Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Going Postal: Image Rejection for Customized Stamps

Dear Rich: I have a cartoon of a character I created -- Dr. Julia Chicken -- facing off with Sigmund Freud. I wanted to make  U.S. postage stamps using that image but my artwork was rejected by on the grounds of some celebrity malarkey. I had a feeling that Freud would give me trouble, but I'm not sure why. First of all, it's a parody, but even greater reason for confusion is the fact that the Freud photo is public domain. The short answer is that Zazzle is not legally obligated to manufacture your stamp. In order to use Zazzle, you must agree to their User Agreement and as you know, that means you can't use pictures of celebrities. Strange as it seems, the man who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology and popularized the couch ("And how do you feel about that?") is still considered a celebrity 70 years after his death. He even has Beverly Hills representation. In addition to the 'celebrity malarkey,' the Zazzle User Agreement also won't let you "create a 'new' image using elements from images other people have created." So you've got two strikes against you. (Other companies sell custom postage stamps and their policies appear similar.) As for your parody and public domain defense, they're not relevant since the User Agreement trumps copyright (and nobody is accusing you of copyright infringment, anyway.) The Dear Rich staff believes you're best off dumping Sigmund from the imagery and just proceeding with Dr. Julia on stamps, instead.