Friday, September 3, 2010

The Twilight, Zazzle, Summit Trifecta

Today has been an interesting day.  I went to an amusement park with some out of town relatives that rarely visit.  We ate popcorn, went on rides, got soaked on one called the Boston Tea Party and had an all around fantastic time.  About mid-afternoon, as I sat waiting for my kids to finish eating/wearing their ice cream, I thought I'd check my email.  I noticed I had one from Zazzle, the site that hosts the merchandise store for my blog, about a shirt that was called "TFG Vampires Do Not Sparkle Tee".  It was the TFG Logo with the words Vampires Do Not Sparkle on the back and they were deleting it from the store at the request of Summit Entertainment for IP infringement of the Twilight franchise.

This wasn't a request for me to change something, or a request for more information.  It was a notice that, without any real explanation, they were deleting the item.  I responded by asking how the shirt was infringing on their IP and they sent a form email that didn't explain anything.  I tried again and guess what?  I got the exact same email.  During that time, they lived up to their promise and deleted the item from my store.  I've sent one last email directly through Zazzle's online help and I'm hoping this will pass the eyes of a human being who might actually, you know, explain how the shirt was a problem.  I am doubtful, but more than that, I am really, really angry.  Just like Marvin Martian but without the cool scrub brush helmet.

Could I have referenced Twilight in my original item description by saying it's horrid, the vampires are wimps, and I'd like to push Bella off a cliff?  Possibly, but I don't think so, and even if I did and that was giving their lawyers fits, then I'd have changed it without any fuss.  Instead, Zazzle deleted the shirt.  Now, I'm not making a fortune on the items in my store.  This has nothing to do with losing money, but everything to do with getting pushed around because I'm the little guy.  And despite what the folks from Summit over at @Twilight might think I stand by my assertion that "Vampires DO NOT Sparkle".  I should remind them right now.  What about you? #thelittleguy

21 comments:

  1. Sounds like @zazzle needs a flood of tweets, too.

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  2. Ohhh....yes....I wouldn't want to leave them out!

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  3. Good Christ, if they tried to track down anyone who'd ever made a reference to Twilight, they'd be going for awhile. What about the classic "And then Buffy staked Edward. The End."? I say we flood Zazzle and Summit. I think Summit is just feeling guilty that they've made a piece of shit film series.

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  4. @Tasha Lee Or how about the Team Edward with Edward James Olmos? There is so much out there I just can't see how they picked on my shirt. And there are even a zillion shirts on Zazzle that say Vampires Don't Sparkle.

    @Laxmi13 It is completely absurd! One of those annoying things that just makes you shake your head.

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  5. Can they really copyright the words "Vampires Do Not Sparkle"?

    If so theres a metric ton of phrases I'm gonna go copyright.

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  6. @Anonymous I know, huh? There's a list I gotta get working on, too. I have no idea how they could claim IP rights to this shirt. None. Nada. Zippo. And I can't get anyone to tell me!

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  7. Just submitted this to techdirt.com, they post a lot of similar stories and maybe the press will help (Streisand effect)

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  8. Maybe it's time to bring out the big guns. Oh yes, I'm talking about Raef!

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  9. It looks like the tee is back up...

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  10. I'm surprised you didn't also get a Cease and Desist letter from Games Workshop. Or George Lucas. Just because. :-P

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  11. @Anonymous We'll see what happens!

    @David LOL...if I could actually just get a human being to explain their percieved IP issue, I might be happy. Maybe.

    @CyberShadow Nope...that was a new one I put up last night. I made sure there was NO reference anywhere with the description, etc to Twilight. Just to see what would happen. I got the same notice on that one this morning!

    @JohnRichard I will have truly arrived when those guys send C and D's!

