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. anonymous says:

    I have often wondered if things weren’t a bit off, but have not said anything because, quite frankly, my Zazzle store is my JOB.

    That being said, I’ve seen it said several times in the forum that things are not fairly done, that products get deleted all the time that do not infringe, while others remain up. Or even worse, when the statistics of the market place have been brought up, that person gets thrashed by other store owners.

    I have only had one product pulled in 2 years. And in all honesty, I still don’t see how it was pulled.

    Thank you for at least trying to bring this subject into the light.

    And, as other shop keepers have said, I too wish there was a better system, and Zazzle should stand behind their own rules.

    If they can not do it internally, then they need to hire an outside firm.

  2. Rat Catcher says:

    You are a good for nothing rat for reporting everyone else’s designs that may have been flying under the radar.

    Karama is a bitch…and so are you.

    Lets see if you have any more guts then Zazzle and actually approve this reply.

  3. admin says:

    Thank you for your “rat” reply. As you can see, it’s been approved!

  4. Rat Catcher says:

    OK I’ll give you credit for that…but seriously, bringing other people down hurts them but doesn’t help you so why bother… if anything it makes the Zazzle content team more attentive to certain topics that could only harm your own chances.

  5. admin says:

    We do totally understand your, “bringing other people down hurts them but doesn’t help you,” however, on the flip side, think of all the other designers who have been hurt by having their designs wiped, while other designers have been allowed to keep similar or virtually identical designs live. Completely unfair, and we’ve given Zazzle significant time to reasonably explain the inconsistencies. They haven’t.

    One of the only ways we can voice this — since Zazzle won’t allow it to be discussed on their own forums — is this site, and in the past by bringing designs to their attention that they’ve themselves defined as infringements, to give Zazzle a chance to demonstrate that they stand by their own rules. Thus far, very questionable.

    If a shopkeeper has had one of their designs deleted as a result of our reporting, we completely understand if you’re upset over it. However, 1) Per Zazzle’s own policies, the design shouldn’t have been available in the first place, and 2) If you find other similar designs that are still live on Zazzle, you’d be absolutely correct to be pissed. And you’d be correct to challenge, “Why are THOSE still available, and mine isn’t…?”

    There are many designers who have been hurt by Zazzle’s inconsistent policy enforcement, and that will add to our voice. Zazzle really needs to be called out on this, and provide reasonable explanations.

    We’ll understand though, if you don’t find that satisfactory.

  6. Astrogirl says:

    I too, had a similar experience with Zazzle. Back in 2008 I was asked by my sister to create a shirt design based on Twilight to give as a gift for her friend. Since I am a graphic designer, I understand about copyright law and did a little research t see what I could legally design without violating Meyers/Summit Entertainment literary work. What I found is that as long as I did not use official logos, actors, images from the film or book, I was given permission to create an original design based on the story.

    So, with that in mind, I created the Cullen Baseball League shirt and “team” logo. It was a huge hit. It fell within the guidelines outlined on other sites and was an original design that I created from scratch in Illustrator. I used a licensed (which I paid for) font that looked like an old-time baseball logo with a thunderbolt in the background. I published it in my Zazzle store in December 2008. Several months later, I started seeing tons of knock-offs of my shirt design and I complained about it to Zazzle. One design was such a blantant knock-off that the only difference was that the person took my design and changed one word. But it was my drawing of the thunderbolt and logo on their shirt. Zazzle’s response is that it was not a violation of my copyright (which I placed on my design) and that they refused to remove the knock-off.

    Things were fine and dandy for the next several month and then in mid-October, Zazzle removed my shirt design saying that they had been contacted by Summit Pictures about my shirt design. According to them, they removed it because it was a violation of Summit’s copyright. I didn’t buy it and noticed all the other Twilight shirt designs that Zazzle allowed to continue to sell. That pissed me off, so I did what you did. Complained to Zazzle for removing my design and allowing all the other ones to remain. Shortly after that, I noticed that most all of the Twilight designs (including the knock-off of my shirt) had been removed.

    The thing that I found odd is that Zazzle said that they had removed my design sometime during the summer. However, my last sale of the design was on the day that they removed it in October. Why the lie? And why didn’t they contact me first about removing the shirt. It was done without notification and I had to call them to get an answer.

