So, I got two emails the other day from Zazzle.com’s Content Review team, telling me that two pieces I created (one on November 25, 2007 and the other on December 28, 2007) have been removed from the online service because they violated someone’s copyright.
Your design contains an image or text that may be subject to copyright. 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. – Zazzle
Hmm. Odd. I thought, isn’t “The Wizard of Oz” in the public domain?
So I wrote back to Zazzle’s Content Review team and asked for more details (i.e. Who the hell thinks I infringed upon their copyright!?) They replied:
…your product was removed due to an infringement claim by Warner Bros. Studios. While the artwork as you claim is original, the characters from the Wizard of Oz are currently property of Warner Bros. As a guideline, designs from the Wizard of Oz that are currently prohibited for sale on Zazzle’s Marketplace are:
•All inspired artwork and character renderings from the Wizard of Oz
•Quotes from the Wizard of Oz Franchise
•All tags and descriptions that reference the Wizard of Oz
Ok, I know that’s B.S.
First, today is June 13, 2012. The first of the two pieces was published on November 27, 2007. It has been 1,659 days (not including the end date) or 4 years, 6 months, 16 days (excluding the end date) that they’ve had to think about this. How much money have I received from these images? Zero dollars. So what’s the big deal?
Second, I did some digging and, while I am not a copyright expert, I am not stupid. After my research I sent the following response to Mike at Zazzle.
I think you and Zazzle should review exactly what Warner Bros. Entertainment can claim as their copyrighted material when it comes to the Wizard of Oz.
Warner Bros. Entertainment owns the rights to the 1939 MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz. According to the legal decision in WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT v. X ONE X PRODUCTIONS
(http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=In%20FCO%2020110705129.xml&docbase=CSLWAR3-2007-CURR) “the scope of the film copyrights covers all visual depictions of the film characters at issue”. My artwork in NO WAY references the film version of the character and therefor does NOT infringe upon Warner Bros. Entertainment’s copyright or trademark of said character. If anything, it references the public domain characters as represented in Baum’s original work.
To go one step further, the act of dissolving a witch by water (which is ALL my artwork satirizes) is not new or specific to the 1939 film either. In fact, Dr. Douglas A. Rossman, writing “On the Liquidation of Witches” in the “Baum Bugle” (Spring 1969) suggests that the melting of the Wicked Witch is a chemical process. Normally, the molecules of a substance (or Witch) stick to each other, a phenomenon called adhesion. However, adhesion may be broken down by water or by some other powerful force (such as a house falling from the sky). The Witch has no blood or other bodily fluid; little is holding her molecules together. The water breaks down the weak adhesion of her body so that she melts away. Son of Dex says this is similar to the way sugar dissolves in water. Similarly, the impact of Dorothy’s house landing on the Wicked Witch of the East breaks down the adhesion of her molecules, so she crumbles to dust. (http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1984/why-does-water-make-the-wicked-witch-of-the-west-melt)
In fact, folklore, separate from “The Wizard of Oz” has suggested that witches could be destroyed by water through “baptism” (hence, purification of spirit) for centuries. As an example, the “ordeal of cold water” has a precedent in the Code of Ur-Nammu and the Code of Hammurabi, under which a man accused of sorcery was to be submerged in a stream and acquitted if he survived. The practice was also set out in Frankish law but was abolished by Louis the Pious in 829. The practice reappeared in the Late Middle Ages: in the Dreieicher Wildbann of 1338, a man accused of poaching was to be submerged in a barrel three times and to be considered guilty if he sank to the bottom. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_by_ordeal#Ordeal_of_cold_water)
As such, I respectfully request that my material and corresponding artwork be returned to circulation for purchase immediately.
Failure to do so would be an infringement on my copyright of my created artwork which, as verified by the testimony above, does NOT infringe upon Warner Bros. Entertainment’s copyright on the 1939 film or the specific celluloid representations of the characters made in said film. If my copyright continues to be infringed upon I will seek legal action against both Zazzle and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
The courtesy of your prompt reply would be most appreciated.
God knows if I’ll get a response from Zazzle or their cohorts at Warner Bros. Entertainment but I felt it necessary to speak my mind on the matter and seek your feedback. At what point should a corporation be able to take back something that is in the public domain and how much of said entity can they gain control over? As I see it, they own the rights to the film and the film’s iconic imagery (including characters, props, etc) but how can that extend to the original literature on which it is based which IS in the public domain. Would they be allowed to make a film of Romeo & Juliet and then claim ownership over Shakespeare’s original work? Hardly.
Let me know what you think. The “banished” artwork is included for your perusal.