AspieWeb Being Bullied By Autism Speaks -

AspieWeb Being Bullied By Autism Speaks

by MMAdmin on June, 18

in Uncategorized

I just received a legal notice from the big bad bully Autism Speaks because I designed a t-shirt that says “Autism Speaks Can Go Away.”  It appears Autism Speaks is now using legal threats to shut up Autistic people that disagree with there stance on Autism.

The Tshirt In QuestionMany people know Autism Speaks threatned  the parents of an Autistic Child for creating a website that poked fun at the organization Autism Speaks, an organization she does like either.  Well it appears they are not done threatening Autistic People who stand up against them as an organization.  To the left is the T-shirt in question that prompted a legal threat from Autism Speaks.

So my question is if your Autistic and you try and use the resources you have in hand to speak out against an organization that spews hatred and negativity about Autistic people, claiming to represent them what are you to do?  Autism Speaks does not speak for me, I can speak for myself.  But apparently I am not allowed to say that!

Did you know that Autism Speaks does not have one person with Autism employed or in a leadership role of the organization?  Not one person with Autism contributes to the decision making of Autism Speaks at all.  So what are the Autistic Peoples course of action when they disagree with Autism Speaks?  Bellow is a transcript of what I received from, the place that manufactures everything in the AspieWeb Store.

Support (Nancy) – 06/18/2008 09:39 AM    

Dear Zazzler,


Thank you for your interest in, and thank you for publishing products on Zazzle.  Unfortunately, it appears that your product, “Autism Speaks Can Go Away”, is in violation of Zazzle’s Copyright policies.  Specifically, your product contains a copyright protected design of Autism Speaks Inc.


We will be removing this product from the Zazzle galleries shortly.


A detailed description of Zazzle’s content policies is available at:


If you are the owner or producer of this content, or otherwise feel that our actions are incorrect, please let us know at  If it has been removed you may repost your product, provided it abides by Zazzle’s content policy, and we’ll make sure it is not removed again!


We are always trying to improve our process.  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at


Best regards,

Content Management Team, Inc.



Incident Reference #080618-000271

So far I have not yet replied to the email, do you think I should stand up to this, or should I back down?

I responded to Zazzle with this

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 codeman38 June 18, 2008 at 1:49 PM

For one thing, Autism Speaks’ name is a trademark, not a copyright– two entirely different forms of intellectual property. If Autism Speaks did indeed claim that this was an issue of copyright, they’re legally in the wrong.


2 codeman38 June 18, 2008 at 1:52 PM

Also, I was under the impression that using a trademarked name in criticizing the trademark’s owner was allowed under fair use. (Hence sites like Wal-Mart Watch, for instance.)


3 dadman June 18, 2008 at 2:33 PM

Codeman is correct, this would be a trademark not a copyright issue. That being said, my guess is that Zazzle has an automated process that compares phrases/words on products they manufacture with known trademarks (“autism speaks” is registered, I checked). I think a note to Zazzle explaining to them that your item cannot be confused with the “autism speaks” items since yours is an obvious protest directed at their stand on autism. Tell them you are not infringing because you are not imitating or seeking to confuse anyone. IMHO if a human looks at this, they’ll probably agree with you.


4 MysticSong June 18, 2008 at 4:53 PM

From experience with Zazzle, if you can prove you’re in the right, they’ll usually let you do it. I say go for it.


5 matsuiny2004@removedtofightspam June 18, 2008 at 6:06 PM

You are not using their design you are referring to them by name only. That is legal.


6 kassiane June 18, 2008 at 6:25 PM

Stand up for yourself. Don’t let them push you around, PLEASE. They want to shut people up through litigation so it LOOKS like their POV is the only one.


7 codeman38 June 18, 2008 at 8:10 PM

Oh, and I just realized something deliciously ironic:

They sent this on Autistic Pride Day.


8 feebee June 18, 2008 at 9:19 PM

I blogged about this, here.


9 carl June 18, 2008 at 9:43 PM

You are no longer a subordinate dog to the big Alpha dog. You no longer need to rollover and play victim. Use this weakness as a strength. Be courageous and purposeful, Go for It.



10 Alyson Bradley June 18, 2008 at 10:26 PM

All I can say is well done, maybe more of us should make up T shirts the same or add your slogan to our sites – if ok of course!

Aspergers Paparleel Planet support the couse -
Autistic Pride Day post18 June 2008, my very first year from finding out I am on the autism spectrum, while I also would love to celebrate – tell the world, realization hits… as life in my new minority group was never how I thought it would be, I attempt against all odds often alone to help, let others into my new world, I feel like I have not even got my toes wet by the sea, let alone battled with the tidal wave… so I will join you, find a quite space and find my our joy in the fact that the autism world has welcome me, I now have an extended family, but lost many others on the way…

My quote for Autistic Pride Day: You could say others have tried to cram me into a small box all my life, but of course I never fitted, so much more to me. The more I discover the more I like, but I feel even more distant from my life known reality. – Alyson Bradley

Will add a link to this article on my forum.. why do people continue to when to speak for us and exclude us, I for one will not be controlled by them….


