Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ted Alvin Klaudt - Rapist and IP Moron (updated)

Just a real quick one, because it's a busy day.

This is probably already out there, but I just got wind of this news tidbit, where convicted rapist former South Dakota Rep. Ted Alvin Klaudt (Rapist and IP Moron) has informed various new agencies that... and the only way to do this justice is to quote the article directly:
...Klaudt is reserving a common-law copyright of a trade name or trademark for his name. It said no one can use his name without his consent, and anyone who does would owe him $500,000.
Okay, so how many ways does this make my eyes bleed?

First of all - Yes, there's such a thing as common-law copyright (sort of). And there's even common-law trademark. But you don't copyright a trademark (*). You certainly don't reserve a copyright on a trademark. It just... it hurts my head to see this kind of usage.

Second, and more importantly - Um.... NO. That's really not how it works. Let's pretend for a minute that the name could even serve as a trademark. I mean, after all, names can be trademarks. You have to be the source of a good or service, though. And the only connection being made in my mind is that Ted Alvin Klaudt is a unique source identifier for the service of inappropriately touching little girls. Or at least that was the service. Now there's a new one: Moronic IP claims. It's sad that he's not a unique provider of that particular service, but as of today he's at the top of the list with a bullet.

Third (really 2a) - Using your name to reference you - even if your name is trademarked (**) for some good or service - is pretty much where the phrase "nominal use" came from. You know, use as a name. So... seriously. Shut up.

So, I'm feeling puckish, and here's my idea. This is the perfect opportunity for a Google Bomb, and an interestingly meta one at that.

Right now, if you do a Google search on the phrase "Rapist and IP Moron" there are zero results:

I'd like to propose a Google Bomb connecting Ted Alvin Klaudt with the phrase Rapist and IP Moron.

Now, normally a Google Bomb of this sort would point to the official homepage of the Bomb-ee or something like that. But Klaudt doesn't have one of those that I could find. So here's the cool, post-modern, self-referential bit. Point the bomb at Google itself. That is, point the bomb at the results page for a search on the phrase "Ted Alvin Klaudt."

If you'll note, I've done the link a few times in this post already. If you click Rapist and IP Moron, it takes you to the Google results page for a search on the phrase "Ted Alvin Klaudt."

[UPDATE - Duh. It's been pointed out to me that Google probably doesn't index its own search result pages. So this won't work as originally planned. I'll figure out a new target soon. I'm thinking something along the lines of this link.]

I don't have a lot of readers, and I don't have a lot of Twitter followers, and I know that probably the worst way to get something to go viral is to say, "hey, I hope this goes viral." I also realize that I'm getting pretty worked up over this and it might not really be worthy of all this agita. But this guy hurts my brain, and I wanna swat him like a bug. So please join in.

A few last points need to be made. The first should be obvious, but this is the internet and there are no guarantees. I am in no way setting up a moral equivalency between the two offenses. Rapist is a big bad; being an IP Moron is just annoying, and possibly works against your self-interest. I recognize the moral gulf between the two and condemn Klaudt for the rapist part much more strongly than the IP Moron part. But he's been a rapist for a long time; it's only today that he came to my attention as both a Rapist and IP Moron. (See how I worked that in there? Clever me.)

The second point is a direct message to Klaudt. If you think you can enforce your "reserv[ation of] a common-law copyright of a trade name," please feel free to sue me. Please note, however, that I have reserved a common-law copyright of a trade name or trademark in my own name, "Ben Manevitz" and any use of my name without my consent - including in court filings, press releases, or even letters telling me to cut it out - will carry with it a penalty of $750,000 per violation. (I figure since I'm not a rapist, my name is worth more than yours out of the box.) Good luck with that suit, Mr. Klaudt, and say hello to your prison husband for me.


(*) To my graphic artist readers, I bid you peace. You can, of course, copyright the image or graphic design or whatever that becomes a trademark. And so, litereally and technically, it can be said that you are "copyrighting a trademark." Or more accurately, that a copyright exists in the trademark. (And exactly how that plays out is an interesting question for another day.) But copyright and trademark protect two completely different things, and you can't "reserve a copyright in a trademark" in the sense that this Rapist and IP Moron intends the phrase. ALSO, see (**) re my use of [copyright] as a verb.

(**) I intentionally misuse [trademark] as a verb here; it's a little shout-out to the great and mighty RC.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Interesting Take on Consumer Protection in Trademark

In Sunday's New York Times - 2009 Year in Ideas, there was this interesting piece titled The Counterfeit Self. (The #name tag should work, but if not, it's the 4th item down.)

