IN WHICH Mojo Gets a DMCA Takedown Notice, and Does Not Respond Well To It.

Primary tabs

AGES ago, and by that I mean YEARS, some Christmas I was struck by all the Christmas cards depicting the whole lion-lying-down-with-the-lamb thingie. Which is all very well and good. But every time I see one of those, I am reminded of the amusing Woody Allen quote: "The lion and the lamb may lie down together, but the lamb won't get much sleep."

So at some point I decided to paint my OWN lion and lamb card, to illustrate the Woody Allen quote. But when I was done, I found that--while I like him (much better than the lion, by the way; the lion kinda sucks)--my lamb did not look at all frightened, and hence he did not really depict worried insomnia at all. So instead I ended up captioning it with another sheep-inspired truism that I felt DID capture the essence of Mojo's Little Lamb:



Sheep are pretty stupid

Fast forward several years, when Mojo decides to throw the image up on Zazzle so she could bask in the millions reaped from her obvious genius. I've been with Zazzle for years, and I've always been fairly happy with them. (In fact I have a HUGE project I am in the middle of right now, called Lear200--a bicentennial celebration of the nonsense writer Edward Lear--that has an equally large Zazzle component. Which is, by itself, a compelling reason to stay with them, since we all know how damned lazy Mojo is. This whole fiasco had me briefly consider leaving them, since I was THAT annoyed.) So I threw the sheep up on Zazzle along with various other graphics I had done through the years. Where it stayed, pretty much forgotten aside from the occasional sale of various and sundry knick-knacks. Because that is what Zazzle does. Everyone in Mojoworld is happy.

Fast forward to Monday evening, March 19th. Mojo is getting ready to settle down for the night to eat and watch cartoons when she gets two emails entitled "Zazzle Content Review: Sheep Are Pretty Stupid." Mojo mistook the subject heading at first and idly thought, "oh, someone's reviewed it" in the sense that someone left a comment about it. Well, not exactly. Here is the content of both emails:

*****



Dear mojoplace,

Thank you for your interest in Zazzle.com, and thank you for publishing products on Zazzle.

Unfortunately, it appears that your product, Sheep Are Pretty Stupid., contains content that is not suitable for printing at Zazzle.com.

We will be removing this product from the Zazzle Marketplace shortly.

Please help us make our content approval process better by taking this short survey.

The details of the product being removed are listed below:
• Product Title: Sheep Are Pretty Stupid.
• Product Type: zazzle_speckcase
• Product ID: 176340913301783286
• Result: Not Approved
• Policy Violations:
o Your product has been removed from Zazzle’s Marketplace due to an infringement claim by Summit Entertainment. This may be due to the actual design of the product, description, search tags or character names that references the Twilight Saga which is owned by Summit Entertainment.

*****



Okay. So I spent an hour or so just staring at the computer saying Helpful Things like "WHAT?" and getting increasingly snitty about it. I didn't really care two figs about the products in question--they represent the sum total of six of several THOUSAND items I have up on Zazzle--but you may recall yesterday that Mojo has this, uh, THING about correcting people when they are making a clear and obvious mistake.

So I did some deep breathing exercises to calm myself from a Major Snit to a Minor Snit, and when I guessed I was rational enough, I wrote a response to attempt to clarify the issue at hand. This is what I wrote to the good people at Zazzle:

*****



Public Product Inquiry: 176926107419167282

(Also encompassing Public Product Inquiry: 176340913301783286, since I suppose you don't need two copies of the same diatribe.)

I assume there is some way of reviewing this case instead of summarily deleting my products? The image in question is an original watercolor, done by me, which is still in my possession. It was done literally YEARS ago, as is very clearly stated in the project description. The image itself is an originally painted lion and lamb, sniffing each other, with no violence whatsoever.  I have never read the "Twilight" books nor seen the movies, but from what I gather they are about vampires and werewolves, not lions and lambs.

I have been using the phrase "Sheep are pretty stupid" for so long if you do a google search on it in quotes my materials are the first to come up. In fact, my blog comes up before the zazzle store. I don't recall the search tags saying anything but the obvious--i.e., "lion", "lamb", etc.

