It is with a heavy heart that we’ve learned that the #CCON poster tribute has been removed from Redbubble and is no longer available for purchase. The hope had been to raise money for the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco through the end of March. Unfortunately, due to the actions of a few people, this well-intended fundraising effort has been cut short.
This post is intended to clear up a myriad of deceptions and untruths that are now being spewed about SheVibe.com, the poster and unfortunately, some of those featured on the poster.
Dee Dennis knew nothing about the poster and its connection to her event – herein known as the #CCON poster.
On January 6th Dee was contacted via DM on Twitter, informed about the poster and was asked for permission to feature her on it. Later that day, Dee personally sent SheVibe an email with a picture so that her likeness could be captured. It was agreed that her appearance would be somewhat masked since, unlike the other personas, she was not a public figure.
SheVibe violated the trademarked branding of Dee’s event and its corresponding hash tag.
No trademarks were violated. CatalystCon West / CatalystCon East and #Ccon are not trademarked – not anywhere, not by anyone. In fact, if you wanted to submit a trademark application right now, you absolutely could. In deference to the event, the hash tag (which is also not trademarked) was chosen to avoid any confusion between SheVibe.com and the event itself.
SheVibe violated the rights of trademark protected individuals featured in the poster by failing to acquire their permission to be included in the image.
It’s true, each person was not individually asked for their permission, but here’s the thing, SheVibe does not have to acquire permission for parody. Trademarking is designed to protect your brand from duplication and misuse as it pertains to categories your trademark covers. The last time I looked, nobody on that cover was involved in comic art or comic sale.
Regardless, SheVibe is protected through Fair Use law – essentially what they do is parody. Since all proceeds were going to charity and they were not benefiting monetarily from the sale of the artwork, the law protects the now defunct cover art. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use.
Parody is explicitly protected under the U.S. Constitution and Free Speech law. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hustler_Magazine_v._Falwell. Additionally, nothing was portrayed in the poster that would disparage or harm the character or interests of any of the individuals portrayed.
Over the years SheVibe has parodied (always positively, never negatively – because they do this out of deference) Bill Maher, Jenna Jameson, Hugh Hefner, Ron Paul, Charlie Sheen & James Deen. Porn parodies are protected by the same law, as are countless other publications and media outlets. The first time SheVibe ran into any issue whatsoever with their artwork was this tribute to CatalystCon.
SheVibe benefited monetarily from said material and used the “branding, trademarks and copyrights” of others in order to do so.
SheVibe made it very clear that all proceeds from the sale of artwork/merchandise would be donated to the Center for Sex and Culture. Dee Dennis was aware of this and purchased a poster.
SheVibe had offended the majority of the personas by featuring them in the artwork without their permission. According to Dee, each of them were shocked and upset that they had been depicted and knew nothing about this imagery until the weekend of the event when SheVibe shoved a poster in their faces and demanded it be signed.
The artwork was released on 2/28/2014 via the SheVibe.com main page and via various social networking mediums – a full 2 weeks prior to the #CCON event. With a few exceptions, each person depicted acknowledged the art and expressed their delight, gratitude and thanks.
SheVibe coerced the people featured on the poster into signing it.
SheVibe has been involved in fund raising events on behalf of the Center for Sex and Culture in the past. Each time, creating original artwork, participating in tweets and posts and basically doing their best to spread the word. The CSC had previously expressed an interest in featuring SheVibe’s work in their archives. It occurred to the folks at SheVibe that this piece of art, signed by everyone present at the event, would be an excellent contribution to the great work that the CSC does. Politely and without great fanfare, each person was asked to sign, the intent for the finished piece was explained and each person signed – including Dee Dennis. Not only was coercion not a factor, but no one had to even be asked twice! All signed the poster – TWO COPIES WERE SIGNED BY ALL THAT WERE ASKED!
SheVibe refused to communicate with Dee Dennis.
Dee Dennis contacted SheVibe via DM on Monday March 17th and when she was given the opportunity to contact SheVibe’s President via email she immediately brought the DM conversation to “trademark infringement”. Hearing what amounted to an accusation with legal ramifications, SheVibe determined that the accusations should be made in writing so they could be forwarded and handled by the company’s legal counsel. Dee was apparently incensed at the suggestion of communication via email – but then had her attorney send SheVibe a cease and desist order – via email.
