This Latest Redbubble T-shirt Controversy Is Unfortunate All-Around
Whenever a tragedy involving children and/or young adults occurs, grieving parties might enlist many methods to try to make sense out of the matter. For cartoonist Bruce MacKinnon, that meant calling on one of his creations to mourn the 16 individuals who lost their lives when the Humboldt Broncos hockey team’s bus collided with a semi-trailer truck April 6. The Halifax Chronicle Herald employee reverently conveyed the sadness surrounding the Saskatchewan-based club’s misfortune. But his tribute, which features skaters meant to represent other Canadian provinces helping a player donning a Saskatchewan jersey, ended up misappropriated, with a seller on Australia's online print-on-demand site Redbubble lifting the handiwork to peddle a T-shirt.
Though combatants, athletes share distinction as a family, with sportsmanship an inherent component of their duels. In that regard, MacKinnon’s cartoon registers as a masterstroke of comprehending camaraderie. The crash has prompted numerous solemn reactions and remembrances, making Redbubble’s carrying of an item in violation of copyright law a serious slight on the overseers’ morals.
Many thanks to Carolyn HIllbom who alerted us to Redbubble's illegal appropriation of the #HumboldtBroncos cartoon.
Shame on @redbubble and those trying to profit from this tragedy. -PMod https://t.co/3HLuccFFCh
— Bruce MacKinnon (@CH_Cartoon) April 17, 2018
MacKinnon, according to CTV Saskatoon News, had been looking to offer “some sort of silver lining in all of this” and has received very positive feedback. A Saskatchewan resident notified him last weekend of the pilfering, with Redbubble, no stranger to controversy, marketing the top for $42.63. While anyone could conceive of and seek to implement a way to mourn the fallen players and staff, that does not diminish the power of the law, and Redbubble, which lets users upload their own designs, made a serious gaffe in reproducing the cartoon as a garment’s centerpiece.
In explaining MacKinnon’s discovery of the thievery, his publication noted that Redbubble appears not to have a system in place that stops the masses from having opportunities to purchase illegally reproduced work, with the offender noting it removes questionable materials from its site whenever it receives a valid copyright complaint. Certainly having one, the Chronicle Herald had brought up the possibility of bringing legal action against Redbubble, but the latter avoided any further complications by ceasing sales.
“In line with Redbubble policy, we will be donating all company profits from work related to the tragic Humboldt Broncos accident to charity,” the company tweeted.
While that gesture sounds kind, one can easily put it in the you-would-not-have-done-this-if-you-hadn’t-been-caught category. What resonates as more compelling is that more than 142,000 people helped raise almost $15.2 million through a GoFundMe page for the team and family members. That generosity and many other tear-inducing components of the whole ordeal have made this sad tale a true study in fighting against the odds. From a commercial standpoint, it also reminds us that not everybody will want to play by the rules to stay ahead of the competition. In hockey parlance, Redbubble, which does sell Humboldt products free of controversy, committed a major penalty. Here’s hoping this tragic occasion somehow makes it modify its business practices.