30 January 2009

NewsFlash: CPSIA Stay of Enforcement Granted

Effective immediately, the CPSC has granted a one year stay of enforcement of the CPSIA. This is fabulous news for small businesses, handcrafters, vintage sellers, libraries, and environmentalists, etc. as well as for the consumers who support them.

There are certain exceptions noted on pages 2 and 3 of the drafted stay (pages 4 and 5 of the PDF document linked below):

(1) those where testing and certification was required by subsection 14(a) of the CPSA prior to enactment of the CPSIA; and
(2) those requirements, when they become effective, applicable to children's product certifications required to be supported by third party testing for which the Commission has issued requirements for acceptance of accreditation of third party testing laboratories to test for:
  • lead paint (effective for products manufactured after December 21, 2008),
  • full-size and non-full size cribs and pacifiers [effective for products manufactured after January 20, 2009],
  • small parts (effective for products manufactured after February 15, 2009), and
  • metal components of children's metal jewelry (effective for products manufactured after March 23, 2009);
(3) any and all certifications expressly required by CPSC regulations; and
(4) the certifications required due to certain requirements of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act being defined as consumer safety "rules;" and
(5) the certifications of compliance required for ATVs in section 42(a) (2) (B) of the CPSC which were added by CPSIA; and
(6) any voluntary guarantees provided for in the Flammable Fabric Act ("FFA") or otherwise (to the extent a guarantor wishes to issue one).
Read the full details here:

For an easier read, check out this Etsy Storque article:
Breaking News: The CPSIA Mandatory Testing & Certification Has Been Suspended for a Year

And for a more cautionary report on this latest development:
CPSIA: CPSC staff asks 1-year enforcement stay

Many thanks to all who participated in the push for a second, more realistic and more practical, look at this legislation. Let's hope the necessary amendments will be carefully drafted over the coming year. Keep the pressure on and keep spreading the word.

Kudos all around!

[Edited to include the complete list of CPSC exceptions.]

[Edited to include the following:]

As more complete information comes to light, it is clear that there is a very long road ahead. And, unfortunately, sellers of vintage items (if they are intended for children 12 and under), makers of recycled/upcycled products, and charitable organizations and thrift shops will likely be the hardest hit, as they are NOT exempt from the more stringent, and now retro-active, lead and phthalate requirements.

Be sure to carefully read the following:



29 January 2009

CPSIA - More Ways to Take Action

Here are a few more links to help in the fight to amend the CPSIA. These measures are time sensitive, as the CPSC will stop gathering comments and complaints on this issue after January 3o, 2009 (tomorrow). Please take a moment to explore these options and make a difference wherever you can.

Ask CPSC to Clarify New Child Products Rules to Protect Safe Handmade Toys and Clothes

Etsy's CPSIA Action Kit

Small Business Administration
- possibly a powerful ally in the fight against unreasonable federal restrictions/requirements that CPSIA will impose on small businesses

CPSC itself is inviting comments on component testing.

28 January 2009

CPSIA: What's It All About?

On September 12, 2007, Congressman Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, introduced the Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act, a bill that was intended to protect children from exposure to toxic products. After the recent influx of harmful toys and other children's products from China, this was meant to be a relief to parents and concerned consumers all across the nation. It became law on August 14, 2008 and is scheduled to become effective February 10, 2009. However, a closer look reveals it to be a poorly crafted and extreme piece of legislation that has more potential to cause harm than to do good. Rather than carefully researching the topic and drafting a law that would underscore the importance of child safety and place proper restrictions and requirements on major manufacturers and importers, it has created a hostile environment for any but the largest makers of children’s goods. By requiring a battery of expensive tests for each and every item and certification for all components – including resale goods - it is poised to shut down thousands of small businesses and bring many charitable companies and practices to a screeching halt.

The law (not for the fainthearted or the legalese-impaired):

In layman’s terms: Any and all products that are made for, or marketed to, children 12 and under will be subject to the new laws and testing and/or certification requirements. Testing is for lead, flammability, and certain phthalates, and can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars per item. (For a few cost examples, see here; and for a list of approved labs, see here.) Every individual component and/or color combination of an item (for example: fabric, thread, filler, buttons and other embellishments for a plush toy; paper, ink, board, and all binding materials for a children’s book) must be tested.

