Back in late 2009, I got into a Twitter conversation with Madeline Ashby about geek culture, fandom, and a bunch of stuff like that. Madeline wrote, “While you were reading Tolkien, I was watching Evangelion.” I thought this was an excellent encapsulation of the divide in SF/F/Whatever fandom, and thus took to Zazzle to make little buttons with her quote. I bought a bunch, handed them out at a few conventions, then I had a kid and promptly forgot all about it.
Until today, when Zazzle emailed me to say they were pulling the buttons for intellectual property right infringement.
And guess who complained about their rights being infringed?
I’ve tried to come up with something more to say about this, but I’m too angry and confused and tired to say anything more than I did in the title of this post. Have fun milking your dad’s stuff, Christopher Tolkien!
UPDATE 2/28/11: Zazzle just sent me this email:
This email is in regards to the deletion of your button entitled “While you were reading Tolkien,I was watching Eva”. After corresponding with representatives from the Tolkien Estate, it’s been brought to our attention that the design was removed inadvertently due to a miscommunication on our part. We are happy to inform you that your product has been restored and located here: [URL of old button].
We sincerely apologize for this error. If you would like for us to restore your account simply reply to this email so that we can send you a temporary password to access your account.
Again we apologize for any inconvenience, and thank you for being a seller at Zazzle.
So, everything’s as it was, right? We defeated the bad guys, threw The Ring into the fire without getting any digits bitten off, and we’re back in the Shire for a nice cuppa and sweet Hobbit lovin’ with Rosie, right?
Well, no. I’m going to remove the button from Zazzle; I realize they’re a business, and they have to protect themselves, but the way they handled this whole affair pissed me off. I had to dig to find out who had complained, and when I asked to see the actual complaint, Zazzle told me:
With regards to details of the infringement, all legal documents are confidential therefore I cannot release this undisclosed information. But we ask that you do acknowledge the fact that we were contacted by The J.R.R. Tolkien Estate, and at their request to prevent and remove any unauthorized and infringing third-party uses of their copyrights, trademarks and intellectual properties.
Oh, I’ll acknowledge nothing of the sort, bucko. And I’m also not going to do any business with you guys from now on. If I want this kind of shabby treatment, I’ll go to Fry’s.
I hope to make more of these buttons, and maybe a few others, too, though it’ll be a while before I attend another convention (the primary venue for buttons with zippy sayings), so it’ll be a while before I make more buttons.
Thanks to everyone who commented, especially if it was constructive. Thanks to everyone who posted this far and wide. And thanks to Studio Gainax for not being a bunch of dicks.