Apparently Someone Doesn't Want You To Buy Our Copymouse Shirt

from the the-mouse-strikes-again dept

You may remember that, a couple years ago, our line of Copying Is Not Theft t-shirts and other gear was suddenly taken down by Teespring (now just called Spring) — first based on the completely false assertion that it contained third-party content that we didn't have the rights to use, then (after a very unhelpful discussion with their IP Escalations department) because it apparently violated some other policy that they refused to specify. That prompted us to open a new Techdirt Gear store on Threadless, where we've launched many of our old designs and all our new ones since the takedown. But we also kept the Spring store active for people who preferred it and for some old designs that we hadn't yet moved — and a few weeks ago the site's takedown regime struck again, wiping out our line of Copymouse gear that had lived there for nearly five years. So, once again, we've relaunched the design over on Threadless:

Of course, this takedown is a little different from the previous one. The Copying Is Not Theft gear contains no third-party material whatsoever, and there was simply no legitimate reason for Spring to have removed it — and they refused to even offer any explanation of what they thought that reason might be. In the case of Copymouse, it's obvious that it makes use of a particular logo, though in an obviously transformative manner for the purpose of commentary. So, yes, there is an argument for taking it down. It's just not a strong argument, since the design clearly falls within the bounds of fair use for the purposes of criticism and commentary, and it's hard to argue that there's any likelihood of confusion for consumers: nobody is going to think it's a piece of official Disney merchandise. Nevertheless, it's at least somewhat understandable that it caught the attention of either an automatic filter or a manual reviewer, and given the increased scrutiny and attempts to create third-party liability falling upon services that create products with user-uploaded artwork, it's no real surprise that a massive site like Spring errs on the side of caution (indeed, we won't be too surprised if the design ends up being removed from Threadless as well). It's still disappointing though, and even more importantly, it's yet another example of why third-party liability protections are so very, very important, and how when those protections are not strong, sites tend towards overblocking clearly legitimate works.

But for now, at least, you can still get your Copymouse gear on Threadless while we all wait to see if history repeats itself and the design needs an update in 2023.

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Filed Under: content moderation, copymouse, copyright, fair use, mouse, takedowns, trademark
Companies: spring, teespring, threadless


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 7 Oct 2021 @ 10:18am

    Just wow.

    Something something zero tolerance policies allow for zero thought and lead to shitty outcomes.

    Out of a group of 100 people if even 1 thinks somehow it might offend/upset/steal imaginary money it must come down.
    The platform taking it down doesn't want to discuss it because its what the law demands they do to be protected & no one can pay a human enough to speak to other people trying to explain the complete insanity involved. It's easier to offend a user (who honestly has no other options because they all do this) than to risk that an 80 yr old on the bench might side with those goofy ass lawyers making the mickey mouse claims that some moron out on pluto will think that this is an offering from the sweatshop of mouse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Koby (profile), 7 Oct 2021 @ 10:22am

    No Reason, No Legitimacy

    because it apparently violated some other policy that they refused to specify

    Remember, if they can't state the reason for the takedown, then you can rest assured that it is censorship.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 7 Oct 2021 @ 12:05pm

    So,

    Sueing the poor isnt worth it, so we have to open up the Liability. So we can get all the 3rd parties involved with the site.. THEN we might get abit of money.
    Then you can wonder why the court system COSTS money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2021 @ 12:43pm

    In the case of Copymouse, it's obvious that it makes use of a particular logo...

    What logo? What I see is that you've imposed a copyright symbol on a diagram of a water molecule. Although why water would be copyrighted in 1923 escapes me...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2021 @ 1:05pm

      Re:

      i mean, yeah, that looks like about 104 degrees. maybe someone should trademark the angle.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Oct 2021 @ 2:29am

      Re:

      "Although why water would be copyrighted in 1923 escapes me..."

      Because it's the medium Steamboat Willie is depicted as traveling on, of course.

      I would honestly not be surprised if the House of Mouse had set up a DMCA takedown algorithm to react to any image containing two circles set at an angle over a larger one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Michael Gantz (profile), 7 Oct 2021 @ 4:45pm

    Just be honest.

    I’d be much more impressed if these vendors stopped hiding behind lame policies and just stated something like “Look, it’s not policy. We feel we can’t take the risk with the current political climate. We’d love to do business with you but have decided it’s not in our best interest.”

