Media Law Musings

Here are a few gems related to media law that I’ve run into lately. These are the kind of finds I love to mention in media law classes because everyone has heard of the parties involved or because, quite frankly, of the “strange” factor.

  • Droid: Did you know that Lucasfilm Ltd. of Star Wars fame owns the trademark to the word Droid, the name of the Verizon Wireless phone you see advertised everywhere? I noticed at the end of one such ad a disclaimer that “Droid” was the trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. Verizon Wireless licenses it. Wikipedia tells more.
  • The Naked Cowboy versus The Naked Cowgirl: The Naked Cowboy says he trademarked the Naked Cowboy brand and she is violating it. I don’t know what’s better: the fact the CNN anchor refers to Robert Burck, a.k.a. the Naked Cowboy, repeatedly as “Naked” as if that were his name or the fact the cowboy sings an answer. Trust me, it’s worth your time to watch.
  • “Barbie, Political Philosopher”: Tom W. Bell writes on The Technology Liberation Front blog about a great line the Barbie character in Toy Story 3 had. He put the quote on a T-shirt (pictured in his post) and carefully notes why he does not think he is violating any copyright or trademark. Good luck, Mr. Bell. I’d love one of those shirts, but I can’t see the companies not asking you to stop.

Politicians in trouble over alleged theft of works

You find yourself troubled by politicians using others’ works without permission.

You may ask yourself, “What is wrong with them?”

You may tell yourself these politicians do not represent you.

“Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.”

Forgive me, Talking Heads, for my horrible parody of “Once in a Lifetime.” At least I am acknowledging it and being clear you had nothing to do with it — unlike a certain political candidate in Florida.

David Byrne, former singer of Talking Heads, is suing Florida Gov. Charlie Christ for using “Road to Nowhere” in a campaign commercial without his permission. Byrne is seeking $1 million.

Sadly, Christ is not the only one accused of stealing intellectual property. According to the Washington Post, Idaho Congressional Candidate Vaughn Ward, who has Sarah Palin’s support, is accused of plagiarizing an Obama speech.

See for yourself. The evidence is unbelievably damning.

‘Brothers’ name leads to trademark issue

The Media Law Case of the Week features the little guy taking on a big restaurant chain.

Jim Karagas opened My Brother’s Bar 30 years ago in Denver, according to the Denver Business Journal. Now a chain of restaurants called Brothers Bar and Grill wants to open an eatery in Denver, and it has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court asking for permission to use “Brothers” in its name. Karagas says he is worried about confusion.

Here’s hoping the little guy wins this one.

For the video version of the story, click image below.

Journajunkie Back in Business

I apologize for the break. Sometimes, as you know, life gets in the way of, well, life. But now Journajunkie is back.

Here’s an idea so great I wish I had thought of it. Webbmedia created a google calendar that lists nothing but social media and journalism conferences.

You can search by month or week, get details on individual conferences and even download the entry to your own calendar. Beautiful. Thanks to @jeffjarvis and @knightfdn for tweeting about this calendar.

Beyond the Newsroom: Blogging and Rethinking

Here are the top three ideas I left Day One of the Beyond the Newsroom seminar with: (The seminar is sponsored by the American Press Institute with The Poynter Institute.)

  • 1. Bloggers and Citizen Journalists are not the enemy. In fact, they could help strengthen newspapers’ bond with their readers and provide valuable content. So says John Wilpers, a veteran journalist who is now working as a consultant. He said journalists shouldn’t think of bloggers as replacements. Instead, think of them as covering something journalists don’t. Journalists are still needed, but so are bloggers. He noted that in his experience, some bloggers he has worked with became the best word-of-mouth advertisers for the newspaper. He convinced me.
  • 2. There are innovative journalists out there taking chances — and succeeding. Susan Goldberg, editor of The Plain Dealer, described how eight newspapers in Ohio share stories and work on projects together. What makes this surprising is these newspapers have different owners. Goldberg described how this sharing has allowed them to pay for state-wide polling and provide more depth of coverage on the state as a whole. They don’t share everything. If there is an area of competition, it remains. However, they do share stories daily and run the stories with the original bylines.
  • 3. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for newspapers and online news providers. Butch Ward, managing director and faculty member of The Poynter Institute, noted that each organization is going to have to explore ideas and take a chance on those that might work for it. There is no easy fix to attracting readers and making money.
  • The seminar continues through Wednesday. I’ll post more highlights here later this week.

