Porsche Has Claimed Ownership Of One Of My Images
Sometimes it is a pain to be on the leading edge of the digital evolution.
I like to take photos of cars and the best photos usually find their way to being posted on my blog, My Car Quest. One such photo of a Porsche 904 was taken at the Fantasy Junction classic car dealer in Emeryville California a few years ago (June 11, 2011 to be exact) and a close friend was with me that day. The original photo is below and was published on My Car Quest on March 23, 2012.
A few years later I was looking at this photo and thought there was too much distraction in the background, so after fooling around with Photoshop I posted this enhanced image below on August 9, 2016 with the background deleted. This Photoshop work makes the photo more focused on the car, yet it is still obviously a photo of a car. I think it looks better than the original.
Then one day I decided to take this Photoshop activity a few steps further in an attempt to create original digital “art”. Remember, like beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder and any opinions about my art do not change my ownership rights to this image and all other related images including the original digital photo. Below is the final version of this effort.
Looking at the three images above from top to bottom you can see the evolution of this work. There are more interim images with many sidetracks that I did not like. I then had the final image printed on canvas by Redbubble. The result was quite attractive and this canvas print remains on display in my office.
Recently I decided to unlock this image on Redbubble which made it available to the public, meaning it could be bought by anyone printed on many types of stuff like T-shirts, stickers, posters and other items. Up until this point I was the only one who could view this image on Redbubble.
About 24 hours later (wow, that was fast!) on December 13, 2018 I received the below legal notice from Redbubble* letting me know that they removed this item from their site at the demand of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, that is the Porsche car company.
Porsche claims, “to be the owner or licensee of related intellectual property” which is an outrageous claim. It seems that someone in their intellectual property protection department is a little over zealous — or their Internet bots need to be reprogrammed. Just because the image is called a Porsche 904 and is an image of a Porsche car does not mean that Porsche owns the image.
If you visit the Redbubble site and search for Porsche you will find many items with images of Porsche cars for sale; some are photos and some are digitally enhanced images. Yet, Porsche selected my image to challenge and me to harass and Redbubble provides no help or protection or even basic information about the cause of the problem. They allow a big company to trample on the rights of an individual.
Why did Porsche select my image to challenge, and why did Redbubble take Porsche’s word, that they owned this image? They assumed Porsche was in the right and I was in the wrong. Now it is my responsibility to claim my intellectual property ownership and take actions to regain control of that intellectual property that was created by my original digital photo plus hours of my Photoshop work. And while I do this my image is not listed on Redbubble. This does not cost Redbubble, or me, much money yet the idea is outrageous.
Notice the legal threats in the first Redbubble email below, which I have put in bold, (“under penalty of perjury”, “The complainant may then, if it wishes, take legal action against you.”)
They are trying very hard to motivate me to not pursue this issue because I suspect Redbubble would rather trample on the rights of an individual than upset a big company like Porsche. Of course, Porsche is trampling on my rights too. It seems like both Redbubble and Porsche hope that I will think it is too much trouble to challenge them and the matter will be dropped.
I sent my third email to Redbubble on December 15, 2018 and they finally replied on December 20, 2018**.
Their response was a canned reply with no specific information about why Porsche thinks they own this piece of my personal intellectual property. It is entirely up to me to defend my digital property and Redbubble has not been helpful with this at all. Apparently they did not ask Porsche why they think they own this image so Porsche has not explained this to me. It would have been interesting to hear someone at Porsche opine why they think they own my image.
This image has been posted on the web site of a competitor of Redbubble for a long time without any notice from Porsche.
Here are other questions I have for Porsche and Redbubble:
1. Why does Porsche not enforce their intellectual property claims consistently by going after all people like me who have created digital images of a Porsche car?
2. If Porsche does not enforce their IP rights uniformly do they weaken their claims?
3. How do they claim they own an image that I created from scratch (every pixel was created by me)?
4. Why is Porsche wasting their time on such trivial matters?
5. Why does Redbubble not stand up for individual creators by at least asking the big company to explain their claim?
6. Would Redbubble give the same rights, as they have done to Porsche, to an individual who claims some IP ownership from a Redbubble user?
*Legal notice from Redbubble to Michael Gulett (by email dated December 13, 2018)
We have removed the following content from Redbubble in response to past complaints from Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, who has claimed to be the owner or licensee of related intellectual property:
If you believe that removal of the above content is the result of a mistake (for example, that you have authorization to use the relevant content from the content owner) or misidentification, you can send us a counter notice. Such counter notice must provide the following information:
1. an electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the relevant content;
2. a description of the content which we have removed, including the URL on which the content was located on the Redbubble site;
3. your address, telephone number, and email address; and
4. a statement by you that, under penalty of perjury, you have a good faith belief that the content was removed or disabled as a result of mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled.
If you would like to send a counter notice please email the required information above to:
We may require further information before making any further determination.
Please note that in most circumstances we will inform the complainant that you have provided a counter notice, as well as provide the complainant with a copy of your counter notice, which will include your personal contact information. The complainant may then, if it wishes, take legal action against you.
Further information regarding Redbubble’s IP Policy and User Agreement can be found here:
Redbubble Marketplace Integrity Team
**Email response from Redbubble to Michael Gulett (by email dated December 20, 2018)
Thanks for getting in touch with Redbubble. As you’ve been made aware, your work was removed from Redbubble.com in response to complaints from Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG and in accordance with Redbubble’s IP/Publicity Rights Policy, in regards to Porsche related intellectual property.
Unfortunately, in accordance with our User Agreement and our IP/Publicity Rights Policy, we are unable to reinstate the content at issue.
We apologize that we are legally not able to further comment, provide individual advice, or give personal opinions on copyright, trademark, publicity rights or other intellectual property matters. Please understand that Redbubble is a dynamic online marketplace and as such, designs on the site are constantly being added and removed by users as well as Redbubble for a variety of reasons relating to our User Agreement and IP/Publicity Rights Policy.
For some more answers to common questions, we recommend you take a look at our Intellectual Property FAQ (some helpful links below), research the relevant copyright, trademark or publicity rights laws and their application to your work on the internet, or consult an I.P. specialist.
· Why was my artwork removed?
· Why was my artwork removed while other similar ones remain?
· Is it OK to upload fan art?
· Why was my artwork removed if I photographed or drew it myself?
· View more common questions
Redbubble Marketplace Integrity