    My solution, I made a copy of the shirt image and hard-coded it into my page with a redirect over to CafePress. Believe it or not, designing and creating Twilight shirts is fully supported by Meyers/Summit and CafePress. There is a whole section for fan-created products. However, due to the over glut of Twilight designs, my designs is now lost in the sauce. I’ve only had a few sales thru CafePress in contrast to my daily sales on Zazzle. But as least CafePress isn’t removing my work.

  7. admin says:

    Just to iterate our position: 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…

    …we made the constructive recommendation to Zazzle, that when they remove a specific (targeted) 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. Thus far, they haven’t seem to have adopted that.

    The Twilight / Summit thing was actually quite an issue, with Summit going after Zazzle in a big way…then Summit cut a deal, as you mentioned, with Cafe Press to allow fans to make Twilight merchandise, within certain parameters specified clearly on their site.

    But back to one of our core question(s): After your design was killed — and others stayed up — was Zazzle aware and kept live unlicensed Twilight inspired designs, in (probable) violation of Zazzle’s own rules? Yes. Come on, there’s no way Zazzle wasn’t aware of other unlicensed Twilight inspired designs in their own marketplace. Zazzle “turned a blind eye” on its own rules, to keep generating revenue off those designs.

  8. rathernotsay says:

    I agree that Zazzle is not fair about their removal policy. In my experience, I find that Zazzle will often only remove items they have an “official” complaint against. Meaning, if someone from Universal Pictures notified them of the infraction, they’d remove it. This happened a couple of years ago with Harry Potter inspired items. There were lots of complaints that tons were allowed to stay because they didn’t use certain tags and flew under WBs radar – but were still obviously there and easy enough for a Zazzle employee to find. It’s also been proven time and again that they take absolutely no initiative to look for additional violations. If they get a notice from a movie company for example, on a specific design or set of designs, they absolutely will not take it any further on their own and look for similar designs that will be obvious violations. The claim is not enough employees – I don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe it’s true – I don’t know. They did have to lay people off not too long ago. But I will say there is NOTHING wrong with reporting violations you find in the marketplace. It makes us all look bad. Especially when a customer orders an item and gets an email telling them it’s been cancelled because the item was in violation. Whoever posts items that violate copyright, trademark or intellectual property rights shouldn’t post it to begin with, so if it gets reported, oh well. They’re lucky they got away with it at all.

  9. GreyFellow says:

    I am the creator of one of the images you have up on your site here. I have been playing it safe for years and was one of the originators of finding that “grey area” which many many sk’s followed.

    All I can say is that both Zazzle and Cafepress have proven to be inconsistent with their content review system. I think it comes down to sales and how much they feel it spills over into the red area. I’ve learned to not fight it and when I get those dreaded emails from Zazzle I just completely shrug it off. CP has better control and experience in my opinion and does a much better job of policing. Just move on and focus on more original stuff.. that is what I have done over the years. God forbid I ended up in a lawsuit. Many forget about the “don’t put baby in a corner” suit that cost Cafepress sk’s a little money after dividing for one lawyer but it could have been a huge hit if they didn’t agree to everyone just taking the designs down. Play it safe and forget about zazzle. Skreened is hungry so I’ve put a lot into them lately. They haven’t taken anything down :)

  10. admin says:

    Thanks for your post GreyFellow!

    We def agree the thing to do is focus on original stuff, that’s not at all in the “gray area.”

    However we still felt (obviously) very strongly to call Zazzle out on their (intentionally) inconsistent content review, which they do not allow to be discussed in their forums…thusly this site!

  11. Rustyoldtown says:

    I too have had the same problems and have had Zazzle block my access to the public forums because I was discussing the issue of when a shopkeeper buys their own products the royalty should be removed, but when people buy a product that has more than the default royalty of 10% the price was higher, in other words not all the royalty was taken away!
    This goes against the contract we signed with Zazzle and money was made by Zazzle that should not have been made ( I would imagine a huge amount).
    I did not discover this issue, another shopkeeper posted the problem to the Zazzle forum and Zazzle replied and acknowleged the system had a problem, not long afterwards the thread was deleted.
    I posted in a different thread asking if people had been shortchanged would Zazzle be compensating them and pointing out that posts showing Zazzle in a less than poor light were being deleted and that this thread might also be deleted, It was and I have not been able to log into the forum since.
    As for my product that was pulled, I sent a counter notification that Zazzle have chosen to ignore, and they refuse to answer my emails.

