Beyoncé has threatened legal action against Etsy over a line of mugs riffing on her name, TMZ reports.
The online marketplace allows anyone to sell their handcrafted goods — a kind of boutique eBay. And one popular item on the site was a mug emblazoned with “Feyoncé,” with a ring for the “O” — a play on the word “fiance” referring to Beyoncé’s hit “Single Ladies.”
It turns out Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter doesn’t like that mug one bit.
According to TMZ, the A-list singer’s lawyers “fired off a letter to the company crying foul… and then threatening them.”
Of course, Etsy doesn’t make these items themselves. Anyone can sell their items on the site without prior approval from the company, or even their knowledge. But the company does have a duty to respond to objections and potential legal issues if it doesn’t want to be held responsible for potentially illegal content sold on its site. (It’s the same reason YouTube deletes copyrighted material from its site.)
Etsy has folded, and the mugs in question are no longer available. But other products with “Feyoncé” branding are still available, however — though it’s unclear whether the singer intends to threaten legal action against them as well.
If it came to trial, it’s not clear whether Beyoncé would actually win. There are exemptions to copyright for “fair use,” and the “Feyoncé” articles could arguably be considered parody. (There are thousands of T-shirts that jokingly twist popular companies’ logos, for example.) It’d also be hard to make the argument that the singer has been negatively impacted or deprived of revenue because of the items’ sale.
More likely, the Beyoncé’s entourage is just attempting to zealously control every aspect of her (highly polished) personal brand. And Etsy, not wanting the legal headache, backed down without a fight.