11 Jenni June 18, 2008 at 11:50 PM

Just put a little trademark symbol subscripted under the last “s” on “speaks”. That way you are acknowledging their trademark. I can’t imagine that they would be able to have a problem with that.


12 codeman38 June 19, 2008 at 5:20 PM

Also, is there any way you could e-mail Zazzle to ask if this was actually because of a complaint by Autism Speaks or if it was only an attempt by Zazzle to protect themselves from the *potential* of a complaint? I think it’s important to get a better idea who’s actually the culprit here.


13 Tsu Dho Nimh June 19, 2008 at 7:22 PM

Point out to them that WALMART protest shirts are allowed. Walmart already fought and lost.


14 Great White June 20, 2008 at 2:05 AM

Yo, i think you should only stand up to it if you believe in what the shirt represents….. Fight for what you believe in….


15 Paula June 21, 2008 at 11:36 AM

See if Zazzle will let you back on. If not, the autistic community can boycott Zazzle (except for if anyone has any really cool autism t-shirts there).


16 codeman38 June 21, 2008 at 12:58 PM

I’ve submitted this to Digg. Digg away, fellow Diggers.


17 Gareth Nelson June 21, 2008 at 2:03 PM

Let me know if there’s anything at all I can do to help you fight them on this – perhaps you could try getting a cafepress account and selling the shirt with an updated slogan?

“Autism speaks don’t like autistics to speak” or similar perhaps?


18 Gareeth June 21, 2008 at 2:30 PM

I would fight it and I would get as much media attention as possible. Zazzle is wrong about the legality of this as several people pointed out. In a case like this you might even be able to get help from a group that works to protect free speech.

Autism Speaks is probably the single most damaging force to autism awareness on the planet right now. Everyone makes Bruno Bettelheim to be the great villain of autism because of the refrigerator mother hypothesis but in terms of impact he was a drop in an ocean at a time when autism was only beginning to be understood and when science couldn’t give any meaningful insight into the neurology. I know this hypothesis was devestating to many parents personally but Autism Speaks deomonizing autism and the misinformation they spread is probably causing countless people to lead more miserable lives than they may have been capable of if the information their parents received wasn’t so overwhelmingly biased and negative.

They won’t listen to us because the fairly oft repeated opinon of several of their members is that those of us who can comment on this don’t have autism.


19 Anonymouse June 21, 2008 at 3:31 PM

Everybody is right: this is trademark, and it is fair use. There is no likelihood that a normal person confronted with this shirt will be confused regarding its affiliation or origin with Autism Squeaks.

See if a law school near you has a legal clinic in trademark and copyright law. If so, then perhaps they can help you send a letter to Zazzle for free telling them (with case and statute citations) why this is CLEARLY not a problem.

Proving to Zazzle that you are right may take a letter from a lawyer – I just wanted you to know of at least one way to get access to one for free. If there is a disability law clinic, they may also be sympathetic and help you out – although this is really a trademark question.

Good luck!


20 Kathleen Seidel June 21, 2008 at 4:23 PM
21 Emily June 22, 2008 at 12:03 PM

So was it a Zazzle automated system or Autism Speaks that brought this about??? If it was just Zazzle then this shouldn’t be that big of a deal; just refute it and keep the design.

If it was AS, then that’s a whole ‘nother story and something that needs to be protested. But like codeman38 said, we need to find out whether this was a deliberate AS threat or not.


22 Kiski June 22, 2008 at 5:02 PM

Take them court if you must.


23 lastcrazyhorn June 22, 2008 at 11:13 PM

I want that t-shirt!!!

Show your outrage! You won’t be alone.


24 cachcoco June 23, 2008 at 7:35 AM

I would fight it! Go after what you believe in. I have two sons diagnosed with Autism and we don’t like Autism Speaks either!


25 Bob Blechinger June 23, 2008 at 3:56 PM

I’d tell them that you’ll sue both them *and* Autism Speaks if they take it down…



26 tjcm June 24, 2008 at 1:11 AM

You should make more! like one that says:
‘I have AUTISM
and no one SPEAKS
for me!’

etc etc! keep fighting them


27 Sadderbutwisergirl June 24, 2008 at 11:31 AM

I asked my grandfather, who is a lawyer, about this. He said that technically, Autism Speaks didn’t have any right to threaten legal action because the shirt is not imitating them in any way. Therefore, Autism Speaks are just being their usual bullying jerkoff selves. Stand up for your rights Zach. Take them to court if you must!


