Twilight Studio Issues Another Bogus Takedown, But Is Zazzle Partially To Blame?

from the the-plot-thickens dept

Well, this one's weird. We recently wrote about the attempt by Summit Entertainment (the folks behind the Twilight movies) to claim ownership of a date, issuing a takedown notice over a painting by Kelly Howlett because its creation date (and title) matched a Twilight movie release date (seriously). Now, Mary Jo Place (who goes by the handle Mojo) writes to tell us about her own similar and even stranger situation, in which Summit took down some of her Zazzle merchandise because... well... that's anyone's guess.

The work in question is an original painting called "Sheep Are Pretty Stupid", copies of which she was selling on a variety of merchandise through Zazzle. The products, which again have absolutely nothing to do with Twilight, had been up for a few months before she received a notice from Zazzle, telling her they had removed some of them because of a complaint from Summit. Oddly, it was only the iPhone/Pad/Pod cases that were taken down—not the t-shirts or any of the other merch, even though all the items bore identical descriptions:

Sheep Are Pretty Stupid.
Yes, they are, but you don't have to be numbered among them! Mojo suggests you go AGAINST the crowd by buying one of her sheepie shirts. Or mugs. Or, whatever. Several years ago, I decided I wanted to paint my own Christmas card of the whole lion-and-lamb thing, only from a more, uh, realistic perspective. This is the result.

The email from Zazzle also suggested that the problem could be the search tags, but those (again shared identically by all the merchandise) were mojo, crap, craptacular, sheep, lion, and lamb. Nothing there that suggests Twilight either, except possibly crap. Understandably baffled, Mary Jo contacted Zazzle only to receive a condescending canned response informing her of their duty to abide by intellectual property law. She wrote back again, and actually linked to our coverage of the other takedown, but got nothing back. So she started digging, which brought her to Kelly Howlett's Facebook note about her situation, where she saw something interesting in the comments—and this is where things get weird:





Since Mary Jo's items were gone, she couldn't check to see if she was having similar tag problems. Nevertheless she emailed Zazzle again, included screenshots of the comments and suggested that this may be what happened. A little while later, she received another canned response from Zazzle telling her the products had been restored, but still offering no explanation whatsoever.

All this creates one big question: is Zazzle doing some sort of automatic tagging, which is then triggering false takedowns? If so, that's a pretty big mistake by Zazzle—but some cursory Googling and digging through their help forums doesn't reveal any references to an auto-tagging or community tagging system. If any readers are Zazzle users and have experienced something similar, or have any insight into this, please share it, because nobody seems to be able to figure out what's going on.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Atkray (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 7:49am

    all you tags are belong to us?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 7:51am

    "because nobody seems to be able to figure out what's going on."

    Judging by Zazzle's quiet reinstatement of the items I am pretty sure someone is now very aware of what was going on and are trying desperately to fix it before you figure it out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    bjr70 (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 7:55am

    It's "lion and lamb" - that's a line in the book and the film:

    Edward: "And so the lion fell in love with the lamb."
    Bella: "What a stupid lamb."
    Edward: "What a sick, masochistic lion."

    My guess is Summit is being stupid and flagging stuff with those terms.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Difster, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 7:56am

    Apparently idiotic takedown notices are the only way that Twilight can be even remotely entertaining.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Eli Rueda, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 7:57am

    its the tags

    I think i know why, there is a scene where they decide they are in love and say something like. Stupid Lion, Narcisist Lamp.

    they also talk about the lion falling in love with the lamb / sheep. so i bet thats why.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:00am

    Why in the world has nobody sued over one of these totally false takedowns and argued that the DMCA takedown process is unconstitutional? The Internet today is far different from the way it was in 1998, and the legal landscape is also a lot different--the Supreme Court has aggressively upheld First Amendment rights several times. I'm not even a lawyer--just a lowly paralegal who's spent their entire career on First Amendment issues--and I'm certain I could craft a fantastic argument that the DMCA takedown requirement creates unconstitutional prior restraints. To illustrate, just think how ridiculous it would be if a state passed a law allowing someone to rip signs down on other people's property that they thought were libelous, without a court being involved. Giving private parties the power to censor speech under color of law is just as much a prior restraint as the government itself doing it. At the very least you could argue that it's overbroad because experience has shown that even though it's not supposed to, it does reach a substantial amount of protected speech.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:07am

    Re: BOOooks...

