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View Diary: Louisiana Threatens To Sue MoveOn Over Billboard (257 comments)

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  •  They can't, but... (5+ / 0-)
    how can a public entity - a state government - assert copyright over anything?

    These things are paid for with public money. In my experience, all government work product is automatically public domain. It's like the "official" White House photographs on the White House website, which may be reproduced and distributed without additional permission.

    For the reasons you assert about public money, government generally cannot copyright things. Trademark, however, is a different story. It's the same philosophy behind not allowing FedEx or UPS to use the logos and trade dress of the US Postal Service.

    Unapologetic Obama supporter.

    by Red Sox on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 06:11:26 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Well, how can a public entity that used public (6+ / 0-)

      money to develop a public document (a tourism graphic design, for example) even assert trademark?

      I don't see the comparison to FedEx/UPS/USPS; all three, including USPS, are private businesses that expect to operate at least at "break-even", if not surplus of revenue over expenditure.

      And I have seen many examples of people - political cartoonists making a political statement, for example - using satirical variations of USPS logos to make a political point. Just as MoveOn, a political organization, is doing with the Louisiana tourism graphic.

      "Bernie Madoff's mistake was stealing from the rich. If he'd stolen from the poor he'd have a cabinet position." -OPOL

      by blue in NC on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 06:26:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  the same way any other entity can (4+ / 0-)

        The postal service is a good example.  FedEx can't use postal service trademarks to try to trick people into thinking they are the postal service.  Similarly, you wouldn't want other entities posing as government agencies, so the state has to have the ability to trademark its distinctive branding.

        Similarly, the state is also allowed to copyright items produced by the state, but typically as a matter of policy does not.  An example might be prohibitions on other entitites distributing government produced works for profit when they'd been paid for at public expense.  A state held copyright would simply be held for the benefit of the public, somewhat like the state holds trust title over waterways and public lands for the benefit of the public.  Essentially, the state acts as the public agency to block private actors from taking advantage.

        As you state, typically public agencies do not assert copyright or grant rights to reproduce freely as a matter of policy.  Also, even if you have a private copyright, satire is not barred by copyright.

        •  Would satire be barred by TRADEMARK, though? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MrJersey, SilentBrook

          It would seem that doing so would be a very dangerous first amendment precedent, although we're finding that our first amendment rights of political speech are gradually being nibbled away at.

          Clearly, from my (non-lawyer amateur) point of view, Jindal's complaint about trademark infringement just doesn't hold water in a case where he's trying to misapply the law in order to stifle political speech.

          "Bernie Madoff's mistake was stealing from the rich. If he'd stolen from the poor he'd have a cabinet position." -OPOL

          by blue in NC on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 09:00:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  It sounds like La is asserting copyright over the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Heart of the Rockies

      typeface. Change that and see what happens.

    •  Govt can copyright and trademark (0+ / 0-)

      but they only control these for the purposes
      of avoiding unfair trade.

      the Feds can copyright a specification, solely to
      prevent someone else from copyrighting it.

      the feds will trademark a Logo, NSA, Seal
      comes to mind but solely to provide a method
      of preventing people from putting the seal
      onto a Router as advertising.

      The USPS trademarks USPS to keep
      courier services like United Southern Peninsula Sail
      from selling USPS mail.

    •  Better analogy is "I♥︎NY" (0+ / 0-)

      Try using that anywhere, and you'll get a letter:

      "Your unauthorized and confusingly similar use of the I ♥ NY® logo” violates federal trademark law and implies a misleading designation of source, origin, endorsement, sponsorship or approval by the New York State Department of Economic Development of your merchandise.”

      NY has never lost in court, at least when it comes to commercial use of the logo.  The issues here, however, will be similar to the questions that come up in copyright law: fair use, parody, and the heightened protection afforded to political speech.  Combine all of those factors with the absence of any confusion on the part of the public (regarding the source, or endorsement by the state of Louisiana), which takes away most of the state's ammunition, and I think you have a clear win for MoveOn.  Not that it matters: as others have noted, publicity is the game -- and the billboard has been seen online by 1000x the number of people who've driven past it.

      Jindal spending taxpayer money on lawyers, in an attempt to muzzle his critics, is going to make him look like a world-class ass.  Here's hoping he doesn't see it coming.

      (I am an IP lawyer, btw.)

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