Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Business & Ethics Of Sea Glass

It is sometimes hard being the oldest Internet site selling sea glass jewelry. Over the years we have had so many incidents copying our site content, ideas and designs that just defending it could be a full time job in itself.

Though we are aggressive in confronting those individuals that copy our content and most everyone had been accommodating about removing copied content or designs.

When I helped to write the NASGA code of ethics, I thought that it would provide at least a little protection for competitors who had also joined the group. This has proven not to be the case. In my defense to some recent attacks, I am posting this on my blog.(Ironically only 1 week after posting this blog, I received notice from the NASGA that the Code Of Ethics Statement had been totally removed and combined in a streamlined mission statement with no reference to honoring trademarks, intellectual property etc....)

SO - For the Record......

We have been online for over 20 years, first as a HTML site that I made myself and that was hosted not under our current domain name but on our providers free website area....We operated at that time as By The Sea Jewelry and have been for 18 years.

The Internet was young back then so it took me hundreds of hours to hone the site, meta tags, content to get listed in the search engines...Funny enough, the site back then, no longer in existence, that always ranked above me was a slow loading homemade site as well and it frustrated me that it kept getting ranked higher as there was no content to speak of.

Genuine Sea Glass

We have been using Genuine Sea Glass as a trademark in use  or TM (a Legal Definition defined by the USTPO as an unregistered mark.) Unregistered trademarks OR trademarks in use are used widely in business everywhere - See Wikiapedia for general definition or the USTPO site which starts as "Do you need to register a trademark - NO...) .

Since we do not have the time or resources to defend each incident of using this unregistered mark in court, we changed our phrase to Certified Genuine Sea Glass, we are currently working on registering this mark as to protect our interests.

Many other professional sites respectfully use instead of our TM use, Natural, Authentic, Real, Found, etc.....or variations thereof. We thank them for their respect for our intellectual property!

Recently the DMCA DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT, protects photos, designs and content.

Website Design

Several companies have actually copied out EXACT meta tags, descriptions and keywords so much so that they still have By The Sea, in their keywords. Over time, I developed my meta tags and static site pages and was finally listed as one of the top sites under our search terms......this made us a target for new sites coming online....Thankfully, most search engines no longer use these tags to rank a site.

The tag line Sea Glass Jewelry (seaglass jewelry) or beach glass jewelry (beachglass jewelry) from By The Sea Jewelry combines Genuine Sea Glass TM (natural found sea glass) ,,,etc....was soon copied by MANY and can still be seen as a influence on many other sea glass sites.
What is Sea Glass?

We were also the first page to have a "What is Sea Glass" page from Dec 1999, which can now be seen on just about every other sea glass site online. This too has been a target of copy, in part and in whole.

The oldest online cache of this page which dates back to April 2000 can be seen at

Original Settings

The page above also shows a design/technique design that we originated and that has never appeared in an instructional magazine or book and which we have had copied by competitors. I challenge any competitor to demonstrate an example of this setting at an earlier date or to provide me with and article of book that exhibits this technique of setting sea glass. I am confident that they will not be able to do so.

Left is a letter from Charles Peden, co-founder of the NASGA about this setting.

Terms And Phrases

Many of the words and terms we have been using since the beginning, "Distinctive", "Specializing In" "Carelessly Discarded" bottles and glass are tumbled in the ocean form these colorful gems of the shore" 

More recent terms include - "Ultra Rare" , "REMEMBER - This is the EXACT piece you will receive" and our description of English Sea Glass as EndODay (The term EndOday actually happened because my custom built shopping cart only allows for so many characters and to save on space, I abbreviated to form this term) ALSO my description that it came from a "Victorian Era Glass Factory that discarded scarps over a cliff into the North Sea", copied by a competitor EXACTLY WORD FOR WORD, and when I addressed the issue to them and explained how and why EndODay came about, this person literally told me in an email, that they just pulled that term and the phrase "Out of their A$#"........ I mean really!

While it is not unethical practice to monitor your competitors, it is unethical harass them by reference to their work and websites, making legal conclusions as to their rights and post defamatory statements online to their peers.

We have never publicly attacked this persons designs, or copy protections and in fact have defended their property when applicable (when we notified them via email that a new commercial site was using a photo I knew they owned). We have also defended other sea glass artists intellectual property pertaining to a Color Chart that was posted on our social site, deleting it as we knew it to be copy protected.