    It’s all very sinister!

  12. admin says:

    Hi Rustyoldtown,

    Thanks for your comment, just a little confused about the first part of what you posted, re: sk’s buying their own products…do you mean Zazzle (in some cases) was charging more than they should have to sk’s buying their own products, and pocketed an extra “commission” for themselves? If you can clarify, be great, thanks!

    Anyway, it comes down to die-hard Zazzler’s — who think Zazzle can do no wrong — taking a step back and trying to accept the possibility that Zazzle doesn’t always run respectably…and Zazzle knows it.

    ZW(!)

  13. Rustyoldtown says:

    When you create a product and set the royalty to 10 percent and add it to your basket the price was lower than if you created an identical product and set the royalty to say 15 percent.
    When you add these products to your basket their price should be identical because all royalty should be removed when purchasing your own products…..this was not the case.
    I’m not sure if this has been fixed but Zazzle confirmed it and then deleted all reference to it and by disabling my acess to the forum and ignoring any attempt to contact them I cannot raise the issue again.
    I’m not saying the royalty error was intentional but you would have to wonder how long it’s been there.
    Any royalty should go to the creator of the products not Zazzle, so if money was made ( hard to believe it wasn’t ) while this error was in place, then yes this is money that Zazzle should not have!
    And instead of some good PR being used to openly discuss the issue they decide to hide the evidence and ban people who noticed the issue, and pretend it never happened.

  14. admin says:

    Okay, thanks for writing up the clarification, appreciated!

  15. well... says:

    Well, one thing I have not seen you mention – Zazzle may well, if they view themselves DMCAwise as a service provider, only respond 100% of the time to the content owner reporting a violation, then sproadically enforce the user reported instances of possible infringement.

    It is possible you were reported by Universal and WB themselves and *they* mcaught your design through your marketing efforts, not through a zazzle search.

  16. admin says:

    Thanks for your comment. Going down the list:

    - Believe it or not, we actually do zero marketing for our Zazzle store; we’ve let the marketplace and Google “stumble upons” do the work.

    - You are correct though, that it’s completely possible that Universal and WB legal specifically found, reported, and specified our designs.

    - However, again, our issue is what you’ve said, that Zazzle, “sproadically enforce the user reported instances of possible infringement.” It shouldn’t be sporadic, random, or selective. We are highly suspicious that Zazzle is intentional in their uneven enforcement, and have not provided a reasonable explanation otherwise. We’re waiting on it.

    - Even if Universal had targeted our Back to the Future design, remember, Zazzle still told us, “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.” Yet Zazzle has handpicked and promoted designs in direct violation of that, their own stated policy!

  17. Atif Rana says:

    Hello,

    I agree with you guys one hundred percent. I myself have written in pointing out numerous tmark violations and Right of Publicity violations and they do nothing. I am a licensed attorney from Michigan and am wondering if we can develop your site into a side business?

    I can explain in detail if you would like?

  18. admin says:

    Feel free to elaborate with a follow-up post (comment), or if you’d prefer you can email us at zazzwipe@gmail.com, thanks!

  19. TrueDat says:

    I agree! Funny we have the exact thoughts. After having my original artwork removed because they said it wasn’t something they liked (a picture of a fully clothed cartoon lady in a dress with huge breast but not showing), yet they knowingly have designs of fully nude, REAL females showing places where the sun don’t shine which have been up for years. Plenty copyright, trademark etc. violations that have been there for years even after being reported. I came to the conclusion that it’s only them in disguise so that if a company come after them, they can claim they didn’t know of the infringement. BULLSHIT!

