by Mike Masnick
Mon, May 4th 2009 12:47pm
Boing Boing points us to the news that someone who was trying to protest the fact that a new Viacom animated movie was hiring Caucasian actors to play Asian or Inuit characters found that the t-shirts she was selling via Zazzle were taken down due to a claim that they violated Viacom's intellectual property. It's difficult to see what the violation of intellectual property here is. The shirts don't use any imagery from the movie itself. The t-shirts were designed by the woman herself. The only thing they have is a mention of the name of the movie -- but that shouldn't be enough to force the content offline. On top of that, plenty of the shirts don't seem to name the movie at all, but do name one of the characters. Again, it's quite difficult to see how this is an intellectual property violation, in any way. The explanation that Zazzle gave isn't entirely clear -- as it might not be a case of Viacom complaining directly, but Zazzle taking the matter into its own hands (which is equally troubling). Whether it's Viacom or Zazzle, this appears to be an overly aggressive attempt to stop perfectly reasonable public speech by hiding behind intellectual property claims. Update: Someone from Viacom stopped by in the comments to let us know that it has no problem with the shirts. Zazzle just took the shirts down on their own, and Viacom has asked them to put the shirts back up. Nice to see Viacom respond in this manner.
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