It is not a surprise that small dishonesties insinuate themselves into a person's character, paving the way for greater ones; It's essentially the obverse of the Ben Franklin Effect applied to oneself. But (as far as I know) it hadn't been examined closely in terms of the purchase and "use" of counterfeit merchandise.

There's a running debate about the exact purpose of Trademark protection; Does it protect the consumer in terms of search costs? In terms of some sort of incohate warranty function? Or is it a matter of the manufacturer's property and sweat equity? Or some combination thereof.

I tend to understand it as something that started out as a consumer-protection issue (focusing on search cost) and then got morphed into an issue of manufacturer's property simply because of the way the consumer protection was enforced and analyzed.

I haven't wrapped my brain around exactly how it's going to happen, but it will be interesting to see how the idea of the article gets folded into arguments about the rationales for trademark protection and the breadth and strength of the protection necessary to support those rationales...

"Incredibly Overbroad trademark enforcement protects consumers from themselves!" I just threw up a little in my mouth.

On the plus side, I think I actually blogged about this before LoC, Duets, or CounterfeitChic. So go me!

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fair Use of Videogame Screens

I'm showing my geek roots, here, but it's not like I've been hiding that.

I came across this article which pointed me to three recent paintings by Brock Davis (a/k/a Laser Bread), all of which are the painter's takes on some classic videogames.

I'll put the game names at the bottom, because it should take about half a second for gamers of a certain age to recognize these.

And for those of you think of gaming systems [obSnydeQuipMaskingJealousy], that's Dig Dug, Donkey Kong, and Missile Command.

The geek in me abso-lurves these, for aesthetic and nostalgic value. The lawyer in me went directly to the fair use analysis.

There's no question that the iconic videogame screens that these paintings are based on are subject to copyright. Actually, there is some question, as it can be argued that the Missile Command and Dig Dug screens were jointly created by the end user, but that's a question for another post. Let's just take that point as read.

The fair use analysis is actually fairly straightforward. You've got a transformative use that will have no impact on the market for the games, or even (taking a more controversial reading of the fourth factor) the potential derivative market for the games. That's factors one and four in favor of fair use. Factor four used to be the "first among equals," more recently the question of "transformative use" is filling that role, but in this case both cut in favor of finding fair use.

Admittedly, the game screen is a creative work, which puts factor 2 in the not-fair-use column. and it could be argued that the amount taken is substantial - it would depend on the determination of what, exactly, constituted the work; is it the game overall or individual screens. But these are relatively weak and would bow in any event to the determination mandated by factors 1 and 4.

Another question would be the trademark implications. These images are, I would posit, fairly iconographic, and each of the screenshots then very likely identify a source (Namco, Nintendo, Atari respectively) The proof is in the pudding, in that (as noted) gamers of a certain age probably recognized the game identities from the paintings without any difficulty.

I don't have a link, but I recall seeing sites where you can submit a digital image and get a painting. Presumably to different levels of abstractness. In which case Atari might be able to argue that a consumer seeing the paintings might be confused as to the source or - in this case the stronger argument - sponsorship of the paintings.

Fair use analysis in trademarks tends to concentrate on the whole "nominative use" question, but that won't do any work for us here. Trademark fair use as a doctrine is mainly concerned with trademarks that are also words in the language and limitations on the extent to which trademark rights can curtail the use of language. Which, sadly, also doesn't do much work for us here.

So on a purely doctrinal level, it seems that the game makers could make at least an objectively reasonable (not Rule 11 sanctionable) trademark infringement case against the artist, claiming that consumers might mistakenly believe that the game maker had sponsored the painting. And his defense would have to be "no they won't," which is a poor defense in that it doesn't do any work pre-trial, or at least pre-survey -- which is to say pre-expensive.

The saving grace for Mr. Davis might be the practical factors militating against the manufacturer's bringing suit, to wit, the negative publicity, the paucity of available damages, the relative age (value) of the marks allegedly infringed, etc.

I think that's the right answer on the law, but it disappoints me on the facts. There should be space in the law for exactly this kind of expression. I touch on this briefly in my post about the Carol Burnett - Family Guy dustup here. And this is another example of where the conversation of our world is being impeded by the very laws that were intended to protect that conversation (albeit a different facet of that conversation.)


Labels: , , , ,