If you have ever wanted some Zazzle merchandise, now is your chance. I think we’re going to be parting ways very soon.
I personally had an issue with Zazzle a few months ago when they told me that photos we’d taken for a calendar infringed on copyright. I lost that battle and had the calendar made elsewhere, but vowed I would find a new place for PSwap swag too.
When we uploaded the first PSwap designs to Zazzle, we were immediately challenged on ownership — strange, since we had already legally asserted our ownership by uploading, per Zazzle’s own terms of service. But we went through the extra red tape anyway and life went on.Well, today, they told us one of our shirts infringes on Bungie’s copyright. We have a shirt featuring a line from “((Halo)) All I Play-Oh” on the back. A line that we wrote.
We are not using any imagery of Halo or its properties. We are not claiming affiliation with Bungie. We are Halo fans. We used the word Halo. That, says Zazzle, is infringing.
The lyrics are copyright of Palette-Swap Ninja. We wrote them. This is not even open to debate and we have the legal right to put them on a t-shirt and sell that t-shirt. The whole reason we went with a text-based shirt was because we knew we had to use something we truly owned; we did not want some overactive lawyer to make it an issue.
Zazzle’s overactive lawyers have made it an issue.
Zazzle will not talk to us about this. It took three contacts to learn what the issue was that caused the shirt to be removed in the first place. They will not elaborate further than it “infringes on the intellectual property rights of Bungie Software”. They will not transfer us from customer service to content services to discuss the fact that we are the legitimate intellectual property rights holders to what is displayed on this shirt. And they do not answer their Twitter feed.
What about Bungie? They liked the song and went so far as to help spread the word for the fan expression it is. I do not believe this claim of infringement actually came from Bungie. I think Zazzle is overzealous.
A company that will not engage in conversation with its customers is a bad company. After these two instances of improperly claiming copyright/IP infringement and poor communication, I have concluded that Zazzle is a bad company. If you would like to tell them so, feel free. You can call if you want (408-983-2800), or you can be ignored by their Twitter elves.
This is preposterous. Zazzle is wrong in its allegation that I do not have the legal rights to something I created. Palette-Swap Ninja will be taking its business elsewhere very soon. We’re open to your suggestions and we’re evaluating some of the many, many companies that do what Zazzle does.
All we want is a retail partner who will respect our intellectual property rights. Talking to us now and then would be nice too.
UPDATE: Spreadshirt assures us that there would be no issues with this design and they welcome our print-on-demand business. We are investigating their art templates and product offerings.
UPDATE 2: Zazzle’s Twitter team was behind in responses and is now “looking into it” and coordinating three departments.
If this can be resolved, great — but Kat spent a long time on the phone and in emails yesterday with Zazzle and got nowhere. They simply would not go into any detail and would not allow us to speak to any of the people who made that erroneous decision.
My frustration comes from the fact that there is no process to dispute one of those IP claims when it is faulty. If I was a kid ripping off the Coke logo, I could understand, and I even understand the logic of “your photo of a Fender guitar contains the Fender logo” being a gray area — but if someone at Zazzle makes a legal decision that has no merit — and I can prove it — I want to talk to them about it and explain in more detail so they are better informed. There is no structure to do that at Zazzle — your product gets spiked and you have to take it.
UPDATE 3: Okay, we have a dialogue with Zazzle, and a survey to fill out to improve future situations like this, and it looks like the shirt might be resurrected. I hope that in the future, this survey leads to a better form of communication and dispute resolution. ‘Cause I don’t like getting angry any more than Zazzle likes me getting angry.
I will help improve the process, but I am still evaluating alternate vendors.
UPDATE 4: I’ve been watching Zazzle for several months now, and there’s still crazy amounts of inconsistency — copyrighted designs are frequently offered for sale, but our original designs were harassed into oblivion. We have closed our Zazzle store completely and we’ve set up shop at Spreadshirt — several months in, it’s been smooth sailing. The end.