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The Amazon Platform Facilitates Piracy and Has Nearly Put Me Out Of Business

Sunday, December 04, 2016

I make art, I license art, I come up with funny sayings, pop culture references and print them all on baby and toddler clothing. I've been doing this since 2003. I have sold them on Amazon since 2008.

A couple of years ago Amazon changed their image guidelines from a 400 x 400 pixel image to a 1000 x 1000 pixel image with no watermarks allowed.

"MAIN images must show the actual product (not a graphic or illustration), and must NOT show excluded accessories, props that may confuse the customer, text that is not part of the product, or logos/watermarks/inset images."

Sales information is publicly available on amazon.com. That means anyone can see what items are the best sellers.

Because of their open marketplace, any seller can nab a listing and claim they are selling that same item.

These three things make it really easy for pirates to take other seller's best selling listings and make tons of money by claiming to sell the same product at lower prices.

I've worked really hard on all my listings with keywords, product descriptions, branding. Each Product ID in amazon earns juice depending on how much the item has sold and the reviews it's garnered. I've sold a lot of my baby clothes online and built up juice on my ASINs and positive reviews.

Because Amazon is an open marketplace, anyone can resell anything. I love this but Amazon does not protect its manufacturers. In fact, it has cultivated a platform that helps pirates hijack small businesses. There is no protection offered to the actual manufacturers.

I understand people copying my art, phrases and ideas. It's just part of doing business but when pirates are actually able to hijack my listings because they undercut me and therefore win the buy box and then they ship out cheap knockoffs under my trademarked brand, this is a different level of theft.

Not only are they stealing my art and ideas, they are taking my actual listings so that buyers no longer see my store unless they click the "see other sellers" link.

When someone comes to my listing and adds it to their cart they assume they are going to receive a Babywit branded shirt instead of some shitty copy. Here is a great example of what I'm talking about.

A knockoff is added automatically to their cart without them even knowing it.

**Update, 12/5 they've moved me back to win the buy box on all my listings and the pirates have been relegated to the Other Sellers Box. Huge win for me but nearly all my best selling shirts still have pirates offering deals below mine. Just spoke with Kohel Haver and he has agreed to become my legal representative in this matter.

From my end, I started noticing a downward trend on the sale of my products a couple of years ago but assumed it was just competition and a natural trend with so many other options available in the market. But, the downward trend continued. I was struggling along on maybe 3 orders a day...an 80% drop in my orders. My daughter suggested that perhaps no one wanted my designs anymore. Maybe I needed to figure out something new to do with my time besides coming up with new designs.

I began to think that perhaps she was correct.

Last month I noticed there were some people selling my designs and I filed copyright infringement against them but I had no idea the extent of what was going on. Black Friday came and went with absolutely no spike in sales. This was weird. I began to look into my listings and was shocked to find multiple other sellers offering my own shirts USING MY OWN LISTINGS below my pricing. I don't resell my shirts to other sellers so they had to all be knockoffs.

After making multiple calls and emails into amazon and every morning logging copyright and trademark infringements on their website,  the same issue continues to destroy my brand. Check out the form I fill out each morning.

If a thief is shut down, they can just reopen a new store, there is simply no way to shut down these thieves because they come back like cockroaches and unless Amazon decides to offer my brand a blanket of protection (which they could easily do with the flick of a switch) no matter how many times I report a violation, it doesn't really do much. My brand is so infiltrated with other sellers pirating my brand that the amazon customer rep told me that unless their legal department offered protection of my brand on their platform there was little I could do.

It gets worse.

Because these sellers are offering knock-offs of my own products on amazon at below my pricing it has had a major impact on my own website sales.

Then there is the negative impact on my brand because all these customers who are ordering from these pirates think they are receiving a Baby Wit shirt and so Baby Wit is a place to avoid because they sell cheap shirts with crappy printing on it.

It's been devastating to my business and my family.

Check out my cart with an illegally reproduced Baby Wit shirt from 7 different sellers.

I asked Amazon what would happen if I just turned off all my listings. Would it remove all my products from their platform? They said nope, because other sellers are offering this exact item then it would remain even after I deleted them from my account.

Amazon Policy :Detail Page Ownership and Image Restrictions: When a detail page is created, it becomes a permanent catalog page on Amazon.com that will remain even if the creator's inventory sells out. Additionally, when you add your copyrighted image to a detail page, you grant Amazon and its affiliates a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right to exercise all rights of publicity over the material.

I am now in the process of finding legal help to draft a letter to Amazon but a resolution could take a long while. I am going to ask them to blanket my brand or remove all my listings so no other sellers have access to them or I will have to seek a legal resolution. They don't really leave me any other options.

But getting all this done will take time. Time I don't have as my business is in its death throes. I am sitting here watch the most income generating part of the year pass me on by.

I've just been forced to add to my own listings a buyer's beware message. This can only hurt my brand even more because who wants to read when buying baby clothes that they could be purchasing a cheap imitation. Ugh.

And, for Amazon.com, do they really want to be known as the platform that sells cheap imitations? Who wants to shop on a platform where they might unknowingly receive a knockoff in the mail every time they place an order? You would think a company powered by Amazon AWS would be able to fix this issue.

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