    The lion/lamb this is itself a reference to another book which contains many images of hate, murder, violence, bigotry, intolerance, incest, and vulgar sex.

    Namely, "The HOLY Bible"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Andy Roon (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:10am

    Wow, when SEO and rampant copyright enforcement collide. We should turn all the copyright folks against all the blackhat SEOs and see who wins. And have it streamed by the people who stream UFC fights. Wait...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:11am

    BTW, another problem I see is that the DMCA has absolutely no process whatsoever for the reposting of anonymous speech, which is protected. If someone claims anonymous speech is infringing, it's gone unless the person gives up their anonymity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:13am

    Re:

    To clarify, the prior restraint comes not in the initial takedown (that's censorship), but in being unable to repost it without following the DMCA procedure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:14am

    Automated perjury is not an excuse. This is lawsuit territory.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:16am

    Just a guess but if the tags are getting messed up there are only 2 explanations I can think of at the moment.

    DB corruption or intentional/unintentional insertion, which includes malicious insertion by the company or someone who has access legal or illegally to their DB, a program gone ape and doing what is not supposed to and so forth, some third party in any way related to Zazzle with access to that account making the changes and he/she/it is not the user and gained access to the account through deception or hacking the website(i.e. XSS).

    Is Zazzle under attack? did it get hacked and users data were stolen?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:21am

    It looks like tag spamming, but the Googles have no other records of that particular string.

    The fact the string ends with just the letter j makes one wonder if the coding failed. Someone tried to pump in more than the 40 tags your allowed so it just borrowed some of her space. Maybe little bobby tables visited.

    Its possible Zazzle had a glitch (or is just now finding out because the person who hid it and cleaned up did just as awesome a job as they did coding it in the first place) and the downside is these people are getting beat upon for Zazzle failing.

    Summit is still a buncha asshats, but it makes a bit more sense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:21am

    Whh...what?

    So there are Twilight copyrighted "tags" out there that no one can associate with anything or Summit gets to delete whatever content that tag pointed at? That makes no sense to me in the least. Firstly why do the item pages get nuked (assuming the items themselves are not infringing) and not just the objectionable tag, and second, identifying tag information (usually one or two words) seem more like a Trademark issue than Copyright. Can you Copyright a single English word; or a date for that matter?

    I don't care that Zazzle may be using bots to put bad tags on stuff, that's a company policy issue that should get worked out because it makes their search product less valuable to customers. I'm mystified that DMCA take-downs are getting issued because of ambiguous metadata keywords, not because of infringing content.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:22am

    Re: Re: BOOooks...

    The lion/lamb this is itself a reference to another book which contains many images of hate, murder, violence, bigotry, intolerance, incest, and vulgar sex.

    Namely, "The HOLY Bible"


    And yet the book in question is the foundation of the biggest religion in the world...

    ...Yeah, we're in trouble.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:24am

    Re: its the tags

    Lion and... Lamp?

    Not quite the same thing, but eh.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:25am

    Re:

    Another issue is the fact that they're automating DMCA takedown notices, which means that all of the notices are fraudulent because no one with the ability to swear that the takedown notices are valid "under penalty of perjury" is actually looking at them until after the fact when they get a complaint. Letting your cat click enter to accept an EULA wouldn't hold up in court, why would letting your bot swear that its notices are valid stand up?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:26am

    Re: Re: its the tags

    I...I love lamp.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:26am

    Re: Re: Re: BOOooks...

    And yet the book in question is the foundation of the biggest religion in the world...

