Does Zazzle selectively enforce its own copyright infringement policies?

OVERVIEW

“Content from Back to the Future is the protected intellectual property of Universal Pictures and may not be used on Zazzle products without their permission.”

That is the broad, encompassing reason provided by Zazzle, as to why they removed a specific “NOV 5 1955” t-shirt design from their marketplace, six months after it was uploaded.

Meanwhile, dozens of unlicensed designs that can be easily construed as “content from Back to the Future” remained live and for sale in Zazzle’s marketplace (and some still do), and in fact, some are actually handpicked and promoted by Zazzle.

This site (ZazzWipe!) seriously questions what seems to be Zazzle’s practice of selectively enforcing their own copyright infringement policies. That is, we make the case as to why we’re suspicious that Zazzle is deleting some designs for copyright violations, while it knowingly and intentionally keeps other designs live that are committing the identical or very similar infractions.

Before continuing on to the case details sections below, some important points:

1. We won’t be explaining in detail who Zazzle is, what they do, etc. There’s an assumption here that if you’re on this site, you understand what Zazzle does and the concept of POD retailing. You may have even found this page by Googling the terms, “Zazzle Copyright Infringement,” “Zazzle deleted my products,” or similar.

2. As clearly noted in this site’s header graphic, this site is NOT part of Zazzle, or officially connected to Zazzle in any way. It is a site specifically established to question if Zazzle is selectively enforcing their own copyright infringement policies.

3. We actually have no problem with and totally understand Zazzle’s removal of any design that is identified as a copyright infringement. Our issue is that Zazzle is inconsistent (and quite possibly, intentionally inconsistent) in doing do, resulting in an unfairly uneven “playing field.”

4. We assure you, this site is not run by any of Zazzle’s competitors, such as Café Press.

5. We do understand the initial “knee-jerk reaction” that some of you might have — especially Zazzle loyalists — that there is absolutely no way Zazzle could be selectively enforcing their own copyright infringement policies. However, we ask you to take a step back, and consider: Is it even possible that this is the case? If you firmly believe it’s 100% impossible, then this site is not for you. If you believe, “You know, it’s unlikely, but may be possible,” all the way to, “I definitely think they could be doing that,” then read on…

CASE DETAILS, Part I – Zazzle loves it…

In the spring of 2008, we uploaded the NOV 5 1955 design (pictured right) to Zazzle’s marketplace. This design is clearly from Back to the Future, as it partially represents the dashboard time display readouts, within Doc Brown’s DeLorean time machine. (November 5th, 1955 is the date to which Marty McFly travels back to.)

When we uploaded it, we did think it abstracted enough from the movie to avoid infringement. At the time, there were (and still are) MANY hugely successful online stores — standalone non-POD stores as well as stores hosted on Zazzle — that offer hundreds of pop-culture designs, that are not officially licensed by the respective studios. We followed the example of those stores of how to play it safe enough; of what kind of content falls into the gray area that the studios seemed to be okay with.

The day after we uploaded our NOV 5 1955 design, Zazzle gave it one of their “Today’s Best Awards,” commonly referred to as “TBAs.” It was even featured for the day in their (then) rotating mix of designs on Zazzle’s front page. The day after, it then took its normal place in the marketplace with all other designs, which is of course fine.

Our NOV 5 1955 design sold five to ten t-shirts over the course of about six months. That is also fine, so far no issue.

CASE DETAILS, Part II – Zazzle wipes it…

In the fall of 2008, we were notified by Zazzle that our NOV 5 1955 design was being removed by them for being a copyright violation, initially without specifics.

As you probably know, the Zazzle marketplace is filled with millions of designs, and it’s very difficult for them to police everything. Therefore, Zazzle is reliant on its own members to report designs which are believed to be copyright violations. Every product page on Zazzle includes a “Report Violation” link, that launches a dialog box for the reporter to make their case as to why the design is a violation. It then goes to Zazzle’s content review department, for consideration.

Because of the nature of this process, it was reasonable for us to ask for more specifics regarding the reporting of our design as a violation. After all, it was within the realm of possibility that whomever reported it, was someone else who also had Back to the Future inspired designs on Zazzle, and was trying to eliminate his or her competition via dirty tactics.

We did not receive an answer to that, but after some email back-and-forth to try and clarify, Zazzle provided the blanket explanation (in writing) that, “Content from Back To The Future is the protected intellectual property of Universal Pictures and may not be used on Zazzle products without their permission.”

