Yes, that's right — it's a September holiday sale! We know it takes some time for your orders to arrive from Teespring, so we're leaving a nice big window for those of you who want to gift some Techdirt gear in December. All our past shirts — plus one brand new design — are available from now until October 3rd.
This is the last time we're offering any of this gear in 2016, and we won't be taking reservations once these campaigns close! Most of the shirts will come back eventually, but we can't promise when and it might be a year or more. Also, Nerd Harder is now available on hoodies, mugs and stickers for the first time.
Remember, you've only got three weeks from today to place your orders, and everything will ship with plenty of time for the holidays. As usual, t-shirts are $20, hoodies are $35, mugs are $14 and stickers are only $4 — though not all designs are available on all products! Hurry up and get your gear before it's too late.
So, last week we launched our new Copying is Not Theft t-shirts (and hoodies, and stickers and mugs). It's a nice shirt:
We thought the message was fairly straightforward, building of the wonderful song and animation done by Nina Paley: Copying Is Not Theft:
That doesn't necessarily mean that copying is always legal or morally correct. But it pretty clearly is not theft.
The shirt is selling fine (get yours soon, because it's only available for a few more days!), but what's been surprising is how much it has resulted in pure rage from some people who seem really, really pissed off that we'd dare suggest the simple fact that copying is not theft.
Earlier this week, we wrote about the head of the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group promising to make counterfeit copies of our t-shirt (which seems a bit... odd, no?), but today I wanted to highlight some of the other responses we've received. The fact is, many people do understand the message and seem to appreciate it, but I'm somewhat surprised at those who disagree with it who feel the need to not just disagree, but to act as if merely stating a four word factual sentence is somehow offensive. It started in our comments where someone insisted that saying copying is not theft wasn't just wrong, but was "ignorant and irresponsible." Huh.
There have been a few similar comments to our posts, and a few angry remarks on Twitter, but the real action has definitely been on Facebook, where some people are just really, really angry. Here's just a sampling:
And, then, of course, you have that one person who always thinks they have the "gotcha" moment:
Then there's the guy who's so confused and angry that he's sure we've got our offices stacked high with infringing material, so he's "reported" us (to whom...? no idea...)
And then there are the people who get so frustrated that we're being accurate that they then need to mock us for using words as they're supposed to be used.
We've been doing this long enough to recognize that it stirs a lot of passion and emotion, so it doesn't surprise us that some people don't like the message on the shirt (and certainly plenty of others seem to enjoy it). But, we're still fairly astounded at the level of brainwashing that seems to go on, such that people get so angry about trying to separate out the fairly fundamental differences between copying something and stealing it.
Either way, if you're looking for a t-shirt that is a... uh... proven conversation starter, check out our Copying Is Not Theft gear while it's still available...
Every so often when people find out about the position we tend to take on copying, they hit back with what they think is a "gotcha" of something along the lines of "you wouldn't feel that way if someone copied your stuff." They really do. All the time. There are a number of scraper/spam blogs that copy and repost Techdirt's content, and it's really no big deal. As we've noted for a long time, all of the content that we publish directly we've declared to be in the public domain, so feel free to copy it with some caveats (which we'll discuss below). Last week, we launched our latest T-shirt, the "Copying is Not Theft" shirt:
So far there's been a great response to it, but some people seem really upset by the basic message. On Twitter and in our comments, we've had a few people pull out the "Oh, well how will you feel when I copy that shirt!" line of thinking that they'd found some sort of gotcha. The oddest, of all, however, was John Anderson, who apparently runs something called the "Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group" insisting that he's going to counterfeit our shirt.
Yes, yes, he's obviously just being snarky and thinking he's making a point, but it still seems odd for someone who insists he's against counterfeiting to basically say he's planning to counterfeit our shirt. At the very least, it actually gives us a platform to make our point: if he really wants to do so, he can absolutely go and make those cheap $5 shirts. But they won't sell. Why? This is the whole point we've been trying to make all this time. The reason people buy shirts from us is because (1) they like the shirts and (2) they want to support Techdirt. Somehow, I get the feeling that the community that John Anderson has built up around his Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group aren't exactly the kind of people who would jump at an offer to buy "Copying is Not Theft" T-shirts, even if they are 25% the price of our T-shirts.
This is the point that so many fail to get when they freak out about people copying. If you've built up a community of people who want to support you and people who like and are interested in what you do, there's nothing to fear from copying. It's only when you don't have that kind of support, or when you're trying to force something on people that they don't want that you suddenly have to worry about copying.
