Posted by: Sheri | July 13, 2012

Dear Etsy Legal Department…

I know your job is usually to ignore copyright and intellectual property infringements (except when it involves the IP of Disney and other powerful and highly litigious corporate entities), but could you please take a moment to ignore this probable violation of federal wildlife law?

This shop is selling items made with real bird skulls:

soultosoul19: Dead Birds & The Lost Key

Though the skulls are not identified by the seller, they are obviously not from common domesticated birds such as poultry or pigeons, ornamental gamebirds such as pheasants or peafowl, or common cage birds such as parrots or finches. They appear to be from wading birds and seabirds and were most likely salvaged from nature. Since the seller is in the United States, it is almost certain that the skulls belong to species that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The Act states the following (in part):

“…it shall be unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner, to… possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, cause to be shipped, deliver for transportation, transport, cause to be transported, carry, or cause to be carried by any means whatever, receive for shipment, transportation or carriage, or export, at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird, included in the terms of this Convention . . . for the protection of migratory birds . . . or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird.” (16 U.S.C. 703)

If these items are in violation of the MBTA, their sale, purchase, and shipment are also violations of the Lacey Act.

If these skulls do not belong to native birds covered under the Act and were legally acquired and legal to resell, there should be a statement to that effect in the description of each item and some documentation to back it up. If not… well, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m sure you’ve got the resources to figure out the exact legal ramifications for the company.

Regards,

Sheri L. Williamson

cc: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Etsy’s boilerplate non-response:

Case #: 38410
Jason Seger
JUL 16, 2012  |  07:26PM UTC
Sheri -Thanks so much for contacting Etsy. As you may know, by using the site, each person agrees to comply with Etsy’s policies and with applicable laws. Also, Etsy is a venue which is comprised of third-party or user generated content. Etsy is not a juried site.Thanks so much for sending this link to Etsy. If you have questions about a certain seller’s material, you may choose to respectfully contact that person with an inquiry.

Etsy complies with our policies and we remove material when we are notified by proper authorities and have reason to believe that the material is not in compliance with Etsy’s policies.

Jason
Etsy Legal Support

Update: As of September 20, the store is still online but is now empty.

Does that mean that:

  • the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service stepped in?
  • Etsy decided, without direct prompting from federal officers, to enforce its own rules?
  • all the illegal items sold, and “soultosoul19″ needs to scavenge more bird carcasses off the beach to restock his/her shop?

The last option seems unlikely, as Etsy shop pages usually list the numbers of sales, but the fact that the shop is still on line is troubling. I’ll be keeping an eye on it just in case.

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