On March 28, 2012… a day that will live in incredulity… the Office of the UK Secretary of State for Defense contacted Zazzle and ordered them to remove merchandise from the Flying Cloud Store because it ‘references the Royal Air Force’. Apparently they objected to the tiny WW-I roundels on the airships. This objection even extended to the design shown above. (At least I believe this was one of the images in question. I don’t want to claim absolute certainty lest I risk some accusation of libel by an organization armed with nuclear weapons!) I leave it to you to decide the extent to which this particular graphic ‘references the Royal Air Force’, but it’s difficult to escape the impression that some low-ranking servant of the Crown has too much time on his hands
This rather disappointing behavior by an organization for which I retain considerable admiration and respect raises several questions.
1) What about the millions of other products in the world that ‘reference the Royal Air Force’, such as photo albums, air show t-shirts, warbird calendars, plastic models, computer games, and the like? What about Microsoft Flight Simulator? What about the estate of Charles Shultz? Why don’t they go after those? It’s difficult to imagine a more direct commercial reference to the RAF than Snoopy and the Red Baron. Surely we can expect a bit more consistency from a nation that prides itself as one of the birthplaces of reason! Unless… dare I say it… they lack the courage to attempt targets of that magnitude and must content themselves with smaller fry such as myself.
2) Does the Office of the UK Secretary of State for Defense actually have some junior civil servant whose job it is to search vendors like Zazzle to eliminate the dire threat to the Crown posed by amateur graphics that could, by some distant stretch of the imagination, be taken to reflect unfavorably on Her Majesty’s armed forces? That would be way cool! I want a job like that!
3) Will they go after The Flying Cloud itself? Will my ISP receive an email to the effect that they must shut down the adventures of Captain Everett and his crew or they can expect an air strike as soon as the relevant ministry can work this into the budget?
I’m not particularly worried about the Zazzle items because they weren’t exactly major sellers, but this latter question is a matter of some concern. Since my own air assets are limited to a hang glider, a paraglider, and a sling, I may not be in a position to stand up to a major airborne assault, or even an over-ambitious barrister. This suggests that some preemptive publicity might be in order. If you’re concerned about the possible threat to our favorite airship crew, spread the word, let other people know about this site, and help build support for the side of truth, justice, light, airships, adventure, gallant gentlemen, and sultry island maidens!