Design 7 & 8 : Be Yourself and Zazzles weird copyright issues


T-shirts are on sale so I decided to do a quote T-shirt.  Since I love Oscar Wilde’s play, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, I decided to look at Oscar Wilde’s quotes and did a quick google of quote sites.  His writing and reports of his quotes are over 100 years old so there is no copyright issue. In the USA, anything before 1927 is in the public domain.  This quote showed up on all the ones I looked at.

“Be Yourself ; everyone else is already taken.”

I wanted to do something girly and happy so I thought rainbows and handwriting fonts.  I didn’t check to see if other people had already done this quote on a t-shirt.  I was just focusing on making my first quote t-shirt.  The design elements are the color and the fonts.  I did Oscar Wilde’s name in a handwriting font — it is not his signature.

I uploaded my design to Zazzle and shared it with Winter and Carol.  Carol liked it immediately and bought two for her friends next door who also happen to be a lesbian couple.  Winter said it looked gay so I thought I’d design a more masculine version.

Zazzle vets designs before allowing them in your Zazzle shop.  I received an email saying I couldn’t sell them because: quoted from 3/27/18 email:
“Your design contains and image or text that may be in violation of an individual’s rights of celebrity/publicity. This may be due to the actual design of the product, description or search tags that are associated to your product. Please feel free to submit a new design to our Marketplace from original elements”

I wrote back saying:
“The shirt you have reviewed does not infringe on any copyright.  It is a quote “Be yourself: everyone else is taken”.   It is a quote most often attributed to Oscar Wilde who was lived from 1854-1900 so anything he wrote is in the public domain.  Anything written prior to 1926 is in the public domain. When it is not attributed to Wilde, it is anonymous.  Public domain phrases can not be copyrighted.”

They wrote back saying :
“Due to intellectual property concerns, your submitted designs were not approved for the marketplace because Zazzle is not licensed to sell or produce unauthorized merchandise of Oscar Wilde, http://www.cmgww.com/historic/wilde/.  In this instance, your products contained text referencing Oscar Wilde.”

So that company CMG Worldwide has trademarked Oscar Wilde’s name.  Zazzle has no problem with me using the quote; they just don’t want me to use Oscar Wilde’s name.  That is so weird to me — that any company can trademark a historical figure’s name.  This company put up a bio and a list of the Oscar Wilde’s accomplishments which are all in the public domain and lay claim to the name?  (Well, parts of Wilde’s last letter from jail are not in public domain.  Due to fear of being sued, the original letter was not published in it’s entirety until the 1940s when anyone mentioned in the letter and their family were long dead. The parts not previously published are not in the public domain.)

Honestly this is crazy.   Someone can decide that someone in ancient Egypt has a profitable name and trademark it and suddenly people have to license the name to use it?  I bet there are court cases where the names are proven in public domain.  It doesn’t make sense that an author’s words written in 1518 are in public domain but their name is not.

However, I am doing one design a day minimum.  I am also learning how to make tutorials and tutorial videos — honestly I don’t have time to research the legalities of this.  So I have two choices.

A. They object to the name “Oscar Wilde”, not the quote.  I can use the quote as long as I don’t use the name — I did a search on their site and someone else is already doing so — a boring t-shirt but still they are selling the quote as is.  So that means no attribution on quotes.  Shakes my head.  I hate that.  I hate that on the internet more and more people are not giving credit to people for their quotes and writing.  And here a company is saying don’t attribute.  I wanted to do a line of t-shirt with literary quotes but I don’t know how I feel about not attributing.  I did do a search and there are t-shirts with this quotewith “Oscar Wilde” under the quote, showing the attribution.  It’s just not allowed on Zazzle.

B. There are other companies like Zazzle where you upload your design and they make, ship and give you a commission so if I really want to do a quote t-shirt series, then I can do it somewhere else.  That way I can say who said the quote.  I just don’t feel right not attributing.

Meanwhile I’ve taken both designs down from my Zazzle shop.  However Zazzle did take Carol’s money and ship the t-shirts to her.  Her neighbors loved it.  So apparently Zazzle will sell it but only within the 24 hours when they are vetting a design.   When I first design something, during the vetting process, Zazzle gives me a link that I can share with people even before it goes in my shop.  Carol used that link to buy the shirts. Obviously Zazzle did not think it was illegal to make the shirt or allow that first sale. Shakes my head.  So weird.  And frustrating.

Still even though the t-shirts are not in my shop, they count as designs 7&8 because I did do them and upload them.  Turns out there is some dispute that Oscar actually said that so I may put it back without the name.  I don’t know. At this point, I don’t have them in the shop.

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