Some of our clients have not held back in expressing their disbelief and puzzlement over the fact that we have moved our major plugins from Envato. This post is to explain what happened and why we had to make the move.
On January 11, 2017, a (supposedly) U.S.A-based company named K2-service.com published a plugin called Visual Product Designer/Customizer for Woocommerce on Envato.
It has the exact features available in our plugin called Woocommerce Product Configurator which was published on October 10, 2014, on the same site, Envato ( A marketplace for top digital services and assets).
Since Envato did little or nothing to right this wrong, we decided to move forward and stay safe by leaving the marketplace. We are not the first to do it and we are certainly not going to be the last. What matters is moving forward after the break-up, and ensuring that we continue to satisfy our past, present, and future clients.
IN THE BEGINNING
After months of hard work to develop the Woocommerce Product Configurator plugin, additional months to test the plugin with the help of beta testers, we were finally able to release a product that responds perfectly to customer needs. It was 3 years of hard work, errors and trials, testing, fixing bugs and making the plugin the best on the market. We published it on October 10, 2014, on Envato’s CodeCanyon Marketplace.
One day a customer named Erik Galan bought our Woocommerce Product Configurator plugin and asked us for a personalization service. So we asked him to open a ticket on our site and from then on we exchanged approximately up to 60 messages. The request was completed successfully and both parties parted ways on good terms.
A few months later, another prospective client sent us a mail to ask us why our plugin, demo, and content were so similar to the one advertised by a company named K2-Service on the same marketplace we were selling ours! We obviously did some digging and found out that the plugin mentioned was related to Erik Galan. We did a little comparison just to be sure it was indeed our plugin that was used in the demo user interface (UI).
Below is a shot of our plugin’s UI and his.
If you’re a developer who understands source code, you can see the similarities are too much – here are some screenshots that were taken back then to compare both source code. Click to view.
So we sent an email to Envato, the company that owns the marketplace CodeCanyon, to inform them about what’s going on and get their help to remove the plugin from their marketplace.
WHAT IS COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT
According to Envato, Copyright is typically infringed if a work protected by copyright, or a “substantial part” of it, is used without permission in one of the ways exclusively reserved to the copyright owner.
But in some countries, there are special exceptions which allow copyright materials to be used without it being an infringement – for example, “fair use” exceptions.
When assessing whether a part of someone else’s work that you wish to use is a “substantial part” you need to consider whether it is an important, essential or distinctive part. The part does not have to be a large part to be “substantial.”
It is the “quality” of the part, not the “quantity” that is important. Even if you change or add to a part of someone else’s work, you can infringe copyright if the part that you use is an important, essential or distinctive part of the original work.
A person who infringes copyright can be sued by the copyright owner and taken to court. A court can order a range of things, including that the infringer pays compensation and pay the copyright owner’s costs. In some cases, a person who infringes copyright can be charged and can be ordered to pay a fine, or in serious cases, can be imprisoned. You can read more here.
Furthermore, Envato has a market content policy that provides information regarding copyright and intellectual property policies both for Envato market authors and buyers and the process to follow when you believe someone is using your copyrighted content without permission.
HOW ENVATO LET US DOWN
What surprised us was that Envato ( having all the power to give a fair judgment of the situation) wasn’t helpful in the resolution process. They asked us to issue a DCMA takedown notice which we did. After receiving the notice, they disabled K2’s plugin for a few days and then put it back on CodeCanyon.
They put it back online after Erik Galan sent them an email in which he recognized that he used our entire source code and the work we did for him but renamed it as a new plugin. So according to him, this is not our plugin anymore simply because he renamed it.
Envato simply agreed and advised us to hire a lawyer to sue him.
We didn’t hide the fact that we’re a company based in Cotonou, Benin (West Africa), and that engaging in such a battle was not going to be an easy task due to the geographical distance and the money required to fight this. Rather than uphold their word and stand by what is right, Envato simply ignored us. They did not care.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
What’s the point of fighting using all the money we earned in the process when there are better ways? We decided to step back and think about what else to do.
Why did we choose Envato in the first place? Envato demonstrated to the world that developers who used their marketplace would:
- Enjoy heavy exposure to as many possible customers as possible, due to high traffic from search engines to their marketplace.
- Be protected from copyright infringement in case others disregarded our hard work and wanted to make easy money.
- Handle support better because they provided a model structure for all customers to submit tickets.
After being an author on Envato’s Code Canyon since 2012, we realized that:
- Even though having our plugins on the Envato Marketplace brought clients, Envato was getting a big chunk of the proceeds. We thought that the older we were as customers, the better the payouts but that is not the case. Their constant policy changes, and “exclusivity rates” prevented that.
- We were spending heavily on marketing. Our marketing materials were focused on making sure everyone who needs our product can easily find us and purchase from us.
- Envato let us down even though we provided solid evidence that we were double-crossed by a customer and our work was stolen.
- We were spending high resources on providing support but not receiving commensurate income for it because Envato got most of the money.
MOVING AWAY FROM ENVATO
We simply decided to move our growth, our products and our customers up our priority list, and to focus on the things unique to us that our competitors cannot steal.
We took the following steps:
- Change of Focus: We focused on the product sites we had for our plugins and made them better.
- Prioritize Support: We prioritized support for our existing clients and gave them a platform to reach us directly.
- Marketing Focus Change: We continued investing heavily in our marketing materials, but directed traffic to our plugin sites.
- Kickstart Departure: We kickstarted the process of leaving Envato since they were not doing anything for us at all. They were getting a cut of our sales, no marketing to boost our sales and were not able to protect us when we needed it the most.
- Monitoring: We began monitoring K2 Services activities and sales online (and other competitors) to compare the results with ours.
- Continued Service Provision: We continued providing customization services for clients that needed unique tweaks to what our plugins already do.
MOVING ACTUALLY PAID OFF!
Moving our major plugins away from Envato was the best thing that happened to us.
We are now able to channel more money towards providing better support for our existing clients and also spend more time developing and making our products better.
We are getting 20 times more sales than K2 Service’s configurator and we are discovering that his clients are heading our way after finding out how shady the company’s practices were. Our customers’ feedback also shows that we are better than Erik Galan’s K2-service in terms of service delivery, regular updates, customization delivery, and support provision.
WHERE TO FIND US
We leave you with these paraphrased quotes by Jason .L. Baptiste in Business Insider:
“Stealing an idea is like stealing a snapshot in a movie. The thief cannot steal your long-term vision, mode of execution, domain expertise, market failure-driven pivots, talent, plans, passion, or luck.”
Got thoughts on this post? Please don’t hesitate to share, and we will gladly engage with you!