Etsy Sellers Puzzled By Warning About Stock Photos

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


Etsy sellers are wondering if more automated bot takedowns could be on the way after suddenly seeing a new banner reminding them about Etsy's policies on stock photos or mock ups.

Etsy is a place for unique and creative goods
Our policies help us protect what's special about our sellers' items. Make sure your item can be sold on our marketplace, and don't use stock images or other photos you gound on the internet.

Keep in mind, if you don't follow our policies, we made need to remove your listings and Star Seller badges, or suspend your account.

Sellers are discussing the message in the Etsy community, with some sharing concerns about what it may mean for their businesses and others hopeful it may mean Etsy is going to crackdown on resellers.

Notice in Dashboard about Stock Photos
There was a blue notice in my Dashboard today that said something about Etsy being a unique marketplace and not to use stock photos in listings or else risk loss of badges and account suspension... I am wondering if this was targeted at me or if this went out to everyone?? It sounds kind of threate…

There was a blue notice in my Dashboard today that said something about Etsy being a unique marketplace and not to use stock photos in listings or else risk loss of badges and account suspension... I am wondering if this was targeted at me or if this went out to everyone?? It sounds kind of threatening and I've never seen it before. (I deleted it because it seemed frivolous at first, so I don't know the exact verbiage.)

I sell digital downloads only. I don't use "stock photos" per se, but I do use mockups as most digital sellers do in order to highlight my products.

Please tell me you are seeing this as well so I don't feel targeted like I'm doing something wrong when I do not believe I am.

It popped up for me when I was copying a listing. I didn’t get too salty cause every photo I use is my own. I do reuse 1 photo as my last…showing different sizing…but it’s a collage of my own pics.

It looked like a reminder not to use “copied” images. Like for listing “thieves”.

Sounds to me like Etsy might want to use a "net" wide image search, looking for "canned" images that might be an indication that something listed here isn't "handmade", or is a "resell".

Maybe they’re cracking down on stock photos to help disguise resellers. Right now, so many resellers are selling the exact same items with the exact same catalog stock photos. It’ll make it harder to distinguish the resellers if they actually have to take their own photos. And we all know how much Etsy loves the income resellers bring, so hiding them works…they can still be Etsy’s cash cows, but will fly under the radar.

Tbh if implemented correctly this could be good, so many resellers / drop shippers are using the same stock photos (which often even aren’t of the actual product). This could weed out a lot of shops falsely selling mass produced as handmade with the same lovely looking lifestyle photo (probably stolen from someone else who does handmade them). Just hope they don’t take down too many listings from shops whose images were stolen.

Etsy seller and ecommerce consultant Cindy Baldassi (CindyLouWho2) remarked about Etsy's abysmal record when using automation to flag compliance issues, with a whopping 95% failure rate according to Etsy's own statistics.

Sounds like we should get ready for some more bot takedowns. Remember, Etsy has a 95% failure rate on marketplace compliance takedowns (per their own admission). I'm not looking forward to this...

...Yes, only 5% of their takedowns stay down. Those are the stats from their own Transparency Report from last year (there is a summary on my Tumblr if you want to Google it).

This is why the forum is flooded with "Why did Etsy take down my listing?" posts each time they launch a new bot - 19 out of 20 listings removed shouldn't have been removed.

Etsy has come under increasing scrutiny for counterfeits and "fake" handmade items taking over the site as many listings are really just mass produced good drop shipped from other retailers or direct from AliExpress

Etsy Under Fire For Fake Handmade Items, Could It Be Opportunity For eBay?
Etsy faces brand damage as many “handmade” items are really mass produced goods dropshipped from big retailers.

Often you can easily identify these dropshippers by doing a simple Google Lens search, as they will directly copy the images from Amazon, Alibaba or wherever they are "sourcing" the items.

It would be technologically pretty simple to use machine learning and AI to do this type of image matching, however the results are not always conclusive and without a human element to verify before action is taken there are bound to be many mistakes.

Sellers fears about Etsy's bots going wild are not at all unfounded - there have been many reports of legitimate items being deactivated when wrongfully caught in the autobot dragnet.

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Etsy Takes Down Legitimate Handmade Items In Automated Bot Dragnet
Etsy sellers report increase in legitimate handmade items being deactivated, caught in automated bot dragnet.

Etsy absolutely does need to address the rampant reseller dropshipping problems, but this job is too important to be left to automation that has proven time and time again to be utterly useless and actively harmful to legitimate sellers on the platform.

If Etsy really cares about cleaning up the site to restore trust in their unique and handmade brand, they're going to have to look to their motto - Keep Commerce (and policy enforcement) Human.


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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!