And lastly, if this is a copyright issue, why are only the zazzle speckcases flagged? (I'm not even sure what a speckcase *IS*, to be honest). Both the mojomerch store and the mojoplace store has a whole category dedicated to this image, so I am at a complete loss. I would think they would be flagging the entire category if there is an infringement. It's not that hard to check, with links to other products showing up on the same page.

I have been with Zazzle for a few years now, with never a complaint, so this rather arbitrary-seeming process of pulling products without either proper review or a more detailed reason behind it (besides a vague "it MIGHT be somehow infringing on some scary media giant"). And not having any clear process to address whatever vague issues brought up--is it the image? The tags? The description? What?--so that they could be altered accordingly is incredibly upsetting.

For the record, years ago I was given the right to reproduce merchandise for {Company Redacted}, and I was quite pleased that Zazzle contacted me almost immediately to ensure that I was not infringing. As a writer and creative person myself I am highly aware of copyright issues and careful to respect the law. Which is probably why this has me in such a snit. That, and the idea that some Christmas-cardy type lions and lambs can be pulled off the market because of some teenaged vampire thing.

Okay, I'm done ranting. If there is some sort of official review process for this case I would like to initiate it. If there isn't, I will have to rethink my loyalty to Zazzle, since this does not bode well for future issues. In my opinion, this immediate assumption of guilt is not a very constructive first step in this process. But maybe that's just me.

*****


Ahh. That oughta do it, huh? (Gosh, that Mojo's kinda cute when she's all starry-eyed and optimistic, huh? Wait, what's that? Mojo? Happy? Has hell officially frozen over? Quick, karma, put a stop to it, before the world is destroyed and sucked into some pindot singularity!)

Enter poor hapless Mike from Zazzle's customer service. You'll like Mike. He's a good guy, doin' his job. Or he's a bot. I can't tell from his emails, to be honest. Either way, Mike(Bot) is a pleasant and patient person/robot. Unfortunately for Mike(Bot), his job entails regurgitating canned responses that has been vetted by the legal team of a smallish corporation bristling with lawyers, who, it turns out, is under the unkind and litigious eye of an even BIGGER corporate entity whose very BRISTLES are bristling with lawyers. Meaning--I was unaware of this at the time--poor Zazzle has had a rather unpleasant recent history with Summit Entertainment that I won't really bother to go into here.

So good ol' Mike(Bot) writes me back. If you are interested, you can vote in my unofficial Mojo Poll (that would be the comments) whether or not Mike is a real person or what they call a chatterbot. I'll go with "person" myself since his name is "Mike" and not, say, "Rudy" or "Robbie" or "Cyclor". But Mike has a really special talent at saying soothing things without actually answering any questions. To wit:

*****



Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

Subject
---------------------------------------------------------------
Public Product Inquiry: 176926107419167282


Discussion Thread
---------------------------------------------------------------
Response Via Email(Mike) - 03/20/2012 12:47 PM
Hello Mary Jo,

Thank you for being a Seller at Zazzle.com!

We would love to offer every design that our users submit, however we must abide by all applicable laws and standards as well as our own content guidelines and copyright policies.

Unfortunately, it appears that your product did not meet Zazzle Acceptable Content Guidelines. Specifically, your product infringes upon the intellectual property rights of Summit Entertainment, Inc.

Zazzle has been contacted by Summit Entertainment, Inc, and at their request, to prevent and remove infringing product from the Zazzle Marketplace.  For more information or questions with regards to this removal please contact Summit Entertainment, Inc. at http://www.summit-ent.com/

We are sorry for any disappointment, but hope you will understand our position in this regard. For future reference, please review Zazzle Acceptable Content Guidelines at: http://zazzle.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/143.

If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Thanks for using Zazzle. We look forward to seeing more of your creative designs!

******

Oh, dear. Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike. Or, perhaps, Bot Bot Bot Bot Bot. I'm sure you're a good guy. Or at least a good bot. I appreciate you're in a difficult position. I recognize you have to repeat the company policy ad nauseum. I'm sure you deal all the time with incredibly ignorant people who cannot grasp the very concept of copyright and intellectual property. If it's any consolation, Mojo is not one of those people. Mojo understands and appreciates intellectual property law. Mojo's been in the biz for decades. Which is why Mojo was asking for a clarification of the charges, so to speak, against her ... NOT a clarification of basic copyright law and Zazzle's rather generic common sense policies regarding it.

