mfioretti: trademark*

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  1. Last October, the Dr Seuss estate used legal threats to halt a wildly successful crowdfunded Seuss/Star Trek mashup called "Oh, The Places You'll Boldly Go," whose contributors included comics legend Ty Templeton and Tribbles creator David Gerrold.

    The Seuss estate argued that the book infringed its trademarks and copyrights. Now, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California court has ruled on the trademark question and found that there is no valid trademark claim thanks to "nominative fair use," and also indicated that it would be favorably disposed to fair use defenses on the copyright question.
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  2. the question becomes…what are the Fines going to do with their trademark? Certainly they won’t take down every video on YouTube with the word “React” in it. I’m sure they would take down videos with “Kids React” in them, but what about something that takes the form of their show and title but adds in a new element like “Dogs React” or “Bros React.”

    Would they take that down? How close does it have to be to infringe? Would they need to take videos down in order to protect their trademark? It likely depends on which lawyer they asked because, as I said before, no one really understands trademark.

    The internet has taken a solid 10 years to even start figuring out what copyright might look like in an era where everyone’s a creator. And with Facebook still not protecting against freebooting and YouTube having no good system for protecting fair use, we’re still a ways away.

    Add trademarks into the bag and, I mean, yikes. The initial salvos have been fired and the trademark holders are the ones that are coming out looking bad. But a bunch of laws designed for a different era are on their side, so we will have to wait and see.
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  3. "For eight years, Jules' IKEAHackers site has published ways people have hacked their IKEA products. Hundreds of people have combined IKEA products in creative ways to create everything from desks to cat trees. When the fan site turned to a huge part-time job, Jules ran a few small advertisements. Now IKEA's attorneys have sent the site a Cease and Desist."

    Ikea's C&D is, as a matter of law, steaming bullshit. There's no trademark violation here -- the use of Ikea's name is purely factual. The fact that money changes hands on Ikeahackers (which Ikea's lawyers seem most upset about) has no bearing on the trademark analysis.
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  4. Cook added that the Boy Scouts wasn't on her mind when developing Hacker Scouts, and that some members also belong to either Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Changing the name they've all grown attached to would be inconsistent with some of the values -- persistence, for one -- that it tries to teach children, she said.

    Boy Scouts public relations director Deron Smith said in a statement that the 103-year-old group "has delivered the nation's foremost youth program ... by combining adventure, educational activities and lifelong values."

    He said the Boy Scouts applauds groups with similar principles, but that the organization "has a responsibility" to its members to maintain "trademarks, symbols, words and phrases" that create "a sense of belonging.",0,2398209.story
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  5. Free software is built on a paradox. In order to give freedom to users, free software licences use something that takes away freedom – copyright, which is an intellectual monopoly based on limiting people's freedom to share, not enlarging it. That was a brilliant hack when Richard Stallman first came up with it in 1985, with the GNU Emacs General Public Licence, but maybe now it's time to move on.

    There are signs of that happening already. Eighteen months ago, people started noting the decline of copyleft licences in favour of more "permissive" ones like Apache and BSD. More recently, the rise of GitHub has attracted attention, and the fact that increasingly people have stopped specifying licences there (which is somewhat problematic).

    I don't think this declining use of copyleft licences is a sign of failure – on the contrary. As I wrote in my previous column, free software has essentially won, taking over most key computing sectors. Similarly, the move to "permissive" licences has only been possible because of the success of copyleft: the ideas behind collaborative creation and contributing back to a project are now so pervasive that we don't require "strong" copyleft licences to enforce them – it's part of coders' mental DNA.
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  6. It seems that this issue comes up every few years, and some of the concern about "copyrighting" a tree has more to do with general confusion about intellectual property law (and contract law). During slow news periods, it sometimes even hits the mainstream news, as evidenced by this NY Times article from 1990.

    However, Pebble Beach is not, it appears, claiming copyright on the tree. It is, however, claiming a trademark -- which was actually on a drawing of the tree as the symbol of Pebble Beach -- and which the resort registered in 1919. So the issue is (mostly) a trademark one -- but that shouldn't bar people from taking photos (or even selling the photos).
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