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Not happy with Zazzle and Warner Bros right now

UPDATE: Ok, I found out what probably caused the problem (thanks to Kelly Light on Twitter, Christine in my blog comments & Patricia Storms on Facebook) -- Warner Bros must own the name/phrase "Harry Potter" and are protecting their trademark. -- Debbie


So I've had a Zazzle store with some of my cartoons on cards and t-shirts for a while. I don't tend to publicize my Inkygirl Gifts For Writers shop much because I don't keep it updated with new material -- I'm too busy with my illustration and writing.

Today, however, I received the following letter from Zazzle:

Dear inkygirl,

Thank you for your interest in Zazzle.com, and thank you for publishing products on Zazzle.

Unfortunately, it appears that your product, Four Things You Should Never Say To A Writer, contains content that is not suitable for printing at Zazzle.com.

We will be removing this product from the Zazzle Marketplace shortly.

Please help us make our content approval process better by taking this short survey.

The details of the product being removed are listed below:

• Product Title: Four Things You Should Never Say To A Writer
• Product Type: Shirt
• Product ID: 235977150042632245
• Result: Not Approved
• Policy Violations:
o Your product has been removed from Zazzle’s Marketplace due to an infringement claim by Warner Bros. This may be due to the actual design of the product, description or search tags that references properties owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
• Image: Image

We apologize for the inconvenience, a detailed description of the policies are located here.

If you have any questions or concerns about the review of your product, please emailcontent_review@zazzle.com

Best Regards,
Content Review Team
Zazzle Inc.

You can see the t-shirt design image at the top of this post. I assure you all that *I* came up with it all by myself, based on real life experience (though slightly exaggerated in some cases :-)).

The image link in the Zazzle letter did NOT match the name of the product title, but referred to another of my t-shirt designs:

Zazzle I Write

Now, I'm assuming that Warner Bros ISN'T claiming that they own the phrase "I write."

I've written to Zazzle to find out more info.

Have to say, though, that I'm not crazy about the fact that they took down my "4 Things To Never Say To A Writer" t-shirt (it's gone from the store already) without asking me about it first.

Reader Comments (19)

It looks like they took it down for using the name "Harry potter"

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

Wow! So we're not allowed to talk about Harry Potter anymore?

Do we have to start referring to him as He Who May Not Be Named?!

Oh, delicious irony.

But seriously, can they do that?

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Congratulations! You've pissed off one of the "big dogs." Even though it's a ridiculous complaint, at least you got their attention.

Love your stuff!


March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCecilia Dominic

Yes. WB owns Harry Potter. They can do that unfortunately.

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

Christine: Thanks for the info! I feel so stupid for not realizing this earlier.

Julie: "He Who May Not Be Named"....LOL!

Cecilia: Thanks, eh? :-D

I can understand why Warner Bros would want to protect their trademark. It just didn't cross my mind (duh) that it was the name Harry Potter that set them off -- I was all in a tizzy because I assumed it was the text in general that they were laying claims to, or the phrase "4 Things You Should Never Say To A Writer."

Duh. :-)

March 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterDebbie Ridpath Ohi

@Christine: I think JK Rowling owns Harry Potter actually, even Random House making a scene might make some sense, but WB probably have no claim for copyright infringement as long as it is not a film or a videogame.

You'd need to check with a lawyer, but I think this one comes under fair use (parody) in the US at least. The real issue is that Zazzle cannot match WB for legal costs if it ever went to court and they found a judge who would not just throw it out immediately.

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Hart-Jones

The problem is you're not actually infringing. But these small businesses are so afraid of lawsuits that they respond to every take-down notice the same way, without any due process....

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHarald

I don't think Warner Bros. can own the phrase quite like that. You couldn't make a movie called Harry Potter or a game called it or use their logo to make profit. I imagine that the letter was sent simply by finding the phrase but without looking at the context. And I would imagine zazzle has no interest in fighting it. But I'd be pretty surprised if there's anything to WB's claim.

Surely we can find a lawyer to come by and clear this up....

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGregory K.

@Anthony Hart-Jones Once JK Rowling sold out to WB to make movies, WB owns HP (remember MOVIES = BIG BUCKS). If a lawsuit is filed, the studio files it in conjunction with JKR (see HP lexicon lawsuit).

Back in 2000 WB went around the intarwebs (just like FOX) and shut down fan sites. Wouldn't JKR allow them? George Lucas dosen't have a problem with fan sites. Why Does WB care so much? They have a HUGE vested interest in the franchise and the money should go to them, not the little guy.


March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

You should still have it checked out. I think, as long as it's just the name "Harry Potter" you're using, you can. I thought it was like referencing pop culture in a novel.

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLoni

Christine - with due respect, if you read that ZDnet article, it doesn't address Debbie's situation at all. Yes, Warner Brothers owns certain intellectual property and can (and should) enforce its legal rights. That doesn't mean, however, that this case is the same.

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGregory K.

@gregory: I wasn't referring to the article as addressing Debbie's situation and yes I did read the article. Thanks!

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

Thanks, Christine. I guess I'm reacting to your earlier comment that because Warner Bros. owns some HP intellectual property that they can make Debbie pull her design. I'm not a lawyer, but I do know that there are laws about fair use, parody, and other topics that come into play, too. Warner Brothers does not (nor would they claim to) own the words and all uses of them.

For example, I can write a book and include a character obsessed by Harry Potter and Warner's can't stop the publication of it. I can't libel them, can't infringe on certain trademarks and such... but there are laws that cut in both directions. Simply saying "they're allowed" to do what they want is incorrect.

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGregory K.

I don't know what the laws are in Canada, but US law specifically forbids copyrighting of a title or phrase. Here's the government's page on it:


March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLynn Gold

OK -- so what if you put it back with

"Is it anything like Harry Whats-His-Face?

...asks Elan Neruda from Second Life

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Miller

I have a list of 10 things you should never say to an author. Fortunately, none of them include He Who May Not Be Named (although children often ask me if I KNOW H.P.!). But at one point, the list included: "Did you write Love You Forever?" Since that picture book is my least liked of all the pb's ever written (and that's putting it mildly), my husband often had to restrain me from ripping out the questioner's liver.

For a list of 101 other ways to bug me and raise my blood pressure, visit http://leewardlaw.com/bug.htm, gleaned from 25 years as a children's book author. :)

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLee Wardlaw

It's not copyright, it's trademark that has them scurrying around squashing anyone who uses the name Harry Potter in a way that suggests you might be discussing Harry Potter of JKR fame. Kleenex does the same thing, insisting everyone not specifically describing their product line use the term "facial tissue." If your trademark becomes a generic item, you loose the trademark. The Harry Potter line of merchandise is too valuable for WB to let it disappear on them.

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Kepner

That is such b.s but I will make sure when I write if I talk about anything from the present culture trend that I won't mention "Harry Potter"(Oops! I infringed LMAO)

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterK.D. Jackson

Good grief - that's ridiculous!

Hopefully as others have suggested this comes under fair use and can be contested.

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPewari

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