We quite frankly only wish to be left alone to do our work. One of the reasons I named my company, By The Sea Jewelry, was a desire for anonymity...

My Google Analytics have the above mentioned person hitting my site over 10,000 page views in the last two years (once last January they hit our site over 20 times in one day - note Page Count is an average not a total). Some days the person visits hundreds of pages.

Funny enough, this person continues to hit my "What is Sea Glass" (195 + times which is funny as a self proclaimed pioneer in the sea glass field, I would think they would know what sea glass is by now)!

Also my Press Page (About the Artist) page 216 or more times,,,,,(shows a trend of obsession for me that this "person" concerning my business and website) I truly feel like I am being stalked.

Example below

Other high hit pages from this person include:

Our Blues and Aquas Page 944 times

Sterling Silver Bracelets 256 times

Green and Seafoam Pendants 472 times

Reds and Purple Pendants 259 times

Once a month I check my competitors to see what they are doing, sales they offer, etc......I honestly believe that this persons using the English sea glass phrase came by osmosis by visiting my site so heavily and that they sadly may really not believe that they got it from our site.

Also more recently, this person claims a design names that  we have been using online for over 5 and that are also used by at least 4 other sea glass jewelry companies are using. Their new site claims legal ownership of all phrases, slogans, designs and such, yet she does not grant the same rights or privileges to our site that has been online for over 15 years.

They have stated that we have "bullied harassed and intimated people", which if emailing someone and asking them to remove content you have written from their site, or discontinue to use a design we originated, or simply asking them for their mailing address is any of the above, well,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

This person (as of 6/18/10) states on her social that she finds this post (or attacks as she calls them) "disgusting" and that I "routinely portrays me (her) in a false light, and has initiated some personal attacks that I (she) find disgusting". She accuses me now of leaving "rude and obnoxious comments for some of our (her) members" 

What exactly does she find disgusting, supporting attacks with facts and figures? (something which she is unable to do as these accusations are baseless and totally biased).

-If anyone reading this finds this post "disgusting" please email me....or post a comment....I have tried to maintain my composure and be judicial. 

UPDATE - This person posted on a free legal site asking if google screenshot images were a violation of copy write protection. Seems she is concerned about everyone's rights BUT MINE!

She labels my original designs as simple and common, yet if you check the legal info on her site, you cannot even duplicate the "feel" of her site. Simple figure 8 bails are considered "original".

Our Designs

Occasionally we find competitors that copy some of our original proprietary settings. The letter (below ) can in 2006 from a Maine Artist naively asking me to tell them how to make an original setting. Imagine if say, a new soda company wrote to Coke and told them they would like to get into the soda business and could Coke please tell them the recipe for the soda. She no longer uses the EXACT design but now uses a version she has made her own.....

REALLY,,,,,,,,,,I have only offered and referenced statistics and copies of emails..........I have made NO attacks on character or property rights, I have only defended mine as well as others.

It is hard for me to understand as her silver work is exceptional.

Another Sea Glass jewelry maker in Rhode Island who when I first contacted about using this design, first told me that they had "seen it in a book", then that, " their sister had shown it to them" then just that "there were only so many ways to wrap sea glass. I finished by convos with them, I ended with simply replying "Yes, and that is MY way", She then asked me for an ISBN code (International Standard Book Number not used on designs or photos), Too Funny huh?

....In researching my sales records to see if this person had indeed ordered from me (as I have had other competitors attempt to order proprietary settings and request wholesale information) , I found this individual had indeed ordered from my website about a year before. When I asked them to confirm a mailing address so that my attorney could contact them, this person claimed to be fearful that I was stalking them.......

Really, think about it, if you woke up one morning to find your neighbor had moved your car from your driveway to theirs and was now claiming it to be theirs, wouldn't YOU contact your attorney or the police. Policing the Internet is a bit harder though.

In monitoring other sites, we often find incidents of design and name and phrase theft. Below are two pics, the top one is my Ultimate Sea Glass Lovers bracelet that has been on my site for well over 4 years on the Sea Glass Ideas page.

Quite recently I found the second photo on another sea glass jewelers site, Also called The Ultimate Sea Glass Lovers Bracelet.

When I contacted this person, they immediately changed the name of the piece. It still bears evidence our influence in the industry

This artist too has some of the finest silver work online so why they would want to copy me is a mystery.

I did not pursue the design issue as I believe that most drilled sea glass of generic design.