We then logically questioned if that was the policy, then why hadn’t the design been killed from the very beginning? It’d clearly been viewed by Zazzle staff immediately after upload six months earlier, for them to handpick it for a Today’s Best Award and be featured on their own front page.

We did not receive an answer to that either, but was okay with it, as we speculated that when the NOV 5 1955 design was originally uploaded, Universal wasn’t yet on Zazzle’s case…but sometime thereafter they were, and Zazzle had now removed our design as a result.

Let us again iterate: We have absolutely no problem with Zazzle removing designs for copyright violations, and totally understand it. As long as the violation is clearly stated, and it is consistently enforced, across the board. “Content from Back To The Future is the protected intellectual property of Universal Pictures and may not be used on Zazzle products without their permission,” is a straightforward blanket policy. Our design was in clear violation of it, and was understandably removed by Zazzle to comply.

CASE DETAILS, Part III – Flux You!

However, when we subsequently did a simple Zazzle search for “Back to the Future” it yielded dozens of designs that — for those who are familiar with the movie — would be easily construed as “content from Back to the Future.” Including arguably the most recognizable content from the movie, the Flux Capacitor. Among the Back to the Future designs found…Regarding the Flux Capacitor, there were several unlicensed designs and dozens of products featuring it, in various representations. A simple question: Is the Flux Capacitor “content from Back to the Future?” Absolutely.

Upon easily finding the above designs with a simple Zazzle search, we emailed Zazzle’s Content Review department to the tune of, “Well, what about these designs…they’re not content from Back to the Future?” We provided specific links to those products pages for Zazzle to review…

…however, Zazzle instructed us to go through the official process, and report the designs one-by-one, utilizing their “Report Violation” dialogue box on each individual design page.

And that’s exactly what we did; not to be jerks, but in an attempt to create a level playing field. We actually would love for everyone to do well with their designs, however, these other stores were retaining their opportunity to offer Back to the Future inspired products, while we weren’t. We were just looking for equal treatment here.

So, using Zazzle’s exact “Content from…” wording, we reported designs / products that were clearly Back to the Future inspired.

Most to all remained lived. We gave it some time, then reported them again. Still, they stayed up, and remained available for sale in Zazzle’s marketplace. For the time, we let it go…

CASE DETAILS, Part IV – We’ve been Copper Blocked!

But then sometime later we were notified that another one of our designs, our Goonies inspired, “Chester Copperpot Spelunking Challenge” (pictured right) was being deleted with the parallel, “Content from Goonies is the protected intellectual property of Warner Bros. and may not be used on Zazzle products without their permission.”

(Just to note: We’re not positive, but fairly certain we had uploaded our Chester Copperpot design before our NOV 5 1955 design was removed, so, at one point they were both live simultaneously.)

Yep, as we did with Back to the Future, we did a simple Zazzle search for “Goonies” and related searches such as “Sloth,” “Chunk,” “Truffle Shuffle,” etc. The search(es) easily yielded many unlicensed designs that were blatantly “Content from Goonies,” and some even used “Goonies” font. We reported those designs…they stayed live, and for sale in Zazzle’s marketplace.

CASE DETAILS, Part V – Open forum…

At this point, feeling ignored by Zazzle’s Content Review team, we decided to post on Zazzle’s public shopkeeper forum. The forum is a venue for Zazzle shopkeepers to discuss everything from marketing, new product suggestions, product improvements / criticisms, tech glitches, and yes, sometimes the issue of copyrights.

We posted a topic, “Zazzle, please be consistent!” which recounted the above (what you’ve read so far), a bit more concisely, and certainly it was done politely. We carefully made our case in the public forum, “What’s fair for one is fair for the rest.” Citing examples of the Back to the Future and Goonies designs that remained live, we made the constructive recommendation that whenever Zazzle removes a design for copyright violation, they then do a quick search for similar designs, and delete those as well. Thereby adequately maintaining a level playing field.

Our “Zazzle, please be consistent!” thread was generally well received by other Zazzle forum members, many of whom understood and agreed with our points and recommendation. We were discussing the issue reasonably and intelligently. As the thread got older and less active, it naturally sort of “went away” and was archived.

As far as we know, there was no action on Zazzle’s part to remove those designs (or restore ours) as a result of the thread.

