Zazzle Sued Because Twilight Fans Like Making Their Own Merchandise

from the safe-harbors-anyone? dept

It looks like “print-on-demand/create your own t-shirt/mug/mouse pad store” company Zazzle has been sued for infringement by Summit Entertainment, who owns the licensing rights to the oh-so-popular Twilight movies. Apparently, all those excited tweens have been making their own Twilight merchandise. Now, basic common sense would tell you that Zazzle is the tool provider, and not the actual infringer here. But, Summit is claiming trademark violations, and (tragically and inexplicably) the official safe harbors cover things like copyright and defamation, but not trademark (hurray for legal loopholes). The only ones doing the actual infringement are the users, not Zazzle itself, but Zazzle has to hope that a court actually realizes this, and sometimes the courts get very, very confused on these sorts of things.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: zazzle

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Zazzle Sued Because Twilight Fans Like Making Their Own Merchandise”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
33 Comments
Ryansays:

Re: But...

Zazzle isn’t selling Twilight items, they’re selling users the ability to create their own merchandise – Twilight doesn’t actually have anything to do with Zazzle’s business model. And like Jesse, I can’t fathom how users are infringing on the trademark here, either. They’re just writing “Twilight” on a t-shirt or something, they’re selling them; if that was infringement, then we have a whole boatload of free speech issues here.

It appears rather clear to me that there is no legitimate trademark claim here…

Re: But...

“…Zazzle didn’t just provide a program. They actually print and sell these items.”

Yeah, and if I owned a shop I’d sell you a t-shirt with “Rose M. Welch” printed on it. If “Rose M. Welch” turns out to be copyrighted by some company or other, it should be on your ass. Not mine.

Welcome to the ownership society. Have you staked your claim yet?

Derek Kertonsays:

In Other News

I make a collage of Harry Potter images, glued to a piece of cardstock paper using Elmer’s Glue. Elmer sued by JK Rowlings.

My daughter buys art supplies from the retailer Michael’s, and makes her own Wonder Woman Halloween costume. Michael’s sued by Silver Pictures.

A guy stores shared Metallica music on an HP hard drive, plays it on his HP computer, burns a new CD copy in his HP burner, prints a CD page on his HP printer. HP sued by Metallica.

A policeman arrives at the scene of a reported bank robbery. A masked man takes a bag of money from the teller. Turns out it’s not a robber, just a guy making a withdrawal. So the policeman shoots the bank manager.

All equally logical. As in, not very.

Derek Kertonsays:

Re: Re: In Other News

So you think some human at Zazzle lovingly accepts the job order, does a full check to make sure no content is copyright, checking all sources of copyright images, animations, words, etc, runs it past the lawyers for sign-off, hand-holds it personally through the production process, and ships it off?

Or do you suppose it’s machine-produced with maybe 20 seconds of a minumum-wage associate feeding the blank shirt into the machine?

Zazzle doesn’t design the t-shirt, and aren’t responsible for the design. Zazzle itself is just a tool, as is an HP printer

Re: Re: Re: In Other News

Derek, zazzle allows you to list your product you created on their public ecommerce site, and sell it to others. So, they could potentially be selling thousands of copies of of images taken directly from a movie cover or similar direct source. I agree that printing one item for yourself is one thing, but posting a product online for everyone to purchase does require they be more careful.

Freedomsays:

Licensing...

It was my understanding that Zazzle gives you a small cut of every sale of any item that you create that someone else buys. So, if you create a mug of XYZ and someone else wants the same mug you get your 10 cents sort of thing.

Interestingly, I believe some people actually make a lot of money doing this – to the tune of 100k if my source is right.

I think this is probably where the grey line is. You can create it for your own use is fine ??? but you start making money off it and it involves trademark type material, then the line isn’t so clear.

Freedom

Ryansays:

Re: Licensing...

That…makes it very interesting. Zazzle just provided the tool to sell user-created content and didn’t have any creative discretion, so they aren’t liable for trademark infringement. The users don’t actually sell any of the items they designed, so they can’t be liable.

It seems to me that there still shouldn’t be any trademark infringement because buyers should recognize if they’re on the site that these are not official Twilight merchandise, which eliminates the need for trademark protection. However, perhaps some feature such as the “official” seal on twitter to indicate legitimate items would end any doubt–I suppose I could accept a law that required something of the sort in exceptions like this.

deadzonesays:

Disturbing

I find the whole “Twilight” phenomena very disturbing. I mean seriously, Vampires that aren’t killed by sunlight that glitter? Really?

Can we all agree to be outraged about the movie at least. Vampires should only come out at night, be bad-ass-motherfuckers, and most certainly NEVER, EVER, EVER-EVER-EVER, freaking glitter.

Lisasays:

Re: Re: Re:

You’ve never heard of collector’s items? Official merchandise will always have more value than a unofficial reproduction.

This is especially true in the fashion industry. You’ll find plenty of people who prefer the more expensive originals than the off brand knock-offs.(even when the materials are of the same quality)

I don't think it's that simple

I am a fellow zazzler. In part it has to do with how the money changes hands and how the service is provided. I read in a previous comment that HP is a printer and shouldn’t be sued, but they are not servicing what is being protected. T-shirts sounds a little trivial, but as a hypthetical let’s use counterfeiting real money. Let’s say printer company A has the “tools” to counterfeit money. User A doesn’t have any tools so he goes to company A and asked for a counterfeit in exchange for an exchange rate. Now who does the Government go after? Probably both, but they’d want to go after the guys who actually have the equipment more than the end user. If anyone or company can say “i didn’t know” as an excuse I think 99% of the population would set up shop. T-shirts seem trivial, but behind the tshirts is real dollars

clig73says:

I think almost everyone is missing the point here

It’s not about a legal claim on a word or words. What we’re talking about here is intellectual property copyright. Just because the typography is different than what you see on the book covers, these shirts that say “Twilight” are very clearly meant to be THAT “Twilight”, and not just the phenomenon whereby day turns to night.