Dee Dennis claims to have asked SheVibe repeatedly to remove the artwork from their site – stating a violation of her brand and the trademark of others.
SheVibe had NO idea anything was amiss until late afternoon on 3/16/2014, when they received a phone call during the drive home from the event itself. They were contacted by a third party who had just been accosted by Dee who was now on a tirade about all of SheVibe’s supposed misdeeds. This third party had nothing to do with the creation of the artwork and could only pass along the rant. SheVibe eventually heard from Dee personally on 3/17/2014 via Twitter DM. Now she wanted to talk. Given the unreasonable tirade she had already set about on, she was politely asked to evidence the trademark she claimed to have for CatalystCon and state her concerns in writing. On 3/19/2014 – a full 20 days after the #CCON image had gone viral, SheVibe received a cease and desist from an attorney who was obviously fed the same misinformation Dee had fed everyone else. Eventually, more of the people that SheVibe loves were dragged into the controversy and they couldn’t have that. Rather than try to fight an uphill battle, it was decided it was best to concede.
Summarily, a lot of really awesome folks got dragged into a ridiculous mess. What had started out as an exciting and heartfelt expression of gratitude devolved into an ugly mess and SheVibe still doesn’t know why. SheVibe has no clue why Dee Dennis went from “Thanks so much for the great cleavage” and “The best part is the proceeds go to CSC” to vicious lies and hyperbole. All surrounding an event which is supposed to “spark communication”.
Dee Dennis recently posted a considerable rant on Facebook and before I end this post I’d like to address a few claims made therein:
Dee Dennis: This poster had NO diversity in it. It did not reflect the voices of ccon but more of the bloggers that SheVibe works with. Sunny Eeklipse Lollipop-Megatron was included in this poster and she has never even attended ccon nor have I ever once had a conversation with her about ccon.
Response: SheVibe selected the individuals that appeared on the poster utilizing one criteria; their relationship with these industry people, whether that relationship was in depth or casual or through past collaborations or associations. They did not set out to create a politically correct poster and touted the piece as a tribute to “the spirit of CatalystCon” – not a factual representation of only those attending this particular conference. It is also surprising that Dee does not acknowledge the diversity that does exist in the piece. Anyone who actually knows these individuals knows they represent considerable ethnic & sexual diversity.
Dee Dennis: “Due to past experiencs I am extremely careful who I partner with for fundraisers due to the money issue. I have NO knowledge of what ‘proceeds’ mean in their wording. I have NO knowledge of how much per dollar spent on this poster would be donated to CSC and because of that I never would have agreed to doing this fundraiser with a company that I don’t know other than via social media.”
Response: SheVibe asserts that this was a 100% charitable project. They have not made a single cent from the sale of the #CCON poster. In fact, over 60 man hours went into the posters creation and SheVibe had to purchase the posters they brought to CatalystCon. They use an outside vendor to produce these types of products and don’t receive much of a break. SheVibe has provided the report from their poster vendor detailing the sales and the payout they will receive. The donation for this payout has already been made via Razoo to the CSC. Unfortunately, the fund raiser was cut short and there will not be much in the way of a contribution.
Dee Dennis: “The more the poster was marketed as a joint fundraiser between CSC, SheVibe and ccon the more I didn’t like it but I remained silent because I didn’t want to deal with the shitstorm it would create if I asked to have ccon removed from it.”
Response: SheVibe has raised money for charitable organizations before and never once felt they needed to ask the charity if it was okay to raise money for them. SheVibe never stated that this was a collaboration with the CSC. Only that they were donating the profits to the CSC and donating the signed posters to the CSC.
Dee Dennis: “On Saturday during the ccon conference I was in the Hilton Honors lounge with my staff having lunch. This is a lounge that is private unless you have a special key to enter and a place I used to have privacy with my staff… SheVibe… had not one but two posters of this “Spirt of CatalystCon” photo. I was interrupted and asked to sign this poster. “
Response: The SheVibe folks used their room key to enter the lounge. No special key was needed. SheVibe approached Dee and said “Hi, we’re with SheVibe. Would you mind signing our poster?” Dee got up and came over to the table where SheVibe had unfurled the posters. She signed. SheVibe thanked her. It was completely drama free.
