Controversial Designs and our Values

Teemill is a platform, not one big shop. Anyone can potentially upload a design to Teemill, build their own store, sell their designs to get printed. It raises some interesting questions… Do we need some rules?

Firstly, there’s the obvious: In order to upload a custom design or create a product, the user will have both agreed to the custom product terms, store operator terms and confirmed they have obtained all relevant licenses (i.e. copyright and trademark permissions) to right to use, sell and reproduce the artwork.

So that’s clear: Designs on Teemill must be original artworks. But this blog is about something else – the more subjective idea of what is “ok” or “acceptable” to sell on Teemill. It’s a really interesting question, and it’s the first time we’ve had to think hard about this. After all, every time we’ve created a product in the past, we’re responsible for it and know the intent and values behind it. Teemill is different, because we don’t create any of the designs. We created the platform that allows people to upload and sell these designs. And it unlocks loads of powerful results.

Teemill is for the new brand that needs a platform to get started. For the talented designer to make creativity pay. Or the struggling charity that needs revenue to keep going. Maybe the band who want a better way to do merch in the 21st century.

That’s a nice idea. But it’s on the internet, we know what can happen: Trolling, incitement, extreme opinions. We want to build a platform that shares the values of the business we started out as, Rapanui. And so we got everyone at the Rapanui factory together to debate this. This whole blog is a result of that debate.

Quality

The first word that came up and everyone instantly agreed upon was quality. We want Teemill to be a quality platform with good products and designs. That means we might need to have an active role in maintaining quality. We also felt we don’t want Teemill to be about exclusivity – we want Teemill to be accessible to anyone, but the product and presentation has to be of a high quality.

Freedom of Expression

We then talked about opinion. Some of us are atheists and some of us are religious. Some gay, some straight. Some like guns. Some don’t. Some love football, some like photography. Our own beliefs and opinions shouldn’t dictate what people can and cannot design on Teemill. We all agreed that even if we don’t agree with a message or like a design, freedom of expression is important.

Some designs or opinions might be considered unpalatable or in bad taste, annoying or even offensive. It’s not always easy to know when: If you look hard enough, you might find an individual somewhere that’s offended, no matter what you do or say. For us, it becomes different at the point where a design’s made with the intention to upset people or cause offence.

The Teemill platform is a place that enables freedom of expression, even if your opinion of belief isn’t universally popular. At the same time, we will work to prevent and reduce designs that incite hatred, are designed purely to be offensive or that attack people or groups of people with the intention of causing harm.

Politics, conspiracies, far out beliefs

Politics came up when we discussed our values. We really didn’t relish in getting too involved with politics. If individuals that feel like they’d like to make tees that represent their politics or beliefs in state institutions in a reasonable way with a quality t-shirt design, this should not be something we prevent. We decided that it’s not our place to censor messages in products with a political theme.

Nudity, adult content

Nudity came up. It was quite early in the morning, and nobody liked the idea of printing lewd pictures so soon after breakfast. We’re all adults and it’s not our place to censor a bit of risque fun if that’s what you’re into. Those cheeky or flirtatious designs, if you think they’re cool, you’re welcome to upload them – but we’d rather not have all out nudity submitted in T-shirt designs for Teemill.

Profanities

Whilst we’d rather not have heaps and heaps of dumb profanity t-shirts all over Teemill, we recognise we’re all adults and if you choose to have some mild sweary language on your store for the purposes of making a funny or entertaining t-shirt, that should be up to you. Please remember, Teemill is about making profit from great quality clothes, not making a scene so let’s agree to draw the line at the C-word.

Giving customers a voice

And we realised too, that our customers are part of this debate. We have made it easy for any person to comment or flag a product that they believe is not in the spirit of Teemill’s values at any time on the contact page of every Teemill store. This page also gives anyone the opportunity to resolve a copyright or IP dispute with the store owner, and in both cases the user can alert us to help resolve the situation if a resolution cannot be resolved.

It comes down to Intent

Really, it came down to tone and intent. If a design sets out to offend, abuse, shock or hurt people or organisations, please don’t be surprised if we uphold a complaint and shut down your account.

Our attitude is that if a t-shirt design is of a high quality and the tone is not intended to be malicious, whether we agree with you or not, you’re welcome on Teemill.

*This article is blog intended to give the user a deeper understanding of how our values  guide choices that we have to make at various stages in Teemill. You might now better understand the values that influenced the design and action of algorithms that can detected and rejected your content. Or you might now have a better understanding of why we upheld a complaint against one of your products from an offended member of the public.  It does not form any part of the Teemill user agreements.

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