think?). Furthermore, a criminal is always very sure of himself/herself and more importantly…a criminal always wants attention. With ME designs being shared boldly on private groups, rebel newsgroups, etc. some of the Ebay auctioneers of ME designs realised they had a gold mine in their hands. With several ME softwares becoming more and more easier in regards to editing, these folks decided they could become legitimate. And how does one become legitimate by possessing illegal designs. Well, if the design is well digitized, an editing software is very handy to split parts so one can then join various elements from totally different designs to create brand new ones. Actually one can create such a brand new design that no one could ever (unless they were really looking or had done the digitizing themselves) would at all recognize it to being someone else’s work. Hence the reason for the rumor that a design changed 10% or 50% or any such percent is not really infringement and it is perfectly legal to then do anything with it, even sell it. This was a good scheme for a short while, until someone made a big mistake…and the mistake was made by two such individuals (for sake of ease I will call them pirates of ME). The mistake was an undoubtedly duplicate copy of a design created by two different Pirates of ME. But if that was not all, they forgot to take out a most important part from the design… the initials of the digitizer. As the initials were part of the design, they really did not stand out, until someone who was looking saw them. Well, that stopped the scheme of becoming legitimate by piecing together parts of other’s designs. So the Pirates of ME decided something else had to be done. The tool was right in front of their face….the internet. Using various service providers, one could easily set up various email accounts(legitimate email accounts) and open up not one, not two but a multitude of Ebay Identities. For payment, paypal was the preferred mode as one could very easily set up various paypal accounts in the same manner. Hence started up a barrage of sale of ME designs on Ebay and if someone reported or looked suspiciously at them, it was not a problem to immediately shut down the shop and start another one. For the past five years, I’ve watched hundreds and thousands of such auctions. Along came ESPC and their scheme of putting a stop to the Pirates of ME. Now, piracy of ME designs is something that cannot and will not be stopped overnight. It has become a part of the ME world. Just like thievery exists in any enterprise, piracy of ME designs will exist. But to what extent…that may differ from time to time. Unlike other thefts, a theft of IP is a totally different scenario. While in a material object theft, only the seller of the stolen object is at fault, whereas in IP thefts, those who steal and sell and those who purchase (even without knowledge) are at risk. This was not known to many who sold or bought pirated ME designs from Ebay. With the amendment to laws, Ebay also changed a lot of their policies especially policies regarding sale of downloadable media or digitally delivered goods. More can be read here: http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/downloadable.html This allowed those who were selling pirated ME designs to be immediately reported and actions taken against. Hence started the multiple auctions by the Pirates of ME. This allowed them to create a rather large mailing list (of all who would bid on their auctions) and then when they had new pirated stuff, all they had to do was to click a button in their email software and poof went out the announcement to hundreds. Ebay was avoided and the Pirate made off with several hundred/thousands more from sale of ME designs created by some hard working people. This was a good plan, until some honest people started receiving these emails. During the past several years, one of my “to do” items every day has been to check out listings on Ebay, report those that are infringing to the concerned parties, write emails to the seller alerting them that they are selling illegally as well as write to the buyers that they may be purchasing illegal designs. This was done not just by myself but a rather large group who care about the ME world. Somewhere, somehow, some of the Pirates mistakenly included some of the email addresses into their mailing databases and tada….the pirate was caught. All our computers have an identity and ofcourse, any software such as Adobe Acrobat, Word etc. have certain methods that one can employ to learn whose computer they came from. Some of the Pirates of ME were not so “computer savvy” and their full names, addresses were gleaned from the properties of the documents they sent out. Over the years I have often wondered why when some of these Pirates of ME were caught and made out of court deals, why did they go back to the same group and surreptiously engage in similar activities again. One of my reasonings is that out of court settlements do not really punish the culprits. Although they tie on a hefty amount onto the Pirate of ME, yet as we live in a credit society…these Pirates are not hurt enough to realise their mistakes or the crime by paying those amounts. Furthermore, I believe that out of court settlements in $$ are not the best way to send out the message that this action is indeed a crime. A criminal only learns when rights are taken away and a Pirate of ME are indeed criminals. They feed on stolen properties of others with no feeling of whose livlihood they are taking away. Moreover, someone caught fears publicity and or shame hence to stick with one’s own kind seems the best route to take. Just today I was going through some of the ME auctions on Ebay and saw one which made me laugh for quite some time. The seller is sellind “Free ME designs” and “Free ME software” downloaded from various ME websites. The seller’s point is that instead of going to various websites to download, he/she has placed it all conveniently on a cd. Bad deal. It is auctions such as these that are so very childishly listed that I have to shake my head at their intelligence. To sellers who partake in these sort of selling ME designs, my simple advice…Don’t do it. The word is out, ESPC is lobbying for more and more strict laws in reference to ME designs. To buyers, my same advice. Do not purchase from these Pirates of ME. How can you tell if they are legal or not? http://www.embroideryprotection.org/faqs.html To all friends in the ME world, especially purchasers of ME designs on Ebay, beware of whom you purchase from. Question the auctioneer prior to placing your bid. This does not only apply to ME designs but to ME software as well. Query to find out all that is included in the software. A written documentation of your questions/answers can be quite helpful if there is ever any question in regards to the legality of the designs and software. Save those documents, or even better, print them out and place in a special folder of your purchases. Documentations such as these can be your stand against any legal actions, and or any questions regarding legality of designs and software. As to the legitimate sellers of ME designs on Ebay, provide a link to your website. If you are the legal owner of IP of the ME designs, make sure you have documented proof. Save your work files onto a non-tamperable media like a read only cd. Make sure to date all files and when burning to the cd to save as current date (date of creating the cd). Create an about me page on Ebay, involve yourself with the various discussion boards on Ebay. Create a link from your website to your about me page on Ebay. As to the Pirates of ME, the walls are coming closer around you. It is pointless to continue with your agenda, however, the choice is yours. Truth will out eventually and what then…. Addendum: Due to an internet hiccup, the blog became corrupted. I’ve copied and pasted the original blog with comments below:Comments:
2006-8-21 @ 3:08:10 pm comment by: C
These are more rantings of a deranged and lonely woman
C, thank you very much. But, even deranged and lonely people have rights. HUGS, Sadia
2006-8-22 @ 10:08:14 am comment by: A digitizer
Well written and educational blog. Good information. Thanks.
