Belinda and friends bear witness to the Second Coming — John Purlia, 2010
I Support FAIR USE was launched in October, 2012, in response to unfair and restrictive content management by Zazzle. I’d opened my Zazzle shop a few weeks earlier with the intention of selling a wide variety of products featuring my photos of toys, records, and various other found objects engaged in conceptually staged scenes. Basically, the same images I show in galleries and sell to collectors and prints. Cool, huh?
At the time Zazzle pulled a couple of dozen of my product designs claiming that my art “infringed on the intellectual property” of other rights holders — Elvis, the Beatles, and — yes — kewpie dolls. Counter arguments and proper legal actions (I filed a Takedown Counter Notice with Zazzle’s representative Content Agent that went unanswered) were ignored, so I created and offered for sale a host of censored versions of my art under the moniker of I Support Fair Use. I also started this Tumblr to bring attention to all the incredible art out there that benefits from the protections of the fair use section of U.S. copyright law.
I’m sad to report that Zazzle is at it today. As I sit here in my office on the 4th of July (a national holiday here in the U.S. where every tech company — including Zazzle, as I called their offices — have a day off) I’m watching a stream of Zazzle content review emails streaming into my in box notifying me that one product or another has been removed from their site for copyright violations. So far, each of the products has featured the above photograph, and each has actually been available for sale in the Zazzle marketplace for many months.
I find it interesting that these notices are arriving on a U.S. holiday… which leads me to believe that those making the determination of whether or not a given image does or does not infringe on an existing copyright (and therefore making determinations with regards to fair use) are not actually doing so from within the U.S..
Yes, the notice does claim that Zazzle is issuing the takedown notice as the result of being contacted by the copyright holder (here, the entity that licenses kewpie as a brand), but I have reason to doubt this claim as Zazzle has in the past failed to properly (and as they are legally obligated) share with me specific notifications from rights holders, as is required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
I’ve also, in the past, exchanged email with members of Zazzle’s content review team who claim that they’ve been told that they must reject all submitted images with certain content (Elvis, etc), which would be another violation of the DMCA (i.e. there is no such thing as a “blanket takedown”).
You can read more about by past travails with Zazzle in a couple of posts I made on my main blog, here and here, which goes into a fair amount of depth on copyright, fair use, and what the legal responsibilities are for web site that host content.
In the meantime, Zazzle is clearly NOT a friend of fair use!!