Trump Campaign Gets Parody Cartoon Taken Down Off Redbubble Over Trademark Claim On MAGA Hats

from the 2020-in-a-nutshell dept

If I had to come up with a more 2020 headline than the above, I’m not sure I could. Still, this is also in the Techdirt wheelhouse as far as topics are concerned. For background, I think it’s fair to say that the Trump Campaign, and Donald Trump as well, have both built a reputation for themselves as being particularly litigious when it comes to all things IP, defamation, etc. etc. amen. Whatever your politics, it simply can’t be denied that on First Amendment grounds, our current president and his organizations have an abysmal reputation on matters of free speech, so long as that speech could potentially pierce the notoriously thin skin of Donald Trump.

This continues to today, of course. You can see it when there are executive orders issued just because social media companies point the public to facts about the President’s claim. You can also see it more recently in the Trump campaign issuing a takedown with Redbubble for a parody cartoon over the trademark on MAGA hats.

The Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Nick Anderson has described Donald Trump as an “adolescent wannabe authoritarian”, after the US president’s re-election campaign failed to pull one of Anderson’s cartoons mocking Trump’s inaccurate suggestion that injecting disinfectant could protect against Covid-19. Anderson put his cartoon The Trump Cult up for sale on the online retailer Redbubble this month. The illustration shows Trump with supporters in Maga hats, serving them a drink that has been labeled “Kool-Aid”, then “Chloroquine” and finally “Clorox”, a US bleach brand.

But Redbubble pulled Anderson’s illustration from sale following a trademark infringement claim made by Trump’s campaign organisation, Donald J Trump for President Inc. Writing on the Daily Kos, Anderson said that he believed the claim was made due to his depiction of Maga hats, and described the situation as “absurd”.

Frankly, “absurd” doesn’t even begin to describe it. All kinds of speech are protected by the First Amendment, whatever the trademark rights any holder might have. Political speech is probably more revered in that regard than any other speech. The very idea that an artist couldn’t create parody art that comments on a particular public figure and/or his or her voting block is so completely the antithesis of American history that one should really just have to yell something like, “The Federalist Papers!” at this sort of thing and be done with it.

This country was built on political parody. And, frankly, cartoon parody in particular. The Trump campaign does, or at least should, know this. Redbubble does too, which explains the fairly very good mea culpa that it issued when the site reinstated the cartoon.

Redbubble reinstated Anderson’s cartoon this week, saying that it strives “to respect IP rights and freedom of speech, but we sometimes make mistakes, as we did here … We’re sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.” In a statement, Anderson praised Redbubble for recognising the error, but said there were some “troubling issues” raised by the affair, including that the cartoon was removed less than 24 hours after he posted it, before he had received a single order.

“I doubt anyone had even seen it yet on the site,” he said. “This reveals that the Trump campaign has a system in place, trawling for material they find objectionable. If it happened to me so quickly, it likely has happened to others. How much other content has been removed this way on Redbubble and other sites?”

While fair, the real issue here is that a demand for proactively policing copyright and trademark abuses is a system ripe for abuse, for censorship, and for fallout around the takedown of protected speech. This serves as simply a pointed example of this sort of thing, given that we’re talking about a sitting President’s campaign taking down such political speech. While this was ultimately corrected, the idea that something so American as a political cartoon could have been disappeared, even temporarily, over such a specious trademark claim is highlighting a flaw in the system.

So let’s get it corrected.

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Companies: redbubble

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Comments on “Trump Campaign Gets Parody Cartoon Taken Down Off Redbubble Over Trademark Claim On MAGA Hats”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Now see, THIS is how you silence someone.'

Claims that social media is attempting to ‘silence’ him and other conservatives when they add speech to one of his posts.

Demands the removal of speech that he doesn’t like, because he doesn’t like it.

Once again it seems like Trump and ‘friends’ simply cannot help but expose what raging hypocrites they are, and how all their concern about ‘free speech’ only applies to their speech and speech that they agree with.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Trademarked for what markets?

Wouldn’t the trademark registration for ‘MAGA’ have to include the market for cartoons for it to be a valid take down request?

Could someone who understands how to use that site (I have tried and been defeated) first if such a trademark exists and if it does for what uses it was registered for?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Trademarked for what markets?