What this means for small businesses, resale shops and charitable organizations: Families, individuals, and small companies which specialize in handmade or limited production children’s items will be forced out of business as they will be unable to absorb the costs of testing and certification. Resale shops, although exempt from direct testing, will be forced to stop reselling all used children’s goods, as they will likely be unable to certify that those goods fall within safe-testing limits. Non-profits will be unable to collect and distribute any used children’s products, as they will not be able to certify that all goods are within CPSIA limits.

What this means for handcrafters: Aside from being grossly cost prohibitive, this will effectively eliminate the creation and sale of any handmade and one-of-a-kind (ooak) children’s products, as the testing consumes the components being tested. Obviously, this will put many small and micro businesses out of commission.

What this means for individuals: Consumers will no longer have the option to choose between mass manufactured, resale, recycled, or individually crafted children’s clothes, toys, books, furniture, jewelry, etc. Expensive testing and certification will drive up the costs of all children’s products. School and art supplies and science kits/materials, as well as some sports equipment, will be subject to testing, and will increase in price while likely decreasing in availability. Trips to the library and bookstore may become a thing of the past as libraries and shops may be forced to pull thousands of books from shelves and/or ban children under twelve from walking through their doors.

Yes, it all seems quite extreme. But these are the realities US families, consumers and businesspeople will be facing if the CPSIA is not carefully and realistically amended before its implementation on February 10.

Public outcries have been pouring in from every corner of the US. Protests and petitions have been launched. Are these people who oppose the new law against improved measures for child safety? Far from it. What they are asking for is a more realistic approach to the problem. More cost-efficient testing methods; use of certification from manufacturers of supplies to show compliance in products created from those supplies; exemption for certain categories of items that are not intended for children (ie: certain antiques and collectibles, and products made with raw or untreated materials), etc.

What can be done? Get the facts – search ‘cpsia’ or check out the sampling of links below. Join forces with thousands of others in petitioning congress to re-visit the legislation and amend the requirements.

Get informed:
Get involved:
A series of excellent articles:
Scrap The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
Scrap The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act--II
Scrap The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act--III

The bottom line is this: we can protect our kids without going to extremes, and without eliminating jobs and choices.
Demand a smart law – not a reactionary one.

16 January 2009

The Apprehensive Blogger . . .

So. I don't blog.

Until now, that is.

Driven by a couple of very important issues that have recently come up which are affecting the wonderfully creative folks in the artist and handmade crafting communities - and therefore the small business community, as well - I have decided to raise my virtual voice in support.

So. Here goes.

What other paths might this online journal take? Who can tell . . .

Polyvore's Fashion Faux Pas - Does This Classless Act Call For A Class Action?

In early 2007 (according to the WayBackMachine internet archives), Pasha Sadri launched his fashion collage site, polyvore.com. Since that time, Polyvore has been a magnet for both fashion-fixated teens/young adults and copyright controversy. According to web sources, Polyvore was originally created to allow users to upload product content from all over the web and incorporate it into user-generated fashion collages. Iffy enough. Soon, however, users were clipping images other than fashion pics. Now, Polyvore makes no clear distinction between the types of images that can or should be used on its site, but instead encourages users - right on its front page - to get images from any and every possible source. And here is what is says at the top of its About page:

Polyvore is a free, easy-to-use web-based application for mixing and matching images from anywhere on the web. It is also a vibrant community of creative and stylish people.

Polyvore lets you create sets composed of individual images using an easy to use, drag and drop editor. After you have created a set, you can publish and share it with your friends and the Polyvore community.
Copyrighted artworks, photos, and designs, along with private photos of children, family, friends, pets, vacation scenes, and even home interiors, snagged from personal webpages, photo storing sites, and non-fashion commercial sites - to name jut a few - have found their way into Polyvore collages: as backgrounds, virtual mannequins, props or even bizarrely altered focal points. Often, watermarks are obscured or removed - an offense punishable by fines of up to $25,000 USD. More and more users are calling these sets 'works of art' and are defending their 'right' to make them, regardless of where the images were obtained. For many users, Polyvore has become a major outlet of 'free expression' - only the images being used to create these moody depictions, make political statements, etc. are NOT free use. And the creation of these compilations damages the owners of the copyrighted images by adversely affecting their reputations and incomes, and infringes on their lawful right to have complete control over the use of their images.

