By Eriq Gardner
When most people think of the intellectual property fights with user-generated content websites, they think of cases like Viacom v. YouTube
. Assuming that slow-moving case ever gets to trial, a court will determine what kinds of legal obligations the video sharing website has in policing its network for copyright infringement.
Here's an interesting new case to watch:
Summit Entertainment filed a lawsuit last week in California district court against print-on-demand merchandising outlet Zazzle.com
. The site allows users to upload images and place them on t-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads and other items.
According to the complaint, Zazzle's users are stealing "tens of thousands" of trademarked images from its highly successful "Twilight" series, putting them on merchandise, and thus interfering with Summit's exclusive licensing arrangements.
In November, 2008, Summit sent Zazzle a cease-and-desist letter. The studio alleges that Zazzle continues to market and sell these items and that the defendant's conduct constitutes "willful" infringement. Summit seeks an injunction, an accounting, actual damages and punitive damages.
We'll have to wait to see whether Zazzle tries to shift legal responsibility to its users. The website makes its users sign an agreement
agreeing not to invade intellectual property rights, threatening to cancel the accounts of those in violation. Interestingly, Zazzle claims that users assign them the rights of images uploaded to the website.
No word, though, on whether the company takes active steps to monitor for infringement, but the website does provide an e-mail address for IP owners to send complaints of misuse.