Apparently Someone Doesn't Want You To Buy Our Copymouse Shirt

from the the-mouse-strikes-again dept

You may remember that, a couple years ago, our line of Copying Is Not Theft t-shirts and other gear was suddenly taken down by Teespring (now just called Spring) — first based on the completely false assertion that it contained third-party content that we didn’t have the rights to use, then (after a very unhelpful discussion with their IP Escalations department) because it apparently violated some other policy that they refused to specify. That prompted us to open a new Techdirt Gear store on Threadless, where we’ve launched many of our old designs and all our new ones since the takedown. But we also kept the Spring store active for people who preferred it and for some old designs that we hadn’t yet moved — and a few weeks ago the site’s takedown regime struck again, wiping out our line of Copymouse gear that had lived there for nearly five years. So, once again, we’ve relaunched the design over on Threadless:

Of course, this takedown is a little different from the previous one. The Copying Is Not Theft gear contains no third-party material whatsoever, and there was simply no legitimate reason for Spring to have removed it — and they refused to even offer any explanation of what they thought that reason might be. In the case of Copymouse, it’s obvious that it makes use of a particular logo, though in an obviously transformative manner for the purpose of commentary. So, yes, there is an argument for taking it down. It’s just not a strong argument, since the design clearly falls within the bounds of fair use for the purposes of criticism and commentary, and it’s hard to argue that there’s any likelihood of confusion for consumers: nobody is going to think it’s a piece of official Disney merchandise. Nevertheless, it’s at least somewhat understandable that it caught the attention of either an automatic filter or a manual reviewer, and given the increased scrutiny and attempts to create third-party liability falling upon services that create products with user-uploaded artwork, it’s no real surprise that a massive site like Spring errs on the side of caution (indeed, we won’t be too surprised if the design ends up being removed from Threadless as well). It’s still disappointing though, and even more importantly, it’s yet another example of why third-party liability protections are so very, very important, and how when those protections are not strong, sites tend towards overblocking clearly legitimate works.

But for now, at least, you can still get your Copymouse gear on Threadless while we all wait to see if history repeats itself and the design needs an update in 2023.

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Companies: spring, teespring, threadless

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Comments on “Apparently Someone Doesn't Want You To Buy Our Copymouse Shirt”

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31 Comments
That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Just wow.

Something something zero tolerance policies allow for zero thought and lead to shitty outcomes.

Out of a group of 100 people if even 1 thinks somehow it might offend/upset/steal imaginary money it must come down.
The platform taking it down doesn’t want to discuss it because its what the law demands they do to be protected & no one can pay a human enough to speak to other people trying to explain the complete insanity involved. It’s easier to offend a user (who honestly has no other options because they all do this) than to risk that an 80 yr old on the bench might side with those goofy ass lawyers making the mickey mouse claims that some moron out on pluto will think that this is an offering from the sweatshop of mouse.

Michael Gantzsays:

Just be honest.

I’d be much more impressed if these vendors stopped hiding behind lame policies and just stated something like “Look, it’s not policy. We feel we can’t take the risk with the current political climate. We’d love to do business with you but have decided it’s not in our best interest.”

At least that would show some honesty.

tpsays:

Using crcles illegally?

Are you actually using circles to create illegal copyrghted work? No wonder it gets DMCA’d given that the mickey mouse circles attached to a copyright symbol is clearly violating disney’s mickey mouse trademark.

If you want to make a fool out of yourself with mickey mouse ears, you should do it in a way that isn’t obvious to everyone who you’re cloning…

Anonymoussays:

A case could be made that there's prior art that predates Disney

I remember a few years back reading a couple of articles, with actual photos, where cave art had been discovered that dated back to antiquity, that looks very much like a certain copyrighted/trademarked mouse owned by Disney. Unfortunately I cannot find any examples still present on the Internet – I suspect they were all taken down by content matching algorithms that can’t tell the difference between ancient cave art and said copyrighted/trademarked mouse.

Even stranger, in the early cartoons said mouse owned a dog that was named after what was then considered a planet. When we finally got a spacecraft out into space and got some high resolution photos of that (former) planet, there is something in those photos that looks a lot like the head of a cartoon dog on the surface of the planet. Not exactly the same dog, but then again since it’s probably a random land mass or something it’s a bit amazing that it bears a lot of resemblance to a cartoon dog, and maybe some resemblance to that cartoon dog.

But then again, there are rumors that Walt Disney was into some really esoteric and mystical stuff and had some contacts in high places. So it would not surprise me if he was stealing ideas from the "stream of consciousness" or whatever you want to call it. This has always been one of my objections to so-called "intellectual property" laws; they tend to presuppose that it takes a lot of work and effort to come up with that "thing" that should be protected, when quite often such ideas occur to people in dreams or in the shower (or maybe via tips from "friends in high places"). There were three or four different people who all came up with the idea for the telephone at the same time, but Bell was the first to patent it and because of that we got the monstrosity that became the Bell System and AT&T (one has to wonder how different things would have been if Antonio Meucci or Elisha Gray had been first to get a patent, since Bell pretty much ripped off both of them).

