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Why Etsy can’t afford to protest SOPA

Many sellers at the crafts marketplace rely to heavily on their online business to symbolically protest the Stop Online Piracy Act, while some  believe the controversial bill will help protect their work. 


Lauren Rae Orsini


Posted on Jan 18, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 10:33 pm CDT

For thousands of artists, crafters, and retailers, handmade marketplace Etsy is more than a social network. It’s a livelihood.

That’s why you won’t see protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) on Etsy today. Many sellers simply can’t afford to miss even one day of business. An Etsy forum topic about a symbolic shutdown for SOPA netted roughly 150 responses in the negative.

“[W]hile I fully support major sites blacking out, my own teeny business can’t afford to lose any slight opportunity to make money,” wrote Steph of One Stitch Designs.

On Tuesday, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson told forum visitors that Etsy headquarters does not support SOPA or the Protect IP Act (PIPA) but would not be shutting down for the day. However, Dickerson said he would be joining other Etsy employees in a live protest.

We know that many Etsy sellers depend on Etsy for their livelihoods so we are limiting the protest to the home page because we don’t want to disrupt buying and selling on Etsy, but this is too important for us to remain silent. … I will also be joining a large group of Etsy employees and concerned members of the local community here in NYC to protest outside the offices of Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (both supporters of the bills).

Surprisingly, many sellers participating in the discussion actually came out in support of SOPA and PIPA. Since SOPA was designed to protect artists from copyright infringement, some believe that it would benefit Etsy crafters.

“This legislation protects us from resellers and counterfeiters and was actually called for by the music, movie and fashion industry as they found the existing laws were not enough to protect their copyrighted material overseas,” wrote Lorena Ambrose.

Other sellers, like Lisa, don’t think Etsians are the “artists” that SOPA aims to protect.

“[H]onestly lets not forget who is sponsoring this bill. Its the entertainment industry. It’s not Joe Schmoe artist,” she wrote.

By late Tuesday evening, many sellers who oppose the bill had devised a compromise: They are protesting SOPA with banners instead of blackouts. Others are signing a petition.

“I’m not closing my shop, I just added this little banner in order to let our customers know that Etsy can’t be the same if SOPA does happen,” wrote Mariah.

We only found one seller who decided to shut down her shop in protest. HerHandsMyHands has gone dark for the day.

“[I]f SOPA / PIPA pass,” the seller wrote of her decision, “your customers would quite likely be inconvenienced ‘forever’ not one day.”

Photo by Iguana Jo

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*First Published: Jan 18, 2012, 1:54 pm CST