As pranksters target skeezy t-shirt sellers that mine Twitter for replies containing "I want that on a t-shirt" and then put the original Tweet on a t-shirt and shame online t-shirt sellers for underpolicing copyright, let's not lose sight of what happens when they overpolice copyright.
For many years, Techdirt has sold a handsome "Copying is Not Theft" tee through Teespring — but last week, Teespring emailed Techdirt to tell them that the shirt had been removed from its store for "copyright infringement."
When Techdirt emailed to ask for an explanation, they got an autoreply from "Team Teespring": "We apologize if you disagree with our decision and for any inconvenience this matter has caused. Please understand that we are not in a position to debate our policies or discuss this issue further; however, your feedback has been noted and we truly appreciate your time today."
On Techdirt, Leigh Beadon wonders if this was Teespring overreacting to the "I want that on a t-shirt" scandal, embarking on "a not-too-discerning copyright sweep of existing products."
If you want a "Copying is Not Theft" shirt, badge, tote or phone case, you'll have to but it at Threadless (for now?).
I told them I wasn't seeking a debate, and just wanted to know what policy we violated, and…
You've been advised three times that the content has violated our acceptable use policy. You have been provided with the links to this policy for further information. This policy and choice to remove the content are not up for discussion. We apologize if you disagree with the decision. You will not receive anymore communication from us on this matter.
And so apparently that's that. I enjoy the sleight-of-hand in claiming that a list of six policies is an answer to my question of which specific policy we violated (and the sudden switch in their language from plural to singular when I emphasized this question), and the fact that the "IP Escalations" department we were specifically told to contact if we believed the takedown was in error considers this "not up for discussion". It seems most likely that someone at Teespring believes the phrase "copying is not theft" is promoting illegal acts, when in fact its purpose is to emphasize an important legal (and ethical, and practical) distinction that should be obvious but that a surprising number of people casually ignore or actively oppose — and, as noted, it remains important even if you are a supporter of strong copyright laws.
Teespring Takes Down Our Copying Is Not Theft Gear, Refuses To Say Why [Leigh Beadon/Techdirt]