Generic Fair Use

... where pop culture meets intellectual property law

Tag: publicity rights

Hey, Stop Using My Song For Your Campaign!

Can musicians and artists legally demand that politicians not use their works?

Recently, the Rolling Stones sent a notice to Donald Trump demanding that he cease using their songs at his campaign events across the country. This is not the first time an artist has objected to a politician using certain songs or related works in conjunction with a political campaign. It is practically a rite of passage for a high-profile politician to anger a musician with a particular choice of campaign theme song. This is an American trend that dates back at least to the early 1980s, when Bruce Springsteen upbraided President Ronald Reagan for using “Born in the U.S.A.” as part of his re-election efforts.[1]

Of course, the Rolling Stones are not an American band. Plus, by now we all know that Donald Trump is not exactly the type of person to back down to what may be a toothless demand. Trump might all too willing to cite 250 years of American history by telling the Rolling Stones to take their demand and shove it. He thrives on this type of attention after all. But that is not the question. The real question is this:

Can Donald Trump (or most any politician) use any song they want for a campaign without obtaining the musician’s permission?
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Did Panem infringe trademarks or violate publicity rights by using Katniss Everdeen’s image as the “Mockingjay”?

Last weekend, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 made over $100 million at the box office.  The movie’s success is largely due to the strength of Jennifer Lawrence and the popularity of the books.  Enough digital ink has been spilled discussing the movie as a dystopian political outlook for young adult audiences.  Instead, here we repurpose the world of Panem as if it adopted the intellectual property laws currently in the United States.

 Accordingly, under that hypothetical, what trademark and publicity rights does Katniss Everdeen have?  Did the rebels and/or the nation-state of Panem violate or infringe any of these rights by exploiting her image as the “Mockingjay”?

 [mild spoilers ahead, proceed with caution if you have not seen the movie]

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The NFL will complain about your Vines (and GIFs)

[originally published on October 13, 2015 at www.law-dlc.com]

As a sports fan, Monday, October 12, 2015 was a strange and turbulent day.  USC fired Steve Sarkisian one day after asking him to take an administrative leave of absence (cue the employment lawyers).  Steve Spurrier, the head coach of the other USC – South Carolina – suddenly walked away and called it a career in mid-season.  Meanwhile, Texas Governor Greg Abbott congratulated the Astros on making the American League Championship Series when they were leading 6-2 in the eighth inning, only for the Royals to score five quick runs and turn me into a blubbering mess of a baseball fan.  Someone in the governor’s office forgot about Yogi Berra and “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Yet the craziest sports story of the entire day might be something that happened over social media.  In the mid-afternoon, the Twitter accounts for Deadspin (@Deadspin) and SB Nation’s GIF-based sub account (@SBNationGIF) were suddenly suspended.  The initial reasons were murky, with media reports later suggesting that the National Football League used its influence with Twitter to suspend the accounts.  And why?  Because the Deadspin account and the SBNationGIF account both routinely posted or re-tweeted Vines and GIFs of highlight plays from NFL games. Which are copyrighted works.

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What if Intellectual Property Rights Were Enforced in the World of “The Princess Bride”?

[originally published September 25, 2015 on www.law-dlc.com]

Have you ever watched a movie and wondered whether something cool in it could be patented?  Many movies, however, are set outside the United States.  Some are set in fantasy lands that would not recognize our system of laws.  Yet – what if?  What if, for example, the mythical country of Florin happened to adopt the laws of the United States as it applies to intellectual property rights?  Yes, Florin.  The homeland of Buttercup.  You know – The Princess Bride. What if the cowardly Prince Humperdinck recognized and enforced patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret concepts as seen in that movie?  Inconceivable, you say?  But what would that look like and what would be some examples?

[If you have never seen The Princess Bride, kindly stop reading and go watch it.  Now.  I do not think I can be friends with anyone who does not like this movie.]

I will skip the kissing parts and go right into the action and adventure.  Pirates are cool, right?  To the land of Florin we go!

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