As long as people think "having a trademark on a word" means "I own this word", this kind of actions will happen. They are going to willfully ignore what the purpose of trademark is, and also what its limitations are. Even if it was registered for cartoons, you can’t prevent people from talking about your brand in any form of communication. That is not how it works.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Trademarked for what markets?

"valid take down request"

Like that matters right now… If the site can be coerced into taking action, then the validity only matters is the subject of the takedown is committed and wealthy enough to fight the takedown in court. They know this usually won’t be the case, so there’s no disincentive to not issue such takedowns.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:


I propose we rescind the abolition of slavery. Let’s put it up for a vote. Who wants black people back in chains? I do. They do. They used to be happier. They used to raise families, have two parent households, get free health care, get a guaranteed standard of living (can’t sell a skinny slave) and overall had better lives. Certainly a lot less rioting. Vote now! Black Lives Matter Enough to get FREE HEALTH CARE, FREE FOOD, EASY WORK and SECURE FAMILIES! YAY!

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Barrack Obama says:

Re: Re: Black Lives DONT MATTER (ENOUGH)

Let me lay out my vision for you – a New America. I spent 8 years with Bill Ayers when I was president. I loved him, he loved me, we talked a lot about how to destroy America. And we made a plan. It’s unfolding now. Bill invented the justification for the chaos, you can read it for yourself in Prairie Fire. It’s perfect. Systemic Racism, oppressive police, white supremacists, the whole 9 yards. The only difference between now and then is that now many governors and police chiefs and other authorities are black. Doesn’t matter. They oppress black people the same way white people oppress black people. It’s systemtic. Chaos. Rioting. Murder. Looting. It’s all to build a new America. These highly charged dangerous situations are PERFECT for us. From now on, it’s Black People that will put Choke Holds on White People. That’s fair. And it’s good for me. Guess what? I will be PRESIDENT of the New America FOREVER! Because I’M BLACK. And I’m CLEAN and PRESENTABLE, not like those other blacks. just ask Joe. He knows. America for ME! America for BLACKS! Not America – OMerica! Obama-Merica! (boy, does my wife have a fat ass – jealous?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Black Lives DONT MATTER (ENOUGH)

Add in a heaping spoon of whataboutism and the obvious indignation over an anti-Trump article. Stir vigorously then flush the whole mixture down the toilet.

Fuck people like that AC. They don’t even deserve to breathe the same air as the rest of humanity.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Black Lives DONT MATTER (ENOUGH)

"Fuck people like that AC. They don’t even deserve to breathe the same air as the rest of humanity."

And yet, somehow it becomes clear that refusing to hear them is what brought us to this point. We all just fell asleep and assumed the third reich was history book mold. We forgot this particular brand of asshat still existed.

And yet here they are, still pounding out the same message, only that you need to exchange "black man" for "jew" in the rhetoric they spew.

And as per usual they see the call of a minority for equal treatment as oppression. Maybe because just as in the third reich the current crop of extra rabid racists are the type of people who have nothing to be proud of – and had to invent the idea the color of the skin they were born into by chance is somehow "special". Take that away and suddenly they won’t have anyone to look down at. That’s the point where they lose their shit completely and start shrieking in all-caps hysterics.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They’re just a shit-throwing troll trying to rile people up, they aren’t worth the effort to get upset over any more than a child going around calling people ‘poopy face’ is worth getting upset over.

Send them to time-out via the flag button and ignore otherwise.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Hey, you’re a foreigner idiot commenting on things you know nothing about in order to try to excite Americans to revolt. That’s your job, there’s like millions of posts from you about nothing else. You should be put up against a wall and shot as a seditious rat bastard, metaphorically.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Barrack Obama says:

Re: Re: Re:3 You Have White Privilege!

In many ways, the culture has withdrawn to rest on its privileges,
dissociating from active opposition to racism and from active identification
with Black and Third World people. A flippant attitude toward
consciousness-expanding drugs (my favorite) is separated from the whole picture of
deathly and pacifying drugs pumped into insurgent communities. The
problems of heroin, methadone, alcohol and pills have not been dealt with.
Although young people experience police oppression day-to-day, police
power directed against Black and Third World people is not eombatted.
Rarely do alternative institutions organize to meet the needs Gf the Black
community, Third World children, the old.