CASE DETAILS, Part VI – Ejected!

Some time went by, and we basically just let the issue go.

But then later, we were looking at Zazzle’s front page for whatever reason, and took note of the prominent graphic link on Zazzle’s home “front” page, to their ’80s T-Shirts page. On the ’80s page, just two of the unlicensed designs handpicked by Zazzle..…that’s clearly content from Back to the Future and Goonies, unlicensed, being promoted by Zazzle.

We went back to our original “Zazzle, please be consistent!” forum thread, to post this new support for our case. This update resurrected the thread, putting it back on the first page of the forum topics list…

…and with a very alarming result: the Zazzle moderator deleted the entire thread. To us, this sent up a huge flag; we must have hit a nerve, and the unlicensed pop-culture designs on the ’80s T-Shirts page must be something that Zazzle doesn’t want attention brought to. At least, not in this way.

Suspicious that something was up, we attempted to re-post the thread (at least, our own commentary), and not only was it deleted again, but Zazzle disabled our ability to post on the forums at all.

While we anticipated Zazzle taking that step, we were astounded that they took it one step further, by blocking our IP address, so we couldn’t even view the forum. From our home computer, it comes up as a blank page. (However, there are lots of ways around that, and we’ve been able to view the forum, just fine.)

THAT is why we created this dedicated site (ZazzWipe!), to explore Zazzle’s “selective enforcement” practice; Zazzle has banned us from their forums, for stumbling upon an issue they are very concerned about us discussing. And that is why this site is constructed as a blog, so we have the ability to have a discussion via comments.

CASE DETAILS, Part VII – You know, that I know…

Though, before we went ahead and pulled this site together (ZazzWipe!), we gave Zazzle one last benefit of the doubt, and hunted down email addresses and phone numbers for the Zazzle staffers who work in their Content Review department. (Out of respect to them, we won’t make that contact information public.)

Recounting pretty much everything above, we sensed a nervousness on the other end of the phone about the issue. When we asked about specific designs, one staffer confirmed that they were unlicensed, and a different one — in a probable attempt to buy some time — told us, “We’ll investigate.”

What is there to investigate? If the designs are unlicensed, and they are in violation of your own policies, why not take them right down?

To Zazzle’s credit, they finally did delete some of the designs we brought to their attention, but only when we became aggressive with phone calls and emails…

…however, still some of those designs have remained live (and promoted) by Zazzle, so, after giving them months to remove them, we’ve gone ahead and posted ZazzWipe! As a venue to persuade Zazzle to consistently enforce their own copyright infringement policies.

SO, WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON HERE?

We’re going to write this concluding section as a psuedo FAQ / cross examination of our own case. Here we go…

Zazzle doesn’t know about these other designs, because as you said, there are millions of designs on Zazzle.

They know about them. They’ve been reported. Repeatedly. Additionally, how can they not know about the infringing designs that are promoted on their ’80s page? Zazzle selected those designs to be there.

Well, maybe your NOV 5 1955 design is more of a violation than those other designs, because it looks more realistic? And that made it worse?

Remember Zazzle’s broad, encompassing, “Content from Back to the Future is the protected intellectual property of Universal Pictures and may not be used on Zazzle products without their permission.”

All of those other Back to the Future inspired designs easily fall into that. (Oh, and just FYI, our NOV 5 1955 design was done with a combo of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.)

Maybe those other Back to the Future designs ARE officially licensed…?

Nope, as we mentioned, a Zazzle staffer confirmed they aren’t, and there are at least a couple of other giveaways 1) The designs aren’t available within say a Universal boutique within Zazzle, and 2) The designs don’t specifically say “Back to the Future,” on them anywhere even in small print, and a standard © Universal or “Licensed from” line isn’t to be found on those designs or noted anywhere.

Okay, but really, it wasn’t right for you to bring all this up on Zazzle’s forum.

We respectfully disagree. It’s absolutely fair to discuss and speculate on the forum, why some shopkeepers don’t have the opportunity to offer products, while others can, while they’re both violating a stated Zazzle policy identically or similarly. It’s also a reasonable shopkeeper to shopkeeper issue to discuss in a forum, that Zazzle should have clearer content policies on such things, to explain why some of those designs are “okay” and others aren’t.

