Copyright of “Public Facts”: Craigslist v. PadMapper

Craigslist was meant for the common good, or as founder Craig Newmark puts it, “doing well by doing good.”  At least, that has been its announced mission since it began as an email distribution among friends. Craigslist kept its mantra through its rise to Silicon Valley stardom, snubbing multi-million dollar buyout offers and fighting attempts to monetize the site along the way.

The physical layout of Craigslist hasn’t changed much over the years. Point your browser in its direction and, like an old friend, you’ll be greeted with the same underlined blue links you’ve known for years. Fans are legion, but so too are critics: Critics see stagnation in this comfort, some of whom have taken matters into their own hands through attempts at innovation. However, as some have already discovered, developing tools to work around (critics would say “enhance”) Craigslist’s simple functionality can invite legal response. Is an early darling of Silicon Valley showing a decidedly uglier side, or is Craigslist still simply looking out for the common good?   read more »

Pinterest: Fair Use of Images, Building Communities, Fan Pages, Copyright

When using Pinterest (and Flickr and YouTube and Facebook and on and on), what copyright, fair use, trademark and other issues weigh on building communities and corporate use of fan pages and social media generally?  A hypothetical “Company” has plans for its Pinterest “community”, and in particular, wonders about these situations:

  • Using Images of Identifiable People
  • Fair Use and Images
  • Trademarks: When is a “Fair Use” Argument Strongest?
  • Why Attribution and Linking to Original Sources is Important

3 introductory questions:

Question #1: Someone used to be a paid Company sponsor or spokesperson.  They are no longer.  Can the Company continue to post a photo of the old sponsor to Pinterest? Short Answer: If the contract with the sponsor expressly permits it, yes.  Ordinarily, the contract would specify engagement for limited time, and that would prohibit rights to use images beyond the contract period.  But it really depends on what the contract says.

Question #2: Can the Company post a photo of a fan of the Company? Short Answer: Express consent is required, either through a release or the fan’s agreement (whenever the photo is submitted) to terms of service.  Exceptions are discussed below.

Question #3: Can the Company post a photo of a Coca-Cola bottle on its Pinterest page? Short Answer: If the use of the image does not suggest (implicitly or explicitly) endorsement or association, then yes.   read more »

DMLP Victory! Mass. Appeals Court Finds No Trademark Infringement in Critical Website

 (This piece is co-authored by Jeff Hermes and Andy Sellars)

The DMLP is pleased to announce that the Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled in favor of the result we advocated in an amicus brief in Jenzabar v. Long Bow Group, Inc

For more background you can visit our earlier releases about the case, but in quick summary: the case concerns Long Bow, a documentary film company that released a film concerning the Tienanmen Square protests. The film is critical of many of the student leaders, including a protester named Ling Chai. The film company created a website related to the film, which, among other things, criticized Chai on a particular webpage. As Chai had since moved to Boston and co-founded an educational software company called Jenzabar, the page was titled "Jenzabar," and included terms related to Jenzabar in the metadata.   read more »

No, No, Nutella! A Trademark Dispute Over a Hazelnut Milkshake

In the Tip O'Neill spirit of all politics being local, here's an interesting trademark story from right down the road from our office:

Anyone who went to college in Boston over the past decade probably knows Boloco, a local wraps-and-smoothies chain with locations at or near most of the colleges in the metro-Boston area, with scattered other locations at other college towns in New England. Among the shakes and smoothies that Boloco sells is a "Nutella Milkshake," made with Nutella, skim milk, and frozen yogurt. The picture included with this post is taken at Boloco's Harvard Square location, and shows how Boloco advertises the shake on their menu board. (And yes, it is as delicious as it sounds.)

Boloco CEO John Pepper sent a Tweet yesterday saying, "After 14 yrs as their faithful advocate, Nutella's lawyers have sent us an immediate cease & desist on the use of their name." According to subsequent reporting by the Boston Herald, the dispute appears to be over the use of the word "Nutella" in the name of the milkshake, because, according to Pepper, "[t]hey don’t endorse the use of Nutella or the Nutella brand in frozen beverages." Nutella says that Boloco can continue using the product, but cannot use the name.   read more »

Olympic Citius Altius Fortius Pan-American: The U.S. Olympic Committee's Exclusive Rights

The U.S. Olympic Committee ("USOC") has a reputation for aggressively policing their exclusive rights to certain words, phrases, and symbols. And they have a special act of Congress to back them up.

The Ted Stevens Olympic & Amateur Sports Act (hereafter "the Act") grants the USOC the exclusive right to use the word "Olympic," and other Olympic related terms and symbols, and therefore the right to prohibit certain commercial or promotional uses by others. The Act allows the USOC to license use of the marks to contributors and suppliers of goods or services who wish to advertise that "the contributions, goods, or services were donated or supplied to, or approved, selected or used by [the USOC]."

(a) Exclusive Right of Corporation. ‒ Except as provided in subsection (d) of this section, the corporation has the exclusive right to use ‒

(1) the name "United States Olympic Committee";

(2) the symbol of the International Olympic Committee, consisting of 5 interlocking rings, the symbol of the International Paralympic Committee, consisting of 3 TaiGeuks, or the symbol of the Pan-American Sports Organization, consisting of a torch surrounded by concentric rings;

(3) the emblem of the corporation, consisting of an escutcheon having a blue chief and vertically extending red and white bars on the base with 5 interlocking rings displayed on the chief; and

(4) the words "Olympic", "Olympiad", "Citius Altius Fortius", "Paralympic", "Paralympiad", "Pan-American", "America Espirito Sport Fraternite", or any combination of those words.   read more »

DMLP Amicus Update: Narrow Victory in Massachusetts Anti-Counterfeiting Case

The DMLP recently appeared as an amicus curiae in Commonwealth v. Busa, a case brought in Boston Municipal Court under Massachusetts's anti-counterfeiting law, M.G.L. ch. 266 § 147 ("Section 147"). Yesterday morning the BMC gave us a narrow victory by granting the defendant's motion to dismiss, but without resolving the underlying question of Section 147's constitutional validity.

