Sigh! Another day, another run in with the 'Fuckwitted Milksop Lawyers of America'.
The astute reader will remember my previous exercise in head-butting a brick wall, with the thieving arseholes at Society6 [and, as referenced therein, further cranial intra-muralisation sessions with Amazon Merch and Spreadshirt]. As yet, this week’s inductees for Fuckwitts' Corner haven’t actually stolen from me like Society6 did. But they have shown themselves to be equally as craven and equally as dense as their counterparts at Amazon and Spreadshirt.
Step forward, Redbubble!
A couple of days ago, I received an email from Redbubble’s 'Marketplace Integrity Team' ie. the tea boy, armed with a copy of "Basic Legal Concepts for the Mentally Sub-Normal". The email read as follows:
We’re sorry, but we had to remove your artwork from the Redbubble marketplace, because it may contain material that violates someone’s rights.
The owner of these rights has provided us with guidance describing the type of content they consider infringing that should be removed from the marketplace.
In most cases, this means that the rights holder did not specifically identify your work for removal, but that Redbubble has detected potential similarity between your removed work and one or more words, phrases or images included in the rights holder’s removal guidance.
Rights holder: The Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars, and the Other Members of the Board of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth Near Dublin
Subject matter: Trinity College Dublin
There then followed a list of basically every single piece of the hand-drawn Celtic Art I have listed on Redbubble.
I was a bit gobsmacked by this as, the artwork in question was all hand-drawn and inked by me, based on illustrations from The Book of Kells which, for those not in the know, is a mediaeval illustrated manuscript from Ireland, created around 800AD.
Thinking there had been some mistake and that Redbubble’s algorithms must be having an off day, I availed of a link at the bottom of the Redbubble email, to lodge a 'counter claim' against their idiotic decision. The below is taken from the summary email I received, after submitting the form:
[Your Full Name]
[Your Physical Address]
[URLs of your listing(s) that were removed]
[Please explain why your artwork should be reinstated]
These artworks are my own hand-drawn and digitised interpretations of illustrations from The Book of Kells, which is a mediaeval manuscript dating from 800AD and is therefore not subject to copyright.
Your algorithms may have flagged it as a copyright violation because the original of the manuscript is housed at Trinity College Dublin, who commercially publish facsimiles of the book. Those published facsimiles are obviously copyrighted to Trinity College. However my illustrations are created by hand from reference to the many widely available and public domain [being over 1200 years old!] reproductions of individual extracts from the original manuscript.
The original reference material is widely available in the public domain and I have reinterpreted it myself. I have not reproduced any kind of replica of the original manuscript or of Trinity college’s published facsimiles of it.
[Attached image shows one of my designs in progress. As you can clearly see it is being hand-drawn in brush & ink, prior to being digitised. It is in no way derived from any publication owned by Trinity College]
[I have a good faith belief that my artwork was removed by mistake.]
[I consent to the jurisdiction of the federal district court for the judicial district in which I am located, or if I am located outside of the United States, I consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court in San Francisco County, California, United States. Furthermore, I will accept service of process from the complainant who alleged infringement or an agent of such person.]
[I understand that my counter notice, including my personally-identifiable information, may be disclosed to the complainant who alleged my artwork infringes on their rights, and this may result in the complainant taking legal action against me.]
The attachment referred to at the bottom was this image I sent them which actually shows one of the designs 'in process'. A pretty open and shut case, I thought.
However, not for the first time, I reckoned without the craven idiocy of the American legal system and those who try and interpret it. I received the following reply from Redbubble:
Apr 7, 2021, 9:24 PDT
Thanks for getting in touch with Redbubble. As you’ve been made aware, your work was removed from Redbubble.com in response to complaints from The Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars, and the Other Members of the Board of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth Near Dublin and in accordance with Redbubble’s IP/Publicity Rights Policy, in regards to Trinity College Dublin related intellectual property.
Unfortunately, in accordance with our User Agreement and our IP/Publicity Rights Policy, we are unable to reinstate the content at issue.
We apologize that we are legally not able to further comment, provide individual advice, or give personal opinions on copyright, trademark, publicity rights, or other intellectual property matters. Please understand that Redbubble is a dynamic online marketplace and as such, designs on the site are constantly being added and removed by users as well as Redbubble for a variety of reasons relating to our User Agreement and IP/Publicity Rights Policy.