    Designing through them is like being in the midst of a war. You never know when they will attack. The workers mean little to nothing to them and are treated unfairly with total disrespect. A shame that it’s hard to find legit businesses who work fairly without secret agendas…

  20. Zazzle? says:

    I have no experience selling with Zazzle but I came across this blog because I am looking into getting a shop at Zazzle or some other POD. I sympathize with you, the authors of this site, and others that have contributed. It always sucks when one is unfairly singled out of a group. I am just wondering if Zazzle are removing certain designs (a) because a copyright owner (Universal Pictures) has contacted Zazzle or (b) another SK has complained and Zazzle’s response is to limit the damage so to speak for the greater Zazzle SK community (don’t mean for this to sound that cheery)? Their aim may be to just barely to be seen to be maintaining standards while keeping as many designs up and selling as possible. This of course benefits the majority of SKs.

    With that in mind I suppose the alternatives are to (a) accept that, move on, design more stuff with it in mind that Zazzle’s policy makes most people more money most of the time, or (b) to complain (and very rightly so) and demand more even and fair policing.

    Alternative (a), as stated, probably makes most people more money most of the time although it is unfair. Alternative (b) will make most people less money most of the time but is fair, clear, legal and, if copyright owners get more aggressive and laws/internet policing get stiffer, to the advantage of everyone in the long run.

    Zazzle has chosen (a) because it makes everyone, most importantly them, more money. I suspect all the not returning emails and deleting peoples threads on the Zazzle blog is Zazzle trying to tell SKs to be quiet without giving away the fact that they are trying to tell you to be quiet. Obviously Zazzle stating that you shouldn’t complain against copyright infringement would be a problem.

    I think I would choose (a) but I have yet to experience my design being pulled like that. I don’t blame anyone for going the (b) route.

  21. Lady Greystoke says:

    Zazzle not only gives preferential treatment to its favored shop keepers, but it will “punish” shopkeepers by judicious rearranging of the search results. I can’t swear to whether I kept the post where they described manually shuffling search results – so maybe my belief is just a dream. Anyway banning from the forums is common practice. It is much easier and cheaper than addressing the problem.

  22. Marie says:

    Zazzle recently has changed the MP very similar to the going ons at CP right before Christmas and their big change that hurt thousands of Shopowners. I was banned from CP for voicing my opinions, now Zazzle has definetly messed with my sales for voicing my concerns there also.
    And as soon as I did they went on a CR violation expedition. Everyone of them on hundreds some thousands of designs on other sites, even theirs. The responses always BOTS and refussed to discuss my questions.

    Zazzle I predict before the new year is over is going to be nixing their Shop Keepers down to a small profit and no longer promote them on the Search Engines like CP. They have larger fish to fry.

  23. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for this post – it makes me feel so much more sane! I just started at Zazzle and I had products pulled from my store within my first 15 hours, about one hour after I had made a sale on a product that was supposedly in violation of intellectual property. This product had a photograph taken by myself of a marmot in a national park, captioned “nice marmot!”. While this phrase was used in the Big Lebowski, there weren’t any actual marmots in the entire movie and Universal Studios didn’t exactly invent marmots, even nice ones.

    Zazzle claimed that Universal Studios had reported my marmot products (even though my day-old store was hardly getting any traffic at this point), and so they took down everything that had that marmot image, even the ones that didn’t have any text. But, meanwhile there are tons of products with direct Big Lebowski quotes all over Zazzle. Since their content review team made it clear that they wouldn’t do anything about those unless they were individually reported, I tried reporting one that used the same words that my offending product had (“nice marmot”). Sure enough, just like in your experience, they did nothing. Like you said, I didn’t report it to be a jerk, I just didn’t see how it was fair that one person gets to profit from something and I don’t, especially when I used the quote with my own original artwork that had nothing to do with the film. It’s really lame of them.

  24. Tazzy says:

    I think that someone from one of the movie studios or a company has to issue the copyright complaint. Something similar happened to me, when several of my designs – one of which won a TBA was removed because it was a legit ‘copyright infringement’. The TBA winner, I’ll give you, was a vectorized image of a flapper named Louise Brookes with the words “Original Bad Girl” over it (iPhone spec case). The other designs were doggie shirts that said “I’m a Bad Boy”, “I’m a Bad Girl” and a tote bag which said “Bad Boy” with a vectorized image of my dog which was made from a photo I took.