    Wait. Which book?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:26am

    Re:

    Ugh. I feel a little dirty just reading this much of it. Can I lodge a DMCA request to get things taken out of my brain?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:29am

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't think search tags were even covered by copyright! At most this would be a trademark issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Prisoner 201, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:33am

    Re: Whh...what?

    Since the cost of a false takedown is zero, collateral damage can be eliminated from the cost-benefit analysis.

    Automated takedowns with very liberal targeting algorithms is just the next logical step.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    PaulT (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:35am

    "Nothing there that suggests Twilight either, except possibly crap."

    Lol.

    Anyway, whoever's to blame this is just another example of why automatic this process is very bad idea. Follow copyright rules and sell perfectly legit material? Tough, a 3rd party just caused your material to be removed anyway because a corporation wants to protect itself at all costs. Want compensation? Pay a lawyer, we don't care...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: BOOooks...

    Namely, "The HOLY Bible"

    I hate when people don't get my jokes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    DogBreath, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:36am

    Re: Re: BOOooks...

    It also mentions "wolf", so the Bible is next to get taken down by Summit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: BOOooks...

    Aww man, if you'd signed this one 'God' rather than Anonymous Coward I'd have been laughing for hours...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:43am

    out of curiosity, have we now got ignore November 20, 2009 forever, for fear of being sued by this bunch of Summit twats?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:49am

    Re:

    What is twilight?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:52am

    Re: Re: Whh...what?

    Right, which brings up the question of why automated takedowns are even legal. Comments like MrWilsons about machines "swearing" that notices are valid, but end up being perjury, bring that issue to light.

    I'd really like to see the EFF or ACLU get on the case for a bunch of these little guys and HAMMER the false notice companies to the full extent of the DMCA. I bet that would send some execs running to unplug their auto-filing bots.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:52am

    Needs a T-Shirt

    This makes me want to make a t-shirt that reads: 11/20/2009 Never Forget

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: BOOooks...

    I thought you were making a Manic Street Preachers reference

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Yakko Warner (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 9:02am

    Re: Re: Re: its the tags

    Between the lamp and Kristen Stewart, I think the lamp has a wider acting range (if not just more facial expressions).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    Yakko Warner (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 9:04am

    Aren't tags legal anyway?

    Even if the tags were there, hasn't it already been determined that using search tags (specifically, buying ad words) that identify a competitor in order to advertise your own stuff isn't a violation of any law? Or am I misremembering that ruling?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    aldestrawk (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 9:07am

    Re: Re: Re: its the tags

    You must be thinking of Amber Lamps

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    DogBreath, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 9:09am

    Re: Needs a T-Shirt

    Your right. I for one, will never forget the day that Bob Marley was well on his way to becoming the richest dead celebrity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    aldestrawk (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 9:22am

    Re: Needs a T-Shirt

    Or..
    Remember, remember the twentieth of November
    vampires, trademark, and tag lots
    I see no lark why vampires, trademark
    should ever be forgot

    Hmm, throws off the rhythm a bit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    Gracey (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 9:31am

    Re:

    Aha! You've figured it out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    Suja (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 9:37am

    Re: Re: its the tags

    Usually when I think of Lamp parings I think of Brave Toasters and Lamps but I guess Lions and Lamps are OK too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Cowardly Anonymous, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re:

    Twilight is a self-referential series that remarks on the decline of literature that it helps perpetuate through demonstrative writing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Cowardly Anonymous, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 10:01am

    Re:

    Because the scheme is rather carefully crafted to target hosting sites, rather than users. The users are told they have to take it up with the site while the site is told that it will open itself to liability for user content if it doesn't play ball.

    You can't sue the site, because the site can point to the DMCA notice. You can't sue the issuer of the DMCA notice, because they didn't actually take down your content.

    The constitution clearly states: "Congress shall make no law such that," rather than saying "The Courts shall not upload a law such that." This choice was to ensure that no schemes such as the above could be set up, where an over-seeing body can be routed around. Tragically the Constitution provides no meaningful disincentive for crafting such laws, because the bill of rights was not a core part of the design, but a concession.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Digitari, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 10:04am

    RE Start playing tag

    You're it

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    Andrew (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 10:05am

    Re: Whh...what?