    At least that would show some honesty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    tp (profile), 8 Oct 2021 @ 6:16am

    Using crcles illegally?

    Are you actually using circles to create illegal copyrghted work? No wonder it gets DMCA'd given that the mickey mouse circles attached to a copyright symbol is clearly violating disney's mickey mouse trademark.

    If you want to make a fool out of yourself with mickey mouse ears, you should do it in a way that isn't obvious to everyone who you're cloning...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 8 Oct 2021 @ 8:25am

      Re: Using crcles illegally?

      Are you actually using circles to create illegal copyrghted work?

      You mean trademark. Using circles in such a way to make Disney's mickey mouse logo (but not draw Mickey Mouse himself) is a trademark violation (and not copyright) seeing as three circles doesn't meet the minimum threshold of originality necessary for copyright protection.

      No wonder it gets DMCA'd given that the mickey mouse circles attached to a copyright symbol is clearly violating disney's mickey mouse trademark.

      The DMCA only applies to ©, not ™, and like I said, Disney's trademark is not copyrighted unless you mean a drawing of Mickey Mouse himself and not a big circle with two smaller but equally-sized circles attached to the larger circle at a 104° angle.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Oct 2021 @ 2:32am

      Re: Using crcles illegally?

      "No wonder it gets DMCA'd given that the mickey mouse circles attached to a copyright symbol is clearly violating disney's mickey mouse trademark. "

      You mean that depiction of the copyright symbol over a water molecule - an image far older than Disney in general?

      As usual, tp, your arguments would have science and the arts rendered unlawful as a whole in any nation abiding by copyright conventions, because apparently chemistry and physics are owned by the House of Mouse, according to you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2021 @ 1:39pm

    A case could be made that there's prior art that predates Disney

    I remember a few years back reading a couple of articles, with actual photos, where cave art had been discovered that dated back to antiquity, that looks very much like a certain copyrighted/trademarked mouse owned by Disney. Unfortunately I cannot find any examples still present on the Internet - I suspect they were all taken down by content matching algorithms that can't tell the difference between ancient cave art and said copyrighted/trademarked mouse.

    Even stranger, in the early cartoons said mouse owned a dog that was named after what was then considered a planet. When we finally got a spacecraft out into space and got some high resolution photos of that (former) planet, there is something in those photos that looks a lot like the head of a cartoon dog on the surface of the planet. Not exactly the same dog, but then again since it's probably a random land mass or something it's a bit amazing that it bears a lot of resemblance to a cartoon dog, and maybe some resemblance to that cartoon dog.

    But then again, there are rumors that Walt Disney was into some really esoteric and mystical stuff and had some contacts in high places. So it would not surprise me if he was stealing ideas from the "stream of consciousness" or whatever you want to call it. This has always been one of my objections to so-called "intellectual property" laws; they tend to presuppose that it takes a lot of work and effort to come up with that "thing" that should be protected, when quite often such ideas occur to people in dreams or in the shower (or maybe via tips from "friends in high places"). There were three or four different people who all came up with the idea for the telephone at the same time, but Bell was the first to patent it and because of that we got the monstrosity that became the Bell System and AT&T (one has to wonder how different things would have been if Antonio Meucci or Elisha Gray had been first to get a patent, since Bell pretty much ripped off both of them).

    But really it is the whole "work once, get paid forever" thing that bothers me. If you are really good at construction and help build a bridge that lasts 200 years, you get a paycheck (hopefully), and only for the weeks you actually work. Come up with something that can be copyrighted, trademarked, or patented, and even if it only took you ten minutes in the shower to come up with the idea and another few hours to commit it to paper, you (or some copyright troll that you sell the idea to) can potentially get paid "forever" (a period longer than your lifetime, so for you it's "forever"). That just never seemed right to me, and I really believe that "intellectual property" laws do far more harm than good. But they do benefit the rich (mostly), because even if a poor person has a great idea, the process to get it patented is far too costly and difficult for anyone that's having trouble putting food on the table. It's been a dysfunctional system from the very start. I can see a little benefit in trademarks (so not just any old greasy spoon seller of hamburgers can call themselves McDonald's or Burger King) but I think copyrights and patents have done more to retard the advancement of civilization than to help it. They were bad ideas that got exported to the world, even to the "communist" nations that you'd think would be adamantly opposed to that kind of protectionism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      icon
      tp (profile), 8 Oct 2021 @ 3:11pm

      Re: A case could be made that there's prior art that predates Di

      work once, get paid forever"