28 DJ June 24, 2008 at 2:31 PM

I don’t know much about American law, but I know that you’re not violating any copyright laws – I don’t see any logos on the shirt. Autism Speaks is a registered trademark…but I’ve seen people pick on trademarks a lot, so what’s their problem?

Autism Speaks really seems to have a problem when autistics do speak, don’t they? I’d suggest calling someone at Zazzle and asking about what prompted their email (an actual threat or an automated thing?). Then talk to them about “Fair Use”. How many people speak out against oil companies and major corporations on T-Shirts that are sold online? Surely you’re not the first and possibly not the first on Zazzle!

Best of luck and don’t let the bastards get you down. (I want a shirt too!)


29 Lonesome Joe June 25, 2008 at 3:09 PM

“Autism Speaks” should listen before they speak.


30 jacoby June 25, 2008 at 3:17 PM

As a fellow autistic person, I am outraged, though not surprised by the treatment you’re receiving from these nutless cowards. I don’t want you to get in more trouble, and I will leave it to your own judgement to decide whether or not you want to fight them. They are in the wrong- not you. The injustice is glaring. I bet they think that the people this decision affects are too disabled to have any recourse. They’d be wrong. I, for one, won’t buy any of their products until they allow your t-shirt to be sold again. I will tell all my friends and family to boycott them, too. Your t-shirt sends a very important message to the world, but if money is all those people can understand , well we can make our money talk, too.
I stand by you, whatever you decide.

P.S.- Got any of those shirts I could buy from you, personally? They’re very cool!


31 Tom June 26, 2008 at 3:22 PM

Google “DMCA takedown” for lots of specific information on how to deal with this situation. DMCA takedown abuse is a hot issue today on the inter nets.


32 jaderica June 27, 2008 at 2:43 PM

My son is autistic, but only 5yrs old and he can’t speak for himself yet, but I am furious that Autism Speaks would try to speak for any autistic that could speak for themselves- or try to silence one that said something different from them! If Zazzle won’t sell your T-shirts, find another site that will- it’ll be their loss!


33 Loren June 28, 2008 at 1:26 PM

This is just ridiculous. What about your Constitutional rights to freedom of speech? There’s no way they have a leg to stand on.


34 Tempy July 2, 2008 at 3:11 AM

Hang in there, sell your shirts in a street corner if you have to. Your voice is as valid as anyone else’s.


35 Paul Wady July 4, 2008 at 5:19 AM

I want one of those t shirts. Maybe I will go get one printed here in London.

My personal T shirt should read:


Dr. Goebells would be proud of them. Keep it up Brother.x


36 Guest July 6, 2008 at 8:51 PM

Let’s remember that a petition exists against Autism Speaks.

Spread the word people:


37 kleodimus July 8, 2008 at 4:28 AM

autism speaks never learns…its really quite laughable


38 Duderz July 10, 2008 at 11:56 PM

That’s just retarded that they would do something so stupid. :(


39 Sadderbutwisergirl July 11, 2008 at 12:15 PM

Please don’t use the word retarded. It’s discriminatory and it hurts my feelings ’cause two of my siblings actually are mentally retarded and that doesn’t make them bad.


40 Ariane August 5, 2008 at 12:54 AM

Freedom of speech,I believe, is a right given us by the 1st amendment. Personally, I would begin to question “Autism Speaks” as to why they feel they are speaking for you personally and representing themselves as speaking for the entire autistic population. They are perhaps working under the assumption they are representing the entire autistic community ….. Ignorance should always be forgiven. Should you make them aware of how you feel and should they continue on in their present venue, then I would litigate until the sun doesn’t shine!


41 ECLATH October 20, 2008 at 12:42 PM

I recently heard a young boy say, “I don’t want my Autism to go away.” He then followed with, “I do want money to be raised to support the families of people with Autism.” This young boy, not more than 10 years old, said something very important : Autism Advocacy is important, whether it is to educate the public, medical personnel, or law enforcement, or to encourage employment and insurance reform, and, yes, even researching cures. The E-Mail posted in the article does not constitute a legal attack from anyone, just Zazzle enforcing its own Terms of Agreement. Those procedures protect everyone who contributes to the site, including Aspieweb. Was something else sent that we don’t see here? As for Autism Speaks, it is a very small, young organization, so even if no-one on staff is on the Spectrum, it would hardly be surprising; give it a few years to grow and mature, and allow those on staff who have affected family members contribute to its growth. Now, if Autism Speaks truly has done something wrong, as someone who is directly affected by ASD, I would very much like to know what that is; I am listening.


42 Matt May 4, 2009 at 2:41 PM

Never back down from something you believe in no matter what obstacles are against you.


