Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Intellectual property: The artist's fear of the penalty (and faith restored)

Years ago, when I'd started doing 'people prints', my friend and football fanatic, Leon, suggested I make an image to celebrate the last day of Arsenal at their Highbury stadium. It was 2006 and on 7th May I dutifully took photographs of the Gooner faithful at their swansong. They beat Wigan 4-2 and Henry scored a hat-trick. A day to remember. I painstakingly drew the old East Stand from the original plans I found.

It took me an age, maybe more than one. But, I thought the Arsenal marketing board would weep tears of relief that finally, just for once in their noble and iconic history as North London's finest, they would get to sell a really tasteful image. Well, how wrong can you be?

Everybody I showed it to loved it. Apart from a woman who thought it a bit depressing. Was it the colour? The composition? No, she was a Spurs fan. As soon as I'd emailed the marketing chief at Arsenal, I sat staring at my screen, expecting an immediate reply of amazed gratitude; a hurried, badly spelled note of rapturous heartfelt thanks. "At last..." I imagined the email beginning, "for the first time in the history of our club, whose image we have been so keen foster as one of the great tasteful and creative influences in this noble game..." or, even a touch more pedestrian, "No one has ever taken the trouble to present the old East Stand in all its Art Deco splendour..."  "Can't begin to adequately..." "Do you have a figure in mind..."

But, no. Unbelievably. Just nothing.

I went home that night feeling at a bit of a loss. The loss you feel after you take a chance and you fail. Well, not exactly a loss, but an empty sort of grey feeling of failing. In the real world, I thought, nobody cares, they don't care about the fans – I'd cut out hundreds of 'em – or about taste, or good, gentler times...  I thought of a player that day leaving, being mobbed by his fans. His car, a humourless black Range Rover. A mobile nail bar; with its horrible black glass and low profile tyres. And possibly a number plate consisting of a couple or three platinum card-only letters. I should have known,

Anyway, a day later I did get a perfectly spelled email from their head of marketing, Adrian Ford, who liked the image but it didn't fit into what they were doing at the moment. Well, no. He was right, it didn't. Which was why I did it and why I was wrong. Importantly, he said I was free to use it without let or hindrance. Oh well, small mercies.

I thought I could make it available as a limited edition print.

Anyway, over the years a few people have bought The Last Day where they've added their families to the crowd,  a couple of big prints now adorn Emirates boxes.

A famously funny Gooner paid two and a half thousand pounds when I donated a print for their 2010 end of season ball.

Then I discovered an online shop called Zazzle. They print on demand all sorts of things: ipad covers, t-shirts, aprons, key-rings and the like. I submit a design and Zazzle put them on a product that I choose.

Now Zazzle in their wisdom have decided to withdraw all my images; my t-shirts and Blackberry cases are no more.  Everything I spent a frustrating, clumsy week of uploading has been plucked nervously from their site. Their reason? The stadium itself, they think might infringe Arsenal intellectual property:
"Specifically, your product contained an image depicting Arsenal Stadium and infringed upon the intellectual property rights of Arsenal Football Club."

So, now I have to get someone at Arsenal to send Zazzle an email. That should be, er, easy.

Well, I'm delighted to say that there's a man at Arsenal called called Mark Gonnella who is head of Communications, and according to great guy called Andrew Allen (@AAllenSport), an Arsenal fan (Gooner) and a journalist who produces very funny Tweets, he seemed "very approachable". So I followed Mark on Twitter who answered my plaintive request for his email address, and this morning, he had his team write to the Zazzlers to put things right. Mark, I owe you; and you too, Andrew. Thank you both very much.

Mind you, Zazzle aren't quite so quick in restoring the items back to my Goonerama shelves as they were in taking them away, no surprise there; maybe protocols have still to acknowledged. Will I get another chilly message in the morning?

Anyway, I'm going to carry on with Twitter; how on earth could I have done without these two guys?


  1. This is unbelievaable. I think nearly three weeks have passed since Zazzle took all my products down – iPad case, Blackberry case, Android case etc etc All these things take me ages to do. Anyway I got the clearance from Arsenal and since then I get no answer from Zazzle to two questions: Who made you take my stuff down when I already made it clear it was my product to sell? And have I to re-submit or have you destroyed my stuff?

    I just get referred to their bleeding terms and conditions.

    Fucking skateboarding muppets.

  2. See if you can rattle the tree using Twitter and LinkedIn; someone out there must be connected to a real person at Zazzle.

    Just a thought.

    XX P