 I simply pointed out to this jeweler the "coincidence" of pieces being NAMED THE SAME and even POSED the same way.

UPDATE 3/2014:
This "artist" above has also recently used some terms and phrases on her redesigned site that are ORIGINAL to our site. Our saying "Sea glass is just glass like Diamonds are just rocks", She says on her site "Sea glass is just glass like other gemstones are just rocks! " Well if changing ONE WORD is original, well I give up!

What many people do not realize is that copying content from a similar site will hurt you in SEO results. Since our site is older than any other and our content is indeed Original, their use of our work actually HURTS only them!

UPDATE 6/2014- This artist NOW CLAIMS to have come up with the term Ultra Rare Sea Glass. It is funny since she has only been online since 2009 and we started using the term in 2006. Ironically too, she uses similar herbage to our page Genuine Sea Glass. We say:

Genuine Sea Glass is a term that I starting using in 1992 when By The Sea Jewelry first went online. Now used widely, it has become the standard term to indicate that sea glass is natural found glass just the way it was picked up from the beach.

She says of Ultra Rare :
"Ultra Rare" sea glass is a term that I came up with to define these colorful pieces of very rare sea glass from England.  The term "Ultra Rare" is now widely used in the sea glass community but when I first started making sea glass jewelry many people were referring to it as "End of Day" sea glass or "Flash Glass".

She also has started copying our use of bottles in photographing earrings.

In fact we started using the term Ultra Rare in 2006, 3 years before she EVER went online and 2 years before her domain name was even registered for the first time. (see Wayback Machine Screen shot left of our first use of Ultra Rare)

Though she claims to have invented the term Ultra Rare and that but when I first started making sea glass jewelry many people were referring to it as "End of Day" sea glass or "Flash Glass", but on her 2009 page she has this info SHE IN FACT was referring to it as Flash Glass! The fact her domain was only started in 2008 so it is a miracle that she was could have INVENTED this term before we did!

I feel sorry that her desire to claim others work as her own is so strong that she is willing rewrite history! If she lies about something THIS SMALL, what else will they lie about?
Sadly she has copied designs from so many other sea glass artists I am sure that I am not the only person in the community who feels this way about this person. I have in fact talked to people that actually called me about her use of their designs down to the same beads and findings. It is sad when an "artist" can only copy and pass work off as their own.
Once again, I certainly do not OWN the English language but to have our words and phrases used by a competitor that claims to have originated them is infuriating!
Most of this post is meant mainly to counter attacks made by ONE individual concerning my reputation, legal rights, integrity and standing in the sea glass community. I hope that this post helps to clear up the disinformation that she has posted online. All 3 of the examples above are members of her social sea glass community. She continually uses her community to blast me and encourage her minions to copy my designs, work and intellectual property. 

A year or so ago she actually emailed an artist and show promoter blasting me. The artist she contacted had no idea there even was a sea glass community or association. I contacted the other board members about this, wishing to put this libelous attack on the record for legal reasons......Several days later she "resigned" her position on the Board of the NASGA. The ONLY reason she has not been sued is that I do not wish to bring in an artist that had no idea what this "person" was talking about, nor the issues or history of the events.

UPDATE 4/15- Her machinations continue. Though I have had NO CONTACT with her for over 7 years, she continues to attack and create these dramas where I am the "bad guy" and she is the "target". It seems to be something every month!

Most recently I received 2 emails from her about my social site. She directed me to a comment where an SGL member in England had said she was so mad at someone (no names or references mentioned) that if this person showed up at this show in England, she would "pull her over the table"

I received the following......
It has been brought to my attention that a member on seaglasslovers has threatened me with physical harm. A member named "Donna"said this in one of her recent posts "I will drag her over my table." Although she does not mention my name you and I both know she is talking about me. What is just as disturbing is that your moderator seems to have no problem with a physical threat being made towards me on your Ning site. In fact your moderator eggs her on! I take threats of violence very seriously and will be following this up with our local sheriff's office. I not only fear Donna physically but I fear that she will excite an unbalanced person to seek me out for the purposes of doing me harm. If anyone on my Ning were to threaten you or anyone this way I would inform you/the person being threatened, report them to Ning, suspend them and keep records of the event. Physical threats are not a minor issue and should be taken seriously. I find it to be very disturbing and frightening that physical threats towards me are being entertained on your Ning site. I certainly hope that you will do the right thing and remove comments that express physical threats towards myself or anyone else! How would you feel if an unbalanced person became inspired by a discussion on your Ning site and then brought physical harm upon myself or my family? 
Thanks In advance For Your Cooperation,

