More Reasons to Hate Copyright Laws and Barbie Too

I recently got a new keyboard and mouse combo. This prompted the need for a new mousepad. I decided I didn’t want a lame and generic mousepad, but rather a mousepad with a photo I took on it. I’ve been becoming more and more serious about my photography and thought a mousepad with one of my pics would be a perfect opportunity to do more things with the photos and have more visibility of one of my favorites.

So off to Cafe Press I went. I know that I can upload imagery of my own to make all kinds of things…..mousepads, stickers, clothing, bags, etc.

I did that last night. Late last night.

I woke up this morning to this email in my inbox:

Dear Shopkeeper,

Thank you for using!

As you may know, provides a service to a rich and vibrant community of international users. From time to time, we review the content in our shopkeepers accounts to confirm that the content being used in connection with the sale of products are in compliance with our policies, including our Content Usage Policy (CUP).

We recently learned that your account contains material which may not be in compliance with our policies. Specifically, designing, manufacturing, marketing and/or selling products that may infringe the rights of a third party, including, copyrights (e.g., an image of a television cartoon character), trademarks (e.g., the logo of a company), “rights in gross” (e.g., the exclusive right of the U.S. Olympic Committee to use the “Olympic Rings”), and rights of privacy and publicity (e.g., a photo of a celebrity) are prohibited.

Accordingly, we have set the content that we believe to be questionable to “pending status” which disables said content from being displayed in your shop or purchased by the public.

You may review the content set to pending status by logging into your account and clicking on the “Media Basket” link. The content set to pending status will be highlighted red.

Please visit our Content Usage Policy (CUP) for additional information regarding your use of the service. Once there, you may access our Copyright, Trademark & Intellectual Property Guidelines and FAQ’s for more detailed information regarding Intellectual Property Rights.

We apologize for any inconvenience that the removal of your content may have caused you. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.


Content Usage Associate

The thing about uploading your own art is that you actually become a ‘shopkeeper’. I didn’t want to do that, I just wanted to get a mousepad for me with the photo I took. I was flummoxxed. I was confused. This was a photo I took. How could I possibly be violating copyright law? So strange.

This is the photo:

American Gothic Barbie Photo One
American Gothic Barbie Photo One

Did you know that you can’t take pictures of icons without violating copyright? I didn’t.


  1. That does suck, though Mattell is really sue-happy about Barbie (despite getting slapped up in some recent cases)… All sorts of DIY publishing I think are kind of trigger happy about these issues because they make it so easy to appropriate imagery.

    In this case I think you may be running afoul of trademark issues more than copyright… it’s a distinction I’m sort of fuzzy on but there is some related discussion of it here –

  2. Does this mean that as a photographic artist,
    I am unable to photograph Barbie and friends in a
    non-offensive way e.g my own fashion settings,etc,
    for re-sale as art work?

    I do alter some face paint, add my own accesories, etc, light and make my own settings, and present the
    dolls in a glamourous way. Could you or your readers
    please let me know, as some of the info is confusing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s