If you create designs for Print on Demand, you know there is one email that will get your heart racing, that your artwork is under review for copyright or Intellectual Property violations on Redbubble or other Print on Demand service. Since November, Redbubble has been cracking down on accounts and seem to be more stringent with their review of products being uploaded to the store. I have had quite a few questions about this, so what causes Redbubble to put your artwork into the “under review” category, and should you panic about it? There are a few reasons this can happen, let’s talk about them…
Why is this happening?
When you get the dreaded “Your artwork is under review” email from Redbubble, it can be confusing and a bit frustrating because the email is vague and does not spell out what you might have done wrong – this is an auto-generated email and is intended to cover the lesser offenses as well as the big ones. When you upload a design to Redbubble, the server reviews the submission tags and details, searching for overt copyright infringement. A common example is this: you upload a design with a spaceship and tag it with Star Wars or use Star Wars in your description. Star Wars is a copyrighted phrase, and you are not allowed to use it to sell your spaceship designs, even if the design doesn’t contain the actual likenesses of a Star Wars spaceship. This is the same as uploading a sports design and tagging it with NFL, NBA, or other franchise.
If you are careful about checking the trademark and copyright status of your designs before you upload them, and don’t use obvious copyrighted words or phrases in your tags, then you will likely be just fine, and your designs will be reinstated to the store in a few days. Often the system kicks the design to a human to make sure that the content is not violating any intellectual property before can be sold. If this is where you are, then I would recommend that you wait a week and if they haven’t sent you a response, then contact Redbubble support at: Redbubble Marketplace Integrity Team firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them nicely about the status of your design.
Target Tags change
Sometimes the review process is triggered by using tags that you would not think would cause an issue. I recently helped one of my readers through this process, and the first thing we did was start with the design and the tags he used. The design was generic enough and was something he drew in Adobe Illustrator; I did a search for trademarks on the topic of the design and all turned up fine. The problem came from the tags. When he uploaded the design, he used the word Redneck in his tags. This word triggered the process because of the NFL team Washington Redskins changing their name, and the media coverage surrounding it. Redneck seems to be the alternate name choice or suggestion from the public for the team. In the case of his design, the word redneck was appropriate, and he wasn’t even eluding to the controversy with the Washington Redskins in his design or description. He did as I suggested and waited a week then sent a genuinely nice email asking if Redbubble had any updates on the design review process. In this case, the design was reinstated, and no harm was done. Redbubble is very reasonable when it comes to reviewing copyright infringement. They see a lot of stolen work and a lot of people using copyrighted material in their designs so be nice to them and be patient because they are reviewing a lot of work daily.
How many times can you get the “your work is under review” email from Redbubble before your account gets banned? First, I would say that if you are reading this and you are concerned about the prospect of your account being banned because you are using copyrighted material in your designs, then you have a larger problem. If you are using material you do not own in your designs, then you are stealing. Other artists and companies spend a lot of time and money to promote their brand and build their name and reputation, and it is not right for you to profit from that by using their content in your designs. I have heard between two and three strikes against your account before you are banned by Redbubble. I would imagine it depends on the kind of copyright infringement you are doing. If you are using a baby Yoda riding a Nike swoosh holding a Starbucks with a pot leaf behind him, then I would consider that a massive legel of infringement. If you accidentally add a copyrighted tag into your list, or accidentally put a copyrighted phrase in your description, I am betting Redbubble will be much more lenient in their ruling on your account.
Check your Copyrights
When researching content for new designs, you should always be taking the time to look up the trademarks and copyrights of your proposed design before you even start putting pen to paper. Even using material that some consider “grey area” like videogames in your designs is not allowed. There was a team that made the game, and an artist that created the characters, and programmers who made the code. You were not a part of the team and you do not have the right to make designs featuring their work for your profit. This applies to large and small companies and means you cannot use Mario from Nintendo and you cannot use the characters from the game Among Us in your designs.
So, if you can’t use any of these properties when making your design, what are you supposed to do? Create your own stuff. But what if your design isn’t as exciting or interesting without the words Just Do it? Create your own catchphrase, don’t expect Nike, who spent millions marketing Just Do It to let you use it for free. What if your design isn’t as cool without the Among Us characters? Create your own. It is all plain and simple. If you didn’t create the art/character/drink etc. DON’T USE IT!
Now get out there and get designing!