Last Friday — was it only last Friday? My, how the time flies — marked the Village Voice-declared Worldwide Unfollow Charlie Sheen on Twitter Day. As we promoted the “event,” we heard from a lot of people who believed in the cause. One group was inspired to create a website against domestic violence called “Unfollow Charlie.” A supporter, Michael Baxter, designed the logo shown here, and took to Zazzle to sell items like shirts, mugs, buttons, and the like bearing the logo, with proceeds going to RAINN, the anti-sexual violence organization. After two days in which they made nearly $100 in royalties, Baxter was contacted by Zazzle, who informed him that his products were pulled for infringement of intellectual property rights.
Thinking the problem was the Twitter bird perched on the shoulder of the woman in his original design, he redesigned the logo, and yet again was denied. This email followed a query as to why:
Thank you for your e-mail to Zazzle.com.
We would love to offer every design that our users submit, however we must abide by all applicable laws and standards as well as our own content guidelines and copyright policies.
Unfortunately, your product was removed because it featured a design that does not meet Zazzle Acceptable Content Guidelines. Specifically, your product contained content that violates Charlie Sheen’s rights of celebrity/publicity. Charlie Sheen’s name and likeness are protected by rights of celebrity/publicity and may not be used on Zazzle products without permission.
We have been contacted by legal representatives from FEA Merchandising Inc., merchandising agent for Charlie Sheen, and at their request, have removed the product from the Zazzle Marketplace.
We are sorry for any disappointment, but hope you will understand our position in this regard. For future reference, please review Zazzle Acceptable Content Guidelines at: http://zazzle.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/143.
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Thanks for using Zazzle. We look forward to seeing more of your creative designs!
Content Management Team
This is about competition, in part (FEA/Live Nation has their own “Official Charlie Sheen merch”) but there are tons of other products on Zazzle related to Sheen that aren’t FEA.
Baxter told us, “According to Zazzle, use of the first name ‘Charlie’ was enough to be considered a violation of their content guidelines, specifically Sheen’s ‘rights of celebrity/publicity.’ But I counted over 18 examples of shirts on Zazzle that use either the words ‘Charlie’ or ‘Sheen.’ Things like ‘What Would Charlie Do,’ ‘Team Charlie,’ ‘I wanna be Charlie’s Intern,’ ‘Charlie’s Goddess,’ ‘Party with Charlie,’ etc.”
Baxter doesn’t plan to force the issue, and as far as we can tell, since Zazzle prints and ships the shirts, there’s nothing that can legally be done unless they (or Sheen’s FEA lawyers) change their mind. So, chalk yet another win up to the Charlie Sheen team — no more money to go to prevent violence against women if it hurts his good name!
Update: We’ve just heard from Michael Baxter that Zazzle just got in touch and will allow sales of the products as long as the title, description, and keywords don’t include “Charlie Sheen” (though that doesn’t seem to apply to other, pro-Sheen products).
You’ll be able to buy them here; proceeds help support RAINN.
Oh, and hey — it’s never to late to unfollow Charlie Sheen on Twitter. Isn’t the shtick getting a little…old?