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Now in its fifth season, the Downton Abbey juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon and even the mass merchandisers have jumped on the bandwagon. I was not terribly surprised to see that both Kohl’s and Bed Bath & Beyond recently introduced a line of licensed Downton Abbey jewelry items.  But the ‘big boys’ are actually a bit behind the handmade marketplace in which independent artisans have been producing Downton items in numerous genres for quite some time. The most well-known online handmade/artisan marketplace is Etsy, and so out of curiosity I did a search there for ‘Downton Abbey’ in the Handmade category.

UPDATE/REVISION in JULY 2015:

The foregoing introduction was written in January 2015. My original post then went on to compare a number of products made by Etsy artisans to their actual Downton Abbey counterparts such as the Andrew Prince items that were created for the PBS series. However, events during subsequent months prompted me to remove the rest of the post and I’d like to briefly explain why.

Almost immediately after publishing the original version of this post, I was contacted by two Etsy sellers who both claimed that “almost all” of the items I had shown as examples of handmade merchandise were in fact mass-produced items imported from overseas. Not wishing to give any exposure to items that are not what they were claimed to be, I asked for specific links to the corresponding mass-produced items. I was told by both sellers that “the items are easily found on Alibaba”, but even though I expended a fair amount of time trying to do so I could not find the identical items. Lacking solid evidence, I decided to leave the article as it was, including the links to the Etsy listing pages for the items I’d profiled.

However, having observed over the past six months the way in which Etsy has changed regarding the handmade merchandise that appears on the site, I’ve concluded that – in my personal opinion – they fall woefully short of the mark in several respects including their now-expanded definition of “handmade.” Although their Terms of Use state that copyright infringing items are not allowed, they also refuse to remove any such items unless served with the proper legal papers by the IP holder; thus in effect saying “You’re not allowed to do this! But if you do, we’re not going to punish you for it unless a third party tells us to.” In such a climate, it’s not surprising that some people will take advantage of the situation.

I’ve also come to realize that even if some of the Etsy items in my original article were indeed handmade according to the generally accepted definition of the term, all of the listings were still examples of copyright infringment via the use of the “Downton Abbey” name in the titles and descriptions because the items were not produced under license from the owners of the Downton Abbey trademark… and so my original post has been removed.

(I’d also like to say that the above criticisms of Etsy are directed solely at their Handmade category, and not at Vintage. It is not “copyright infringement” if a person is selling a 25-year-old Minnie Mouse doll as a vintage Minnie Mouse doll, or a vintage Thomas the Tank Engine lunchbox as exactly that. Such items are not being newly-created without permission from the copyright/trademark owner. )

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