This is why we've always pointed to the same response when people say they're going to copy us and prove that we really are worried about copying or that copying really is theft. It's not. Here's what I wrote nearly a decade ago and it's still stands true today:
We have no problem with people taking our content and reposting it. It's funny how many people come here, like yourself, and assume you've found some "gotcha." You haven't. There already are about 10 sites that copy Techdirt, post for post. Some of them give us credit. Some of them don't. We don't go after any of them.
1. None of those sites get any traffic. By themselves, they offer nothing special.
2. If anything, it doesn't take people long to read those sites and figure out that the content is really from Techdirt. Then they just come here to the original source. So, it tends to help drive more traffic to us. That's cool.
3. As soon as the people realize the other sites are simply copying us, it makes those sites look really, really bad. If you want to risk your reputation like that, go ahead, but it's a big risk.
4. A big part of the value of Techdirt is the community here. You can't just replicate that.
5. Another big part of the value of Techdirt is that we, the writers, engage in the comments. You absolutely cannot fake that on your own site.
So, really, what's the purpose of copying our content in the manner you describe, other than maybe driving a little traffic our way?
So, if you really want to, I'd suggest it's pretty dumb, but go ahead.
This same thing holds true for counterfeiting goods as well. When we launched our first shirt, the Nerd Harder shirt, we saw a few copycats spring up on Teespring, complete with the language claiming that the shirts were from Techdirt, when they were not. We reached out to Teespring telling them we had no problem with them leaving up the T-shirts, but we would appreciate it if they didn't say that supporting them was supporting Techdirt. That's been consistent with our position all along, that in the realm of trademark, the one thing that does make sense is when it's used as a form of consumer protection. If buyers might be confused about who is really endorsing the product, that's a reasonable concern. But someone copying our shirt without pretending it's from us? That's totally cool. In fact, maybe they can make it better.
I mean, it's not like we even came up with the phrase "copying is not theft" either. It's the name of a truly wonderful song that Nina Paley wrote and illustrated:
Did we "steal" her song in taking the title and making it a shirt? Hell, no. We made a new thing. We took something that she did and we built on it to offer something new (cool T-shirts) to a different audience (ours), and so far, it seems to be working. If John Anderson thinks he can compete with his audience, he should go for it.
Hell, we'd be happy to compete with anyone doing so, because we know the message resonates with our audience. I'm not so sure it would resonate with the audience of some random person trying (and failing) to prove a point. So, bring it on.
And, yes, we've even made it extra easy for folks like John Anderson. If he likes, we've made the original image available as both a vector SVG file and a high-res PNG. So go ahead, John Anderson from the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group. Go ahead and counterfeit our shirt. Knock yourself out. I imagine you'll sell somewhere close to zero of them. Though the members of your group may find it odd that the head of a Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group's first response to seeing a T-shirt he doesn't like is to talk about counterfeiting it. Right, John?
Anyway, if you'd like to make a point to John Anderson and the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group, here's your opportunity. Buy one of our lovely Copying is Not Theft T-shirts.
Normally we only have one t-shirt available at a time, but thanks to a big order that rebooted one of our Teespring campaigns, this weekend there are two to choose from! First, there's our new Vote2016() t-shirt, which is only available until Monday night:
Then there's also our highly popular Takedown t-shirt, which is available only until tomorrow night:
As usual, in addition to men's and women's t-shirts for $20, we've got hoodies at the low price of $35. For the Vote2016() design, you can also pick up a high-quality sticker! After these campaigns end, we can't be sure when they'll relaunch — so hurry up and grab your Vote2016() t-shirt or your Takedown t-shirt (or both!)
Instead of the reading list, this week we're reminding folks that two of our most popular t-shirts are available on Teespring, but only if you order quickly. Our popular copyright takedown t-shirt is available again, after someone pre-ordered a whole bunch yesterday, tipping the campaign and re-opening it. But you've only got 3 more days to get in on that one.
And then we've got our new Vote2016() t-shirt explaining your Presidential voting choices this year in code (and, yeah, yeah, we've already heard all your comments about third parties, but let's keep this real here and admit that the code here is what most people are actually looking at). That one's available for just four more days, and you should order soon so you can wear it as much as you want this election season (that one also has stickers which have proven to be quite popular as well!).