2006-8-26 @ 1:08:05 pm comment by : Audrey
Your info is very informative, but a little late for all of those unsupecting E-bay buyers (of whom there are many) that the ESPC have sent letters asking for restitution fees of $300 to $400 for violating copyright law, a signed admission of guilt,a promise never to again purchase pirated designs when they didn’t even know they were pirated in the first place, and he CD in question to avoid possible legitation – even though they had never used the disk. All this on purchases that were made over a year ago on E-bay. If they had contacted the unsuspecting buyers at the time of purchase, most of these buyers would probably have returned the CD’s no questions asked. And for all of those who were able to track down the seller after all this time, and had the seller tell them the disk was legitimate, who or what are they to believe? I would be reluctant to purchase or download free designs from all those they consider “legitimate sites”. How is one to know that somehow one of the “illegitimate” designs couldn’t find their way into what we think are “legitimate” sites and then have someone come after us for “illegal” downloading and infringement again. And if you think thats far fetched, I certainly would never have suspected buying a CD for $9.99 with 50 designs most of which appears to be color variations on a few designs to be something illegal. There are many talented home digitizers who could produce designs and record them on a standard CD and try to earn a few dollars on their hard earned work to build an a reputation for themselves. I have purchased designs on some of the so called “legitimate” sites that were low cost, and some that offer special deals if you purchase several designs, and many that offer unlimited free designs that were donated and are absolutely beautifull. Many of the victims of the E-bay auctions are not cases of buying thousands of designs for a low price but smaller quantites. So is our trust to be placed only with those larger companies who charge exorbant fees for their designs.
Audrey, first of all, thank you for your visit and your comment. It is appreciated. My information may be a bit late for some but I beg to differ. Many of the purchasers on Ebay were and even today are being contacted time and again by those concerned warning them that their purchase may be illegal. So to say that all the unsuspecting buyers had no idea and it is a bit late for this information to come out….well, I’m sorry if you were missed on the warnings, but most knew.
As far as how to know which of the designs are legitimate or which designer offering not only on Ebay but on website is a legitimate designer… well here is my explanation. I’ve been in this field now for seven years and believe me digitizing is not an easy task. One design takes me several days to finish and then to test and test again and perhaps to do some more editing etc until I can call it a finished design. True, a commercial digitizer is creating designs perhaps five to ten a day. I’m not a commercial digitizer. Commercial digitizing takes different aspects into consideration which is not there in the home market designs. Furthermore, it takes me forever to create artwork not to mention if I use another entity’s artwork for the paperwork to be finalised before I can even touch it. So, my question would be, how can hundreds of designs be created within a short time frame? Fifty designs for $9.99 would have to be a deal of a lifetime, really, provided they are quality and legitimate designs. Unlimited free designs that are beautiful in looks and stitching do not materialise overnight. There is no way that any human can in a span of twenty-four hours create artwork, digitize a perfect design that stitches out well, with all the aspects of the digitizing in consideration and have it sewn tested and up for sale. Maybe some super human can, LOL, however, I have yet to find one. So, if I was offered a chance to purchase quality, well digitized designs say 50 for $10…yes, I would definitely question.
Over the years, many digitizers have suddenly appeared with legitimate businesses, legitimate websites and with hundreds of designs. I’ve been here for seven years, and my catalog barely covers what they have accomplished in two months. Please understand I am NOT underminig anyone simply stating the facts as they are. If you are to read the blog again you will probably pick up where some legitimate digitizers edit designs to create their own by picking out pieces of other’s designs. This exists even today. Here is an easy method. Every digitizer has a special way of digitizing. It is like your handwriting. It may be similar to others but there still are a bit of tiny pieces that one can simply look at and say “Oh, this belongs to so and so”. I have seen some extremely well known digitizers in today’s market to have taken stitch for stitch works of major companies. Because the major companies have thousands of designs, the thought may have been that they would be overlooked. LOL, again, how long can one fool another, especially how long can one fool the world?
As far as whom to trust. That is your choice. Every now and then I do recommend certain digitizers who have over time shown their works and they are visible as trustworthy. These are not big company digitizers, rather they are home digitizers. I am presuming by “they” repeatedly used in your comment that you are referring to ESPC. If so, answer this. Why would you NOT believe in ESPC? You are quick to believe someone who gives you a sob story but a concern which is a visible and very much affiliated concern….when it says something you would question it? Why?
Over the course of years, many have raised rumours that I simply shoot off the mouth without thinking. If that is so then why is it that all that I had over the years talked about….and the people that I referred to watch out for….why are they suddenly being shown for who they truly are. My friend, I have nothing to gain and all to lose. Only because I believe in the truth and in utter scorn for those who cheat and lie…I am still here and will keep on educating. Sorry that this blog came too late for many but hopefully it might help those who are new in the field and have no idea. HUGS, Sadia