Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Team Big Bird

So, as you may have heard, one of the presidential candidates (guess which one, go on, guess) is against funding PBS because if we stopped funding PBS our deficit would be... pretty much exactly the same size as it is now.  It would be like taking a drop of water out of one of the great lakes and claiming that you'd drained it.

But, by his own choice, Mitt Romney (did you guess right?) has made himself the anti-Big Bird candidate.  Oh, he was very clear, he likes the bird well enough, he just wants the bird homeless and jobless.  Because educational programming for children is apparently not in the national interest if it costs a pittance to taxpayers, or something like that.

So, anyway, I have a shirt shop.  Remember that?  You probably don't.  It's ok, it's not exactly the most impressive thing in the history of ever.

In fact, since it's creation, it has sold precisely zero items and hosted exactly one design.  (Said design was available on various items.)  That was the Team Leah (Let's get out of here together) design.  It can be found here for anyone who forgot what it looks like.

But the point here is not to point out that that design exists, or that I've given a measure of organization to the shop.  No, the point is that I have been inspired to create a new team shirt:
[Update] The first thing I did, the very first thing, when I had this idea was to check if "Big Bird" was under copyright/trademark.  (Something like that would be a trademark not a copyright, but I checked both to the best of my ability anyway.)  As I usually do with just about everything, I checked multiple times in multiple ways.  And yet, still, I screwed it up.  "Big Bird", those words in that order, is a trademark.  There's nothing wrong with me showing the above image here, I've made perfectly clear that it's my work and not part of their brand and so forth, but selling merchandise with that image on it would, at best and most charitable, push the line.

Cafepress noticed and correctly took down all of the merchandise.  When they do that, they don't tell you why, they don't say, "Big Bird" is a registered trademark number 72413289 and as such we're taking down your merch, they just say that it was considered to be in violation of some policy somewhere, go read the whole thing with bunches of policies and send an email to this address if you disagree with that assessment.

I was really pissed off.  I checked the policies beforehand too, saw the only one it could even hypothetically be violation of was unformatted text trademark (that's not the official term, but some trademarks dealing in text only apply if you format one specific way and thus wouldn't apply) and I'd checked to make sure that it didn't do that.

After that anger died down a bit I finally got around to checking N+1 times and realized they were right.  Maybe I missed it because it was listed at the very bottom of the page meaning if I accidentally didn't scroll far enough I wouldn't see it, maybe I missed it because it was buried in a heap of dead trademarks because of the search I used (I search everything when I search to see if something is trademarked, not just live trademarks) maybe my eyes didn't track right from the listing to the status and I read it as dead instead of live, maybe any number of things.

The point is, I was wrong, they were right, and while there are many, many things I could do to get around it (Team Bird, in yellow text, Team Mr. Bird, also yellow text, Team The Bird, Team Large Avian, The Bird's Team...) at this point I'm just accepting that they were right, I was wrong, and the merchandise is not for sale.  The only thing you'll find if you click the link that follows is the categories I had, each with a picture of the merchandise that would have been sold in it.

(Team Leah is totally legal, by the way.  It even falls completely within the rules requested but not legally enforceable by the author herself for things referring to Twilight.)

The rest of the post, all four sentences of it, follows as originally written. [/update]

As a result of this I have doubled the number of designs in my shop.  The Team Big Bird merchandise can be found here.  I predict that no one will buy any of it.

Also, for ease of navigation, when I say "cup" I mean "drinking vessel" so it also includes water bottles and thermoses and the like.


  1. Defunding PBS? Seriously? There are puppy-kicking supervillains who would be aghast at that.

  2. One, needs more yellow. Two, you don't actually seem to have individual item listings or a way to put anything in the cart. I hope this is because you haven't gotten around to it yet. Three, it might be worthwhile to contact whoever has the trademark (PBS, Children's Television Workshop?) to see if you can get permission to use his likeness. I'm sure you can't afford licensing fees, but maybe they'll cut you some slack, seeing as how you're trying to support them not losing their business.

    1. Two, you don't actually seem to have individual item listings or a way to put anything in the cart. I hope this is because you haven't gotten around to it yet.

      Unfortunately no. They were there before. I have to go and look into things and figure out what went wrong. I made extra sure not to step on anyone's copyright so I am downright confounded.

    2. It looks like everything containing "big bird" with the exception of shirts saying, "word to big bird" has been scrubbed from the site.

      My products weren't rejected outright, they were classified as pending, it doesn't say why but there are only four reasons that it could have been so classified. Only one could possibly apply to me. The merchandise was flagged as possibly in violation of their content usage policy. I've looked at the content usage policy, and the only thing that could possibly apply is that someone somewhere thinks that by using the words "Big Bird" I'm violating the rights of the Sesame Street makers. The thing is, it isn't, and thankfully so because otherwise whenever someone said, "That's a big bird" they'd be in violation.

      But that's what seems to have happened, someone flagged the whole section as potentially illegal.

    3. And as an update, apparently it's no longer pending and has been determined illegal. Because... they don't say why.

      I know that if I said "Team [] His street, not Wall Street," this wouldn't have happened, and I swear I checked to make sure that the words "Big Bird" weren't under some kind of protection, so I'm pretty sure that it should be in the same legal territory as all those "Han shot first" shirts, but apparently not.

    4. And I take it all back, I should have checked one last time, on the very bottom line of the page, beneath a list of dead trademarks for "BIG BIRD" is a live one. They own it. Technically speaking, when you say, "Damn that's a big bird," you're using their trademark.

      Now if I had said, "Big Yellow Bird," well that would have been kosher.

      Considering now whether or not to do that. It sort of comes off as a big "Fuck you" to Cafepress after I got pissed off at them when it turns out they were in the right.