Tommy Hilfiger vs. Timmy Smellfinger

This entry was posted on
Friday, March 22nd, 2002
at
12:48 pm and is filed
under Consume!.

It’s no secret that I run more than one site. I happen to be quite involved in Search Engine Optimisation amongst other things, and one thing I do as part of this is run experimental sites to test methods and techniques.

One such site is smellfinger.com

In commercial terms it doesn’t serve much of a purpose beyond its largely academic use as a research tool. Mind you, I nearly always cater such sites to my interests to make the work more appealing.

In this case, the interest is focused on my objection to the commercial and marketing methods of Tommy Hilfiger.

Elitist. Racist. Both words could be used to describe the marketing approach of this label and many others, but in this particular case a decision was made to parody Tommy Hilfiger’s ridiculous advertising and the hedonistic standards that they promote.

I felt that this statement simply wouldn’t have been strong enough unless you were actually able to buy the clothes. Sadly, you can no longer do so through the Smellfinger site as the third party store (CafePress) has suspended my account after receiving notification from representatives of Tommy Hilfiger that the store ‘allegedly contains material which infringes upon her/his copyright rights’.

Oh, really?

First, let’s start with a direct comparison of the two logos:

The first thing you’ll probably notice is that the colours are different. The second is that the words are different. Those with poor vision who can’t read English might not be able to tell the difference, but this combined condition normally only exists within the populace of impoverished third world nations, and we all know that clothing labels like Tommy Hilfiger have no involvement or interest in such places.

Perhaps the people at Tommy Hilfiger think that they hold the copyright of the colours red, white and blue. This being the case, I would like to present some other examples of copyright infringement that they may wish to pursue:

OK, forgetting the colours for a moment, let’s get back to those words and what they represent, shall we?

‘Timmy Smellfinger'; what does this mean? It means that my name is Tim and I think that a certain company stinks. To be more precise, I think that it has blood on its hands. That’s just my opinion, mind you – but one that I have a right to voice, particularly in terms of parody when it comes to fair use. My right to express this in such a way is protected by the Copyright Act of 1976, which clearly states that:

“[I]n order to constitute the type of parody eligible for fair use protection, parody must do more than merely achieve comic effect. It must also make some critical comment or statement about the original work which reflects the original perspective of the parodist–thereby giving the parody social value beyond its entertainment function.”

Let’s look at that logo again:

There’s my name, there’s my statement, and yes, there’s the clear representation of blood on the hands.

As Tommy Hilfiger’s representatives have not contacted me about the removal of the site itself, I might assume one of two things:
– They’re using an easy-to-bully commercial enterprise to enforce a small measure of censorship.
– They are fully aware of my rights under ‘fair use’, so can do nothing about the site, but are of the opinion that, when seen out of context (i.e. on a t-shirt, away from the site) that the Smellfinger logo no longer qualifies as a statement or parody in a legal sense.

If the latter is the case, then I can only say “rubbish”.

It should be perfectly clear that a shirt adorned with the Smellfinger logo is not a Tommy Hilfiger logo, but rather an anti-Hilfiger statement. If anybody is in any doubt about it or requires more information, a URL appears on each item of clothing.

I’m in two minds as to what I should do about this. Sending a counter notice to have my CafePress store reactivated involves all sorts of headaches that I could do without.

Some would argue that I should be happy that I’ve got their attention, and that if the CafePress suspension was their best shot, then I should be happy with it as a result.

UPDATE – Within a month or two, this article was getting better search results and far more traffic than the actual site it was about (probably because Hilfiger’s actions and my published response provided far more useful information than the considerably gentle parody at smellfinger.com) so when the time came around the renew the domain, I simply let the site pass away into the ether.








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