If Mojo's last letter was written in a Minor Snit, this next one was written in the throes of Obsessive-Compulsive-I-Know-I'm-Right-and-You're-So-Wrong-It's-Temporarily-Painful-to-be-on-the-Same-Planet-With-You Crazy Psycho Lady Snit. There are some things you just don't call Mojo, and copyright infringer, it turns out, is one of them. Go figure.

*****



It is not a question of "disappointment" Mike, thank you very much, but of a large company lodging a patently false DMCA takedown--which is technically illegal--pretty much calling me a criminal to my face, and Zazzle apparently not even making the SLIGHTEST EFFORT to investigate. Furthermore it is apparently entirely up to ME to take it upon myself to figure out WHO you are talking to at Summit--I assume you have at least done that, and not just taken some random crank's anonymous submission--to determine exactly HOW or WHY I am being accused of copyright infringement. You can't even give me the contact information of the person you are TALKING to, let alone give me the SPECIFICS of the C&D so that I might at least have a CLUE as to WHY I am being thusly accused?

Apparently you have had this difficulty in the past, regarding this exact same company:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120319/12192218160/summit-entertainment-claims-to-own-date-november-20-2009-issues-takedown-art-created-that-day.shtml

To quote from the story, "Zazzle eventually came to its senses and restored the image, ..."

What a nice ending. It probably would have been nicer for the artist in question if Zazzle had been a tad more proactive.

I have complete and utter ownership of the image in question. A previous version (same painting, but the lion was redone) was even posted on my blog back in 2006:

http://www.mojocrap.com/craptacular/node/301  (bottom of the page)

And again, I reiterate, there is NOTHING in the tags that refers to ANYTHING beyond lions, lambs, sheep, and my website, which has been "Mojo's Craptacular" since 2004. I am NOT a tag spammer, and of all the things to spam I would not choose the "Twilight" franchise. I am nearly fifty years old. I have a life, and I am blessed to say that "Twilight" has never, in any way shape or form, had any part in it. Up until now. And this very brief exposure has not been pleasant.

I am hoping this review ends here, with the quiet restoration of my products in question. Otherwise it looks like TechDirt, the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse and others of their ilk will have yet another amusing story to add to their rosters, and I will be sadly looking for another POD house. Because this is utterly and completely ridiculous.

Thank you for your time, though I admit I would prefer a less canned response next time about how sad you are to stifle my creativity and your kind offers for me to read your guidelines again for the umpteenth time. I am well aware of your guidelines and strive to adhere to them. This image, its description and its tags are all WELL WITHIN YOUR GUIDELINES and do NOT infringe on anyone else's copyright. I think if you actually took the time to look at it, you would agree. I'm sure others will, as well.

*****

After I had sent this scorching little shrieker, I calmed myself by doing more research. Okay, I admit it: first I had a chocolate chip cookie, and then I drove to the Home Despot to price materials for some raised garden beds I am planning (Oh, great, now the lawyers at Home Depot are gonna get on my case for calling them "Home Despot"), and then I came home and puttered around in the garden for a bit, had another cookie, and THEN did more research.

Originally I was trying to find out who at Summit Entertainment handled DMCA takedowns, but I gave up on that pretty quick. I'm sure it's a bot; they probably issue THOUSANDS of these. What are they gonna do? Write me a Special Letter I can then present to Zazzle explaining that they've given me some sort of special dispensation so I can not only have my own non-Twilighty work put back up on Zazzle, but they will still allow me to breathe air on a regular basis? Noooo way! I was SO gonna fight this. They're gonna be SO sorry. Summit Entertainment is going to be wetting their pants every time they hear the word "Mojo". Yep. Mojo's gonna WIN this one. The poor innocent little girl against the Heartless Soulless Media Giant.

(Yeah, I know. I can hear the Summit Entertainment lawyers giggling from here, as well. But I ask you: where would Mojo be without an active fantasy life? Living in REALITY? Yeah, like THAT's gonna happen anytime soon!)