      Problem with what you're thinking is that the actual creative process isn't the only thing these business gurus need to do to get market accept the product. Creative process is what the customer is buying for, but that's not the whole story, you also need to get shelf space in the shop, delivery to multiple locations around the country, shipping, packaging, marketing, reviewing the product in local magazines... tons of different activities that have nothing to do with the creative process. If you only consider copyrighted work to be the creative process, you're forgetting large amount of stuff that authors need to do to get the product successful. Many of the great copyrighted work were never successful because their authors didn't do these (slightly expensive) non-creative activities that will boost the popularity of their work. Still your valuable pennies you pay for the product need to cover the cost of all this extra activity.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rocky, 8 Oct 2021 @ 4:33pm

        Re: Re: A case could be made that there's prior art that predate

        If you only consider copyrighted work to be the creative process, you're forgetting large amount of stuff that authors need to do to get the product successful.

        Copyright has zero to do with being successful, being successful means understanding the market and how to make an appealing product that people would want. If you want to see an example of failing to understand the market and what presumptive customers want, go look at meshpage.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Samuel Abram (profile), 8 Oct 2021 @ 4:49pm

          Re: Re: Re: A case could be made that there's prior art that pre

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          icon
          tp (profile), 8 Oct 2021 @ 6:19pm

          Re: Re: Re: A case could be made that there's prior art that pre

          If you want to see an example of failing to understand the market and what presumptive customers want,

          Given that you already know what meshpage is, it means my marketing department is getting their yearly bonuses. Web page handles shipping it to your location, so shipping department also get bonuses. Web page layout handles product packaging nicely, so packaging department gets bonuses this year. Some teenagers reviewed the site after bus adverts, so local magazine publish department gets their bonuses..

          Seems I've already done all the important activities, and am expecting success any day now.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Oct 2021 @ 7:23am

            am expecting success any day now

            Success doesn’t come to people who do the bare minimum⁠⁠—or to people who beg others for money and fame.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              tp (profile), 9 Oct 2021 @ 7:40am

              Re:

              Success doesn't come...to people who beg others for money and fame.

              Jimmy Wales proves you wrong...

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Oct 2021 @ 10:45am

                You’re not Jimmy Wales.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  tp (profile), 9 Oct 2021 @ 11:40am

                  Re:

                  You’re not Jimmy Wales.

                  I'm just pointing out that your rule has a flaw... It doesn't work with everyone on the planet. Now that that's been proven, its questionable if it works for anyone on the planet.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Oct 2021 @ 1:01pm

                    your rule has a flaw

                    No, it doesn’t; Jimmy Wales didn’t make Wikipedia by begging other people to build its entire goddamn infrastructure for him without recompense. You’re not Jimmy Wales and you have nothing innovative or useful to offer the world that would make other people invest their time and money into you. No one wants your software, no one wants you, and no one will miss you when you’re dead.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    Samuel Abram (profile), 9 Oct 2021 @ 6:30pm

                    Re: Re:

                    Here's the difference between Wikimedia (and Blender, for that matter) and your product meshpage: Wikimedia's (and Blender's) products have minimal copyright but they're so high in value that people are willing to give them money. You, however, make a product with such low value that copyright is completely irrelevant to its success.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • icon
                      tp (profile), 10 Oct 2021 @ 10:44am

                      Re: Re: Re:

                      Wikimedia's (and Blender's) products have minimal copyright

                      Jimmy Wales didn't write the articles, so he cannot claim copyright on them. So by the law, they're not allowed to raise the copyright level, even if their business would fail because of that.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • identicon
                        Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2021 @ 6:33pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        Depends on if the Wikipedia editors signed a work for hire or similar type of contract. But of course you knew that...

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        • icon
                          tp (profile), 11 Oct 2021 @ 11:44pm

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          Depends on if the Wikipedia editors signed a work for hire or similar type of contract. But of course you knew that...

                          I don't think he has money to pay salary to 100k people or something... Given that he's been begging for chance in his web page... (sure, noone wants to see jimmy wales face on their wikipedia pages, but I don't think it's still popular enough to pay salaries for everyone who contributed)

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2021 @ 2:52am

    Yeah, it is disappointing that platforms remove speech they don't like for no reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    userafw (profile), 12 Oct 2021 @ 4:46am

    T-shirts

    (C) is for Censorship. You should put THAT on a T-shirt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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