Merch by Amazon Sellers say platform is full of scammers stealing designs
Merch by Amazon, the tech giant’s print-on-demand product platform that, among other things, allows approved artists to upload their own designs, has a scam problem. The platform has reportedly become riddled with crooks who download other people’s creations and sell them as their own work. Often these models are sold at a lower price than the originals.
According to Vice, the problem has become so serious that artists who use Merch by Amazon and other print-on-demand services have started collecting and sharing their evidence in Facebook groups in an attempt to get offenders banned.
âI have now concluded that Merch by Amazon is a platform that allows others to easily steal copyrighted designs from independent artists,â an illustrator named Yat Yee Tam told Vice. “Amazon knows this, but isn’t doing enough to protect the artwork.”
Since Amazon’s product market is so large and the company now has so many rotating plates, it can be easy for things like this to slip through the cracks of quality control. Amazon has had issues with products that violate copyright law or perhaps its own terms of service have been on sale in the past.
The crooks apparently didn’t even make it so difficult to detect their theft. A Merch by Amazon seller named Jonah Buckley told Vice that most of the times his work has been used illegally has happened on Merch by Amazon, and that he can tell because the illustration looks like “They are. ripped from t-shirt mockups that appear on Amazon, rather than the originally uploaded design.
To prove his hypothesis, he set a trap.
âEarlier this year, I had an experiment uploading only one of my designs to Etsy through my print production partner,â he told Vice. “It was for the Juneteenth celebration in the US. After a few weeks, I searched Amazon, and it was.”
Buckley said the crooks sold around 20 t-shirts with his design.
Designers and sellers believe that part of the problem with Merch by Amazon compared to other sites like Etsy is that Amazon uses third-party platforms to upload artwork and doesn’t use watermarks on images.
Amazon has done its best to remove the ads when it becomes aware of it, but given the volume of products, it’s hard to catch them all.
âWe have strong monitoring procedures in place for participation in Merch by Amazon, as well as pre-post moderation to prevent the posting of infringing content,â an Amazon spokesperson told Vice. “If we discover or report an offense that we haven’t identified, we move quickly to remove it, investigate and remove the article from Merch, and pursue appropriate legal action.” “
Virtually all other online custom merchandise platforms that allow user uploaded designs have encountered issues like these at one point or another. Teespring addressed a nearly identical issue in 2018. The Etsy community forums are filled with messages from sellers on the stolen drawings. Even with Spreadshirt, Redbubble etc.
The only real surprise here is that it has taken so long for Amazon’s problems to come to a head. For the sake of designers (and all brands caught in the crossfire), we hope the merchandise giant will find a solution quickly.