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  12. They are not within their rights as long as you are not using "twilight" "new moon" "eclipse", etc. somewhere in the listing. You can look up the trademarks that they actually have registered at the USPTO.gov site (they have applied for many, but only have about 5-ish registered). They are sending threatening letters to all things Twilight-related claiming that they own everything ever mentioned in the Twilight Saga, when this is simply not the fact. A good IP attorney could give you some advice, but as long as you are on Zazzle, which is a Cafe Press competitor, and by the way being sued by Summit, you are pretty much screwed. Go and google this: "summit sues zazzle" "summit sues b.b. dakota" "summit sues" and you'll get a good idea of what's been going on.

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  13. That's the rub, isn't it? I know what I had on Zazzle in no way infringed Summit's IP as it didn't use their trademarks. And truly, Zazzle would realize that as well if they actually looked at the product. I know this is just a case of heavy handed lawyers randomly searching and calling out anything to do with vampires. That's annoying enough and makes Summit a bad guy. But Zazzle just taking what they say as valid and not investigating individual claims of IP infringement, that makes Zazzle the bad guy, too.

    I don't expect them to reinstate the product, but I would really like to get an honest to goodness human being at either company to tell me what exactly they claim is their IP. I don't think that's going to happen either, but I'm hoping.

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  14. Unfortunately, this isnt really about the legal ability of Twilight. I am pretty sure that Zazzle will have something in their smallprint that says that they have the right to remove anything, at any time, for any reason. As a member, I doubt that you actually have much that you can do, since it is just easier for Zazzle to remove a single item and avoid any kind of discussion without any repurcussion to them. It sucks, but its the way it is.

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  15. Well, not quite. There are rules about what you can create and sell, and if you violate those rules they have the right to remove your product. I didn't actually violate any rule. Summit claimed that I did, Zazzle just took their word for it and deleted the item.

    I'm sure they find it much easier to cave to the giant company with a cadre of lawyers rather than actually "do the right thing" and tell them it's not in violation. It's much easier, but it's not right, and I just want someone there to try to defend their position. Like I said, I doubt it will change the outcome, but I'd really like to have someone try to justify this removal.

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  16. They're working on the principle that you won't sue them back. If a couple of people do, they will have calculated that it will still be cheaper than actually spending the time (and money) to investigate each and every case.

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  17. Unfortunately:

    "We also reserve the right to limit or restrict quantities of products (including after you have submitted your order) for any reason, including, without limitation, if the product violates any terms of this Agreement."

    From:

    http://www.zazzle.com/mk/policy/user_agreement

    To me, that basically says that they can cancel and mess with products as much as they want, and for no reason (not just for breaking terms).

    I dont justify their action, and totally agree that you should at leasat get some explanation of how and why the product was removed, but I dont think that they are breaking their terms by doing it. The most you could do, I guess, is threaten to take your business elsewhere and tell your customers and fellow members to do the same.

    Good luck getting a 'real person' though. I have had very similar experiences with both eBay and play.com. Internet companies these days seem to hide behind non-reply email addresses. You could call them:

    http://www.zazzle.com/mk/welcome/first/phone

    If it was me, I would start an angry thread in their forum, see if other members have had similar problems, and get attention that way:

    http://forum.zazzle.com/

    Viva la revolucion!

    Good luck.

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  18. You could get some of those shirts printed at a local place, then put a shirt up on zazzle that says something like "for shirts about erroneously sparkling things, go to (insert URL)". Then you would have to ship the shirts yourself, but on principal it would be pretty badass.

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  19. THE SAME THING HAPPENED TO ME!!!

    I frequently made t-shirts on zazzle, most of them relating to Dr. Who (best show in the world). One day I checked my email and found that 7 of my designs, now 8, had been deleted.

    Although some of them were clearly reasonable deletions, on several I had simply said "allons-y!" on it and in the description said that the 10th doctor said it.

    Altogether, I didn't think it was anything wrong to mention that the doctor said it, but apparently that infringes on "intellectual property rights."

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  20. It is ridiculous! The fear of lawsuits by folks like Zazzle causes them to act in a manner that is counterproductive to their business. Avoid a pointless lawsuit, squash a completely legal attempt for someone to create something new and in the end help Zazzle make money. I guess they figure it's just much easier to squash :)

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