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

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.