Saturday, April 06, 2019

Zazzle, show designers a little respect

My email to Zazzle:

I've read through the highlights of the User Agreement changes and everything is acceptable.

One other issue I'd like you to address is deleting a designer's intellectual property when it doesn't conform to Zazzle's restrictions. An example is when a design can be brought into conformity by changing one word in the design and you delete the designer's intellectual property and refuse to allow the designer to make that change. That is an unacceptable policy. I understand that the designer agrees to that action when he signs the contract with Zazzle, but that concession should not be in the contract in the first place. At no time does a design, because it resides on Zazzle's servers, become the intellectual property of Zazzle. The designer retains ownership of that design as long as it is under copyright. If you were to allow me to park my car in your garage, the ownership of my car wouldn't transfer to you because the car is stored in your garage. And so, you couldn't dump my car in a landfill if you learn that it doesn't conform to the restrictions of your garage, because it's not your car to discard. If I learned from an email notification that you had dumped my car in a landfill and it was irretrievable or irreparably damaged, I could rightly take you to court and receive compensation from you for your destruction of my property. The same is true of intellectual property even though it resides on your servers only as ethereal binary code. You have no more right to discard the designer's intellectual property because it's stored on your servers than you would have to discard someone else's car stored in your garage.

You would, however, have the right to have the car towed at the owner's expense to a location where the owner could retrieve it. You could treat nonconforming intellectual property in the same way by simply changing the design's status from Public to Hidden. Such a simple action on Zazzle's part, I don't understand why it hasn't been Zazzle's policy all along. I'm sure your response would be that you don't want to allocate resources to following up on each nonconforming design to see that it has been corrected before being made public again, because there are probably thousands of nonconforming designs in the system at any given time. But is it true that it would require so much manpower to keep up with checking back on all of the flagged designs that it would represent a financial burden to the company? My impression is that you keep a bare-bones coding staff between major redesigns of the site. Glitches in the site can last for years, which indicates that you don't want to take resources from development in order just to correct some bad code. However, the percentage which Zazzle keeps of the selling price of each item is 90% for a great number of items sold; and when a seller increases his royalty percentage, Zazzle raises the selling price of the item. The site lists Zazzle's revenue as $50-100M and the number of employees as 100-500. I believe Zazzle can afford to have sufficient manpower to follow up on nonconforming items made public again. It's even possible that no employees would need specifically to follow up on those items; the items would simply be flagged again if they are made public again without being altered.

Fortunately I haven't had any items deleted for a while, but each time it happened my thinking was "Let me make the change! Deleting my intellectual property without recourse isn't within your rights!" With one item, I had the name "warhol" in the keywords for a product but the name didn't appear anywhere on the item itself or in the title or description. Still, the Warhol Foundation objected and you deleted my intellectual property. An unseen keyword, however, does not fall into the realm of copyright infringement, so the Warhol Foundation had no authority to object to it and it would not have stood up in court. A keyword? Which I could have easily replaced with an acceptable keyword. Your policy of deletion without recourse results, of course, from your desire to heavily insulate yourself from lawsuits. You accommodate copyright holders to an extreme degree in order to protect yourself legally, but it's at the expense of the designer. The typical designer doesn't have the resources to protect his intellectual property on your servers, so he is at the bottom of the food chain. But does your business primarily sell blank items? Of course not. The designs generate your revenue. Your substantial financial success derives specifically from the designers' intellectual properties. Without the designers your business model and net income would be significantly different. But you relegate the designers to the bottom of the food chain. Your unwillingness to allow the designer to make a change to an item reflects your hyperfocus on maximizing net income and, ultimately, laziness.

I periodically look for another POD retailer to migrate to, but none so far equal the control and flexibility of Zazzle's design tool. That superiority should be a good thing, but it results in a lack of respect for the designers and their intellectual properties, as well as website design flaws that are never corrected because Administration either doesn't know they're there or doesn't want to allocate resources to correct them.