apology/retraction re: autism speaks t-shirt scandal thing

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A few entries back I talked about Autism Speaks trying to censor someone’s t-shirt. Turns out that there was some kind of complicated mixup, and the problem was actually Zazzle overinterpreting a complaint about a different shirt or something. I’ll also add a link at the beginning of my other post, to this post. At any rate, consider this a retraction and apology.

Additionally, if anyone wonders why I didn’t immediately do something when this was figured out — I still don’t know entirely what was figured out. I just know something was. I have been away from home for a week, only now have access to a fully functional computer again, do not yet have a fully-functioning brain, and have not even looked at (much less read) my email since I left home a week ago. I stumbled across a retraction by someone else minutes ago and have immediately written this post.

But, for anyone who actually can make good sense of everything they read right now, here is Zach’s post about the whole thing. At any rate, I’m sorry to Autism Speaks for assuming you were doing this sort of thing again, and to anyone else who might’ve gotten that idea from what I wrote. And I’m very glad Zazzle has been willing to finally clear up whatever really happened — which seemed to be an employee somehow misinterpreting something by Autism Speaks and thinking it was about Zach’s shirt when it wasn’t.

Please post corrections in comments if I got anything wrong about this. I’m going on three hours of sleep after a week of conference, which is not good for my comprehension and judgment abilities. Also, if you have posted anywhere about this as a result of what I or someone else wrote, please post your own retractions and apologies wherever you did that, so that other people don’t think this really happened when it didn’t. Just because you don’t like a person or organization doesn’t mean it’s okay to let misinformation stand when you know it’s false, so please spread the word.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

12 responses »

  1. I found the snippet of the latest Zazzle transcript that Zach provided very confusing, Amanda, so it wasn’t just you. Whoever Zach talked to, the employee sounded utterly confused as well, and like you I’m still not QUITE sure what happened…

  2. Whew! Lucky I was so busy working on a video, that I ended up not making a post about it. Well, at least they (may) have learned something from the NTspeaks thing, and are not repeating that.

  3. I don’t know. They either knew about the t-shirt but knew they had no legal right to request its removal, or they just never knew about it in the first place.

    With NT Speaks though I do believe they had a legal right to request the site either be seriously altered or taken down because a website (and correct me if I’m wrong) is considered a “creative work” and therefore is not covered under Fair Use under US Copyright Law.

    Their behavior and their demands were, however, despicable. That’s what I objected to. Threatening a law suit for $90,000 was simply a power play; no normal person has that kind of money, let alone can afford to go to court, and they knew that. And it worked.

  4. The email from Zazzle that Zach posted is barely legible, but it looks like Zazzle told Zach that Autism Speaks asked for the t-shirt to be removed. So it seems the error is Zazzle’s.

  5. Parody is fair use. One recent case I know of is how Eminem tried to sue Weird Al Yankovich. Weird Al won because his work is clearly unpointed humor….critical parody is often more serious than funny and so there is sometimes a case of slander there but it can be hard to prove without a kind of panel of judges or something….even so, it might escape yet again as political speech or educational use. Permission requests are a norm of ettiquette and often, it is treated as a “sue now or forever hold your peace” protection. In any case, such documents are good backup in court for the person doing the parody. That said, it was egregiously vicious and vile what Autism Speaks did to the website owner.

    Part of me was reading with dropped jaw here until I read an affirmation of your position in your closing lines and your clarified viewpoint. I think it’s mature what you are doing and fairly wise given that a little “shock” value in your opening lines adds that much more to your point. It’s comforting to know your example here and respect your taking a higher moral terrain than Autism Speaks despite them. I highly doubt they’d afford the same respect sadly but I’m also about giving a benefit of doubt and being responsible for one’s journal.

  6. As far as I know, in order to sue for copyright infringement and prove it can’t be regarded as fair use, you have to prove that financial damages have been caused to you or your organization by someone else’s (supposed) use of something you had the copyright to. In other words, that people bought it instead of the product you were offering, and that therefore you or your organization didn’t get the money you would have gotten if they bought the legal version you were selling. This would be true in the case of, say, a pirated DVD copy of a movie. (Whether the copyright laws that currently exist are *fair* and whether they protect individuals’ rights to their own work or just allow large companies to get even richer is a different can of worms that I’m not going to get into at all.)

    As far as I know, Autism Speaks and the logo are actually trademarks, not copyrights, so it can’t even technically be called copyright infringement. If someone were selling T-shirts that could be mistaken for a similar product sold by Autism Speaks, then Autism Speaks might have a case. (The right to use or parody a company’s name in order to criticize that company has been upheld in court, though– I think one of the aspieweb threads you linked to in the original post mentioned a case where the right of protesters to use the Wal-Mart name and logo on T-shirts criticizing Wal-Mart was upheld.)

  7. >>As far as I know, in order to sue for copyright infringement and prove it can’t be regarded as fair use, you have to prove that financial damages have been caused to you or your organization by someone else’s (supposed) use of something you had the copyright to. In other words, that people bought it instead of the product you were offering, and that therefore you or your organization didn’t get the money you would have gotten if they bought the legal version you were selling. This would be true in the case of, say, a pirated DVD copy of a movie.<<

    I believe that was what Autism Speaks would’ve tried to prove since they claimed something like one-millionth of supporter decline due to the faux-site. How they could have proven that, I have no idea. But the threat of law suit, according to Kelly, included the claim that they had lost donations because of her parodied site.

  8. Yes, I seem to recall that AS claimed they’d lost a specific amount of donation funds as a result.

    Even if that were true (and if I recall correctly it was a ridiculously large amount that the parody site couldn’t possibly have been responsible for; and I suspect the large amount was also intended as a scare tactic), it would be the equivalent of Wal-Mart trying to sue because they’ve lost business as a result of folks saying Wal-Mart is evil. Which they probably have. But folks have the right to not patronize an establishment — or give funds to a so-called charity — because they’ve heard negative criticism of it. It’s the nature of the market.

  9. Evonne> Yep, they claim $1,000,000 in lost donations, from a parody site that got around one hit per day – or did before the whole thing blew up.

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