from the bursting-your-bubble dept
Things just got a little more weird in the case of the 13 year old British girl who had some art she created taken down from Redbubble's site because the artwork included the phrase "winter is coming." The girl's father responded to the takedown, questioning why HBO, owners of the trademark rights to the phrase in conjunction with the Game of Thrones franchise, would do this to an autistic teenager that wasn't even selling the art, only sharing it. As noted in our original post, the letter Redbubble sent the girl is a mess, lacking any firm reference to trademark or copyright and replacing it only with "IP/Publicity Rights." In addition, the whole letter is written like a forwarded DMCA notice, including offering the ability to counternotice through Redbubble's DMCA counternotice email address... but this would be a trademark issue, to which the DMCA doesn't apply. Lots of people, including the girl's father, assumed this takedown had been carried out at the request of HBO.
It looks like that wasn't the case. What the girl's father missed -- along with many of those reporting on the issue, including myself -- is that Redbubble's letter states that they did this because of HBO's history of issuing DMCA notices, not because it had actually done so in this case.
"We have removed the following content from Redbubble in response to past complaints from Home Box Office, Inc., the claimed owner or licensee of related intellectual property and in accordance with Redbubble's IP/Publicity Rights Policy," it said.
So this wasn't "notice and takedown", it was "notice and staydown", where Redbubble policed HBO intellectual property on its site based on previous complaints. That's not required by law, of course, but it certainly is what many in Hollywood want to see as the standard. And this is a perfect case for why it's a terrible, terrible idea. Legitimate, non-infringing uses get caught up in the blanket takedowns issued by service providers that don't really have a clue as to what they're doing.
And in light of what actually happened, Redbubble's letter, and the way it appears to be disguised as a DMCA notice, is at best horrifically sloppy and at worst an attempt to shift the blame for its voluntary and proactive takedown of a teenage girl's artwork. For it's part, HBO doesn't seem to be happy about this.
"We love when fans are creative in their support of our programmes," the network said in a statement (via Entertainment Weekly). "These works live online in many incarnations, and in the past we have celebrated them by drawing attention to them.
"Many for-profit websites that sell products, such as Redbubble, take steps to avoid infringements as part of their standard operating procedure. To suggest a particular individual was targeted, or that HBO threatened legal action against her, is simply untrue."
Now, HBO's history of how it treats fans of Game of Thrones isn't universally positive, and it's worth noting again that the stated reason Redbubble did all of this is because of the network's heavy-handed history when it comes to matters just like this...but I have to think HBO is also pissed off at the way Redbubble's communication with the girl's father allowed him -- and the media -- to conclude this was all HBO's fault for issuing a DMCA takedown.
Regardless, good to know that Redbubble wants to be in the business of proactively policing its site in such a way that it results in the non-infringing artwork of a teenager gets taken down. The site is a notice and staydown site, on the record.