from the coffee-filters dept
In yet another example of overactive copyright law blocking legitimate content, we find this story from Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, about Zazzle's abrupt and unfriendly treatment of its supposedly (but not actually) infringing customers.
Marco, who is no stranger to copyright concerns, recently used Zazzle to sell a jokey mug based on bad reviews of Instapaper:
Later in the day, after the mug had racked up 116 sales, all the customers were told that their orders had been cancelled because the mug violates Zazzle's acceptable use policy—apparently the "design contains an image or text that may be subject to copyright."
May be subject to copyright? Anything and everything may be subject to copyright. If that's the bar they're using to determine what's allowed on Zazzle, nothing will exist there at all. Besides, usually when you come across something that may have a problem you check to find out if it actually does. But that's not what happened here.
Meanwhile, Marco himself got nothing—Zazzle gave him no explanation at all. Of course, it's important to pick your battles, and even though Marco knows damn well there's no issue of this "maybe" infringing (there is no infringement), he has no intention of fighting this. Instead he's opted to send a message on his (quite popular) blog:
"Now I just know that Zazzle sucks, and I’ll never do business with them again."
And, because Zazzle may suck, perhaps you won't want to do business with them either.
It's not entirely clear what led to Zazzle cancel the orders, but since Marco was never informed about a complaint, it was probably an automated filter, possibly with some lax human review. But computers aren't very good at identifying copyright infringement, and neither are most people‐not even rightsholders themselves. That's not really surprising, since copyright law is insanely complex, but online services that feature user-generated content still face all sorts of pressure from various industries, insisting they somehow magically detect and stop all infringement. Some cooperate, so you end up with overactive filters that inevitably block all sorts of legitimate content—then you end up with rightfully pissed off customers complaining in public.