The best of the culture is realized through the process of struggle
itself —this is what creates unity of opposition, builds anti-racism, breathes
life into the sense of community and makes our communities insurgent.

Revolutionaries must embrace the explosive content of the
profound alienation young people experience in US society, and struggle
with and change its accomodations to imperialism. It is our view that the
youth movement is a force that has and will continue to affect the
consciousness of the working-class and the society as a whole. We must
approach the youth movement with a consciousness of the great
contributions made by students, Gls and other young people in the
anti-imperialist struggles of a decade.


The army is one of the central oppressive institutions of youth. So is the Police. Disband them both and replace them with BLM! That’ll fix everything up really good!

Destroy America! Onwards and Upwards with Omerica! Obama-America! Yay!

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 You Have White Privilege!

Damn, having the people elect a black man once really did a number for you.

Will you still be pounding out wordwalls of "But Obama!" thirty years from now?

Unless, of course, another black guy gets elected at some point, which, judging from your current reactions will probably send you straight into cardiac arrest in sheer impotent rage.

I guess it shows a lot that the only thing you have going for you is hate, possibly cut with some covfefe. I have to say that diet ain’t healthy, Baghdad Bob, but you do you. Keep reminding us that people like you still exist and you’ll have done all of society a favor. The only good you ever will be doing anyone, I’m guessing.

But sheesh. How impoverished do you have to be if the one and only thing of relative value in your life appears to be that standing around and waving a "Black Man Bad" sign means that well-off liberal caucasians are reminded that racists still exist?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 You Have White Privilege!

Apparently Shiva Ayyadurai was the only "black" guy Hamilton was capable of tolerating then pissed himself when the lawsuit ended up dead as a duck. Personally, having read quite often, every time he screams "MAGA" it sounds hilarious, but not for the reasons he thinks…

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Chicago is too small! The Black nation in the US is huge —the second largest Black
nation in the world. It is a nation formed out of distinct common history.
The Black revolution is rooted in the cultural identity, common oppression
and resistance which synthesizes two realities: the African who was stolen to
this country, and the slave and descendents of slaves who built it.

The struggles of Black people in this generation have shaken racist
power and culture to the heart of the empire, because the colonized status of
Black and Third World peoples inside the heartland of imperialism is the
foundation of the economy and cultural structure of the US.

The Black struggle for self-determination is the strategic leading
force of the US revolution, forged from a centuries-long tradition of
resistance and revolt in the face of counterattack by the club, the cattle
prod, the gun and the lynch rope.

From the clandestine organizations of the earliest slavery days,
through mass uprisings, the open carrying of self-defense weapons, to
guerrilla combat, the Black movement has historically raised the level of the
whole struggle.

Chicago hell! We’re going to take the whole country! And then the world! Get down on your knees and kiss my black ass! BLM!

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Barrack Obama says:

America is Flawed and must Burn

I’ve read all the comments here, and the articles. Here’s the summary:

All of this has a profoundly destructive effect on the people and
the quality of life in the US. People turn against one another and ourselves.
Over one half of the hospital beds in the US are occupied by mental patients.
Alcoholism, drug addiction, child beating, rape, gambling, anger and suicide
are all at crisis proportions.

People in the US face the basic fact of life is fear of BLM and Techdirt (Masnick). People are afraid of society and Stephen T. Stone. No one knows what is going to happen. Fear of illness, fear of
getting laid off, of being called an asshole Afraid to go outdoors (Covid), Afraid of Black people (George) moving into
the neighborhood, afraid of loss of status, afraid of not looking right, afraid
of being taken advantage of, afraid to speak up, afraid of growing old.

Fear. Techdirt. BLM. Obama is the Answer.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: America is Flawed and must Burn

"People in the US face the basic fact of life is fear of BLM and Techdirt (Masnick). People are afraid of society and Stephen T. Stone."

I had to laugh. Then saw the tragedy. Honestly, Baghdad Bob…seek help.

"Fear. Techdirt. BLM. Obama is the Answer."

You forgot the boilerplate demanded by ANY good racist; "They’re coming for white women!". There’s some room right next to your customary "But Obama!", you know. Damn, son, the KKK has standards. You can’t even meet those?

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