Love for the Public Domain

Love For those of you who need last minute Valentine’s Day cards  you’re in luck. Two sites, the New York Public Library and the West Virginia University History Center have vintage Valentine’s Day card collections. The WVU site actually allows you to send a card to a recipient. These cards/images are in the public domain since they were created before 1923 and are free to use. Materials created after 1923 may be in the public domain if they meet certain criteria such as having the appropriate copyright notice or not having their copyright status renewed – requirements under copyright law in the past. Here is a useful chart by Peter Hirtle from Cornell University that can help you determine whether a particular item is within the public domain. Remember that other materials such as most materials created by the federal government are in the public domain as well even if created recently and are free to use.

One of the most famous American and iconic works of art with a love theme – Robert Indiana’s  – Love (1966)  – was denied copyright protection as copyright protection is generally not afforded to short phrases or titles – even if it was executed in a distinctive font and design.

And finally a list of reasons from the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center on why you should love fair use.

Dumb Starbucks: A quick lesson in Trademark Law

Image An L.A. based coffee shop has decided to call itself “Dumb Starbucks” and is claiming that it can do so with impunity as the use of the name constitutes fair use and  parody of the Starbucks name. See the Wall Street Journal story here.

 If I were a betting man I would not wager against the corporate caffeinated behemoth in what will probably be one of the most quickly filed lawsuits in history. (Disclosure: I’m having one of their delicious brewed coffees right now which may be affecting my disposition on the matter).

 The dispute between Starbucks vs. Dumb Starbucks will most likely be determined under Trademark law under what is called the Lanham Act. The Lanham Act (Named after Tex. Rep. Fritz Lanham) is the federal law that governs federal trademark law (Note: Unlike Copyright you can register a trademark with a state government or with both the federal and a state government) While fair use is a concept in trademark law it isn’t likely to help Dumb Starbucks out too much – since one of the standards under the Lanham Act is that the use of the logo would not cause confusion amongst consumers – here that certainly is a possibility even if slight.  The other main concern a court would have is that the operators of Dumb Starbucks are using Starbucks Logo to turn a profit and compete in the same business. The operators may be subject to claims for dilution or tarnishment – this is especially true where a logo is already famous when a party begins to use the logo as is the case here.  Another story from USA Today – with better pictures here.  A history of the Starbucks logo through the last four decades is located here.  

Update: It appears the Dumb Starbucks store was a hoax put on my Comedy Central comdeian Nathan Fielder.

WordPress sues over false copyright claim and abuse of DMCA Take Down Notices

ImageWordPress and Retraction Watch, a WordPress based blog reporting news on retractions of academic articles, have filed a lawsuit against what they allege to be baseless DMCA Take Down Notices file with the intent to censor news and opinions reported on the site. Read more here including a link to the complaint from the Retraction Watch site

Sonny Bono Act turns 15 with 5 more years to go

ImageThe Copyright Extension Act was passed 15 years ago pushed through Congress by lobbyists for the Disney Company. The act has another 5 years on the books before expiring but opposition against the extension is expected to be much greater next time around. Read more here from the Washington Post.