Have RedBubble Gone Too Far?
The art community online is in a real uproar over the past few weeks over RedBubble. Could it be true? Are they really condoning child porn? Pro Nazi paraphernalia?
RedBubble was founded in April 2006 by co-founders Martin Hosking, Peter Styles (the company’s managing director) and Paul Vanzella. Initially funded by the founders, the start-up then raised a little over $4 million from angel investors in Australia and overseas.
Just recently I started to hear disturbing rumours about them and child pornography. It seemed to boil around an image of a naked child holding its genitals that, instead of removing, RB just told the photographer to ‘put the safe filter on it’. Could this be true? Well, it seems it was true but I understand the image has, after much controversy, been removed. (EDIT Yes, it has been removed and so have any other images in this mould I understand. Well done RB for listening).
However, there is more it seems.
RedBubble started out with high hopes and have been a success on the backs of their regular and loyal artists. These artists are the same ones who are leaving now to find pastures anew in droves due to supposedly pro Nazi affiliations RedBubble have, being sole provider of Hipster Hitler T’s. These t shirts scoff at the Holocaust victims and make fun of the atrocities that took place. They are for adults AND children and babies. They are also highly acclaimed by the pro Nazi groups.
I think my main issue was with my own conscience as to whether or not I wanted my integrity and name associated with a company that promotes anguish, hate, racism, child pornography, etc….I understand the legal issues involved as far the the ‘freedom of speech’ laws, and perhaps they couldn’t legally do anything about it – I don’t really know, but for me it was a personal choice (one which we all have). I weighed the pros and cons and did a lot of soul searching and tried to NOT be influenced by anyone…..I decided to leave and removed all my work and closed my account – a big burden was lifted.
An Ex Bubbler
Jokes on the makers of the Tshirts, site, hipsterhitler.com, are (or were, I understand they have been removed now) very bad. If easily offended please do not read the next sentence.
What’s the difference between a boyscout and a Jew? Boyscouts come home from their camp
You can read a lot more about this on FirmSpy, a self proclaimed ‘firm gossip’ site. Be prepared to wade through many, many posts.
I have also found out disturbingly that ecommerce law has apparently been broken by RB, by selling work of members that have left already by a length of at least 2 weeks after. However , management there may have a job finding legal help to protect them at the moment, as the lawyers they DID have, an old established, respected firm, started by self-made migrants who fled to Australia during or soon after World War 2, Arnold Bloch Leibler, have just dropped RB like hot coals once they found out about the Nazi angle. However I was interested to find out that they still represent Hosking’s other company, Aconex.
Martin Hosking (the owner) is also chairman of Aconex (a large online documents management company). He also in hot water over their for screwing with the public share structure. He got taken to court and lost and had to pay over 3 million to one of the shareholders. That same shareholder then tried to have him ousted as chairman. But the Aconex lawyers backed up Martin and wrote to all the other shareholders and told them to back Martin.
Another Ex Bubbler
Another reason the ex members say they are leaving is the thousands of posts and threads, journals etc, on RB that are being deleted every day if someone disagrees with the Ts. I have personally seen this happening and can vouch for the truth of it. However, I have also seen some really awful name calling on the part of the Pro T’s party, nicknamed by most RB members as the ‘Melbourne Mafia’ which are still in place. However RB say that they do not allow hate posts directed against other people and this is the only reason the posts are removed. In that case it would follow that the children Hitler and porn Ts and a lot of RB’s other Tshirts would be removed as it also says this in the rules…
Nude or ‘sexualised’ children: We exercise a conservative approach to images of children, and request that children are appropriately clothed. As a general rule, ‘appropriately clothed’ means no genitalia, no uncovered bottoms and, for pubescent girls, no bare chests. We define a child as anyone under the age of 18. In images of babies or infants, some nudity is acceptable (for example, in the style of Anne Geddes portrait photography) but we request that genitalia is covered.
Under Inciting Violence, Hatred or Racism
Any work or behaviour where the intent of the artist is to incite hatred, violence or racism is not permitted.
Under Defamation, Libel or Vilification
(anything that) Gives an individual or clearly identifiable group of individuals a negative image.
Any work or behaviour that can reasonably be considered defamatory, libellous or vilifying is not permissible on RedBubble.
There are more and, to some, the Tshirts appear to be in the guidelines as they are written here, JUST, but as a business surely it is better to err on the side of caution and, if something is sitting ‘on the edge’ remove it before it topples over onto the wrong side. After all, if something is wrong, it is just wrong. If something is upsetting a huge amount of your members and visitors, remove it.
When does art stop becoming art and socially acceptable?
The Hipster Hitler t-shirts come dangerously close to contravening laws in Europe that prohibit the trivialisation of the holocaust, and yet redbubble are nevertheless selling the merchandise in these countries. In my view, the behaviour of this company, in respect to Hipster Hitler products, is reckless and unethical – truly a case of profits at the expense of principles.
Thank you to everyone that spoke to me about this issue.
ADDENDUM – I was suspended from RedBubble within a few hours of this being published.
© 2011, Isabella Francesca Abigail Shores. All rights reserved.