Artists, photographers, and designers of all sorts are coming forward to denounce Polyvore and to complain that its users have stolen their images and created illegal derivative works. And, although Polyvore will comply with DMCA requests to take down specific content, little-to-nothing is done to stem the tide of illegal clipping and altering, or to educate the Polyvore community about the true facts of copyright. Infringing content continues to abound. Images taken down one day are uploaded the next. And when made aware of the illegal use of images, many users react defensively, claiming that Polyvore TOU gives them carte blanche to use any image they like. Artists have even been accused of 'asking' for it by uploading their images on the internet where 'everything is up for grabs'. Very seldom do the users comprehend the gravity of the theft that is occurring wholesale at Polyvore.

The reality is that Sadri himself had once opined to a colleague that "there is an enormous amount of content on the web today that isn't being used in any kind of creative way." That attitude, coupled with the fact that Polyvore provides both the image clipping tool and the graphics manipulation software onsite to users, without reasonable restrictions, supports the growing sentiment that Sadri ought to be held accountable for facilitating both the theft and illegal derivative creation of copyrighted material. Besides - this isn't the first time that Polyvore and Sadri have come under scrutiny and criticism for these issues: in January of 2008, many artists at Etsy.com - an e-commerce site specializing in handmade items, as well as vintage finds, and crafting/art supplies - became aware of the illegal use of their images and began a campaign to both inform other Etsy sellers and to get their images removed from Polyvore. Sadri defended his site and its practices, but agreed to disallow images from Etsy from being directly copied by his clipper tool. At some point, however, that restriction was removed, and illicit copies of Etsy images began flowing in again.

In this latest round of complaints, Sadri is again defending his site and its use. He commented on the Flickr account of one egregiously abused Etsy artist, admitting "we don't have affiliate relationship all the sites in the world but we want people to be able to use products from any shop." The implication from both Polyvore users and Sadri himself is that anyone whose images are featured in sets and 'art' collages ought to be grateful for the free promotion and exposure they are receiving - whether or not they agreed to, or want, it. (Interesting to note that Polyvore users generate income for the site by the creation of many of the sets - and most don't even know it, operating under the mistaken belief that, because Polyvore is free to use, it is a not-for-profit site. Polyvore has partnered with certain companies to receive click-based sales commissions.)

Again, direct-clipping from Etsy has been disabled, but Polyvore users have developed workarounds whereby they copy images to other sites, then import, or clip, them from those third-party locations. In many cases, there isn't any direct link to where the original image came from, and no credit given to the artist/photographer/designer. And, by the way, personal photos are every bit as copyright protected as artworks or product images.

Because Sadri has not restricted the clipping and manipulation of images to ONLY those sites with whom Polyvore has a contractual affiliation, does not require users to 'check off' a statement for every image that is clipped, asserting that they have the rights to that image, and has not taken serious steps to inform users of - or to effectively enforce - copyright restrictions, there is a widespread sense that Sadri has acted in bad faith, putting his own interests and financial profit before the law. There is precious little real estate in the vastness of the web that is safe from the Polyvore clipper. People all across the internet, from locations all across the globe, are saying 'Enough!' They are calling for the shut down of Polyvore. And many are looking into securing legal representation for a class action suit.


For a sampling of information, specific incidents of infringement, discussions and comments on this alarming issue, visit the following links (or try searching for 'polyvore copyright'):


Blogs and internet forums:


Notices and Petitions:

If you’ve been victimized:
http://www.vlany.org/aboutus/index.php (specifically for NY - but you can ask for a referral, or search Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts for an organization near you)


In summary, it is sad to note that the prevailing notion is that any content found on the web is free for the taking. Somehow, internet users have convinced themselves that notices of copyright and watermarks are mere annoyances, and not legal notification that it’s ‘virtual hands off’. The truth is that, even without any visible notice, it is illegal to copy and use content without permission, with the very narrow exception of some educational and critical uses. Copyright law grants immediate protection to the creator from the moment that an image, audio and/or video recording, or written work/composition is created. Unless it is expressly stated that the content is free-use, or in the public domain, it is NOT permissible to copy.

It would behoove internet users – and the admins and members of Polyvore in particular – to properly acquaint themselves with factual copyright information:

US Copyright Office
Copyright FAQs
Copyright Law, Treaties and Advice