How to prepare product descriptions and photos lawfully?
Magdalena Parys

Most often, copyrights are infringed online. Here is our short tutorial on how to create auction descriptions without infringement of property rights.

According to the Act on Copyrights and Related Rights of 4 February 1994, anyone can create works irrespective of its value and purpose. Therefore, a song, movie, painting, article or description of an online auction are legally protected (later on you will find out which descriptions are not legally protected).

There are many inspirations and even the same photos and titles of sale and purchase offers on Allegro, the most popular auction platform in Poland. We decided to find an answer to a question: is it a plagiarism to copy a description of a sale and purchase offer with photos?

Legal protection of offers

It is easy to create descriptions of online offers. You only need to enter title, choose a product category, add photos, choose offer type – auction, buy it now or both – pick shipping and payment method and describe a product. It is beginning to get difficult when you have to come up with an offer title, which is supposed to encourage users to click on it, and description of an offered item which would sell the product.

The best option is to create original and unique content which is difficult to be copied. Only then, your works are legally protected similarly to a music track, article in a magazine or TV series. 

This level of protection is not guaranteed for a set of words and sentences providing only raw information about a product – model, use, technical specification. It is not a creative work but a piece of information.

The same applies to pictures (they are included in offer description) presenting an offered product. If it is a standard photo with no special features, it is not a subject to plagiarism because pursuant to Polish law, it is not a work. However, if taking a photo required more effort – arrangement of space around the product, text on a picture, a watermark or black and white background – then it is an artistic work which is protected.

You have to be extra cautious when you list products from luxurious brands such as Burberry, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace. These companies pay special attention to their image. They do not make specifications of their original products available. Their photos are extraordinary – a model presenting a coat in nature or in a city center. On Allegro website, there is information that each use of content of Burberry or other company may lead to auction removal. Moreover, a sale offer may be removed even if you do not use the word “Burberry” but you sell a product with a check pattern identical or confusingly similar to Burberry check.

It is forbidden to use trademark (brand name) in auction title and comparing it to an offered item. So avoid using terms such as à la ZARA.

Takiej ochrony na pewno nie uzyska zlepek kilku słów czy zdań niosący jedynie suchą wiadomość o sprzedawanym produkcie – model, zastosowanie i specyfikacja techniczna. Nie jest to przejaw żadnej twórczości, lecz jedynie zwykła informacja.

How to enforce your rights?

When a description or photo (with individual features) is stolen, take relevant steps as soon as possible. First of all, find out who infringed your rights. It is not difficult to track this person when your content was stolen by third parties to sell on Allegro. Platform users have to provide their personal details. Sometimes sellers share such information on offer pages and in tabs: “Information provided by seller” or “About me”. It gets complicated when a person provided false data. Then you have to contact the police.

But first you should contact the seller by email or by phone and inform the seller about copyright infringement. Many people are not aware of the fact that content shared online is legally protected. There is this common belief that everything that is online belongs to nobody and does not have the owner. Take screenshots of stolen elements to support your claim.

However, if the seller does not intend to voluntarily remove stolen materials, you should enforce your rights under the Rights Protection Cooperation Program. Taking a case to court should be a final resort – proceedings can take months.

Soon on PayU blog: “How to name online auctions to sell more?” Visit us!

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Main photo: CC by janeb13/Pixabay