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.