A new investigation by Mother Jones, an independent news organization, is reporting that Reddit, while still owned by media giant Condé Nast, allowed the use of their trademark logo on several large orders of assault rifles, namely the AR-15, which was the same military-issue weapon used in the Sandy Hook shooting last year.
Reddit and Condé Nast parted ways in 2012, however the order for the logo-carrying firearms was placed back in May 2011 when the two companies were still linked.
In an email sent to Jena Donlin, a business development manager for Reddit, Redditor r1b4z01d inquires:
A group of about 35 (or so) members of the sub Reddit /r/guns want to engrave your alien logo in a lower receiver. We do not plan to sell the product and the vendor is not making a profit on the engraving or the lowers themselves. We are doing this as a group buy to save money. What would the licensing cost be to uses [sic] this for personal non-profit uses? A lower receiver is the frame of an AR-15.
R1b4z01d included a mockup of what the gun would look like and ensured that they would not use the logo without Reddit's permission, particularly since the motivation for manufacturing the engraved guns was "community pride."
Donlin vouchsafed the request but not completely. In her email she writes:
You have reddit's permission to engrave the reddit alien on the frame of the AR-15 given that it is a group not-for-profit buy. There is a lot of reservation on our team about the language on the safety. We would prefer that you keep the SAFE/FIRE language (rather than changing to downvote/upvote) to ensure the safety of all people who may come in contact with these guns.
The license went on to be used in the production of at least 93 AR-15s between 2011 and 2012, which appears to comprise part of three separate bulk orders placed for the imprinted gun.
Mother Jones highlights the language on Reddit's licensing page where they clarify that before granting use of their name on a product they ask interested parties, "Do we like the product?" And: "What are the risks associated with this?"
Reddit's communications director, Victoria Taylor, told Mother Jones that they "neither [condone] nor does not condone the buying and selling of firearms through the site, as long as users are not using the site to violate applicable US laws."
Hat Tip: Gawker