Copyright Rejection. I’m Really Going to Miss This One.

Copyright Rejection. I’m Really Going to Miss This One.

I really screwed up I guess. I’ve had 3 Merch By Amazon copyright rejections, all after shirts have been live and selling. This one was probably the most painful and was rather unexpected. This was my favorite shirt I’ve uploaded. In hindsight, I’m an idiot and should have seen it but my focus was on a different element.

Early Days and Getting the Hang of Amazon Merch

The design in question is below. Yes, I know, Godzilla is IP under copyright.

Yes, I know. Godzilla is copyrighted.

The thing was, I was inspired. It happens sometimes. I’m going to date myself here, but I had resurrected a CorelDraw file, to get the car image. Yeah, that’s right — COREL DRAW. Back in the early 2000s I had a copy of Corel Draw and Corel PhotoPaint, and at the time it was the best thing on earth and had a glorious bitmap to vector conversion. Back then I had taken a picture of a killer Nissan Skyline and had vectorized it and embellished a bit. So I resurrected this file, got it into Illustrator and modified the skyline enough to be very different from anything in production, but enough for the niche to recognize. I was so focused on the IP of the car, that I was blind to Godzilla, and we’ll get back to the rejection email later.

This was during tier 10 and I had no idea if Amazon was reviewing actual images in detail for copyright (they are) or just product names and keywords,  and I wasn’t so meticulous about copyright as I am now.

The Niche

JDM or Japanese Domestic Market which represents those who love japanese cars, tuning them, modifying them, racing etc. The niche itself is great. Stuff sells and there’s very little in the way of copycats. Since I started in that niche back in August 2017, the number of results for ‘JDM Tshirts’ has exploded, but if you can get highly ranked, there’s lots of opportunity. I’ve got 6 or so shirts up, and each one has sold.

The Sales Stats

Looking at the MerchPilot product table, we can see how this shirt is ranked #2 all time. Representing 11% of my total sales and bringing in $226.MerchPilot Merch By Amazon Analytics - Product Table

This was a shirt that I started at a below average price, then gradually moved up as it sold. In the MerchPilot product page for this tee, I’ve filtered my date range just from when it was first sold to when it was taken down. You’ll see a lot of price changes in my pricing chart below, many of which had to do with me trying to un-throttle this shirt in Q4 2017 by changing the price, pretty much daily. It was a great steady earner, in a consistent evergreen niche. I’ll miss it dearly.

Merch by Amazon product analytics by MerchPilot

Always Follow Up on Copyright Rejections

I don’t really understand why Amazon won’t tell you right away what the copyright element is, and you need to pry it out of them. Once they told me flat out and took my shirt down, but that’s a story for another day. But this instance, they just referenced their terms, mentioned the section on copyright and that was it. Just a point of clarification, the rejection came in the form of uploading this design onto a hoodie. After the rejection, of the hoodie I promptly took down the shirt in this blog, my most favorite shirt.

Merch By Amazon Copyright rejection

We’ve already established that I’m an idiot to not see the godzilla thing, so this idiot emails them. Again, I knew the car was a risk, but I felt like it was modified enough that I was in the clear. I’m glad I did, and they answered me within 48hrs with an actual answer.Merch By Amazon Copyright Rejection Follow up Email

The Scramble

So now, I have to take down other designs. I had the standard tshirt in this blog which I took down right away, plus a long sleeve that was stuck in processing after a price change so I couldn’t take it down, and as of right now it’s still up. I’ve emailed Merch and just received robot answers.

Now I’ve since replaced the Godzilla element with a giant robot, and gotten 1 sale, so hopefully I can climb my way back up to the top of search. I take comfort in knowing that many copycats out there have stolen this design and have it up for sale, so it will live on 🙂

Also published on Medium.

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  1. Maybe instead of Godzilla you could use a t-rex or other mutant lizard? The robot thing is a good idea, too.

    • Yeah, I’ve gotten really cerebral about this whole thing, like ‘what is Godzilla’ anyway? I don’t mention Godzilla anywhere in the listing, it’s just that giant lizard silhouette. What’s the difference between a dinosaur and godzilla? I think the answer is the context of the rising sun and overall Japanese-ness of the image. If it had been the same image in a dusty desert sunset scene without kanji script, I would assume it would be fine.

      My current strategy is nothing is ever fine. I used to like to test boundaries, but with the vagueness of the merch rules, I don’t know how many mistakes I can make before they pull the plug, so best to not ever test it.

  2. I had a design rejected for spurious* copyright reasons on a Hoodie but the same design was accepted on the other four available products.

    I emailed Amazon to ask why. They replied after a couple of days to say they’d only correspond with me if I emailed them from the email address associated with my merch account. So I re-emailed them from that address and… they ignored me completely.

    * The design in question featured a “Sherlock Holmes pipe”. I presume some half-witted teenage intern at Amazon thinks “Sherlock Holmes” was invented by and is copyright to the BBC or something.

    • Yeah I was actually surprised to get a concise and meaningful email from them. I thought maybe things were turning around communication-wise. Imagine the mindnumbing aspects of manual tshirt reviews. It makes me want to drink.

  3. I’m curious… does amazon scan for image copyright or just text in the bullet points?

    • They can scan text based shirts for copyright terms. Sometimes there’s bullet text that might trigger a manual review and the text turns out to be fine but during the manual review some schmuck is using Godzilla imagery in the design. Of course this same shirt would probably have different results with different reviewers, but regardless, lessons learned. I’m working on another post for sometimes soon about a copyright take down for a shirt where I thought ‘not in a million years would anyone figure this out.’


  1. Merch By Amazon Compliance Violation Copyright Take Down | MerchPilot - […] I’m just an idiot as we’ve already established, but at the same time I’ve always liked to test the…

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