For fans to make their own home-made products as a sign of appreciation is one thing (no money changes hands, then no-harm-no-foul). The problem here is that by SELLING the merchandise without being licensed, the owner of said copyright doesn’t receive their due royalties. Now, if Stephanie Meyers didn’t care about that, there’s such a thing as Creative Commons Licensing, which can give permission for non-commercial usage of copyrighted/trademarked stuff for the fans, or even full commercial rights, if the legal owner so chooses. Since Twilight is in fact NOT licensed under Creative Commons, Ms. Meyer demonstrates that she DOES care, and would rather get paid royalties if anyone is making money off her creations (title, characters and concepts alike).

Here is where Zazzle’s culpability comes in: they are not selling these items on behalf of their users out of the goodness of their own heart for no profit– they do in fact make money off this. Furthermore, because they’re not just selling the items but actually MAKING them, they are 100% complicit in the bootlegging process.

Take skatersollie’s analogy:
Scenario 1) you hire “Company A” to print counterfeit currency for you on their equipment, you’re both in the hot seat.
Scenario 2) You BUY a printing press from “Company A”, then use it to make counterfeit currency, that’s all on you– they just sold you the equipment, they were not directly involved in the crime.

Zazzle is CLEARLY in scenario 2 here. They can try and claim no fault for their users’ violation of copyright, but since they’re the ones actually MANUFACTURING this stuff, they should really know better. They’re clearly turning a blind eye to the infringement for profit.

Good article.

Good article. Personally, i believe that in order to succeed you should give equal attention to making HIGH QUALITY design, and promoting your store. If your products are good – you’ll succeed in the long run, but to speed up this succession – you should put half of your time in promoting the store.
Here’s my gallery. promoting, remember? (:
http://www.zazzle.com/chromobotia*

gonna disagree this time

I think zaz actually is liable this time because I could-

-upload a picture of the movie poster
-buy a shirt with this on it (bad, but not terrible)
-list it for sale for others to buy (now we’re pretty much infringing).

At step 3, zazzle is selling merchandise to the public with unlicensed works on them. This is where they have to be careful what they allow to be sold.

On the other hand, zazzle also has an easy mechanism to report these items as trademark infringement, and they’ll take them off the site quickly. I know, I’ve had stuff removed for this, even for a frivilous reason.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
13:40 It's Great That Winnie The Pooh Is In The Public Domain; But He Should Have Been Free In 1982 (Or Earlier) (35)
12:06 Norton 360 Now Comes With Crypto Mining Capabilities And Sketchy Removal Process (28)
10:45 Chinese Government Dragnet Now Folding In American Social Media Platforms To Silence Dissent (14)
10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
09:29 A Fight Between Facebook And The British Medical Journal Highlights The Difficulty Of Moderating 'Medical Misinformation' (9)
06:29 Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi (4)
20:12 Eighth Circuit (Again) Says There's Nothing Wrong With Detaining Innocent Minors At Gunpoint (15)
15:48 China's Regulatory War On Its Gaming Industry Racks Up 14k Casualties (10)
13:31 Chinese Government Fines Local Car Dealerships For Surveilling While Not Being The Government (5)
12:08 Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay (29)
10:44 ICE Is So Toxic That The DHS's Investigative Wing Is Asking To Be Completely Separated From It (29)
10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
09:31 Google Blocked An Article About Police From The Intercept... Because The Title Included A Phrase That Was Also A Movie Title (24)
06:22 Wireless Carriers Balk At FAA Demand For 5G Deployment Delays Amid Shaky Safety Concerns (16)
19:53 Tenth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity To Social Worker Who Fabricated A Mother's Confession Of Child Abuse (35)
15:39 Sci-Hub's Creator Thinks Academic Publishers, Not Her Site, Are The Real Threat To Science, And Says: 'Any Law Against Knowledge Is Fundamentally Unjust' (34)
13:32 Federal Court Tells Proud Boys Defendants That Raiding The Capitol Building Isn't Covered By The First Amendment (25)
12:14 US Courts Realizing They Have A Judge Alan Albright Sized Problem In Waco (17)
10:44 Boston Police Department Used Forfeiture Funds To Hide Purchase Of Surveillance Tech From City Reps (16)
10:39 Daily Deal: The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Training Bundle (0)
09:20 NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas (25)
06:12 Telecom Monopolies Are Exploiting Crappy U.S. Broadband Maps To Block Community Broadband Grant Requests (7)
12:00 Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2021 At Techdirt (17)
10:00 Gaming Like It's 1926: Join The Fourth Annual Public Domain Game Jam (6)
09:00 New Year's Message: The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is A Twisty Path (33)
19:39 DHS, ICE Begin Body Camera Pilot Program With Surprisingly Good Policies In Place (7)
15:29 Remembering Techdirt Contributors Sherwin And Elliot (1)
13:32 DC Metro PD's Powerful Review Panel Keeps Giving Bad Cops Their Jobs Back (6)
12:11 Missouri Governor Still Expects Journalists To Be Prosecuted For Showing How His Admin Leaked Teacher Social Security Numbers (39)
10:48 Oversight Board Overturning Instagram Takedown Of Ayahuasca Post Demonstrates The Impossibility Of Content Moderation (10)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it