Online Infringement Survey Response

Your evidence was required to help us work with search engines & IP codes of conduct

Background:  During the last year, backed by MPs and Peers, a Code of Conduct was brokered with Google, a great step towards engagement for change. However, it became clear that what was effective for copyright centric sectors was not suitable for physical products/designs. At a recent IPO forum, it was agreed to provide evidence so that further talks could be held with Google to extend and expand this to physical goods i.e., non-copyright owners (and their representative bodies/agencies). The end aim will be to create a Search Engine Code of Conduct which could then be adapted for other platforms.

We asked you to provide evidence and a summary of the main points is here:

70% monitor for infringements of their designs online personally and 30% via a third party provider. Asked if they had any notices rejected/refused by search engines 24% said No. Of 70% who monitor online infringement, only 29% send notices to search engines (Google or Bing) requesting the removal of links to infringements on websites or other places on the Internet.  Of the 71% who do not monitor online infringements, 30% said it was because it is too time consuming.

Asked what improvements could be made to simplify notification of online infringement the following is a summary of some of the anecdotal evidence and case study references

Case Study 1:  I recently contacted a Company asking that she stop following my online store and re-creating my designs. The response I received was that “anyone can purchase beads and findings and make a necklace or bracelet which do not warrant Copyright protection”. Having sent my designs to a Solicitor and also to the St Mary’s University in London (Copyright Dept) both confirmed that it would be extremely difficult to uphold my designs in the Court of Law and that they may well be deemed as Common Place. This is a very grey area and I constantly find that although when I launch new designs, I carry out extensive searches via the Internet to ensure that I am not in breach of any other Jewellery Designer I constantly find other designers copying my products. Therefore I am running a Business, creating new designs with various components purchased from a wholesaler, yet these designs cannot be protected by Copyright? I do believe that this also needs to be reviewed.

Case Study 2:  For me the issue is not Google, but Amazon & E Bay, where people can buy knock offs. Amazon do run a Brand register, and they are pretty good on Copyright, but when it comes to Registered Design rights, their system struggles to cope, and when they do remove items, they are often relisted within a few days. Many firms selling copies are also registered businesses in China or Hong Kong and they ship directly so think the rules don’t apply to them. There seems to me companies in China who look at the top 100 selling items on each Category on Amazon, copy them and then sell them. So the more successful you are the more likely you are to be copied, and the less you sell in the future.

On numbers of notices sent per month to online platforms to report copying, this varied from 1 to 50 though generally at the lower end of the scale of between 1 and 10.

Case Study 3:  Do your notices get acted upon by search engines? The infringements on our designs are on the Amazon worldwide marketplace. Even though they have finally removed other sellers (originating mainly from China) from our listings in the UK they are still currently allowing the use of them on the Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands Amazon marketplaces

Case Study 4:  Do your notices get acted upon by search engines? I recently made a complaint via Instagram about another Gallery copying a body of my ocean painting work since 2015. I initially received an email from the Instagram copyright infringement department, who stated that they would not be able to investigate the matter unless I produced copyright registration references and a timeline of like for like images from Instagram with information about my work for each picture, which I have done, which has taken me over 100 hours to produce, which is a lot of lost hours painting. I would very much like to pursue them as I have been working very hard to create these individual marks textures and style of paint application through a process of creating landscape paintings since 2010, and they have gone in and stolen a chunk of my work and are developing it as their own. Further to this they have also been studying my business model online via social media, 3 accounts following me on twitter and similar on Instagram, I have made a direct complaint to Instagram last week via there online copyright infringement page, but have received no response as copyright requires like for like pictures and the Gallery have effectively zoomed in and cropped out my landmarks.

Case Study 5:  What improvements can be made? I think there should be an automated email response when sending a complaint which generates your reference case number. It should be more visible with clearer, larger writing to find the complaints page for copyright, not forgetting how upsetting it is to find out that someone is mimicking your work. I was actually shaking for 2 days when I realised that someone was copying me, I felt ill, and then had to prove copyright. Thankfully I do keep a record of my paintings, but the stress of being confronted unexpectedly by this situation is immense and having to go through this process has made me ill. Financially to pay for membership and register copyright has put immense pressure on my family following Christmas, and receiving quotation for solicitors letters to pursue them in excess of £750.00 +vat, is not something I can afford at the moment.

I would like this matter to be pursued as these people are effectively profiting from selling my work, because it is current with man-made pollution issues and technically I am on a crest of a wave, and they want to get in on the band wagon and hijack me. I would like for the use of my marks, textures and style to cease and desist I would like financial recompense for the anxiety and stress causes, the preparation of documentation and copyright registration, also a public apology on Instagram for stealing my thunder. It’s not such new work for me to launch on the market thanks to them exploiting me. They should not be allowed to profit from my work, but they have. What more can I do? I genuinely think that the informative, factual, well documented email I sent to Instagram was better than any dissertation I have written, a physical timeline of evidence, which cannot be disputed. Why is it not being used? I really need some action here. What support is available to me?

Clearly there is so much that needs to be done and a further step is to share our evidence/information with the IPO prior to their talks with Google to see how this can be progressed. We will keep you updated.