But, it’s pretty obvious that Zazzle selectively pulls stuff; it’s called, “Other people on Zazzle reporting it through the ‘Report Violation’ link.

Um, no, you’re not getting it. What we’re saying is that of the designs that are reported, Zazzle is reviewing them and knows they are violations (and they have been correctly reported), but Zazzle chooses to “turn a blind eye” and keep them live. Bringing us to…

Okay, then, why are they so resistant to take those other designs down?

Money! They’re probably trying to hold onto those designs for dear life…they’re most likely proven or hot sellers on Zazzle (especially the ones promoted on their prominent ’80s page), and generate quite a bit of revenue for the company. Deleting them could damage cash flow, and additionally, piss off their more prominent shopkeepers who created those designs. Zazzle doesn’t want to do anything to lose those guys, or endure their ire.

Purely speculation: Zazzle has a list (not necessarily written) of shopkeepers they give preferential treatment to, protecting them from copyright violation reports more than others. (In other words, Zazzle turns an even blinder eye for certain stores.) We know that comes off as a pretty harsh accusation (well, speculation), but as we asked upfront, please take a step back and consider…is it possible?

More pure speculation: Some of those protected designs could be Zazzle in disguise. That is, Zazzle posting designs, under the guise of an outside shopkeeper. Again, not confirmed at all, but…possible?

With all the energy you’ve put into this ZazzWipe! site, why not just direct it towards designing original humor t-shirts, that are “safe” and not in the copyright infringement gray area?

We’re going back to it, right now. But we want to hear from you! Comment below (anonymously is fine), or you can email us at zazzwipe(at)gmail.com!

70 Responses to “Does Zazzle selectively enforce its own copyright infringement policies?”

  1. Mandi says:

    I’ve been having issues with Zazzle, as well. Problem is, they took down two of my ORIGINAL artworks! I mentioned in my posts that they were only inspired by skyrim and ghost in the shell for the other. The characters, armour, scenery, fonts, and everything else were mine. At first, I thought “I guess they don’t do their research and only deleted it a few hours after I posted them because it said ‘skyrim’ and ‘ghost in the shell’ in their descriptions.” So, I wrote them a message saying “I would like to know why my pictures were removed. I’m sorry if there was any misunderstanding, but these are original characters and belong to me. The only way they relate to the game/show is that my work “Data Collection” has a cyborg in it and that “Our Land” features a tribal race in a snowy setting. The characters do not appear in either media, the armour designs are original, and the environments were crafted by me. All tools used were also purchased by me. I just want to make sure that if I resubmit my images, but remove that they were inspired by something else, that they will not be removed again. Thank you!” I just got a simple reply of “your images were removed because they infringe on copyrights of “Skyrim” and “Ghost in the Shell”. I was so irritated because they didn’t read my message at all! I sent another reply, telling them that these characters are not in anything else. Not their names, their armour, their designs, or even their atmospheres. If I need to provide proof, then I will…” I went on a little bit more… but no reply, yet. I’m so irritated, after seeing so many warcraft images and even a shirt using the dark brotherhood sigil! I can understand if they don’t want me to make any mention of some other media… I think that’s a bit too over cautious… but I can deal with it. I’m pretty sure it’s not an infringement when a game inspires you to do a fantasy piece. If it were fanart, that would be one thing…. But my characters are my own.
    Since I haven’t received a reply, I went ahead and reposted them without any mention of what inspired them. If they remove them again or ban me, they will be sure to receive a very angry phone call. I’m moving over to cafe press anyway.
    Also, I had a stamp design rejected because it was an angel with a bow. They said that weapons were prohibited from stamps. I would be completely okay with that, but I have seen dozens of other stamps that have the exact same content as my own; a character with a bow or sword. If they are going to reject mine the second I submit it, then I think these others should be taken down. I posted links to them in my e-mail to them, asking why these were okay. They didn’t even acknowledge that I asked a question… That’s just poor customer service. Maybe it’s because these other artists have had “today’s best!” awards and I have only just opened my store… Still, stealing money from people shouldn’t be the reason they let some designs slide!

  2. whatever says:

    The biggest problem is inconsistency. I will send batches of stuff to be reviewed (with only slight variations), and half of them will make it. Then an hour later, the other half gets shot down.

    I think it’s just human error for the most part. One man’s copyright violation is another man’s “nothing wrong with that”.

