Posts Tagged ‘intellectual property’

This Land Is My Land copyright challenge

As I went walking I saw a sign there.
And on the sign it said “(C) — Guthrie estate”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

“Following their successful actions to bring the songs ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘We Shall Overcome’ into the public domain, New York law firm Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz are now taking on a similar action for the Woody Guthrie classic, ‘This Land Is Your Land.'” [IP Flow/Mimesis Law]

Back in 2004, when the successors in interest of Guthrie’s heirs threatened the writers of a politically oriented parody with copyright litigation, Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation wondered what Guthrie himself would have thought of the action, given that he once used a copyright notice that said:

This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.

The lyrics of “My Land,” including the “No Trespassing” verse lightly altered above, are here, complete with copyright assertion.

Why they can’t sell you Derby Pie

On the menu this week at your local restaurant or bakery, you might notice cute wordings like “Famous Horse Race Pie,” “Kentucky Bourbon Chocolate Nut Pie,” or even “We’re Not Allowed To Call This Derby Pie.” In a Cato podcast with colleague Caleb Brown, I explain why, and also mention in passing the aggressive enforcement of the Super Bowl trademark.

One reaction: anti-IP libertarian theorist Stephan Kinsella takes issue with several things I say in the podcast and in particular deplores my intended tone of neutral description of trademark law; he contends that a better position would be to challenge the legitimacy of trademark law and of intellectual property law generally, a view some libertarians have taken.

“…It was certainly *not* some impulsive, ham-fisted attempt to bully a local resident…”

The township of West Orange, N.J. sends a cease and desist letter to a local political activist who runs the domain and gets the following response from attorney Stephen Kaplitt (via Above the Law):

Dear Mr. Trenk:

I am pro bono counsel to Jake Freivald and write in response to your “cease and desist letter,” dated May 13, 2013, regarding his domain Obviously it was sent in jest, and the world can certainly use more legal satire. Bravo, Mr. Trenk! ….

Oh, and just to play along, had you intended for your letter to be taken seriously, even in some small measure, we would have sent in response something along the following lines: …

[several legal points follow about municipalities’ general lack of a right to exclude others from using their names as part of domains]

If you manage to produce supporting authority that even remotely passes the laugh test, I will donate $100 in your honor to the American Civil Liberties Union — N.J. chapter. I plan to make the donation online, assuming the state of New Jersey has not shut down

Intellectual property roundup

Postal code lookups on websites

“Canada Post — a failing, state-owned Crown Corporation — not only claims a copyright on the database of postal codes (a collection of facts, and not the sort of thing that usually attracts copyright). They also claim a trademark on the words ‘postal code,’ and have sent legal threats to websites that use the words factually, to describe actual postal codes.” (U.S. = zipcodes) [Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing; Eruci]

Paulie unsaturated

What better way to pick up that slow DJ business than to hitch a press release to a preposterous trademark infringement claim?  Hint:  It involves an utterly phenomenal battle between intellectual property and journalism in the the New York Post, which no one but the publicity-seeking plaintiff wins.

But first, our story:

“Jersey Shore” star Paul “Pauly D” DelVecchio was slapped with a $4 million trademark infringement lawsuit Thursday from a Connecticut DJ who claimed his business has been ruined by comparisons to the MTV personality.

Paul Lis of South Windsor, Conn., said he spent 40 years building up a reputation as the region’s “DJ Paulie” before DelVecchio began calling himself “DJ Pauly D” on television. . . .

“He formally trademarked [sic] the name ‘DJ Paulie’ and then came the ‘Jersey Shore’ which basically wiped him off the face of the map,” attorney Jose M. Rojas told NewsCore.

The lawsuit alleges that MTV itself flooded the internet with so much “Jersey Shore” content that it was virtually impossible to find Lis’ information or advertise on [sic] his website.

Sounds like rough going all around here — but believe me, it gets worse.  And how much worse can it get?  After all, how can you “ruin” someone who starts out as a “Connecticut DJ”?  What exactly is the up side on that?  Oh, $4 million you say?  Who knew?

Of course, if you were to run a Google search for DJ PAULIE CONNECTICUT — or go crazy and use PAULY — right now… you’d have one heck of an easy time finding him, now that he’s got, not only two turntables and a microphone, but his own lawsuit!

All of which means proving damages should be a snap, right?  Because this year, what with all the search-engine saturation his court filing has got him, Paulie will demonstrate that, best-case scenario, the DJ Paulie gig is a $4M proposition.  And why should MTV deprive DJ Paulie of his best case?  Trademark infringement-wise.

Or is it the other way around?  Because now that sounds like all that infringerating is making things better, not worse.  (Someone write this down:  “File lawsuit; enhance Google search results.”)  Okay, we’ll let the jury sort that one out.

Well, how about the Post’s explanation of the theory of damages in the first place here?  “[I]t was virtually impossible to find Lis’ information or advertise on his website.”  That makes it sound as if MTV was even flooding Lis’s website — to the point where you couldn’t even, um, advertise “on it.”

Typo, right?  Well, the fine state of intellectual property journalism in New York is finally hammered home with this beaut later in the article:

Meanwhile, DelVecchio applied for a slew of US patents attempting to copyright his own moniker.

Whoa!  Trademark… copyright … patents … monikers?

If indeed the test for a trademark infringement is a likelihood of confusion — and I’ve always been partial to the argument that it was — then there is definitely a trademark infringement here.  Because after reading this article I, for one, am completely confused.

What a train wreck.  Here the newspaper story about the lawsuit may be even worse than what reads like one pretty bad lawsuit.  Good thing professional journalism is keeping that edge and saving society from that blogging stuff.

The biggest irony?  The article doesn’t even mention the right of publicity — publicity being the the only thing DJ Paulie’s lawsuit definitely got right.