This Post Rated E For Everyone (Except The Entertainment Software Association)

from the trademarks-and-morons-in-a-hurry dept

Looks like it’s time to break out my favorite “test” in a trademark dispute: the moron in a hurry test. Last month, video gamer blog Kotaku was one of a few blogs that linked to a humorous t-shirt that was for sale parodying the ESRB video game rating system. The t-shirt read: “Your Mom’s Rated E for Everyone.” And what happens next? The Entertainment Software Association (the folks behind the ESRB ratings) send out a cease and desist letter to Kotaku, claiming that there’s a “substantial likelihood that the ESRB certification marks will face tarnishment and dilution.” Now, there are a few problems here. First, Kotaku had nothing to do with the actual shirt (though, the ESA folks apparently couldn’t figure that out). They were just writing about it, which is clearly perfectly legal no matter how you look at it. Kotaku home base (better known as Gawker Media) pointed out to the ESA that they were probably mistaken and that since it’s news/editorial content there’s nothing to bother with here. But, apparently the lawyers at the ESA don’t believe in that sort of thing, and repeated their demand that Kotaku’s post be taken down. Of course, even if Kotaku were selling the t-shirt, they’d have a pretty clear case for it being legal. On the copyright side, it’s a parody, which is an acceptable defense for fair use. On the trademark side, we trot out the moron in a hurry, who is unlikely to ever think that a t-shirt reading “Your Mom’s Rated E for Everyone” is actually endorsed by the ESRB. If anything, the ESRB just spiked the demand for this t-shirt. However, what would be really fun, is if someone now creates a video game named “Your Mom” and tries to get an ESRB rating of “E for Everyone.”


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Comments on “This Post Rated E For Everyone (Except The Entertainment Software Association)”

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29 Comments
TriZz says:

Re: Re: Fair Use

I don’t think it would. If that were the case then there would no skit shows (Mad TV or SNL) and Weird Al’s music career would have ended in the 80’s.

Like Brian said, I also believe Weird Al gets permission.

And the shirt uses the ESRB logo in it’s entirety, including the catchphrase of “rated E for everyone”. Movies like the Scary Movie series – and the skit shows don’t use the parody in it’s entirety.

I should make myself clear, I don’t think it’s right that they are suing – but I’m not sure if this falls under the umbrella of “fair use.”

Chris says:

Re: Re: Re: Fair Use

Weird Al gets permission, but the key bit is he doesn’t HAVE to. I believe for example, the song “You’re Pitiful” he had full permission from James Blunt, but Blunt’s record company said no. Weird Al said, “well, it doesn’t actually matter since parody is fully covered under Fair Use, but I don’t want to disenfranchise anyone.” or something along those lines.

Tin Ear (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Fair Use

TRUE! As a matter of fact, Al got in trouble for the song ‘Amish Paradise’ due to the fact that Coolio’s producers indicated Al could produce the song and then Coolio himself made a statement that he never gave express permission. I am unaware what kind of settlement was reached in the case, but Al did apologize publicly. I believe that royalties/fees of some sort are being paid to Coolio.

In any case, it’s asinine for the ESRB to go after a guy who mentions a product in a blog. Even if it were completely degrading to the rating system, mentioning the parody is still covered by freedom of speech.

Jon says:

Fair Use

weird Al gets permission in some cases; when he can’t, he stays away just enough that he can’t be charged–and doesn’t hold back on anything else. This was pointed out on one of his album covers, several years ago. It might have changed now. [It was also stated that most artists think a Weird Al parody of their works is a compliment.]

Solo says:

TShirtHell.com is the best source for offensive tshirts and funny too. This is really good publicity.

The moron in a hurry applies to the lawyers who c&d the blog pointing to the original web site. Cluesless about the internet? A little too much red wine with the pork chops for lunch? In any case, double checking by a peer with more than one brain cell should be a good policy.

Finally, the ESRB should be rated R for retard (and that’s offensive to retards) and their lawyers rated S for STFU.

viccol (user link) says:

http://www.diy-t-shirt.com

DESIGN BY YOURSELF , WE DO IT FOR YOU !!!

(article from http://www.diy-t-shirt.com )

Like to design your own t-shirt ? maybe you have cool picture but can

only keep it in
PC hard disk or as photo in album. it is a pity which canot be showed

off in public .but if it can be showed onto t-shirt . donot you think it

is a wonderful thing .

Producing your own photo or your favorite picture like NBA star or

other sport famous guys on T-shirt is so appealing , how to do it ???

your wish will come true here . excitement and joy will start now ….

Come on . design your t-shirt to be unique now !!!

IF YOU COME , YOU WILL FIND THE SURPRISE .

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