Teespring Has a Stolen Designs Problem
Teespring's recent partnership with YouTube proves the on-demand custom merchandise company is poised for growth. However, the company has faced its share of criticism after selling insensitive shirts and sparking outrage. Now, according to The Daily Dot, Teespring has a huge problem that could threaten the company's future: design theft.
A Twitter user alerted Australian illustrator James Fosdike that his artwork was being featured on Teespring. The only problem was Fosdike hadn't uploaded any of his designs to the site, and subsequently, he saw none of the profits. Fosdike brought the design infringement problem to Teespring's attention, and it eventually removed the apparel in question. But the problem continued.
“Every time I was getting stuff taken down … new ones would pop up,” Fosdike explained to The Daily Dot. “It would just be a case of [Teespring] replying to me saying, ‘We’ve taken down these,’ and I’d respond with, ‘Well here’s a bunch of new ones.’” He says the process made him feel as if he were trapped on a “depressing hamster wheel of gloom.”
Fosdike's case is not an isolated incident. A large number of independent artists have run into a similar problem, with their designs being sold without their permission. The artists are not only losing out on profits from their original artwork, but they are also dedicating serious time to playing internet watchdog.
The problem is so out of control that 2,000 supporters have signed a Change.org petition hoping to enact a change in the company's protocol.
The Daily Dot asked Teespring if it was aware of this infringement problem, and a representative sent the following statement:
Teespring confronts the same issues as countless other online platforms where the public can freely post content. Whenever rights-owners provide notice or we otherwise become aware of specific instances of user generated content that appears to infringe, we promptly take appropriate action.
The company also told Fosdike back in January that it was working on several new initiatives to crack down on counterfeiters, but six months later, the company has not backed that promise. The company claimed some advancements were made, but would not get into any specifics:
Teespring utilizes technology tools and internal processes to try to prevent users from uploading content that infringes [on] the rights of others. Among other things, Teespring provides convenient, user-friendly tools for rights-owners to utilize to notify Teespring of specific infringements by users, and Teespring promptly takes appropriate action and responds to rights-owner communications. Teespring’s technology tools and process remain confidential in order avoid alerting potential infringers of ways that may aid them in trying to evade our systems.
Another issue is some artists are reporting that Teespring is ripping off their Redbubble designs. While the artists are offering legitimate products on Redbubble, Teespring vendors are allegedly stealing the authorized designs. As a result, sales are being taken away from the Redbubble community, as well as the artists. Redbubble indicates on its interface which products sell the best, so the artists suspect that counterfeiters choose the designs they want to pirate based off the top performers.
This is clearly a problem, and it's upsetting that Teespring hasn't sprung into action to do more to combat design theft. The company has assured the artist community that it is working on the situation, but has yet to outline the steps it will take or explain the protocol it's putting into place. Teespring is receiving a cut of the profit on every piece of apparel sold, so the company's livelihood should be in jeopardy if it continues to sell stolen designs.
We've been covering the on-demand custom apparel sector for awhile, and it's obvious that this industry has some major flaws that need to be worked out. If anything, that lack of quality control is an advantage for promo distributors, who can offer better hands-on oversight of the production process.