Head Of Anti-Counterfeiting Lobbying Group Says He's Going To Make Counterfeit Techdirt T-Shirts
from the does-he-think-he's-making-a-point? dept
Every so often when people find out about the position we tend to take on copying, they hit back with what they think is a “gotcha” of something along the lines of “you wouldn’t feel that way if someone copied your stuff.” They really do. All the time. There are a number of scraper/spam blogs that copy and repost Techdirt’s content, and it’s really no big deal. As we’ve noted for a long time, all of the content that we publish directly we’ve declared to be in the public domain, so feel free to copy it with some caveats (which we’ll discuss below). Last week, we launched our latest T-shirt, the “Copying is Not Theft” shirt:
So far there’s been a great response to it, but some people seem really upset by the basic message. On Twitter and in our comments, we’ve had a few people pull out the “Oh, well how will you feel when I copy that shirt!” line of thinking that they’d found some sort of gotcha. The oddest, of all, however, was John Anderson, who apparently runs something called the “Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group” insisting that he’s going to counterfeit our shirt.
Thanks – we'll make loads of cheap imitations and sell for five quid each. https://t.co/f7hzRHFBv1
— John Anderson (@gacgjohn) August 28, 2016
Yes, yes, he’s obviously just being snarky and thinking he’s making a point, but it still seems odd for someone who insists he’s against counterfeiting to basically say he’s planning to counterfeit our shirt. At the very least, it actually gives us a platform to make our point: if he really wants to do so, he can absolutely go and make those cheap $5 shirts. But they won’t sell. Why? This is the whole point we’ve been trying to make all this time. The reason people buy shirts from us is because (1) they like the shirts and (2) they want to support Techdirt. Somehow, I get the feeling that the community that John Anderson has built up around his Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group aren’t exactly the kind of people who would jump at an offer to buy “Copying is Not Theft” T-shirts, even if they are 25% the price of our T-shirts.
This is the point that so many fail to get when they freak out about people copying. If you’ve built up a community of people who want to support you and people who like and are interested in what you do, there’s nothing to fear from copying. It’s only when you don’t have that kind of support, or when you’re trying to force something on people that they don’t want that you suddenly have to worry about copying.
This is why we’ve always pointed to the same response when people say they’re going to copy us and prove that we really are worried about copying or that copying really is theft. It’s not. Here’s what I wrote nearly a decade ago and it’s still stands true today:
We have no problem with people taking our content and reposting it. It’s funny how many people come here, like yourself, and assume you’ve found some “gotcha.” You haven’t. There already are about 10 sites that copy Techdirt, post for post. Some of them give us credit. Some of them don’t. We don’t go after any of them.
1. None of those sites get any traffic. By themselves, they offer nothing special.
2. If anything, it doesn’t take people long to read those sites and figure out that the content is really from Techdirt. Then they just come here to the original source. So, it tends to help drive more traffic to us. That’s cool.
3. As soon as the people realize the other sites are simply copying us, it makes those sites look really, really bad. If you want to risk your reputation like that, go ahead, but it’s a big risk.
4. A big part of the value of Techdirt is the community here. You can’t just replicate that.
5. Another big part of the value of Techdirt is that we, the writers, engage in the comments. You absolutely cannot fake that on your own site.
So, really, what’s the purpose of copying our content in the manner you describe, other than maybe driving a little traffic our way?
So, if you really want to, I’d suggest it’s pretty dumb, but go ahead.
This same thing holds true for counterfeiting goods as well. When we launched our first shirt, the Nerd Harder shirt, we saw a few copycats spring up on Teespring, complete with the language claiming that the shirts were from Techdirt, when they were not. We reached out to Teespring telling them we had no problem with them leaving up the T-shirts, but we would appreciate it if they didn’t say that supporting them was supporting Techdirt. That’s been consistent with our position all along, that in the realm of trademark, the one thing that does make sense is when it’s used as a form of consumer protection. If buyers might be confused about who is really endorsing the product, that’s a reasonable concern. But someone copying our shirt without pretending it’s from us? That’s totally cool. In fact, maybe they can make it better.
I mean, it’s not like we even came up with the phrase “copying is not theft” either. It’s the name of a truly wonderful song that Nina Paley wrote and illustrated:
Did we “steal” her song in taking the title and making it a shirt? Hell, no. We made a new thing. We took something that she did and we built on it to offer something new (cool T-shirts) to a different audience (ours), and so far, it seems to be working. If John Anderson thinks he can compete with his audience, he should go for it.
Hell, we’d be happy to compete with anyone doing so, because we know the message resonates with our audience. I’m not so sure it would resonate with the audience of some random person trying (and failing) to prove a point. So, bring it on.
And, yes, we’ve even made it extra easy for folks like John Anderson. If he likes, we’ve made the original image available as both a vector SVG file and a high-res PNG. So go ahead, John Anderson from the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group. Go ahead and counterfeit our shirt. Knock yourself out. I imagine you’ll sell somewhere close to zero of them. Though the members of your group may find it odd that the head of a Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group’s first response to seeing a T-shirt he doesn’t like is to talk about counterfeiting it. Right, John?
Anyway, if you’d like to make a point to John Anderson and the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group, here’s your opportunity. Buy one of our lovely Copying is Not Theft T-shirts.