    It just sucks that there is no consistency. I still make royalties on a regular basis, but I wish there was a better site. They are losing money by copyrighting innocent stuff.

  3. Dazzer says:

    I’ve had a few designs pulled. I’ve just started looking at trying to make a little bit on the side by offering my designs, pictures of modified cars, on Zazzle. I placed seven designs to start with and four were immediately pulled. They were of two Audis, a Porsche and a Ferrari. The reason, I was told, is that the shape of the car and any featured badging are the intellectual property of the vehicle manufacturers and the complaints from those manufacturers had been made to Zazzle. First point, of the many millions of items on Zazzle, Porsche AG homed in on this one specifically to complain? Plus the cars are modified in such a way that I’d say (sorry to be technical) probably half of the car is changed from the pure shape of the original, so in terms of the ‘overall’ shape, this is tenuous. So I had a look around the stores – Porsche cars and badges EVERYWHERE!!! I need a little time to cool off and assess the situation, but I’m almost pleased to see that I’m not alone – at least now I know that there is an element of bloody-mindedness that we are all embroiled in here. I hope everyone manages to get the system looked at…

  4. Hubris says:

    I find Zazzle very geared to profit. They are now owned by venture capitalists that have only one thing in sight – making the company and its profits look good so it can be sold on at a fabulous profit.

    Any comments in their forum that they dislike are removed.

    They are very concerned to not have any discussion that may not see them in a good light.

    I am currently, it seems banned for a month for making comment on the forum -which was really just a comment about how they attributed different things. Sorry cannot be more specific or they will know who I am.

    They have also told me that I am watched because of multiple complaints – they will not say what they are.

    Their ideas on what is and is not OK are ridiculous – the people that OK for publication are obviously foreign call center workers.

    I reckon they allow stuff on just to make eye candy and then refuse at print stage – the printers are more careful at what could be a copyright infringement.

    I think the problem is that they wanna make big bucks and in USA they could get heavily sued over minor infringements.

    I reckon someone should set up a POD in a country that is not signed up to copyright laws.

    I have even had designs refused as they may upset big sellers.

    I do get the feeling that other Zazzlers also complain if they feel your designs are competition and Zazzle wanna keep them happy.

    I would like to see a truly open forum on and about Zazzle.

  5. rtolle81 says:

    This is a complaint letter I sent to both Zazzle content review team, as well as their customer support, they didn’t listen to anything I said, of course:

    I am emailing you today b/c I am fed up. I’ve had multiple designs flagged as ‘copyright violations’, the violations were at best, vague. I was accused on several occasions of violating TOS because the images in question had guitar related designs. These were supposedly an infringement upon the Fender Guitar Companies Intellectual rights. My rebuttal to that is that Fender does have copyright on THEIR products, but they do not have rights over any generic shaped electric guitar. I specifically went out of my way to not make these designs like a fender guitar, but the body type is a very common place design. There isn’t an electric guitar company that DOESN’T have this generic shape of electric guitar body style. Much like Ford Motor Company has the intellectual rights over the Ford F-150 model, for example, but the basic design of a pickup-truck is not something they own themselves. If that were true, they could possibly sue every single motor-vehicle that has any vehicle they have designed that is similar to the body style resembling a pickup-truck. It is very clear to me that the reasons I was given were not accurate, they were actually very vague. The moderator that emailed me only stated why the images were pulled, they did not listen to any of the very clear, and concise facts I presented. This I feel is grossly unfair to me, b/c the people at Zazzle are clearly playing favorites. I can’t prove it, but I believe that this company does play favorites. And since I am not a high earner, I’m not a favorite. I have included not one, but a dozen links here in this email to verify examples of this. Clear, & obvious duplicates of specific, brand name guitars on zazzle’s page by other associates. Clearly, these are much more specific examples of copyright violation involving the intellectual rights of the Fender Guitar, Gibson, and other various guitar companies as well. I will now list them off here:

