Zazzle Being Stupid

My wife teaches high school physics. She loves putting quotes from famous physicists, mathematicians, and inventors on the wall of her classroom. After the death of Neil Armstrong, there was a lot of media coverage and I discovered a great quote from a speech that he made to the National Press Club in 2000:

“I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer, born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace and propelled by compressible flow.”

Because I thought my wife would really like this, I decided to make a poster of this quote on top of a picture of Mr. Armstrong walking on the moon. I created the design on and purchased it. Today I got the following response from Zazzle:

ORDER CANCELLATION NOTICE – Please modify your design(s) and re-order.

Hello Benjamin Smedberg,

Thank you for your recent order: XXXX

Unfortunately, we are unable to process your order due to a conflict with one or more of our acceptable content guidelines.

As a result, the following item(s) cannot be produced:

Title: Apollo 11 Neil Armstrong.jpg, I am, and ever wi…
Product Link: XXXX
Result: Not Approved
Content Notes:

  • Design contains text or image that is in violation of an individual’s rights of celebrity/publicity. If you are interested in purchasing Official Licensed Merchandise from Zazzle please visit:
  • Design contains an image or text that may be subject to copyright. If you are interested in purchasing Official Licensed Merchandise from Zazzle please visit:
  • Your design contains an image or text that may be trademarked. 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 suppose that the speech itself could be subject to copyright, but given the size of the excerpt and the occasion I don’t see how it is really relevant. The photo, being a product of NASA, is not subject to copyright. And I don’t see how right of celebrity or trademark could possibly apply to this at all.

Come on Zazzle, stop being stupid.

Atom Feed for Comments 4 Responses to “Zazzle Being Stupid”

  1. Steve Fink Says:

    It’s all just a cover up. Someone noticed that you picked a completely unreadable combination of white on black & white, and made up an excuse. Try yellow text, maybe? :-)

  2. Steve Says:

    Great quote, Benjamin.

    After 1976 (in the U.S.) all works were automatically copyrighted if allowed to be copyrighted by law. So, the speech is definitely copyrighted. It seems somewhat crazy that Zazzle would assume that a small quote like that isn’t fair use. What a weird system of intellectual property we have.

  3. Marcia Says:

    You could argue that the photograph was taken by a government entity and, as such, is in the public domain. You could also say the excerpt of the speech is short enough to fall under the fair use doctrine. You may not be able to market the poster, but they should certainly allow you to print one for your wife’s use.

    They are being stupid, but that doesn’t mean you can’t appeal or — barring that — get Café Press or someone else to print it.


    (Found your blog entry via Google alert for articles on Zazzle.)

  4. James Says:

    It has to do with how astronauts have rights to the photos they are present in. I had nearly the exact same thing happen with a photo of Buzz Aldrin on the moon that I made a derivative of. His company, I forgot the name, contacted Zazzle and told them that it was in violation of their copyright. So I researched it and found that famous US astronauts can and regularly do sue people for infringement.

    I was doing a Google search on something else and stumbled upon your blog so I thought I post a reply. =)

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