Design Theft or Outright Scam

Some of you are aware of the quilting-and-copyright research project called Just Wanna Quilt. I wrote a little about it here.

Besides the website with interview podcasts (including mine!), there is also a Facebook group linked to the research. The lead researcher, Elizabeth Townsend Gard, is using the group as a way to learn more about the culture of quilting. You can join, too!

Because the research focuses on intellectual property, Facebook group members post interesting items on the topic. Recently there was a post about a company that, apparently, steals quilt designs and prints them on low-quality blanket material. Or perhaps, what they’re doing is using the designs to collect orders, with credit card information, and then not delivering on the order. Whether it is phishing or scamming or stealing designs, it’s kind of horrifying that they are making money on the backs of talented designers and quilters.

Here are three of the companies that are involved with this. I’m not going to add active links, but you can check for yourself if you’re interested. Company names include
ustrendygear.com
greatbuyaz.com
usgearviral.com

A friend tagged me with a link to a picture of a great “quilt blanket” offered by one of these companies. The price of the supposed blanket was $49.95. It was NOT a quilt. And again, without trying to make a purchase, who knows if there really is a product, or if it is a phishing scam?

I looked up the quilt design the friend showed me. It was an elaborately appliquéd quilt, pattern by McKenna Ryan. You can find the pattern, as listed for sale by Ryan’s own site, here. The image below is a linked image from Pine Needles, Ryan’s store. As you can see, this is NOT a cheap blanket. It’s not a $50 item. The actual value would be in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, based on all the time required to replicate it in appliqué.

McKenna Ryan’s pattern And On That Farm, https://www.pineneedles.com/And-On-That-Farm-s/1920.htm

Here is the product description from the scammer company page (NOT McKenna Ryan’s company.)

And here is a screen shot of the “returns policy” for the scammer company.

I clicked through the link my friend gave me, and on that original post, I said it was McKenna Ryan’s design, and the company appeared to have stolen the design to print it on cheap blanket fabric. Soon after, whoever originally posted it removed the link.

Have you seen this type of Facebook post? You’re welcome to share my post with friends or your online quilting groups, if you’d like to warn them of the scams.

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36 thoughts on “Design Theft or Outright Scam

  1. Lisa J.

    I’m not on facebook much so I haven’t come across this. It looks like phishing to me as they aren’t showing their own products. Very weird. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to buy one.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I was surprised that my friend tagged me with one just after it had come up in the group. I hadn’t seen them before. I’m on facebook a lot, but my realm is pretty limited. 🙂 Thanks for taking a look. I’m with you, can’t figure why someone would buy one, unless they truly don’t know how much real quilts are worth. And really, most people don’t. Thanks.

      Reply
  2. Carole S.

    This is seriously scary! They’re stealing copyrighted patterns for their own profit! I’ve seen Jen Kingwell’s, Violet Craft’s, McKenna’s, and lots of others. Looks like they’re lifting the photos from Instagram. How on earth does this get stopped?

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Hi Carole. Thanks for commenting. It is scary and I can’t guess how it gets stopped. My thought is, you could inform all the designers about the violations, and they could spend a ton of money on attorneys to stop their particular parts of it, and maybe get the particular domains to shut down those sites, but they’ll just pop up elsewhere. It’s like a bad infection. Sick. 😦

      Reply
  3. katechiconi

    For $50, I’d hope nobody would imagine they were getting an actual quilt with the level of detail apparent in the photo… A lot of people have trouble understanding that public images do not belong to everyone. It’s ignorance, laziness and a solid chunk of dishonesty, behaving in a way they wouldn’t like others to behave towards them. I’m not on FB so I haven’t seen anything like this and I find it pretty shocking. I don’t know how to actively protect images, unless it’s to suggest that no quilt is ever photographed straight on, to make it impossible to lift an entire design from the internet, and perhaps have a large copyright ‘shadow’ across it. We shouldn’t need to do these things, but then, we shouldn’t need to lock our doors, either…

    Reply
    1. Wendy

      As far as not photographing quilts straight on, I can fix that in Photoshop in about 2 minutes, and I’m not all that good at it. It’s impossible to control what gets photographed at quilt shows, and many of these are either show quilts or published patterns. Easy enough to lift a photo from an online catalog in less than a minute, and they generally aren’t watermarked in that situation. I don’t have any good solutions to unethical behavior. Ethical behavior needs to be instilled in childhood, and even then, things go wrong.

      Reply
  4. CreatedByBella

    Thank you for reporting on this. There are way too many hard working artists who are having their work stolen everyday. It’s posts like this that help to educate the world and that is the first step to stopping the copyright infringements. Great post Melanie.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks, Bella. As you say, there’s no real remedy except education. As long as people can make a buck the easy way, some won’t choose to do so honorably.