    Apparently, “Platypus Wear, Inc.” copyrighted the phrase “Bad Boy” and “Bad Girl”. So even though my items were specifically in reference to bad DOGS, and even though the font and designs I used IN NO WAY resembled the products from Platypus Wear, Inc’s products, my items were still kept off the market. I don’t believe that the person who submitted the copyright infringement complaint saw my designs, nor did the people who decided to remove my designs. It’s sad, but I can always rename the products or make up new designs. It just sucks that there’s no regress for bogus claims.

  25. Binky says:

    To turn around and point out other designs that may skate the edge of copyright infringement is downright childish and selfish. To alert the Admins of other designs and become the T-shirt police, is just wrong. Yes, it’s happened to me as well, my designs have been flagged. But to think everyone has to be flagged like you makes you a sore loser! Maybe you flagged mine because the world came crashing down for you! Should I pass along all that negative crap you gave me and ruin some other designer’s possible sales? Is that making it ALL right in your tiny world?

  26. Whitt says:

    @Binky…Copyright Infringement, the theft of Intellectual Property is what is Selfish and downright Illegal! To make money from someone’s IP is no different than you pickpocketing a creator’s wallet, putting it in your own and saying, “Look at how much money I made today!” Is that how you wish to live your life in your tiny world?

    Just a little info…I am in no way connected to zazzwipe so don’t waste time in assuming so and thinking of responding as such.

  27. MB says:

    I had a recent related issue with Zazzle: they claimed incorrectly that my design infringed on the intellectual property of Flying Spaghetti Monster, LLC. In fact, I had some designs that clearly did (my bad, didn’t know it was their IP) and some with the same title that clearly did not (not even remotely similar). However, Zazzle removed both, and nothing I could do would convince them that the unrelated images did not infringe. I think the Content Review person (“Mike”) is just a congenital idiot who doesn’t care whether he does his job right. It doesn’t impact him at all to ban non-infringing content.

    I had them delete my account and I’m moving to CafePress.

  28. Will says:

    I’m with ya buddy. They really should have a more consistent copyright policy. It seems to me they usually take down only designs they are specifically asked to, whereas they should be enforcing copyright across the board. These haters are missing the point.

  29. me says:

    zazzle’s user agreement is worth nothing, you can report users till your fingers are bloody – sometimes zazzle takes down products, but too often not

    you cannot report a USER, if you write to content management that one user has many shops with stolen images, they send you back an automatic email telling you CLICK REPORT COPYRIGHT VIOLATION, as if anyone can do that

    lot of such people are already pro-sellers which means that zazzle made a lot of profit with them, maybe that’s why they react like snails

  30. artforall says:

    Just wanted to help come to basics. Copyrights are for the rich … truly, most designers and artists could not fight infringement in court. What I want to say, as harsh as this may sound to those struggling to make a living off of their originals, art is for sharing and always has been. Stories, designs, crafts passed on down through the centuries in communities … artists simply wanting to share the beauty, their ideas and their stories often never receiving full value for what they’ve done.
    We pool our ideas, we build on others, nothing … absolutely nothing is created in a vacuum.
    This is an old, old story.

  31. Liz says:

    Sooo…. I was searching for information about Zazzle because I just got the email that my order was cancelled. It was a personal order of a design that I created myself using quotes from the movie Elf. What is really strange is that I created two versions of each postcard – one for myself which had my home address printed on the back and ones with a plain back that I did list for sale. They cancelled my order of postcards that were not listed for sale and yet went ahead and kept the other versions of the postcards for sale. There are thousands of products with Elf movie quotes on them and I feel that a single quote from a two hour movie falls under the fair use umbrella. But aside from that, I would concede not to sell them if they felt they were copyright violation, but then I expect them to take down the thousands of t-shirts out there with the exact quotes. I actually think the product makes a difference. A t-shirt might take business away from the company, a postcard won’t because the movie company would not likely ever create postcards. I am so frustrated by the inequity of it all. I just wanted to send funny postcards this Christmas!!

  32. Chapt Lipps says:

    Zazzle screwed me over several times, so I just moved those “offending” designs (both of which were not copyright violations, they were both works of satire which is clearly protected by our Constitution) over to CafePress. Zazzle sucks. CafePress sucks a bit less.