But really it is the whole "work once, get paid forever" thing that bothers me. If you are really good at construction and help build a bridge that lasts 200 years, you get a paycheck (hopefully), and only for the weeks you actually work. Come up with something that can be copyrighted, trademarked, or patented, and even if it only took you ten minutes in the shower to come up with the idea and another few hours to commit it to paper, you (or some copyright troll that you sell the idea to) can potentially get paid "forever" (a period longer than your lifetime, so for you it’s "forever"). That just never seemed right to me, and I really believe that "intellectual property" laws do far more harm than good. But they do benefit the rich (mostly), because even if a poor person has a great idea, the process to get it patented is far too costly and difficult for anyone that’s having trouble putting food on the table. It’s been a dysfunctional system from the very start. I can see a little benefit in trademarks (so not just any old greasy spoon seller of hamburgers can call themselves McDonald’s or Burger King) but I think copyrights and patents have done more to retard the advancement of civilization than to help it. They were bad ideas that got exported to the world, even to the "communist" nations that you’d think would be adamantly opposed to that kind of protectionism.

Samuel Abramsays:

Re: Using crcles illegally?

Are you actually using circles to create illegal copyrghted work?

You mean trademark. Using circles in such a way to make Disney’s mickey mouse logo (but not draw Mickey Mouse himself) is a trademark violation (and not copyright) seeing as three circles doesn’t meet the minimum threshold of originality necessary for copyright protection.

No wonder it gets DMCA’d given that the mickey mouse circles attached to a copyright symbol is clearly violating disney’s mickey mouse trademark.

The DMCA only applies to ©, not ™, and like I said, Disney’s trademark is not copyrighted unless you mean a drawing of Mickey Mouse himself and not a big circle with two smaller but equally-sized circles attached to the larger circle at a 104° angle.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Using crcles illegally?

"No wonder it gets DMCA’d given that the mickey mouse circles attached to a copyright symbol is clearly violating disney’s mickey mouse trademark. "

You mean that depiction of the copyright symbol over a water molecule – an image far older than Disney in general?

As usual, tp, your arguments would have science and the arts rendered unlawful as a whole in any nation abiding by copyright conventions, because apparently chemistry and physics are owned by the House of Mouse, according to you.

tpsays:

Re: A case could be made that there's prior art that predates Di

work once, get paid forever"

Problem with what you’re thinking is that the actual creative process isn’t the only thing these business gurus need to do to get market accept the product. Creative process is what the customer is buying for, but that’s not the whole story, you also need to get shelf space in the shop, delivery to multiple locations around the country, shipping, packaging, marketing, reviewing the product in local magazines… tons of different activities that have nothing to do with the creative process. If you only consider copyrighted work to be the creative process, you’re forgetting large amount of stuff that authors need to do to get the product successful. Many of the great copyrighted work were never successful because their authors didn’t do these (slightly expensive) non-creative activities that will boost the popularity of their work. Still your valuable pennies you pay for the product need to cover the cost of all this extra activity.

Rockysays:

Re: Re: A case could be made that there's prior art that predate

If you only consider copyrighted work to be the creative process, you’re forgetting large amount of stuff that authors need to do to get the product successful.

Copyright has zero to do with being successful, being successful means understanding the market and how to make an appealing product that people would want. If you want to see an example of failing to understand the market and what presumptive customers want, go look at meshpage.

tpsays:

Re: Re: Re: A case could be made that there's prior art that pre

If you want to see an example of failing to understand the market and what presumptive customers want,

Given that you already know what meshpage is, it means my marketing department is getting their yearly bonuses. Web page handles shipping it to your location, so shipping department also get bonuses. Web page layout handles product packaging nicely, so packaging department gets bonuses this year. Some teenagers reviewed the site after bus adverts, so local magazine publish department gets their bonuses..

Seems I’ve already done all the important activities, and am expecting success any day now.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

your rule has a flaw

No, it doesn’t; Jimmy Wales didn’t make Wikipedia by begging other people to build its entire goddamn infrastructure for him without recompense. You’re not Jimmy Wales and you have nothing innovative or useful to offer the world that would make other people invest their time and money into you. No one wants your software, no one wants you, and no one will miss you when you’re dead.

Samuel Abramsays:

Re: Re:

Here’s the difference between Wikimedia (and Blender, for that matter) and your product meshpage: Wikimedia’s (and Blender’s) products have minimal copyright but they’re so high in value that people are willing to give them money. You, however, make a product with such low value that copyright is completely irrelevant to its success.

tpsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

Depends on if the Wikipedia editors signed a work for hire or similar type of contract. But of course you knew that…

I don’t think he has money to pay salary to 100k people or something… Given that he’s been begging for chance in his web page… (sure, noone wants to see jimmy wales face on their wikipedia pages, but I don’t think it’s still popular enough to pay salaries for everyone who contributed)

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