43 Jenny May 22, 2009 at 5:13 PM

Great blog. I have mild Autism and agree with you that people who dont should not speak for those who do. Im proud of it because it is part of me and has brought me into contact with people I would not have met otherwise. Autisum Speaks is hypocritical to say it speaks for Autistics when there are none in the organisation! Autistics should be accepted for who they are without people trying to change them to thier idea of normal or analyze them. I think you should keep wearing and making your t-shirt. Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, including you and other Autistics. Go for it!


44 lisa s January 5, 2010 at 7:50 AM


First I don’t know much about AS .But I don’t here good reputations on here at all .That’s scary . So Wear your shirt and make a living selling
Your shirt ! Kudos .I myself Autistic 21 yr old and if anything some Dr or Social See rep is always around because my son is Autistic 6’6 and a runner. And very handsome in a Calvin alien model way and what do we get to hear hum the worst is my ex who stole my home I almost paid off last yr. And left the country called him Jason to his face because he was. Tall I guess something about a Halloween movie luckily I was only offended as my son. Is at a 16 month old child and sweet happy kind and funny and after 13 yrs. Tells me he loves me with kisses to boot .I’m lucky yet nobody gets it .I’m 50 with help c and now no home I spent over 1,000,00 grand on yet no one would help us fight for what was ours but we get attention when someone jiped our stability apart that’s what kills me. So you make what you want say what you want and sell what you want I applaud. You I be been beating down emotional have no living family and get no help But My Son Tells Me he Loves me and I can sleep at night and I think I won’t visit AS because they sound like Nazi’s peace to everyone Lisa loves her son and all !


45 lisa s January 5, 2010 at 7:57 AM

Above I am typing on a cell phone that sticks . My son does not
Look like an alien !! but who knows I’ve only heard stores about that to lol


46 Alyssa September 8, 2010 at 7:42 PM

I feel you are sadly misinformed. I help with the St. Louis chapter of Autism Speaks and I can honestly tell you that there is nothing hypocritical about Autism Speaks, you violated a copy right law. Just get a patent on your shirt and then wear it all you want. And about speaking for those who have autism, my brother has autism, and really can not speak for himself. He can communicate, and few understand him. It is entirely up to our family and other people who know my brother well, to help him communicate with people that he does not know. I feel there is absolutely nothing wrong with people trying to help other people. This charity does not try to change anyone.


47 Kay July 15, 2011 at 11:23 AM

You should also be able to excercize your right of free speech? Just saying.


48 autismdad April 19, 2012 at 12:52 PM

I think you should just BACK off, the one and only problem I have with aspergers being linked with autism is that is all the world sees, aspergers people who have the total functionality that MOST autistic kids don’t have. See you seem to have the ability to think very well and create and speak, but it has taken YEARS of therapy for my child to speak, even now she still speaks at least a year or two under her level, developmentally she is still behind. Her speech is still one where most people don’t understand her. There are somethings she just doesn’t get, like safety. I’m sure you have the cognitive ability to know not to run in the street because you might get hit by a car correct. My child doesn’t. At the risk of offending so many, and I do not mean to, but you can not put the face of autism to a kid who is just the awkward on who doesn’t know how to make friends. There are serious medical issues that come with autism, something the populace does not see, because aspergers has become the autism poster child. And before you continue to go off half cocked again about autism speaks, they are responsible for MUCH of the research, treatments, and grants that help children with autism live as much of a normal life as possible. So if you don’t want to speak for yourself, then do it, as a person with asperger’s, but shut your mouth about an organization that uses a play on words to help people with canner’s autism who don’t have the ability in the literal sense or the figurative.


49 Bystander August 20, 2012 at 12:40 AM

See this followup:

I think all parties invovled learned an important lesson from this – hopefully.

I think Zazzle as a newer company made a mistake about there judgement on copyright laws – and they have pretty much so stated so themselves and it appears have educated people on it as the new shirt remains!

I also think that Autism Speaks has learned an important lesson from this as well – or at least I hope. I think they have learned that Autistic People are speaking their minds, and they wish to be heard. I hope they learned that Autistic People are willing to fight for their rights to advocate for themselves. I hope this event can be turned into a positive one in which Autism Speaks works side by side with Autistic People when lobbying lawmakers, and raising awareness. I recognize that Autism Speaks has good intentions, but they should also realize that there intentions do not match with the needs of Autistic People.

I have also learned a lesson – not to jump to conclusions. Because Autism Speaks has displayed this behavior before, i assumed they were involved and they were not. I apologize to Autism Speaks about that assumption.


50 AspieWeb Admin June 14, 2009 at 9:39 AM

Autism Speaks backed down after many autistic people contacted Zazzle in support of AspieWeb.


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