WISH - Ripping off Artists Daily
So... those of you that know me or those of you that have followed me for a while know that I don't mess around when it comes to integrity. Additionally, I have always worked hard to maintain transparency when it comes to my brand and the way I do business.
That being said, you will have to forgive me if a little of my Arkansas sassy shows during the course of writing this blog post. The only time my south comes out is when something has chapped my ass... and WISH has done a good job of that.
I WISH you wouldn't...
I'm going to preface this post by telling you exactly why I'm writing this. As an artist and someone that has worked tirelessly to hone my skills and build my brand, I'm asking you kindly on behalf of me and millions of other artists like me to not buy from wish.
The reason why is because wish and other sites like it(Alibaba is a good example) are notorious for stealing photos and original designs from independent artists like me. The largest source is Pinterest, but they also steal images directly from other selling sites - Etsy being the most popular.
By purchasing on WISH, not only are you helping(without realizing it) these thieves defraud artists and small business owners, you are also investing your money into something that, while cheaper, is almost always terrible quality. But, I'll get to that later in this post.
How WISH made it onto my radar
Though I do monitor these big sites on occasion, it is often overwhelming to go through hundreds of listings each month to try and stay ahead of thieves. After all, I'm only one person and do not have the types of legal or other team resources that big operations have. I compare it to trying to bail out a sinking ship with a bucket. As a result, there are often thieves that fly under my notice.
A few weeks ago, I was messaged by one of my Instagram peeps(shout out to your guys for always having my back) that let me know WISH was selling some of my products again. I was not surprised to hear that. So, naturally I went and checked to see what was going on over there.
And...OH snap. There were a number of my items being sold by nearly 20 different merchants. There were also photos that had been stolen from a lot of fellow artists in our community. Below are the items of mine I found.
I honestly can't tell you how oddly disturbing it is to see pictures of my hands listed by merchants from countries I've not yet had the chance to visit. Additionally, it is interesting that they don't even take the time to remove my brand watermarks from the images. Though, I think I know why. I will discuss that further down.
I WISH for better quality...
Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I started reading through the product reviews just to see what folks actually received when they ordered these. Needless to say the results were not good. This is a little PSA I put together to share on social media that shows a review photo of one of the crystal sets a customer received.
As you can see from the photo, the wrapping is poor quality, as is the wire type. Additionally, the wire color is completely different and size was not an option.
I decided to explore this further... so, I made a decision to buy one of these products myself. Some would probably consider it controversial to buy from one's own thief, but I felt that it was a good investment in public awareness.
So, the design I chose to purchase was this one. It is heatherfish original design number 599. After-all, it seemed like it was in need of a review.
...and then, like magic, my WISH purchase arrived. This is what I received:
I will be 100% honest with you all about this. My first impression was happiness because they obviously don't have the ability to actually copy my work. But, upon further reflection, I found myself feeling completely pissed off on behalf of WISH customers. Regardless of the fact that WISH is popular because it is more affordable, it means little when the items ordered are such poor quality they are rendered unusable. In other words, wish customers are getting seriously ripped off. This is aside from the fact that this could possibly mislead the public into thinking this is a reflection of my work...
Why are these thieves so brazen?
As I stated above, these sellers don't ever take the time to remove or blur my watermarks. The reason they do this is because there is no real punishment for intellectual property theft in their country.
Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not speaking ill of the whole of China. I'm sure that like any other country it has it's pros and cons. I will even go further to say that at one point in time, I would have loved to visit China. Though, that doesn't seem like such a good idea now due to the current situation brewing in regard to China's view on foreigners.
For a number of years now, I have watched a handful of vlog channels based in China including ADVChina. The two creators of this channel also made some really great documentaries that were featured on amazon prime called Conquering Southern China and subsequently Conquering Northern China.
However, before they made their documentaries, I had long watched their journey on YouTube. Over the years, I watched them slowly be pushed out of the country they fell in love with.
In a few of their videos, they do address the intellectual property theft issue from the perspective of those who have lived there. They used to build custom motorcycles and at one point had opened their own shop. Over time, they had to see their original builds be stolen and mass manufactured by Chinese citizens. The result was an inability to stay in business. There were no protections from the Chinese government.
The hard truth is that China has built their massive economy in a very short time under this type of system. Everything is fair game and the concept of intellectual property is a western concept. More over, anything that is manufactured there by foreign investors is fair game for copying as well. This is another reason why China's economy is set to over take the USA's by 2028.
To add to the insult, trying to take legal action that traverses boarders is not only extremely expensive, but it is often fruitless due to China's lack of concern. The result is that small businesses like me are simply stuck between a rock and a hard place.
That's a difficult truth... but, there it is.
What action can I take?
Honestly, there is always the DMCA take down option. This does work well for domestic thieves... though it is hit and miss when it comes to international sites. Additionally, the amount of personal information that has to be included in a DMCA takedown is uncomfortable.
I found that the best way to have things removed is to go through these sites' built in systems. It is much more time consuming. Though, sometimes I wonder if that is the point.
For example, with Alibaba I was able to register my brand on their site and upload my catalog. This has allowed me to request take-downs of all my catalog images. However, this is also kind of an issue because it leaves room for thieves to take my photos and run to other unknown sites. Like I said - Sinking ship.
The good thing about Alibaba is there is an option to contact the individual sellers there. 9 times out of 10 if I ask them to remove my images they do because they make good money on Alibaba and don't want a strike against their account. Fortunately, we artists do still have some leverage when it comes to the pocket book. The United States doesn't take kindly to intellectual property theft. Thus, I think it is a logical conclusion that these site options exist just so they can continue to do business in the USA and countries with similar protections. Though, to be fair, I'm no expert.
WISH is similar to Alibaba in that they have a form available for copyright infringement. I can't contact the sellers directly, or at least I wasn't able to find that option(if anyone knows, do enlighten me). But, I can fill out this form and show proof that the stolen images are mine. I haven't heard back from them yet, but I will update this post with my results.
The good news is that unlike Alibaba, WISH has an American based headquarters located in San Francisco. If all else fails, I will proceed with a DMCA takedown notice.
So... Moral of the story...
Don't waste your time or money on sites like this. Instead, invest in an artist or small business so that your money goes to something you can treasure for a lifetime.
Wish has emailed me and informed me that they did indeed remove the listings I requested removed.
However, just to make sure they made good on their promise, I did go and look again to make sure everything was taken down. There was one that remained. So, I have filled out another form for that violation. I will provide an additional update once I hear back from WISH.
The additional stolen images were removed as requested. However, upon another inspection, it appears that one of the sellers has relisted one of the listings with their own photos. However, the design is still similar, no matter how poorly duplicated. Here are the photos taken by the seller. As you can see, the style and angles are purposely taken to copy mine.
Additionally, my listing description was copied word for word.
I have sent yet another request to WISH to have this stolen design removed. I will update this post when I receive a response.
To date, WISH has granted every one of my take down requests for both stolen photos and copied designs. I really am quite pleased with their IP theft system. It is unfortunate, however, that one has to go to such lengths to keep stolen images off their marketplace.
Tip for other artists: Make sure to keep your original, uncropped photos from your shoots. It's hard to be discredited when you have more photos than the thief. Also, watermark your photos always. It can't hurt.