  33. Michael says:

    Occam’s razor, man. No doubt they ignore their powerless customers and always respond to threatening IP holder copyright requests because they don’t want any liability or responsibility whatsoever. It’s just the simplest way to go, but it will burn them in the long run due to a lower reputation.

    On a side-note, I just got IP (not user-name) banned from the forums (blanj page), at about 3AM at night. Very dedicated staff, huh?

    I can think of two things that might have ticked someone off. First is my quick comparison between CafePress and Zazzle — Zazzle came out ahead (this is before I was banned, remember). Second is that I also posted about the seller’s discount price discrepancy about a weel ago (no replies), so that might have gotten me banned.

    It’s also possible I was accidentally banned. They have had a week-long issue with new products not being indexed. Possibly I was banned because I posted right after a spammer did yesterday morning.

    Zazzle has 500 employees according to their linkedIn site, so logically I shouldn’t be angry at the entire company and I won’t remove the store, even though I am mad as hell right now that they would so blithely ban users seemingly randomly without any warnings or notice. Even contacted their ombudsman this early morning. No reply so far.

  34. Thrash says:

    Both CP and Z suck at enforcement and are very selective but I have been on the winning side before. I’ve done variations on the same design and might have 3 or 4 that are nearly identical except for a slight change in color. One was pulled at the request of a rights holder who really had NO right to do so while the other 3 which were nearly identical were not. How does that make sense? But here’s the REAL kicker. The design I had was in use BEFORE the complainer had theirs. I told this to Zazzle and they did nothing about it. It’s more than likely MY design was ripped by their designer. I’ll just say it’s for a ski resort and leave it at that. So how would someone like me go about proving I had the idea first? Since Zazzle already sided with them, what are my chances they’d go to bat for me and provide some legal documentation as to when my design hit the market? It’d really be hard for the complainer to say anything that they had the design in mind before I published it… until is out in public view, it’s just an idea. Right?

  35. the z messed with me says:

    I had an interesting issue with zazzle today. I have a shirt that says butter! In spanish. Zazzle deleted it due to it apparently infringing on the policy of their partners or something like that. I find it hard to believe tha someone has or can trademark butter in spanish. This really upsets me and I am considering ending my relationship with zazzle just because of this bs!

  36. Charles says:

    I got pulled over for speeding the other day when cars were whizzing by me all over the place. I thought this wasn’t fair because I wasn’t the only one doing it, so I went to the police station with the plate number of every car I saw that day speeding.

    Can’t anyone else see the parallel here? Life, like driving and Zazzle, is not fair. As Judd Nelson says, “The world is an imperfect place.”

  37. admin says:

    Thanks for the comment, however it’s a pretty weak analogy…

  38. Myron says:

    I used Zazzle a long time ago. In fact the Flux Capacitor design you posted is mine. They removed it long ago along with many other designs I had. They irritated me so bad I bought a bunch of screen printing equipment and opened my own shop at Mari-Janes.com
    The one guy they allow to have this stuff is Strk3. he’s been there for many years now.
    He currently has a flux design and a Mr. Fusion design.
    My beef isn’t really that they removed my stuff and not anyone elses, its that they don’t need to remove it because these types of designs are completely ignored by movie studios.
    A quick copyright search for Flux Capacitor with get you several registrations from several different people including musicians who either named a song or album Flux Capacitor.
    I wonder what would happen is I registered my t-shirt design as a t-shirt and sent it to Zazzle. Would they then remove the other designs? I know they didn’t really get a desist letter from NBC, but is I had a registered claim I don’t think they would have a choice.
    Flux Capacitor

  39. admin says:

    Thanks for your post…and great store, hope it’s doing well for you!