So I went back to reading all the Summit-hating stories. And all the comments. And the links those stories were based on. And, down in the comments section of one of the kickstarters for the whole affair, I happened upon a comment that totally changed things. The very crux of the biscuit, so to speak. (Oh, great, now I'm gonna have Frank Zappa coming after me from beyond the grave in addition to the sparkly vampires.) It looks as if Summit, unpleasantly strident though they may be, might very well have a case during all this, after all. Perhaps Mojo has indeed become an unwitting, trademark and copyright-infringing stooge. Perhaps. More information is needed. So a Chastened and Subdued Mojo wrote yet another screed to good ol' Mike(Bot) at Zazzle, and introduced yet another variable into the equation while begging for more information:

*****

Okay, calmer heads are slowly prevailing. (This is probably why YOU are in customer service; clearly I would fail miserably.) I've done further research into the Summit Entertainment issue, especially regarding the recent Techdirt story ( http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120319/12192218160/summit-entertainment-claims-to-own-date-november-20-2009-issues-takedown-art-created-that-day.shtml ), in which Summit likewise behaved in a draconian fashion (that's apparently their modus operandi) regarding a completely unrelated artwork.

While it's easy to jump on the hate-Summit bandwagon (and, much like me, they don't appear to be seriously exerting themselves in an effort to appear overly charming to boot), the artist who is the focus of that story, a Kelly Howlett, explains her story on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/kelly-howlett/need-a-reason-to-hate-twilight-or-summit-entertainment-all-your-creation-are-bel/10150618390806924

Which is similar to mine, blah blah blah. The interesting point, for me, is down in the comments section, when someone lists the tags used on her artwork as a possible reason for flagging:

John R. Tags Posters: acrylic, woman, portrait, pink, artsprojekt, grass widow, romance film, widow woman, new moon novel, mother figure, the twilight saga film series, ex wife, twilight 2008 film, shikse, greenlight, mantrap, vampire film, unmarri...ed woman, stephenie meyer, characterisation, summit entertainment, chromatic color, chris weitz, chromatic colour, kristen stewart, delineation, robert pattinson, word picture, taylor lautner, word painting, bella swan, prickteaser, edward cullen, nymphet, jacob black, materfamilias, melissa rosenberg, j, posters  Dunno... but maybe it had to do with the search tags....

 

To which Kelly responds:

Those aren't my search tags. Only the first five are... but your discovery is making something clearer to me. Zazzle must have used an automated program to create search tags... which then got flagged by the Summit copyright search-and-destroy bot.

Now, I can't check the tags on my products you pulled, but now I am wondering: is there some form of community tagging or automated tagging Zazzle employs? Because that would explain my utter bewilderment, both at 1) such a non-Twilighty thing being flagged as well as 2) OTHER products using the exact same image were not touched.

I made them all at once, using the multi-product template, and as far as I was aware all the sheep products have (had) identical descriptions and identical tags. Which, as I wrote them, had nothing even remotely to do with anyone else's copyright. If you look at any and all of the remaining products, you can see the tags:  "Tags: mojo, crap, craptacular, sheep, lion, lamb"

Now, as far as *I* am aware, those are the only tags I put on all of these items. Yet Ms. Howlett seems to think that other tags are somehow getting introduced in the process. And yeah, as much as I would like to hate them, if I were Summit protecting a lucrative franchise and I saw some jerk labeling their cat litter and banana peels with "Twilight" tag spamming, I'd want to shut them down, too.

Now, I cannot check my pulled products (as far as I know, anyway), but I would be curious to see if this is somehow the case, and if so, how those tags might have got there. Is there a form of community tagging on Zazzle? If so, someone is apparently mistagging products, either maliciously or as a wildly fun joke. Or is some bot randomly tagging items somehow? Either way, I would like to suggest there is a way to opt out of this, if other people or bots are going to be mistagging things.

Assuming this is what happened, of course. But it makes sense in that I couldn't understand why they didn't flag the entire category, since the items were virtually identical as far as graphics and content went. But I could see someone only tagging one thing on the fly, and not bothering with ALL of 'em.

If there is a way to avoid this in the future that would be a Good Thing (Ahhh! Look out! Here comes Martha Stewart!!!). If the pulled products can't be reinstated I'll just redo them and, I guess, await the NEXT trauma courtesy of the Tagging Fairy. Since unless something is changed, we both KNOW this is going to happen again; though now I am forewarned I will probably be more pleasant about it. (Maybe.)