So much for being able to appeal an erroneous take-down then. In essence Redbubble’s response [as, in my experience, with all these places] amounts to "We’ve received a take-down notice. We’re going to cave in immediately, without even considering the validity of the request, and remove your work. End of story.
I did a bit of further digging on this and found that [believe it or not] "The Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars, and the Other Members of the Board of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth Near Dublin" [hereinafter referred to as 'The Heritage Thieves"] have indeed actually copyrighted the term "Book of Kells" as a global trademark.
Yes folks. Just when you thought that the world of copyright couldn’t get any more insane, it seems it’s actually possible to copyright the name of a historical relic created over 1200 years ago. Can someone stop the planet. I want to get off!
But, before you get all smug here and start pointing, laughing and saying "Ha!Ha! the boy matulevicz got caught, banged to rights!" just hold your horses a minute. Let’s see what exactly has been copyrighted / trademarked here…
I consulted the WIPO Global Brand Database. I’m afraid, because of the way that site works, I can’t link directly to the search results. But, if you go there and type in "Book of Kells" you’ll find that The Heritage Thieves have indeed registered "The Book of Kells" as a wordmark on pretty much every possible object, man-made, animal, vegetable, mineral that could possibly have text printed upon it. They have also registered a piss-poor logo with the initials "BK" and an illustration based on a dog figure from "The Book of Kells" [About which, more later].
Now, hang on a minute; my Celtic artwork doesn’t have any text on it at all [apart from my signature]. No "Book of Kells" text. No piss-poor "BK" logo. So, what copyright exactly does it infringe?
That’s right. It doesn’t. There is no way on Jodhpur’s Green Earth that my artwork violates any copyright or trademark held by The Heritage Thieves. The only case that The Heritage Thieves could remotely make against my artwork is that, in the titles and descriptions of the pieces, I have referred to "The Book of Kells" as their source of inspiration. For example:
Celtic Art - Interlaced Dogs T-Shirt
Based on a design from the C800AD Book of Kells from Ireland. The design has been hand rendered in brush and ink before being scanned at high resolution, so as to preserve the individuality and slight imperfections of an authentically hand-crafted artwork.
But, even there, I’m not claiming any affinity or connection with the actual "Book of Kells". The blurb quite clearly states "Based on a design from…" So, are The Heritage Thieves actually saying that no one is even allowed to mention "The Book of Kells" for fear of violating their copyright? If so, that’s really going to fuck up a lot of History books!
This whole thing is so unbelievably fuckwitted and beyond belief that I actually have some doubt that Redbubble did ever receive a complaint from The Heritage Thieves. I mean, you’d like to assume that people working for one of the [allegedly!] most prestigious universities in Europe would have at least a couple of braincells to rub together wouldn’t you? Mind you, having worked in university level education myself for about 15 years, I soon came to wonder how some of the people around me [and more often above me] managed to tie their own shoelaces. So nothing would really surprise me. But I suspect Redbubble are acting pre-emptively [and moronically], off their own bat, for fear of a non-existent legal challenge. Which makes their behaviour even more contemptible.
Anyway, I’ve fired off a further series of emails to Redbubble, pointing out what The Heritage Thieves have actually registered and also pointing out how none of their 'trademarks' were used on my designs at all. But I’ve not heard anything back from them. I don’t expect to either. Previous experience has taught me many times that the people with the money always win. No matter how much the lie is peddled that everyone is equal under the law.
And, just before I go; you remember earlier I mentioned The Heritage Thieves' piss-poor "BK" logo and said 'more about that later'?
Well it turns out that, when The Heritage Thieves started using the "BK" logo on whatever tat they flog, they actually got sued by Burger King for violating Burger King’s own "BK" trademark. You couldn’t make this shite up. You really couldn’t!
Mind you, I suppose this experience of stealing someone else’s branding and getting away with it has given The Heritage Thieves extra sensitivity in that area.
By the way, for anyone who’s interested, my Celtic Art designs [along with a myriad of others] are still available from other venues listed on my madra.net Shop page… Well, they are at the moment. Until some sweaty-arsed lawyer fires off a letter to the sites responsible, claiming that someone he represents has trademarked the use of pencils and pens. and those get taken down as well!