  40. Dear Zazzwipe,

    Though it is sad that Zazzle conducts this type of Machaevillian business conduct, it is no surprise. We had been with them (lets say enduring them) as one of our 5 PODs for about 7 years when they suddenly dropped keds (or vice versa); with no reason, no announcement, nothing (but a tiny memo after the fact on their rarely-read corp. forum. So we called Keds to get the scoop. You should too. You’ll find it is NOT your imagination regarding Zazzle; these guys are very bad news, and getting worse. Ironically several of us in 99% Against Zazzle had been reading “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett when we launched it. I’m an African American from not far from Jackson, MS. The average Zazzle seller makes app. 1/10th what the average ms maid made in the 1960′s; and that’s with a full shop and advertising heavily (often the case). Please visit our facebook page; read a few screenshots and short article and you may have find some of their subtle techniques of theft, brand lifting, and all the bad things IT colleges tell us for which to watch; Zazzle does them all and brazenly. We’re fairly sure a few of them fall under the auspices of wire fraud and we’re finding out over the next few months. At best almost everything they do is unethical; at worst felonious criminal.. Thanks for your site. 99% Against Zazzle Our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/99-Against-Zazzle/201041156655425 Twitter is @99AgainstZazzle

  41. Luke says:

    I’m a proseller on Zazzle and I was banned from the forum for expressing my opinion about a new “improvement” on the site, but not before about 50 other people did the same. They just cut me off, without a notice, without a warning, even without me given any reason to “ban” me.
    That too is Zazzle….

  42. Chapt Lipps says:

    Zazzle sucks, and they have been exposed for the idiots they are. Check this out. LOL!

    http://www.cafepress.com/zazzlesucks

    They’ve been exposed for their inconsistent policy enforcement time and again. I personally have had multiple satirical pieces removed despite every effort to create original, non-infringing artwork. They are a real hot mess.

  43. FishTs says:

    One of the people that patrol the forums and has a huge input on whom gets banned or not is Elaine from Surprise Networks and a couple of thier co-workers. What I find even more offensive is the fact that this same person who supposedly makes over 100k a month in referrals, also happens to be employed by zazzle, and is in fact in charge of zazzle’s affiliate program, blogging program and bringing new new clients. How can that be fare that someone whom makes personal gain and profits, and be getting paid by the same company, be the one making the rules and calls for their own competition. If your not liked or doing things the way surprise networks wants you to, or you voice an opinion against something they comment on or for, you will be banned from the forums and also will get any affiliate links you have blocked and stripped of rf#’s as well.

  44. Tom Mannis says:

    Excellent article about Zazzle. They just informed me today that one of my designs was rejected. The font looks a bit like that of a cola drink maker, but it’s a different font, I used no symbols, and I did not use the cola company’s slogan. HOWEVER, a different seller on Zazzle has a t-shirt with a word that looks very much like the cola company’s logo – although it, too, is a different font – but unlike me they use a graphic that simulates very closely one used by the cola company. And that one is happily posted for sale! Calling Zazzle about this is useless, as their content review department takes no calls from outside. It’s B.S. I understand and respect intellectual property rights and laws, but this is ridiculous.

  45. Tracy says:

    I stumbled on this site when looking for others who have been unfairly treated by Zazzle in the past. Boy, are my eyes opened. I’ve not had any designs pulled (that I know of) but I also just do original photography. However, I’ve been banned from the forums for several weeks. When I turned in a request for a “fix” I was notified (after several days of waiting) that they were “investigating” several complaints against me, and that it could take “up to a month” to let me know. (I was never notified that there was an issue in the first place.) This was after 4 weeks of being blocked from the forum already. I asked for clarification on what it is I supposedly said or did, and they refused to give me any information, or even a phone number of someone I could call. I’m completely disgusted with them, and I’m considering pulling all of my items from the stores. I’m not sure I want them making any more money off of me. (Though since I’m not one of their treasured gold sellers, or whatever they are, I doubt they’d even care.) I agree with you that Zazzle apparently has their “favorites” and I suspect something to hide. I can only speculate on what was offensive to them, but I think it might have been because I brought up either a) the fact that I had not received emails from them for months, and no one would fix the issue….and I was not the only person with this problem…or b) the fact that I brought up my concerns that so many people were only uploading “Put your Image Here” type products in the market place with no actual designs, then adding their markup. So tacky! Thanks for letting me vent. Just had to share my negative experience.

  46. Leigh says:

    Great site! I’ll have to check out some of the links, too.

    Zazzle’s policies are selective and subjective. I have made designs that I did not even make public and they still refused to even send them to me. They also refused to send the other designs I had ordered along with them.