Again, to reiterate, if I WAS attempting to fill Zazzle up with pictures of Calvin and Hobbes peeing on truck logos I would not blame you one bit for yanking those off your site without asking me first. I am all for the protection of intellectual property rights. But if indeed someone or something else is tagging Zazzle products without the owner's knowledge or consent, then you have to admit it really is a pisser to be called on the carpet for it. Nonetheless when this happens in the future I promise to be a tad calmer about it, now that I THINK I have the reason behind it. I'll still be pissed, mind you, but it will be a calmer eye-rolling pissed instead of the frothing at the mouth displayed earlier for your office amusement.

 

*****

I did not hear back from Zazzle for a while, but later on, on the afternoon of the 21st, I wandered over to the Stupid Sheep category and discovered the "offending" products had been quietly replaced, with only the original tags I had given them, so I have no idea if my tag theory was correct. I also noticed that the tags on Ms. Howlett's image were back to their original five. And later on in the afternoon, our friend Mike(Bot) chimed in. True to form he did not give me the slightest further clue on whether he is a bot or an actual Real Boy. As seems to be the case with Mike(Bot), none of my questions were answered, but Mike(Bot) did say:

*****

Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

Subject
---------------------------------------------------------------
Public Product Inquiry: 176926107419167282


Discussion Thread
---------------------------------------------------------------
Response Via Email(Mike) - 03/21/2012 01:42 PM
Hello Mary Jo,

Thank you for your patience in this matter.

Upon further investigation we have reconsidered our decision about your products.  Your product have been restored to your Zazzle gallery.

Again, we apologize for any confusion and thank you for being a valued seller at Zazzle!

Best Regards,
Mike
Content Management Team
Zazzle, Inc.

*****

So there ya have it. Thank you, kind Mike(Bot). None of my questions were answered, but at least Mojo can once again clutter the world with her merch. Which is soooo beside the point, but Mojo has learned to take what she can get from the world, and growl fiercely at those who expect her to share.

But I am still really kinda intrigued by this whole Tagging Fairy thing. I'm not all that involved with the Zazzle social life of commenting and rating and foruming and whathaveyou, but in my quick perusals of various items I see no way to tag them. Perhaps it's right there in front of me and I have some sort of post-traumatic scotoma, but I don't see it. If indeed rogue tagging was to blame (you will notice Mike(Bot) did not mention any of this) how did Ms. Howlett's product (and, I assume, though that is yet another unanswered question, my OWN products) get these bogus tags?

While I do not agree with their tactics, I will also reiterate that--assuming my theory is correct and my stupid sheep products WERE somehow egregiously tagged with excessive "Twilightly" words--well, being something of a persnickety bitch myself I can't really blame Summit Entertainment for complaining. Different franchises treat their fan base differently. It would be way COOL if Summit Entertainment embraced this newfangled sharing and mashing trend and used their pull with their young audience to inspire and encourage creativity by promoting fan fic and fan art. But hey, litigating the HELL out of them seems to be working out JUST FINE for the music industry, so who am I to judge?

(Dear Mike(Bot) and others who might not understand variations in human speech: That is called "sarcasm". It sometimes does not come across well in print. Hell, sometimes it doesn't come across well in real life, for when people can't accept being teased they tend to get REALLY MAD AT YOU for doing it. So use with caution.)

So the final score, for now, appears to be Mojo: 1, and Heartless Soulless Media Giant: 0. But Mojo has learned a valuable lesson in all of this. And that is, no matter how many subtle complexities and variables might be involved in any given situation, after carefully viewing all the many colorful sides of the kaleidoscope and carefully weighing the many aspects, it turns out ... apparently if you are a big enough bitch you get your way. Which is such a heartwarming after-school-special message I just had to share. You're welcome.

Mojo

Add new comment

Full HTML

  • Link to Amazon products with: [amazon:product_id:inline|full|thumbnail|datadescriptor]. Example: [amazon:1590597559:thumbnail] or [amazon:1590597559:author]. Details are on the Amazon module handbook page.
  • Avast! This website be taken over by pirates on September 19th. Yarr!
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <object> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <div> <img src>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.