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.

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  1. identicon
    Prisoner 201, 23 Mar 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.

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