    Having read the correspondence, I can't see any reference to a DMCA takedown notice in Zazzle's missives. It's likely they have an automated takedown arrangement with Summit and that, if they have clarified / have to clarify why this piece was taken down, it would for unauthorised use of their marks. Which is not unreasonable if its tags were similar to those apparently autogenerated above.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re:

    Quote Cracked.com:

    "The 'Twilight' series contains four books about a dreamy vampire and the charmingly klutzy girl who loves him. It was written by Stephanie Meyer, presumably on the back of a trapper keeper while she was still in high school."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re: Re: its the tags

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 10:40am

    Silence of the lamp...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re:

    My cat is smarter than most humans but, alas, is not of legal age in this country.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 10:46am

    Re:

    Please reread the synopsis. The tags for her items were "augmented" to include a bunch of references to a bunch of Twilight terms.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: Whh...what?

    Hmm, perhaps you're right. The blog title at mojocrap.com says 'DMCA' so that just got stuck in my head, but the actual missive from Zazzle just says it's an "infringement claim by Summit." That might also explain how the pages went back up without an actual counter-notice being filed.

    In any case it's not clear what's going on and both of these companies need to be more clear an straightforward about what their practices are. It's looking more and more like Zazzle is to blame for voluntarily censoring its users (and bad database management) which isn't so much a legal problem, but their users need to vote with their feet if that's the case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re: Re:

    And don't forget about the series of movies based on the "books" in which the wealthy vampire who has lived for centuries and been all over the world remarkably can find nothing more interesting to do than to stare at a pasty highschool-aged girl who no one else finds remotely interesting other than resident teenaged werwolf.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 11:21am

    Re:

    Anonymous needs to start 'tagging' other media companies with 'infringing' tags and watch the hilarity as the media companies automatically remove each others content from the web....

    The majority of us (who read and agree with the ideas and concepts supported by this site) would probably never even notice that anything was missing....

    But it sure would be entertaining.....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 11:32am

    Re:

    It's not that the search tags are protected by copyright, it's that they're assuming any Zazzle items utilizing said tags are infringing Summit's copyrights.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
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    BeeAitch (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re:

    "The thrilling saga of a young woman's difficult choice between necrophilia and bestiality."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    DOlz, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:08pm

    Re: Re:

    1 : the light from the sky between full night and sunrise or between sunset and full night produced by diffusion of sunlight through the atmosphere and its dust; also : a time of twilight

    From: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/twilight

    Expect Summit to go after dictionaries and earth's rotation next.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:31pm

    Is tagging of a website by another party equivalent to graffiti? That it's done by the landlord of a rental property is just weird.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:33pm

    WTF #1: Zazzle adds tags unrelated to the merch to increase traffic.

    WTF #2: Zazzle doesn't know Google ignores metatags.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    icon
    c0c0c0 (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 3:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: BOOooks...

    the "bible" has a vampire in it as well....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
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    velox (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 6:40pm

    Re:

    It's just a matter of time...
    Step 1. Individual lawsuit filed.
    Step 2. Subpoena information needed to uncover the process used to issue the wrongful take-down requests.
    Step 3. Request certification of class-action lawsuit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 11:08pm

    Re: Re:

    And further reading shows she only had entered the first of those 5 terms.
    And somehow Zazzles system then displayed several more tags, all on a theme of twilight...
    Oh... hurm...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 11:12pm

    Re:

    Never assign to outside malevolence what just as easily can be internal incompetence.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 11:15pm

    Re:

    I had another though as well...
    If you were Zazzle you more than likely have a list of tags that generate problems...
    What if you screwed up the expression to search the existing tags for them to add them instead?

    https://xkcd.com/1031/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    icon
    Laroquod (profile), Mar 25th, 2012 @ 7:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: BOOooks...

    You are the one who missed the joke.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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