After the t-shirts being allowed for over 2 months, zazzle.com has recently determined that the t-shirts bearing a photo of a sunflower along with the phrase “Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei?” are a violation of his “right of publicity”. The site now refuses to print the shirts and has removed the shirts from their marketplace.
It is puzzling and, no doubt, disappointing to those still wishing to order the shirts, since the design is dedicated to the protest of Ai’s detention. Being a bit of a protestor himself, it is doubtful Ai would object very strongly to the image or message of the design.
So, is the “better safe than sorry” approach to censorship acceptable? I don’t really have an answer. Zazzle.com has been a good company so far and I’ve never had a similar experience. What do you guys think?
At any rate, there is good news. Soon, I will be obtaining a copy of the banned image and it will be posted for free download so Ai’s supporters can print their own tees (or posters!).
For those who think the situation will be resolved more quickly if we all just close our eyes and do nothing, Ai said himself that if we ignore the threat it grows stronger– so while I can’t know for certain, I think even he would disagree.
If you wish to try your luck and order other designs protesting Ai’s detention, they can be found at http://zazzle.com/free_ai_weiwei Will the orders be fulfilled? No idea. Hopefully, the remaining designs will be recognized as a human rights issue, and not a publicity issue.
If they refuse to print your order, don’t worry– they issue prompt refunds for orders that can’t or won’t be printed. And, those designs will be offered elsewhere.