Friday, April 29, 2005

Michael: No free speech at stamps.com

coffin stamp For a brief time Stamps.com flourished as a wonderful and wacky bastion of free speech. For a few bucks you could design a US postal stamp comemorating whatever and whomever you liked; most especially subjects and people whom the USPS would never come near. People created serial killer stamps, stamps mocking political and religious leaders, stamps deriding pop stars, depicting porn stars doing their jobs, and pretty much engaging in the choatic, quixotic, and rude business of unfettered free-speech.

Well, we can't have that.

Stamps.com shut down thier custom stamp devision to retool. What they did was create a End-Use License Agreement (EULA); they brought in the lawyers to fix their problem of 'too much freedom'.

The result is this:

To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material for any unlawful purpose or that is obscene, offensive, blasphemous, pornographic, sexually suggestive, deceptive, threatening, menacing, abusive, harmful, an invasion of privacy, supportive of unlawful action, defamatory, libelous, vulgar, violent, or otherwise objectionable;


In other words, you can express yourself, just so long as it doesn't actually communicate anything to anybody. I love the catch-all 'otherwise objectionable', just in case they hadn't been sufficiently exhaustive as to how someone might get offended.

Just to be sure that it was perfectly clear that no one was meant to have any fun, they added,

To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material that depicts celebrities or celebrity likenesses, regional, national or international leaders or politicians, current or former world leaders, convicted criminals, or newsworthy, notorious or infamous images and individuals;


So you can't use anybody whom anyone might know, and you can't use any images that might be deemed 'newsworthy, notorious or infamous'. That cuts out expressing anything which might in anyway be deemed interesting. Basically, Stamps.com wants you to make stamps out of your ski vacation pics and photos of your kids, provided they aren't famous, or infamous.

Of course Stamps.com provides for their right to refuse to make stamps which violate their EULA and, just in case, they provide a little sweetener in case they choose to let your particular flavor of propaganda slip through: an extra $10 whenever they want to charge it.

You agree that if Stamps.com, in its sole discretion, determines that any material you upload may not meet these content requirements, Stamps.com may reject your order without explanation. Stamps.com reserves the right to charge a processing fee of $10.00 for each image, graphic or photograph that you submit as an order in the PhotoStamps service which violates our content restrictions.


We might let you be naughty, if you bribe us. Lord, you gotta love the 'free market'.

Stamps still aren't the people's media. The USPS would do well to step up on this untapped market and throw the whole stamp business open to public competition on the internet, no ideological holds barred. It would be better for the country, the USPS, and make buying, using, and collecting stamps far more interesting.

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