AND...........BTW, this is a community that the above letter writer is NOT a member. No names mentioned so how could ANYONE know it was HER? A vivid imagination for sure.
The post was quickly deleted and the admin did not "egg her on". She only said, "wow you are really mad". This recent machination how now found its way on her social site......and on her Facebook social group. I quote from her "rules"

7) This group is NON VIOLENT. In very rare cases your behavior elsewhere on the internet may result in your suspension from this group. If it is brought to my attention that you have made or supported violent threats towards myself or others then I will suspend you. Don't worry I am not looking at all of your Facebook pages etc. or policing the internet. This has to be brought to my attention. Why this rule? Being a group admin is like hosting a big party. If I find out that Jane Doe punched or physically threatened John Doe at someone else's party last week then I don't want Jane Doe at my party. Not only don't I want Jane Doe I don't want the people that cheered her on at my party. People that have been involved with online threats of violence are not welcome here. 

I really think she must have majored in drama to get so much mileage out of this. I mean really, she is going to call her sheriff because some random person in England made a comment about an anonymous person on a private social site. It is crazy folks! 
But I truly feel sorry for her. I truly DO!

Ironically - One of the reasons that I distanced myself as a board member of the NASGA when my term was still active was that an officer of the group had made a very nasty rude comment about this person in an email. I knew there had been a lot of backroom talking in the group, but after reading the comment, felt like I was back in high school and decided to not participate as a board member any longer. My husband took over my board responsibilities until my term had ended. 

Frankly I never liked girls like these when I was was in grade school, I do not like cliques or sophomoric behavior of adults.

I do not respond directly to this "person" as I have been advised by legal council that it would be unwise, though I want it to be part of the permanent public record the extremes this person has gone to.

The list is long when it comes to this "person" targeting me and my reputation. AND.............It has been relentless. She has sent her minions to my art shows, tried to ruin my personal and professional reputation in the art show community, systematically trashes me on her social site, and this all continues after I have had NO CONTACT with her, and have NEVER met her. She should be reminded that anything ever posted online is retrievable, even if it has been deleted.

Just a few examples...

SHE SAID - She goes into a rant on her site and Facebook that jewelers that use starfish, shells and sandollars are killing the oceans one week after I start selling lockets with these materials.

FACT - In fact, these products a a by-catch of the commercial fishing and aquaculture industry.

SHE SAID - I never use glue in my jewelry and that jewelers that do should disclose that it will eventually fall apart.

FACT - We have sold over $100,000 of jewelry using glue to set these pieces. NOT ONE has ever been returned for this reason. In fact, many master gold and silver smiths use epoxy in their designs. A mutual acquaintance that I made a piece for ripped hers apart because she was made at me!

SHE SAYS - There is no such thing as Certified Sea Glass.

FACT - I base all the certifications I give with my jewelry based on almost 30 years of experience, research and knowledge. I have never said in was "certified" by the NASGA.

SHE SAYS - I do not pay for social likes promoting a false popularity, I find it tedious and b oring.

FACT - I do and consider this not promoting popularity but simply Marketing.....Here in the grownup world it is called Business! That is the way this person's mind works. It is all about "popularity". Unfortunately we do not have a trust fund so we must advertise and and work to make a living! You can't be a full time artist and take several months off a year. I never ever asked the 10,000 members on our sea glass social site to LIKE my facebook page either!


Why have all these attacks taken place? I have no earthly idea other than when she first came onto the sea glass community scene a couple of short years ago, I did not really acknowledge her. In fact, NO ONE had heard of her until 6 or 7 years ago.

These seems crazy to some outside of the sea glass community, but I know a few are aware of the issues, and I hope they will consider my side in forming their opinions. 

I only wish for this person to end their constant and obsessed attacks before we are forced to take it to a higher authority!

We will continue to monitor our competition and YES, continue to defend our designs and content we ask only to be left alone. All we ask if for our competitors to
"Do your own work" and use your own words. 
Take inspiration but develop your own skills and talents.

With a very busy Full Time business, we have little time to pursue issues as stated in this blog. Most people we contact that have used our content or designs are very gracious and accommodating and we thank them for their professionalism.

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