    1) http://www.zazzle.com/loud_proud_electric_guitars_tshirt-235944174667012464
    2) http://www.zazzle.com/music_speaks_t_shirts-235063843202654699
    3) http://www.zazzle.com/4_electric_guitars_t_shirt_four_guitar_guitars-235601302502768054
    4) http://www.zazzle.com/guitar_tee_got_wood-235167883265217144
    5) http://www.zazzle.com/five_colorful_electric_guitars_poster-228292245913846687
    6) http://www.zazzle.com/blues_guitar_player_and_band_on_stage_t_shirts-235462685606480691 (clearly a duplication of Stevie Ray Vaughn, yet another example of Zazzle’s inconsistent enforcement of these TOS polices)
    7) http://www.zazzle.com/five_sunburst_electric_guitars_t_shirt-235591289984346279
    8) http://rlv.zcache.com/four_electric_guitars_3d_model_t_shirts-rdef96a889e26468988124ba486853867_804gs_216.jpg?max_dim=328
    9) http://www.zazzle.com/guitar_a_mans_best_friend_shirt-235464619314854700
    10) http://www.zazzle.com/six_string_player_business_card_templates-240811569326325953
    11) http://www.zazzle.com/grunge_guitar_and_skull_button-145162979117845935
    12) http://www.zazzle.com/gibson_flying_v_black_and_white_guitar_shirt-235920406553835561
    I found a dozen plus examples within a few seconds of employing the use of the search bar at the Zazzle main home page. Some of these pictures are clearly photos of actual guitars, not drawing like mine, but photos of the actual guitars. How is this NOT a violation?? How is this not wrong?? It is for these reasons, I have decided that I no longer want to be an associate w/ Zazzle, & I wish to cancel my account immediately. How can Zazzle and their associates justify deleting my designs that were drawings of non-specific, electric guitars, when people have photos of guitars that they clearly pulled off doing a Google search?? How is what their doing alright when I know it is not?? Especially b/c not one of these links I provided lists anywhere an official statement of approval from any of the aforementioned guitar companies?? I have already deleted all my designs and images, to assure Zazzle doesn’t try to use them anymore. Especially if they’re going to enforce their rules w/ this level of inconsistency. It’s not fair to the entrepreneurs who are struggling, compared to the ones that are doing very well, & find that the rules are more often bent in their favor. My email is txmetalguitarist@inbox.com, zazzle url is http://www.zazzle.com/rtolle81. See to it that my account is removed at once.

    Zazzle is a a tilted table, it’s a rigged game. Of course, if you point that out, nobody listens to you. I will wear or use a Zazzle product ever again!

  6. Hubris says:

    It defies logic how the system works – I had a motorcycle image that Zazzle construed to be a Harley Davidson – they said they could not accept the design as HD had contacted them saying there were too many HD designs on Zazzle?

    There are hundreds of copyright infringements on Zazzle and yet they impose a peculiar set of standards.

  7. Jeff says:

    I have to say I agree with everything you said here. I have seen countless blantant violations on zazzle and I am amazed these have not been addressed. I have seen likeness violations such as Casper, Superman and every DC comic you can mention, my little pony, Barbie, Starwars , home again, sesame street, et, and Disney. I get my Ohio t shirt pulled for using scarlet and gray colors but I was not using any ohio state symbols. They took it to far. So If you see violations report it outside of zazzle and let the respective parties deal with them.

  8. Gern says:

    The Casper, Superman and other DC Comics, and other things you mentioned are licensed. Zazzle sells branded items from those and many other properties. I’m no fan of Zazzle, but the items you saw were most likely legit.

  9. madmoms says:

    Zazzle has steep to a new low. They are going to remove the Volume Bonus program on July 1st. And the new royalties minimum rate will now be 5%. That’s lower than what CP pays.

    The new rates are obviously targeted at copycats who copy designs and set them at a lower rate.

  10. John Purlia says:

    I’ve gone round and round with Zazzle’s content review team. Basically, they ignore section 107 of US Copyright law (fair use), and selectively hide behind the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, choosing to ignore specific sections of that law that protect individual users (i.e. the filing of counter notices, and the rights users have to defend themselves against the complaining parties).

    I’ve written at length about my troubles with Zazzle and how they’re practices ignore copyright law. You can read more here:

    http://johnpurlia.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/a-tale-of-copyright-confusion-fair-use-and-zazzled-nerves-part-one/

    I think it’s also worth noting that I have strong believe that Zazzle’s content review process is outsourced to India. Why do I believe this? The last set of review notices I received were sent to me on July 4th and 5th with time stamps that to not correspond to any US time zone, and Zazzle’s offices in northern California were closed for the 4th of July holiday.

    So, basically, they have a team of people that simply scan for tags, keywords, and inspect images without any regard for making a proper legal evaluation on whether or not a particular design violates a copyright. When they state in their review notices that “they cave been contacted by the rights holder” they are blatantly lying.