    The Zazzle employees need to go read the copyright laws. You cannot copyright names, dates, one word items, small phrases or facts. There’s a difference between “inspired” and copying. You can’t copyright an inspiration. It’s all in how you present it.

    A copyright violation must be a legitimate one, not an assumed one. You can even have a character called Marty McFly, as long as you don’t make him the same character in the same kind of situation. Just putting the date from Back to the Future is not a violation of any kind. It’s just a date. It’s like copyrighting April 1, July 4 or December 25.

    It’s the same with a name. It would be like me saying, ‘My name is Leigh, so you can’t use it or name your daughter that, or it’s a violation.’

    If there was a real violation, Zazzle would be specific, not send you a list of “possibles”. When they say “there is a conflict with one or more of our acceptable content guidelines” and of which they don’t specify, this tells me that it just doesn’t fit their opinion.

    The only reason I haven’t gone back to Café Press is because of their user-hostile programming. One almost has to be a computer programmer to get anything to work right. If theirs was as easy as Zazzle to make things, they would be a great company to make and sell stuff from.

    I have gone to the Better Business Bureau on Zazzle’s policies and told Zazzle to delete my account.

  47. Jamie says:

    I agree, Zazzle is corrupt. I have had my shop with them for a couple of years now. I have had designs I personally made and checked for trademark infringements or copyright violations pulled for no good reason, except that someone claimed to have been violated. I come back at Zazzle with the proof this person is wrong and I still get my designs banned. Then I notice that some top selling designs no longer rank in the top page searches.

    After receiving 200 plus emails for content review yesterday, I am ready to leave Zazzle behind and move on to another site. I already do CP, any new and good companies to take a look at? – Jamie.

  48. Erich says:

    just got banned from the forum only for one sentence where i replied to an user who complained about a today’s best award – all i said was:

    yes, it’s crazy to give in july a TODAYS BEST AWARD for a product created in march, but nothing surprises me at zazzle anymore

    welcome to north korea!

  49. poxy says:

    Hi, I got my posts deleted and banned too recently – least I assume I’m banned, all I get is a blank page, but also my member profile disappears sporadically off my store front page and my international domains are sporadic about working or not. My posts were deleted presumably because I was one of the ones who criticized Zazzle’s lack of communication in letting people know of thier recent store changes in advance, they hate any criticism, whihc is highly unprofessional of such a large company. I even had a post on there censored so they took out all my negative views part of it and only left in good things I said about them! Finally I got banned it would seem for commenting in reply to someone that if I said anything negative my post would be removed, less than a minute later I got forum blank paged and have not been able to get on it despite iP changes and multiple computers since. So I came here curious as to if the forum is actually working or not? They hate me anyway as I removed all my canvas prints, whihc were highly priced, after they censored aforementioned post. As for copyright infringement I reported someone for blatantly copying MY design a few days after I posted a t shirt with it on, twice, and got no response from Z and the offending t shirt is still up. Currently can’t stop thinking I am only allowed to still have a store at all on Z so that other SK’s can just copy my art and designs – there have been may blatant copies of my stuff since the one I mentioned earlier that I reported twice, but I have been feeling too bullied and depressed to do anything about them. Yup, I’m really that sad, in all senses of the word ;)
    Having read all these comments currently worrying being at Z is doing my business harm.
    I wish CP was more like Z for product creation – though the T shirt design on Z seems to be getting nearly as bad as on CP.
    Another worry – think is possible that Z sold some of my products and then said the customer cancelled the order when they hadn’t… or am I just paranoid?

  50. Tina says:

    I am new to zazzle (about a month) and I just went to create and several of my designs are GONE! Even one that was a featured product on the front page of zazzle! It was just a paisley design. Seriously, I don’t understand! Others were a political logo and another was yellow polka dot design and a purple polka dot design…it’s crazy!!! I’m just hoping it was a glitch (ha ha, who knows now!! after reading this blog!) but I just don’t get it. I’m wondering if they don’t like the political candidate I’m promoting and so they are trying to delete that? Or someone doesn’t like that I got attention from being featured and so they complained to eliminate competition, maybe their server went down? I do NOT understand but if they did it on purpose, I don’t know what I will do… :( Then we tried to reload one of the artwork designs and it wouldn’t let us… :( Frustrated…Any thoughts?

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