A couple of days ago, in our Memeingful blog, I wrote an article called — “Stealing Janna Sweenie” — that dealt with an un-named seller on an un-named commercial website that was using Janna’s good name and American Sign Language products to sell really ugly postcards and other knickknacks and trinkets. 
Today, I am ready to reveal the rest of the story and to publicly identify CafePress.com as the commercial website involved.

Late yesterday afternoon, we received a phone call from CafePress.com in response to our cease and desist letter asking for Janna’s removal from the seller’s website.

The first thing CafePress asked us was if we ever had a store on their site.

We confirmed we did have a store that sold American Sign Language related merchandise in support of our ASL books.  We closed it over a year ago because the yearly store hosting fee was too high and the quality of the merchandise was not very good.

CafePress told us that the links we were seeing on the seller’s page — “Janna Sweenie” and “Hand Jive” and “American Sign Language” et al. — did nothing:  Those links were just cached keyword artifacts leftover from the store we used to have that were never purged from the server. 

“Click on the links,” CafePress said, “and you’ll see they go to a dead page.  Those keywords stay around for a long time after a store closes.”

“Yes, if you click on the link, it’s dead,” I replied, “but those links-as-text are still active for web spiders and the Google Bot and such because our old keywords are still sending new traffic to CafePress.com.” 

The CafePress representative had never heard of a Google Alert.  I explained how, each day, the Google Bot scrubs the Internet to find ONLY NEW and active keywords we prescribe.  Then, when those scrub returns are provided to us in email, and when we click on the link result for “Janna Sweenie” — we are directly taken to the CafePress.com seller’s page to buy postcards and other junque — and that is wrong and misleading because our old keywords are being used to send fresh traffic to CafePress.com.  It doesn’t matter if the link is dead, because the text of the link
still sends visitors to the seller’s page.

The CafePress rep did not seem to take my point.  She reiterated the seller didn’t add those keywords, the CafePress.com website did because closed store keywords are still actively stored in the CafePress.com database and she repeated those Janna-related links take you to a dead page.

I tried to explain it a different way:  “Those keyword links you think are dead are actually not dead when they are presented as text on a page.  Google doesn’t know if the link to “Janna Sweenie” is active or not, the Search Bot just sees her name on a page and sends us the result.  We agree the problem is not with the seller, but with CafePress for not deleting all our keywords when we closed our store.  In effect, CafePress is the infringer here because of bad — or, even worse, on purpose — website hosting practices that do not entirely remove keywords for a closed store.  Our old keywords are being reused anew for CafePress.com’s ongoing profit.”

The CafePress rep said she’d look into it and “get back to us.”  In a few days.  In email.

I thanked her for calling — and I invite you to watch this space for any and all updates on the matter.


  1. Excuses and no actions. How typical of an online Goliath to ignore the good people who provide their goods.

  2. It was sort of a disappointing conversation, Gordon, in that CafePress did not want to accept that was their mistake and problem in need of fixing. I understand why they want Janna’s name and related keywords in their database to sell other products, but it is just unseemly to keep those associations alive after we closed — and, we thought, completely deleted — our store.

  3. UPDATE:
    This just arrived via email from CafePress.com:

    Dear Ms. Sweenie,
    Thank you for your February 23, 2010 notification regarding the possible infringement of your rights by users of our service. In accordance with our Intellectual Property Rights Policy, we have removed references to your name, “Janna Sweenie,” from our websites.
    I hope that this will bring this matter to a close. Nevertheless, if you would like to discuss the matter further, please do not hesitate to contact us.
    As always, we must include the following formalities. CafePress disputes all claims and allegations of infringement, and nothing contained in this email is intended, nor shall be construed as an admission of any wrongdoing or liability on behalf of CafePress or the users of the CafePress service. This email is not intended, nor shall it be construed as a full statement of all the facts and circumstances relating to this matter. Nothing contained in this email, nor any act or omission to act by CafePress is intended or should be deemed to be a waiver, abridgement, alteration, modification or reduction of any rights, claims, defenses or remedies that CafePress may have in regard to this matter and all such rights, claims defenses and remedies, whether at law or in equity, are hereby expressly reserved.

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