  11. allison says:

    i’m still allowed to see the forums and posts, but i am not allowed to post anything to them… i made pro-seller in may and was given a link to the forum, but am also blocked from that…

    what did i do to get blocked?

    i posted in the forums asking if a certain phone case was being discontinued or if it would eventually be restocked… i bought a specific phone based on the fact that there was a case that fit it… unfortunately, two days after buying said phone, i went to purchase one of my cases only to find it was out of stock…

    all i did was ask a question about whether it was coming back or not… a few hours later, i noticed it had been deleted… thinking this was a glitch, i reposted my question… two minutes later, that one was deleted… i went into a different forum to post a new question, “are you guys having issues with the forums? i noticed my posts were deleted…” only to find i was no longer able to post and was banned…

    i have sent a few emails to zazzle- these are the standard form letter responses…

    “Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

    Subject
    Your Zazzle Seller inquiry

    Discussion Thread
    Response Via Email (Tamara) 03/04/2013 06:56 AM
    Hello Allison,

    Thank you for your enquiry regarding the status of your Zazzle Forum access. Recently, your account received a sufficient number of documented complaints that our Forum software automatically restricted your access. Your account will be reviewed in the next 30 days, and we will reinstate your account at our discretion.
    We will not be able to provide any further guidance at this time and we thank you for your understanding.
    —————————————————————————————————-
    Frank
    The Zazzle Forum Moderator”

    it’s obvious that zazzle doesn’t care about mistakes unless they are made by zazzle members and not staff… but still, what was my mistake? how was i to know that they were deleting the posts and that it wasn’t a glitch by their computers? seeing as i had never had a single complaint about my postings, it doesn’t seem very fair to me

  12. Wild Horse Fantasy says:

    I just got the blocked from forums message after asking why I couldn’t get on. They can claim ‘documented’ abuse all they want. But I know I didn’t, have a hardly posted at all in fact. And if something is wrong you should have a right to know what it is you’ve supposedly done. Suppose my account was hacked? This is the first time I’ve had a serious complaint with them and now I’m mad. I understand all too well, and they need not thank me for it: They either have IT people who are idiots or something dishonest is going on!
    I can guess what we need: The places whose stuff they are allowing to be stolen should be notified with links to the specific products. We’ll see if they ignore it coming from ‘the big wigs’ in charge of those movies and their merchandising to cease and desist

  13. John Purlia says:

    Though I’ve never been banned from the forums I have had several posts deleted. Zazzle seems to be VERY sensitive of any discussion that points out software bugs, problems with the site, or attempts to discuss in a balanced or negative way any of Zazzle’s policies.

  14. Elaine says:

    Zazzle has contracts with some powerful companies and when they find original artwork that is better that the comanies that they have contacts with on similar subjects they reject your art. If enough artist get together to prove that zazzle is selecting original art as inappropriate we can win the case.

  15. Jason says:

    A few weeks ago, Zazzle refused to accept 80+ products I designed (drew from scratch in Illustrator and Photoshop) for New York City. I redrew a photo I had taken of the Statue of Liberty and then drew 22 of New York’s most iconic skyscrapers – from scratch in Illustrator.

    When uploading the design to 80+ products using the “quick create” tool (which isn’t as quick as I’d like), one of the tags I used was “gotham” because FOR 200 YEARS one of New York City’s nicknames has been “Gotham”. Washington Irving originated that nickname.

    I was notified that the products were being deleted without ever being posted due to “copyright infringement”. When I emailed Zazzle for an explanation, they said that my tag of “Gotham” could be construed as reference to DC Comics’ Batman franchise.

    My design didn’t reference “Gotham” or even “Gotham City” – and certainly nothing else Batman, so I replied to that email, saying that DC Comics may claim ownership of “Gotham City” as a fictional place, but that they couldn’t claim ownership of NYC’s nickname of “Gotham” which has existed for 200 years. They ignored me, so I re-uploaded the design and re-created all the products without the “Gotham” tag. I was annoyed that I had to waste time repeating the task, but in hindsight I figured it was unlikely anyone searching for a NYC skyline design would do so using a search term of “Gotham” anyway, so I decided to just let it go.