Either way, once these campaigns end, that's it for getting those t-shirts, unless there's suddenly a major new influx of demand -- so don't miss out. Get yours today -- and help support Techdirt in the process.
As you may know, last month, we ran a t-shirt campaign for our "Nerd Harder" t-shirt, in response to various folks in governments and legacy companies thinking that if only the techies "nerd harder" they can solve everything from terrorism to copyright infringement. The campaign was super successful, with hundreds of folks buying shirts. But, apparently, some of you (you know who you are) somehow missed that campaign. Teespring has a feature where if enough people reserve a t-shirt from a campaign that's completed, the campaign will reopen for a short time -- and that's exactly what's happened with our Nerd Harder t-shirt:
But it's for a very limited time: just a few hours left until that campaign closes, and who knows if there will be enough demand to reopen it. So don't miss out. We've already seen lots and lots and lots of happy customers from the first round, so here's a chance to join them. But only for a few more hours.
And, then, of course, we also have our second t-shirt campaign running as well, for our Home Cooking is Killing Restaurants parody of the old "hold taping is killing music" campaign. People seem to really like that shirt as well (and we also have it in hoodie version). That campaign is running through this coming Tuesday, but might as well buy both shirts in one shot.
Both shirts come in multiple color choices (buy more than one to have a variety!) and in men's and women's cuts. And, of course, buying these t-shirts not only makes you look cool, but also helps support Techdirt.
As you probably heard in the news, last week, Presidential candidate/reality TV star Donald Trump took a bit of a detour from the campaign trail last week to fly to Scotland to open his new golf course. That the timing of the trip coincided with the Brexit referendum for the UK to exit the EU was just the wacky icing on the bizarre global political cake we're all now eating (bad metaphor apology). As you also probably heard, Trump talked about how wonderful the Brexit stuff was, and how much the people in Scotland must be thrilled, apparently missing the fact that Scotland, somewhat overwhelmingly, voted to stay in the EU. And because this is Scotland, and Scotland is awesome, folks there took to Twitter for a series of increasingly funny insults:
As I write this, it has over 6,000 retweets and over 7,000 likes. Not bad. Based on all of this, Jay Lender, a writer/director for SpongeBob SquarePants, Phineas and Ferb... and also his own movie, They're Watching, created an image in the style of Shepard Fairey's famous (and legally disputed) Obama Hope poster.
It's not at all clear if Frito-Lay made this request or if it's just CafePress worrying about future Frito-Lay concerns. Lender asked CafePress for clarification, and all they sent back was a link to Frito Lay's corporate contact page, telling him to contact Frito Lay to ask for authorization, implying that Cafe Press made this decision on its own. But, really, there appears to be a ton of other merchandise hosted at CafePress that mentions Cheetos in some form or another, so if the company is suddenly concerned about trademark threats from Frito-Lay, it seems to be targeting rather selectively.
Lender pushed back on CafePress's decision to take down the store, and received some rather ridiculous "suggestions" for replacement terms:
If you can't read that, it says:
The use of "Cheeto" infringes on Frito Lays trademark. If would be different if you used "cheese puff" or "cheese-snack"-faced in your design.
You may forward your notice of authorization from Frito Lay, giving you permission to use "Cheeto" or "Cheetos" in connection with the sale of commercial merchandise to us via email....
Yes. Really. Nothing like having CafePress ruining your jokes for you with its bizarre interpretation of trademark law.
As we've discussed many times in the past, CafePress is frequently targeted by bogus takedowns concerning political speech and the company doesn't exactly have the best record in dealing with such takedowns. But this seems just blatantly ridiculous on so many levels.
Either way, to argue that this is trademark infringing is crazy. No one is confusing the t-shirt or the image above as coming from Frito-Lay. I don't care how much of a moron in a hurry you might be, there's no consumer confusion here. For CafePress to declare absolutely that the use of Cheeto as an adjective here (not even as a noun!) is infringing on Frito-Lay's trademark is just... wrong. Second, this is pretty clearly protected political speech -- whether or not you agree with it or even think it's funny. Yes, CafePress has a right as a private company to refuse to host any shirts it dislikes, but at the very least it should come out and say that's why it's shutting down the shirt, rather than hiding behind a bogus "trademark" claim from Frito-Lay.
When the "going dark" encryption debates kicked off, a very, very long list of technology and encryption experts wrote a letter explaining that designing backdoors for encryption was a monumentally bad idea that inevitably would lead to weaker security and more vulnerabilities that made everyone less safe. In response to this, FBI Director James Comey, twisted what the letter said around to claim that the tech industry was claiming that it was too hard to backdoor encryption. But there's a difference between saying "this is hard" and "this is dangerous."