    Seminar to focus on newspaper newsrooms

    Starting tomorrow, I’ll be blogging and tweeting (@marducey) from the Beyond the Newsroom Seminar being sponsored by the American Press Institute and The Poynter Institute.

    The seminar focuses on ways newsrooms are tackling providing quality journalism in cash-strapped times. Speakers include author and media blogger Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine, and Charles Lewis of the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

    I’m looking forward to learning about ideas being worked on in the newsroom trenches and to sharing that with you. I’d be remiss if I did not thank the James H. Ottaway Fellowship program for making it possible for me to attend API’s seminar.

    If you are a jounajunkie like me, I encourage you to check out the American Press Institute’s offerings. In addition to opportunities to learn about the newspaper industry, the group offers a number of fellowships to make its programs accessible.

    Adult web site claims trademark infringement

    A Las Vegas adult escort web site has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a company that provides background checks for use of the term “date check,” according to the Las Vegas Sun.

    Here are the dirty details:

    DCAEV Inc., which runs the escort site date-check.com, argues that Intelius is violating its trademark with “DateCheck,” a mobile app that does a background search on, well, your date.

    “With DateCheck you know longer have to rely on your intuition or what the guy tells you,” a YouTube ad for the mobile app DateCheck says. “Look up before you hook up.”

    DCAEV also claims Intelius is cybersquatting and using deceptive trade practices.

    The Las Vegas Sun offers a PDF of the court filing here.

    Only in Vegas, baby.

    Times media law article enlightens

    Here’s the good news: Some news organizations are not letting up on legal cases to get records and information.

    Here’s the bad news: Some are.

    Tim Arango of the New York Times wrote an excellent piece about how Hearst and the Associated Press are continuing to fight for legal records, even if it costs them.

    Unfortunately, he also writes that smaller news organizations — regional and local — have had to cut legal costs along with other costs. And the head of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told him that she’s hearing about hard times for media lawyers.

    I hope the Times continues to follow up on this issue. At a time when cost-cutting is the norm in the news industry, we must monitor how this cost-cutting is impacting journalism’s watchdog role.

    Kudos to the Times for doing just that.

    Playing the J-School Name Game

    This story is probably familiar to many of you.

    I have a wonderful journalism student. She’s done everything she’s supposed to do.

    • Internships? Check. She’s had great internships at local newspapers and a regional magazine.
    • School work? Check. She goes above and beyond.
    • Hard worker? Absolutely. She’s a go-getter, no doubt about it.

    The only thing she has not done is go to a journalism school with a top-tier national reputation.

    The school where I teach is not Columbia or Missouri or Syracuse. It’s a good, small, public college in Upstate New York. And now that this stellar student is looking for jobs — or even internships — at larger publications, she’s finding it difficult to compete against the students with the J-School Name.

    Last night this student came to me to ask what she can do. I told her to keep trying, that sometimes it’s about perseverance, luck and timing. I also told her that ultimately, she might want to consider graduate school at a top journalism school. I have no doubt she’d get in and thrive.

    Dear Reader, what should I tell this student? Do you have any advice?

    Term papers have copyrights, too

    If you are buying a term paper off the Internet, you are probably not that concerned about whether someone’s copyright has been infringed upon.

    But some of the people who wrote those papers are concerned about their copyrights, and their lawsuit has led an Illinois judge to order to one of these term paper companies to prove it has permission for the papers it sells.

    According to USA Today, this might “be the first time a court has penalized a seller based on how it acquires papers.”