    Today, I received a copyright infringement notice from Zazzle regarding a similar design for San Francisco that I uploaded MONTHS ago (again, 100% drawn by me and not based on anyone else’s design – it’s 7 of SF’s tallest skyscrapers – that I drew from scratch in Illustrator – with a bunch of generic highrises (boxes) that I also drew in Illustrator, and a row of Victorian rowhouses (SF’s “Painted Ladies”) in the foreground – which I drew in Illustrator.) The email said the product would be removed.

    So I forwarded that notice to Zazzle’s content review email address, explaining all of the above, and asking for the reason why it flagged – and who reported it as flagged. It seems likely that some anonymous person reported it, since it’s been out there for months, right?

    I haven’t received a reply from Zazzle yet, but in the meantime I’ve been spammed by Zazzle because they’re sending me a “copyright infringement”/product removal notice for EACH one of the 80+ products that design appears on. MY design, which I drew from scratch. Here’s a link to my CafePress store if you want to see the EXACT design that Zazzle has flagged as infringing on someone else’s work: http://www.cafepress.com/thejasonknight/9912075

    As someone else suggested above, is this happening because someone (maybe a competing designer) is being malicious, sabotaging my shop by flagging original designs as stolen/infringing images? Or could it be due to one of the tags I used? One of my tags is “transamerica” – because the tallest tower in SF is the Transamerica Tower, so if someone searches for Transamerica Tower designs, I want them to see my product. But even if that’s the reason, is that a legitimate reason for Zazzle to remove my design?

    What’s next, removing my NYC designs because they contain the tag “Chrysler” – because the Chrysler Building is one of the iconic skyscrapers in NYC? The ridiculousness needs to stop – there is no infringement here.

  16. Jason says:

    Zazzle just removed a batch of photographs I had available as prints for this same nonsense BS. I sent them a strongly-worded letter from my attorney stating that I and I alone have sole possession of the copyright and the necessary documents to prove I have permission to use such images for commercial purposes. Stupid Asshats. We’ll see how that plays out.

  17. HH says:

    @Jason
    How did it go? Any new news?

  18. Coe says:

    I can confirm almost every painful experience described here, but last, Jason, mentioning Cafepress – Cafepress are 100 times worse that Zazzle in these things.

  19. MEG says:

    First of all, Thank You for having this site…I no longer feel like I am in a black hole all by myself. I too have experienced almost all of the issues you all have at Zazzle and many more. I would like to know why there is no violation of any kind when a shopkeeper takes a TV commercial, verbatim, and puts it on every Zazzle product available; is a ‘featured’ product with TBAs and kudos and when I asked Zazzle to explain why it as okay they told me ‘it was something that was meant to go viral’? I am speaking of “Hump Day’, and yes, the products are still there. It has been a big money earner for Zazzle but is there not a violation here? I really don’t understand. Does this mean that any shopkeeper can take a TV ‘commercial’ or ‘viral video’ and turn it into cash? I also don’t understand how a TV commercial can be used verbatim on products for sale. Why pay licensing fees for graphics when all you have to do it ‘copy’ TV commercials. I honestly do not understand – can anyone explain. Thank You.

  20. MilMerchant says:

    Greetings,
    I just recieved another dreaded “Copyright Infringement” for an image that has been up for a week now. Here it is:- http://rlv.zazzle.com/isapi/designall.dll?action=getimage&id=2f508027-fff4-4a6e-a728-a76c12c97040&max_dim=280
    Now, how is this different from this:- http://www.zazzle.com.au/milmerchant/gifts?cg=196024152605499130 (Apart from being a Spitfire)? Anyway, I just find it is amazing that a company which is supposed to just produce your work is also acting as the Copyright Police? If Joe Bloggs copies a design and uploads it, what right(legally) does the producer of the goods take responsibility for? If Joe does a Deloran and posts it, then, if Universal Studios has an issue with it, shouldnt they be contacting Joe Bloggs, not Zazzle? Its like saying that Jack Daniels company is liable for all drunk driving accidents and people should sue Jack Daniels for making whiskey that was sold to a distributor, who sold it to Bar, who sold it to you and you had an accident from being drunk. The Copyright Laws when originally made, didnt have the Internet to contend with. However, the newer draconian copyright laws (for the life of the creator till death, plus 70 years) is the most insane laws that you Americans have created. No wonder piracy is rampant! The more you stop creativity, the more you create lawlessness.

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