Hey, Brand New fans: Bummed that you missed out on tickets to the band’s Madison Square Garden show that went on sale earlier today (and sold out in, like, 48 seconds)? Redirect that angst (and that credit card) and order yourself a duvet cover emblazoned with the artwork for The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me for as low as $89.99 (plus shipping, of course). Think we’re kidding? Think again:
We’re going to go out on a little bit of a limb here and say this is unauthorized merch, a thought that is more or less confirmed by the “about” page on the seller’s profile, which simply says two words: “unofficial merchandise.”
So how does this actually exist and is sold on a high-profile website when it is clearly a bootleg? (Something we confirmed with Brand New’s management, who offered no additional comment.) That is thanks to Society6, a website that allows artists to upload their artwork and have it recreated on a variety of items, from T-shirts to coffee mugs to—yes—duvet covers. Of course, the problem is that even though the site is intended for artists, anyone can sign up for an account and upload images to be turned into custom products—for those of you around in the internet’s early days, think of this as a much fancier version of CafePress.
Brand New isn’t the only band whose album artwork is being exploited by Society6 user NiceAlb, though; you can also pick up a Neutral Milk Hotel In The Aeroplane Over The Sea iPhone case, My Bloody Valentine Loveless wall clock or even a Modest Mouse Good News For People Who Love Bad News shower curtain, all likely in violation of the artist’s copyright, or at the very least intellectual property right.
“Society6 has a zero tolerance policy for infringement on another’s copyrights and other intellectual property rights,” reads a portion of the site’s FAQ section responding to the question of how to report someone infringing on someone else’s intellectual property. “It is Society6’s policy to expeditiously remove Content that is reported to contain material that infringes upon the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of third parties. If you believe that Content or other material residing on or accessible through the Society6 Service infringes your intellectual property rights, please follow our “Procedure for Reporting Infringements of Copyright under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 512 (“DMCA”) or Infringements of Other Intellectual Property Rights” by sending a notice of claimed infringement as outlined in our Terms of Service.”
The problem with Society6’s planned response to bootleg merchandise is that they put it in the hands of the creator to have to both discover their work being bootlegged and then have to go through the site’s rather draconian TOS to figure out how to report it. In fact, this is an actual excerpt from Society6’s TOS all users agree to simply by browsing their site:
“You understand that you will be exposed to Content and may purchase Products from a variety of Society6 users and that you rely on the Content and purchase Products at your own risk. Society6 does not prescreen Content or Products and is not responsible for examining or evaluating any Content or Products offered through the Society6 Services, including without limitation, their accuracy, usefulness, or safety, or for determining whether the party offering the Content or Products for sale has obtained all required rights to do so.”
Translation: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
Bootleg merchandise in rock ’n’ roll is a problem as old as rock ’n’ roll itself, and it’s a shame sites like this give bootleggers a credible storefront in which to sell their goods, but unlike Etsy (which is itself riddled with bootleg band merch), Society6 is actually printing said merch on demand, which in turn makes them complicit in the bootlegging process. Sadly, there seems to be a severe lack of accountability. But hey, if that means I can buy a Radiohead Amnesiac travel mug just because I want it, even though the band (or the artist who created the cover) never intended for the art to be represented in that fashion, then what’s the problem, right? Just make sure you buy that Brand New duvet cover before Jesse Lacey reports it.