Guatemala Artisans Taking Legal Action Against Etsy Sellers


When you travel to Guatemala, you can't help but fall in love with the vibrant textiles.

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From the brightly colored threads weaved into a skirt to the multicolored designs on a purse, these labor intensive designs created by talented artisans are definitely one-of-a-kind. While we'd love to all just book a flight to Guatemala and bring back one of these beautiful souvenirs, we are often left with the next best thing, Etsy. The e-commerce site, known for buying and selling handmade goods, has numerous shops that resell products made by Guatemalan artisans. However, you will be surprised to find out that many of these gorgeous designs are being sold for an outrageous amount of money. This is completely unfair, considering that these skilled artists put so much effort into their designs and sell it for barely anything.

Well, things might be changing pretty soon thing thanks to James Dillon and Kara Goebel. The pair, who have been living in Guatemala for seven years, recently founded Ethical Fashion Guatemala, to help fight these injustices for artisans in the country. Unlike Etsy, the company gives consumers the opportunity to buy textiles and leather goods that come directly from the artisans. As of right now, the products sold on the site are made by more than 40 weaving co-operatives and more than 1,000 local artisans. The company also only takes 10 percent of the sales to cover the cost of running the site and shipping, while the rest goes to the artist themselves. "The artisans have limited Internet access, but they follow the U.S. every day online," Dillon said. "They have no website development skills or even the cash to have a website of their own; no Paypal, no credit cards and the Guatemalan postal service — the only means they did have to ship products — collapsed two years ago."

Aside from assisting these talented artists in selling their products, Dillon and Goebel are trying to crack down sites like Etsy and Shopify that infringe on artisan copyrights. So far, the couple has found over 64,000 products sold without the consent of artisans on Etsy. Legal action against these sellers began back in August.

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The company is helping create jobs while helping increase artisans' income. "This is about making money for the artisans by providing them with the technology tools to sell products," Dillon explained. "They are a proud people who want income, not charity." With the right platform to sell their already-in-demand goods, hopefully, they will receive just that."