      Reply
  5. Kerry

    Wow! I don’t go on FB as much as I used to, just now and again and try to avoid the politics! Sometimes friends tag me for something like an animal or quilts, but thankfully have never come across that. Or if I have, I’ve not looked into it close enough – maybe I should in future just to check.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      🙂 I get what you mean about not checking those things closely. I usually don’t, either, and wouldn’t have in this case if not already seen another post warning about it. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I rarely see ads in facebook, really. I have a blind spot for them. 🙂 But I think there must be profit in running ads there or companies wouldn’t do it. Thanks, Mary.

      Reply
  6. Norma

    I’m one of the victims of ustrendygear picture theft. After a little research I’ve found the parent “company “ is based in Vietnam with the web host in Canada and bouncing to New Hampshire. When they catch too much heat they’ll change the names of the web sites. There are at least a dozen scams run on Facebook with different names through ustrendygear. usgoodgear is another phishing site.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks for the update, and I’m sorry to hear you’ve been hurt by this, too. In truth I think it hurts us all, but some more than others. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  7. Sue

    Thanks for spreading the word. I saw a post about this on the Textile Arts FB group yesterday. Shining light on it is probably the best defense…still it is frustrating.

    Reply
  8. snarkyquilter

    OMG, I went to the greatbuyaz website and stared in disbelief at a photo of an original quilt with a cow I believe was made by Freddy Moran, with her standing next to it! I found the photo was taken from a 2016 blog post on Dream Quilt Create. It isn’t even the blanket they advertise. And you can tell English isn’t the native tongue of the copywriter. It’s scary to think of all the quilt photos being scraped from websites and used in this way. Maybe watermarks are the only way to go on your own blog. I don’t know how to handle free floating pix taken at guild meetings, shows, etc.

    Reply
  9. KerryCan

    I fear this is the world we live in now. I know all kinds of design copying seems to go on on Etsy–maybe it’s an argument for less Instagram, less Facebook, less blogging with photos? I don’t like any of those ideas but . . .

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Those ideas don’t work well simply because so many artists/crafters use facebook and instagram, and blogs to a lesser degree, to market themselves and their work. If you can’t post pix, you can’t show people what cool stuff you do, and we’re back to brick and mortar stores as the only realistic outlet. Thanks for commenting, Kerry.

      Reply
  10. tierneycreates

    Sigh. At least there is a campaign to make people aware. I’ve heard all sort of Etsy stories (including someone I met in person) of intellectual property theft especially coming out of Asian countries. I understand people are trying to make money but outright stealing others ideas. Now I have a friend who make me something she saw on Pinterest and figured out from the picture how to make but she is not trying to sell and make money from it.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It’s awful, isn’t it? I think we’ve all looked at things and figured out how to make it, and there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. But this takes it to a completely different level. ugh.

      Reply
  11. Nann

    I went to two of the sites you mentioned. I hope that does not doom me to getting popup ads! First thing I noticed was a “library tote bag” using an illustration from a book that is DEFINITELY still copyright-protected. I also saw many references to “blankets” that are actually quilts. Do they photograph the item and then print it on other fabric? Ick……I suppose that trying to prosecute these sleazy scammers would be like playing whack-a-mole.

    Reply
  12. lorrainelturner

    I had this happen to me and luckily, my art is recognizable and I was notified by someone. I was able to report them and have my art removed. They removed my watermark and but left my clear signature that is stitched into my art on the quilt. Apparently they claim to have products but this is just a grab a credit card and never deliver a product scam. FBI goes after internet fraud and yes, they can be shut down but then pop up again under a new name. Really just outright thieves preying on artists.

    Reply
  13. Alyssa Goodnight

    I unfortunately bought two of these so called quilts from ustrendygear.com. I received only one of them and they are a rip-off. Horrible quality and terrible customer service. I still have no idea where the second one is and I’m afraid I will never see it. The fact that I paid over $100 dollars for the two of them makes me sick! The company is impossible to get ahold of and does nothing but send you automatic email reply’s when you ask about the order. I’m so frustrated and have no way of getting ahold of the company other than email and that is a joke!

    Reply
  14. Kathy Howard

    Not quilts, but I have heard many reports from Spoonflower designers of having their designs ripped of and the images used on products for sale. The thieves don’t even notice if the repeat isn’t complete and the product looks terrible. The design owners go through the proper take down procedure on the legitimate selling site, only to have designs show up again under another business name.

    Reply
  15. rebecca h high

    I’m getting a lot of these scam ads on facebook lately, they link to farmzily.com and another I forget, but they seem to be owned by commonpanda.com. I am making a quilt now and have been doing a lot of web searches about quilting. I knew the ads looked suspicious, and google led me to your page.

    Reply
  16. Lorislea Fish

    I actually ordered two blankets from ustrendygear in July 2018. I did not receive anything at all. $105 out the window. I did use pay pal and have a dispute started, so hopefully I can get my money back. I’m afraid I was a victim of a scam. Please do not fall into the trap like I did.

    Reply
  17. Cindi Lynch

    The one I keep seeing on facebook is calling itself Ecrafta. I am not a quilter, I paint watercolors. They stole my designs and are featuring them on their blankets and “quilts”. I think the fraud sites are going to be plentiful this holiday season

    Reply

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