Ninja Vanish!

Well, it seems President Business is at it again. Last week, 36 of my Brick Sailboat LEGO ninja pictures were removed from Redbubble by Redbubble at the request of LEGO A/S. They claimed ownership of these 36 pictures (but not my many other pics for sale on the site) and poof, they’ve been taken down.
Ninja vanish!

Redbubble, if you’re unfamiliar, is one of many print-on-demand sites. They become the printing and shipping middleman for their users – I upload art or photos, choose what products I want to sell, decide how much I want to sell them for, and Redbubble takes care of the rest.

Photo Dec 23, 5 13 29 AM

This actually isn’t the first time LEGO has blocked Redbubble sales of my work. Last year, a pirate pool picture was removed. I was surprised. It wasn’t a Star Wars or Marvel fig – I don’t use licensed figures – it was a bunch of pirates floating on their backs in a swimming pool. Why the ninjas this time? Why can’t I sell a picture of a toy? Can I sell a picture of anything?

Before I started Brick Sailboat I tried to answer these questions. I researched LEGO’s fair play policy. Don’t use the LEGO logo, got it. Don’t use the word LEGO in my website name. No books – or at least, you need permission for books. Add this disclaimer to your pages – “And remember: LEGO®is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site”. What about photography? It still seemed a little grey so I looked around online. As you can imagine, I found countless photographers selling work in real life galleries, on their own websites, and on a number of print-on-demand sites. This didn’t necessarily make it right I thought, so I looked for artists that were not only selling online, but were so popular they had to be known by LEGO, but not working for them. I found some. That’s all I needed. I decided to start my little Brick Sailboat project and eventually I opened a Redbubble page. Let’s give it a try I thought – maybe I’ll make a few bucks to pay for all of this LEGO I buy!

Photo May 01, 1 02 07 PM

Well, it’s been four years since I started Brick Sailboat and you’d think the situation would have become a little clearer. Questions remain. Did they remove the pirate pool picture last year because of a real pirate pool going in at their LEGOLAND hotel? Did they remove some of the ninja pictures this year because of the new Ninjago movie coming out in September (free plug for the movie – see how this works LEGO:)? Were both of those removed because LEGO doesn’t actually operate/own their theme parks and movies? Did a robot search and destroy my Redbubble photos, and that’s why only some of the ninja photos were removed?

Photo Oct 10, 6 48 54 PM

I say if LEGO toy photography is really a problem for LEGO then they should answer a few specific questions in their fair play policy (feel free to comment on this post LEGO!). Can photographers sell pictures of LEGO? Just bricks? Bricks and minifigs? Licensed minifigs? Are we OK if we don’t use the word LEGO on our page? What about #LEGO?

Or, if it isn’t a problem, let’s talk about what it really is – tons of free advertising from photographers who not only sell a huge amount of product for LEGO, but also purchase a crapload of bricks and minifigs for themselves. LEGO should get specific or leave toy photographers alone…before we make like ninjas…and…vanish! 

~Paul (a.k.a. Mr. S…a.k.a. bricksailboat)

Photo Dec 26, 3 30 37 AM

4 Replies to “Ninja Vanish!”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with this post! As someone who takes a lot of Lego photos featuring Star Wars and superhero figs, I too have had trouble with Redbubble, which always makes me think, “Wait, isn’t this photography thing totally okay to do?”

    There are far too many grey areas when it comes to what is and isn’t “allowed” with the monetization of toy photography. As you point out, people like Mike are able to sell Stormtrooper prints without Disney henchmen busting down his door, which makes me think that it’s not totally against the rules.

    And while I’ve had some of my superhero pics taken off Redbubble, I haven’t had them ALL taken down, and they’re totally safe on my other store at Society6.

    I 100% agree with your point about all of this just being free advertisement for The Lego Group. I have definitely spent far more on the Legos needed to TAKE photos than I’ve made with the handful of prints I’ve sold featuring those same Lego sets and minifigures.

    I think that, when it comes down to it, there is not some over-arching rule about what is and isn’t permitted. Redbubble may just have more strict guidelines, or some algorithm that seeks out specific hashtags or imagery that make some photos stand out for deletion, while others are able to fly under the radar. Elsewhere, those rules may not apply.

    It can be very frustrating though, and I’m glad that I’m not the only one who’s had issues. Why is something like a store on BrickLink, which sells *actual* Lego parts allowed, when selling prints sometimes isn’t? I fear we may never really know.

    1. James – I’m totally with you. They may claim otherwise, but sellers like BrickLink are in direct competition for kids’ (and AFOL’s) toy $$$. Toy photographers are not. LEGO doesn’t sell super-cool-amazing-transformative pictures of minifigs, and I just can’t see what they’re fighting when they forcibly remove our pictures (which are pretty super-cool-amazing and transformative if you ask me!).

      ~Paul (bricksailboat)

  2. Hi ..
    I’ve just opened a Redbubble page and with only 2 pictures, only visible to me, (not public), the one Lego Star Wars pic was taken off! So I’m very interested in any news on this…. as I really don’t know what to do next….?!?!

    1. Jon, I’m afraid the grey areas are still as grey as ever:( My most recent Redbubble takedown was from Warner Bros on a LOTR shot I had tagged (not titled!) #Hobbit.

      I’ve generally stayed away from licensed minifigs and luckily LEGO tends to leave my horses and pirates alone…for now!


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