Every kid and kidult loves Lego, right? Me too. Until I discovered just how litigious they are as a company.
Nearly 5 years ago, when I first started out in my mobile photography art career, I put up my images for sale on Print On Demand sites such as Zazzle, RedBubble, Fine Art America, Society 6 and deviantArt. Over the years, many of those sites fell by the wayside, and today I’m only active on Society 6, and even that has slowed to a trickle as I explore other areas to showcase my creative output.
With RedBubble, I had not posted up anything new for over 3 years now. Imagine my surprise today when out of the blue, I received this email from them:
We have removed the following content from Redbubble as a result of having received a complaint from Lego System A/S, the claimed owner or licensee of related intellectual property, and in accordance with Redbubble’s IP/Publicity Rights Policy:
Lego the Octopus: http://www.redbubble.com/people/alyzen/works/7484841-lego-the-octopus
As you will be aware from our IP/Publicity Rights Policy, Redbubble requires a certain amount of information before it acts on such a complaint, including that:
the relevant content is specifically named;
the complaint came from the owner of the respective rights (or someone authorized to act on their behalf); and
they have a good faith belief that the use of the relevant content is not authorized by the content owner, its agent or the law.
If you believe that removal of the above content is the result of a mistake (for example, that you have authorization to use the relevant content from the content owner) or misidentification, you can send us a counter notice. Such counter notice must provide the following information:
an electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the relevant matter;
a description of the content which we have removed, including the URL on which the content was located on the Redbubble site;
your address, telephone number, and email address;
a statement by you that you consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court, San Francisco County, California, United States and that you will accept service of process from the person who provided notification described above or an agent of such person;
a statement by you that, under penalty of perjury, you have a good faith belief that the material was removed or disabled as a result of mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled;
If you would like to send a counter notice please email the required information above to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that in some circumstances, if the work does not comply with our User Agreement and/or IP/Publicity Rights Policy, we may not be able to send your counter notice on to the complainant, rather we may inform you at the time of receipt that we cannot reinstate the work. We may also request further information from you in order to determine whether the work can be reinstated.
However, you should be aware that in most circumstances we will inform the complainant that you have provided a counter notice, as well as provide the complainant with a copy of your counter notice, which will include your personal contact information. The complainant will have 14 days to bring legal action against you in the United States. After 14 days, if they do not bring legal action and you would like your content restored to the Redbubble site, you may contact us to request that we reinstate your work. Redbubble may restore the content at that time if it otherwise complies with our User Agreement and IP/Publicity Rights Policy.
Further information regarding Redbubble’s IP/Publicity Rights Policy and User Agreement can be found here:
Redbubble Content Team
Because the image “Lego the Octopus” had been posted to RedBubble such a long while ago, at first I scratched my head trying to figure out WHY indeed I had named my artwork “Lego the Octopus”. I certainly would not have called it that to mislead anyone, or to gain any pecuniary advantage. I couldn’t just click on the link RedBubble had sent, as they had already removed the image from their site.
Then I remembered a family outing to Bunbury Dolphin Centre in 2011, and I also remembered their aquarium displays of fish, seahorses, starfish. And their fortune-telling octopus. WHO WAS NAMED “LEGO”. The Centre claimed that their Lego The Octopus could predict sports and talent competition outcomes as accurately as the famous Paul The Octopus with FIFA matches.
So, here is my response to RedBubble by email.
I refer to your email informing me that my image “Lego the Octopus” has been removed from RedBubble as a consequence of Lego the Company making a complaint.
Excerpt follows, for your own ease of reference:
“We have removed the following content from Redbubble as a result of having received a complaint from Lego System A/S, the claimed owner or licensee of related intellectual property, and in accordance with Redbubble’s IP/Publicity Rights Policy:
Lego the Octopus: http://www.redbubble.com/people/alyzen/works/7484841-lego-the-octopus ”
While I fully understand Lego the Company’s rights and desire to defend the use of its name, in my own defense, the image is of an octopus actually named “Lego”, and said octopus resides in Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre, Western Australia.
So, if Lego the Company wish to take this further, they should really be speaking to the good folks at Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre. As all I did was photograph their octopus that they had named “Lego”, and call it exactly what it is, “Lego the Octopus”. There was no malice or ill intent on my part, or any attempt to deceive or gain monetary benefit from it.
Here’s a link to where you and Lego the Company can find the real life “Lego the Octopus”. (I don’t know if that octopus is still alive and predicting soccer results, it’s been 4 years since I was at Bunbury).
I anticipate your response in due course.
Mobile Photography Artist
Then I sat back and waited for a response. I received a standard acknowledgement from RedBubble within 15 minutes of sending my email.
An hour later, I received this email response from RedBubble:
Redbubble Content Team (Redbubble)
Jan 19, 16:51
Thank-you for contacting Redbubble.
As you have been made aware, Redbubble has moderated the content that was reported in accordance with our [IP/Publicity Rights Policy[(https://help.redbubble.com/hc/en-us/articles/201579195-Redbubble-IP-Publicity-Rights-Policy), as it was specifically named in a valid Notice and Takedown report received from Lego System A/S.
We have not explicitly said that the work does or does not infringe intellectual property or publicity rights, but we have a legal obligation to act on reports filed in accordance with our IP/Publicity Rights Policy where the content is specifically named.
Unfortunately, we are not always privy to the reasons that complainants’ submit notice and takedown reports or the specific reasons that they find each of the specified works a violation of their rights, nor can we presume to speak on their behalf. Please understand that Redbubble is not making any judgement on the work and as we are sure you are aware, this is why the counter notice provision exists in our IP/Publicity Rights Policy. Filing a counter notice is the most effective way to contact a complainant regarding their notice and takedown report.
You can do so by following the instructions in our initial email to you, or in our IP/Publicity Rights Policy.
Redbubble Content Team
I’ve fired my shot. I’ve told them where I got the inspiration for the title “Lego the Octopus” from. And you know what?
I don’t care if the image has been removed from RedBubble permanently. I’m not wasting my time or energy going up against a multi-billion dollar company, for the sake of getting one image put back on a site that I don’t even frequent anymore. I won’t be filing that Counter Notice RedBubble so helpfully keeps suggesting to me. Life’s too short, and I could be spending my time better making more Art, so I will.
Some battles are won by simply not engaging in them.
Here is my last email to RedBubble:
Thank you for your standard reply. I shall not be filing a Counter Notice, because I have better things to do with my time than waste it going up against the brutal might of a multi-billion dollar corporation, only to win back the right to have an image of mine on your site. Especially when I no longer frequent your site as I used to 3-4 years ago.
That is not to say that RedBubble is not a good Print On Demand site, or to question the integrity of your policies. I simply mean that I have found other sites that better suit the requirements of my creative output, and that is where I am concentrating my efforts on. Should RedBubble offer items that are not found on competing sites, I will of course use your services again.
Meanwhile, here are 2 more images of my (in)famous “Lego The Octopus”, that I managed to find online. These are from Fine Art America, another site that I don’t use anymore. Notice the artwork isn’t even entitled “Lego the Octopus”, but if I remember correctly, the tags would’ve contained those words. I wonder how long it will be before the mighty LEGO Corporation come after those images too…