Dee Dennis: “Due to the large SheVibe logo on the poster it violated our conduct policy.”
Response: Here is CatalystCon’s conduct policy as it pertains to SheVibe:
At no time did SheVibe distribute anything. They did use an empty sponsor table for a few minutes to have the poster signed. The full conduct policy can be found here: http://catalystcon.com/about/conduct/
Dee Dennis: “I discovered on Sunday that SheVibe was selling merchandise with the #ccon hashtag on it in the ccon colors. This was not part of the CSC fundraiser which meant they fully profited on my brand.”
Response: Dee Dennis posted on social networking that she had purchased the #CCON poster. This was on February 28th. This poster prominently displays the #CCON hash tag she references having just “discovered”. All profit from all sales of all merchandise containing the hash tag #CCON were paid to the CSC. SheVibe never profited from the CatalystCon brand.
Dee Dennis: “On Sunday after the closing keynote I met with Metis Black who was involved with this project including sending out the press release that appeared on both AVN and XBIZ …”
Response: Metis Black was not involved in any way with the SheVibe #CCON project. This is a bold faced lie. The only press releases issued to AVN and XBIZ were issued by SheVibe. Metis Black had no involvement. This, also, is a bold faced lie.
Dee Dennis: “My lawyer sent a cease and desist letter to SheVibe yesterday. Their response was to tweet the poster fundraiser and Metis Black knowing full well the consent and trademark issues with the poster chose to RT this.”
Response: The tweets in question had already been submitted to the company’s media office. The cease and desist email was received afterward. The sale of all merchandise was discontinued within hours of the receipt of this email. The tweets were in no way a response to Dee’s attorney.
Dee Dennis: “I stood up and spoke out to not only protect my brand but also because this was a MAJOR violation of consent.”
Response: The image was published to the internet on February 28th. Almost every individual represented posted accolades via social networking (see the images above). Tweeting that you find the image of yourself “Amazing” via social networking for all the world to see generally signifies consent – at least with your representation. The fact that the poster was for sale and that all proceeds from said sale would be donated to the CSC – was also highly publicized, yet SheVibe hadn’t heard from a single person, including the events promoter, that there existed any issue until after the conference.
SheVibe wants to thank everyone who supported the poster and allowed them to make a donation to the Center for Sex and Culture. The CSC is an amazing, worthy cause. SheVibe continues to admire the people featured on the poster and they hope this debacle did not negatively affect anyone else. SheVibe offers heartfelt apologies to anyone who was offended or felt wronged. Anyone removed from the original web posted artwork was respectfully taken out because they were getting dragged into a mess that no one anticipated – not as a jab at CatalystCon or to denote negative connotation to those removed.
SheVibe never intended to have this juggernaut of negativity occur and in a million years, if you had told them this would go down like it did, they wouldn’t have believed you.
As this post is being published, Dee Dennis is asking for “support”. She’s asking bloggers to discontinue affiliate programs with SheVibe.com and asking others to discontinue “support”. SheVibe hopes the dissemination of the information above will, in the very least, prompt all to consider SheVibe’s charitable intent and the blatant untruths and misrepresentations Dee Dennis has published.
As an aside, SheVibe has never disparaged CatalystCon or intentionally tried to inflict financial harm to the conference or the promoter. Outside of the information presented in this post, SheVibe never took part in the public attacks perpetrated by Dee Dennis on SheVibe.com. SheVibe did not defend itself as it did not feel guilty of any wrong doing. While this post was being updated this evening, it was brought to my attention that SheVibe.com is still promoting CatalystCon and the individuals featured on the #CCON poster. This page was published on February 27th. There are no plans to take it down.
As to the disposition of the signed posters – there is no great mystery here; to date they have been offered to the Center For Sex & Culture for display in their San Francisco facility. SheVibe is awaiting their reply.
Wishing this community continued success.