The case arose after defendant Matthew Busa sold anti-Vancouver Canucks shirts outside of the Boston Garden during last year's Stanley Cup Finals. The shirts had the Canucks logo with a circle and line through it (approximated in the image at right), and on the back read "Boston Fights, Vancouver Bites," a reference to an incident from game 1 of the finals. The Commonwealth arrested Busa and seized these shirts under Section 147, claiming that they were an unauthorized reproduction of the Canucks's trademark. Busa filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on a variety of grounds, including unconstitutional overbreadth and copyright preemption. At yesterday's hearing Busa also moved to report the question of Section 147's constitutional validity to the Massachusetts Appeals Court under Massachusetts Criminal Procedure Rule 34.   read more »

DMLP files Amicus Brief Against Massachusetts's 'Anti-Counterfeiting' Law

Earlier this week the CMLP (under its new name, the Digital Media Law Project) sought leave to file an amicus brief in Boston Municipal Court in the case of Commonwealth v. Busa, which concerns a prosecution under Massachusetts's anti-counterfeiting law, M.G.L. ch. 266 § 147 ("Section 147"). I wanted to share a little bit about the statute, and why we decided to take the unusual step of appearing at the trial court level to urge the court to void the statute.

Section 147, at a quick glance, may look like a traditional trademark regulation. The statute punishes whoever willfully "manufactures, uses, displays, advertises, distributes, offers for sale, sells or possesses with intent to sell or distribute any item or services bearing or identified by a counterfeit mark." So far, highly unremarkable.

The statute deviates from mainstream trademark law, however, in its definition of "counterfeit mark," which includes "any unauthorized reproduction or copy of intellectual property." "Intellectual property," in turn, is defined as "any trademark, service mark, trade name, label, term, device, design or word" that is used by a person and is registered in a state trademark database or the USPTO Principal Register. Notably absent is the central test of trademark infringement: that the use is likely to cause confusion as to the origin or sponsorship of goods or services.   read more »

Jenzabar v. Long Bow: Oral Argument Focuses on Initial Interest Confusion and Search Engine Results

This morning Jeff and I had the pleasure of watching the Massachusetts Appeals Court argument in Jenzabar, Inc. v. Long Bow Group, Inc.  As we mentioned once before on this blog, the CMLP filed an amicus brief in this case with the assistance of Harvard Law School's Cyberlaw Clinic. (And thanks again to HLS students Mike Hoven and Andrew Pearson for their help!)

The case concerns a documentary film company that released a film concerning the Tiananmen Square protests, called The Gate of Heavenly Peace. The film profiles many of the figures surrounding the protest, and is critical of a student protester named Ling Chai. Chai later moved to Boston and co-founded an educational software and service company named Jenzabar. The film company, Long Bow, created a website related to the film, which, among other things, criticized Chai on a webpage. Long Bow titled the page "Jenzabar," and included terms related to Jenzabar in the metadata.   read more »

Louis Vuitton v. Hyundai: Deconstruction of a Bad Trademark Decision

From the ever-growing file of trademark cases that are bad for free speech, Eric Goldman and Techdirt bring us an interesting case concerning a recent Hyundai ad. The ad is a series of brief vignettes conveying luxurious items in non-luxury settings: a yacht parked next to a small suburban ranch house, cops in a squad car snacking on caviar, chandeliers for streetlights, lobsters and roast pigs in what looks like an office breakroom, and – most importantly for our purposes – a group of people playing basketball with a ball that appears to have what Louis Vuitton calls its "Toile Monogram" pattern on it. Baroque music plays throughout, and a sonorous voice asks the audience, "What if we made luxury available to everyone? Would it still be called luxury? Or maybe we'd need a word for it. Oh, here's one: 'Hyundai.' The all new Hyundai Sonata."

Get it? The ad asks us to ponder whether luxury is defined by its exclusivity to an upper caste, or whether we can all experience the creature comforts of "luxury" regardless of social strata, when a vendor makes high-quality goods at a convenient price point. (Also, buy our car.)   read more »

Ron Paul Campaign Gets a Lesson on Civil Liberties

Ron Paul's presidential campaign has been having a rough go of it: He has yet to win a Republican state primary or caucus.  But now his campaign's also-ran streak extends into the courtroom too, in a victory for the right to anonymous free speech.

A California federal magistrate denied the Paul campaign's effort to unmask "NHLiberty4Paul," the anonymous poster of a YouTube video that purported to be a pro-Paul advertisement but, according to the Paul campaign, was actually an effort to smear him.  In a somewhat narrower ruling than free speech advocates would desire, Chief Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the Paul campaign had failed to establish a valid complaint under the Lanham Act, as it had been attempting, and thus was ineligible for the expedited discovery it sought to determine NHLiberty4Paul's identity.

Your very own Digital Media Law Project (we'll be switching the website over from our CMLP branding in the coming months) had a personal stake in this one, as we participated as an amicus along with The Public Citizen Litigation Group, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.     read more »

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