Either way, a bunch of defenders of backdooring encryption started to pick up on this ridiculous framing, leading Julian Sanchez to coin the term "nerd harder!" as a way of describing non-technical policy people insisting that techies can just solve some problem if they put their minds to it. Then, last week, at the Copyright Office's DMCA hearings, I noted a similar kind of thinking, around copyright issues. That time, a lobbyist for legacy content companies insisted that if Silicon Valley was able to build a self-driving car, surely they could build a technology that would stop infringing content, without harming fair use.
It was Nerd Harder all over again.
After commenting on that, a few people suggested that Nerd Harder might make a good t-shirt slogan -- and we agree! So we made one. Nerd Harder may be an absolutely terrible policy idea, but it sure does make a nice looking t-shirt.
We're doing this as a bit of an experiment, and we're using Teespring to make it work. Teespring is a t-shirt, crowdfunding setup, and we need to have enough people order the shirts in order to actually get them printed. So if we don't get enough orders, no t-shirts. But this also means that the campaign is for a limited time -- just through May 29th -- so put your order in now!
from the perhaps-it's-more-kafkaesque-than-orwellian dept
If you were online last week, you probably heard the story about how the George Orwell Estate supposedly had issued a takedown to CafePress for some T-shirts made by a guy named Josh Hadley that merely showed the year "1984" on them. I first saw it when someone pointed me to Hadley's Facebook post about it, in which he's quite reasonably angry. This was the T-shirt image that Hadley said was taken down:
Something about this seemed weird, so I reached out to everyone involved -- Hadley, Bill Hamilton (the literary agent who manages the Orwell Estate) and CafePress. While I was talking to all of them, the story exploded with stories in TorrentFreak, Consumerist and a number of other places, all attacking the Orwell Estate for such a (dare we say it?) Orwellian takedown. Clearly the image above is not infringing anything from Orwell's estate. The simple year "1984" is not infringing in any way.
But it didn't stop the takedown from happening... and from people angrily piling on against the estate. It took a while to get the complete story, and Hamilton was bizarrely reticent to share the details of what happened with me, other than to insist he did not send a takedown for that T-shirt, but rather for a mug that he insisted was "obviously infringing." I kept asking for the specific takedown, saying we'd be happy to put up a story showing that he was blameless, but he refused to share it. CafePress was similarly slow to respond -- and eventually would do nothing more than say "no comment." Eventually, we were able to get a copy of Hamilton's original takedown message, which was a bit vague, and just discussed a photograph of Orwell that another account was using, and some extensive quotes that were made to look like "official" licensed merchandise -- such that the takedown was a slightly vague combination trademark/copyright/publicity rights takedown.
Dear Lindsey Moore,
Your Orwell merchandise has been brought to my attention as the literary executor to the Orwell estate, responsible for all licensing and copyright.
The Orwell estate does not license merchandise, and the quotes you use and the photograph of Orwell are in breach of copyright. Please remove from sale immediately.
I look forward to hearing by return.
A M Heath & Co Ltd
6 Warwick Court
London WC1R 5DJ
Yes, the takedown message is a bit vague (Moore, if you're wondering -- whose first name is actually Lindsay, not Lindsey -- is CafePress's intellectual property agent). An official DMCA takedown notice requires the specific identification of what is infringing, and Hamilton's note fails that test. The proper thing for a company to do is to reject the deficient notice, and let the sender know that they need to file a compliant takedown notice. CafePress did not do that, and apparently just started taking down Orwell/1984 products at random. However, it does appear that the target was not Hadley's T-shirts, but rather than actually assessing whether or not anyone's rights were violated CafePress just went on a crazy takedown binge and pulled down what appears to be anything even loosely connected to Orwell/1984. And Hadley's T-shirts got caught in the crossfire.
And then CafePress refused to admit it made a mistake.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time we've written about CafePress overreacting and taking down lots of stuff over which there was no legitimate takedown. The whole situation seems rather ridiculous, and even worse is that CafePress sat there and let the Orwell Estate take the heat for its actions. It seems that, once again, if you're looking for a print-on-demand partner, CafePress is not your best choice.
While many have reported on this story as the Orwell Estate being Orwellian, the truth here seems more like CafePress being Kafkaesque.