Public Domain Citation Book, Baby Blue, Renamed To Indigo Book, Following Harvard Law Review Threats

from the too-bad dept

We’ve been covering the ridiculous saga of the Harvard Law Review Association and its pricey legal threats to Carl Malamud for daring to publish a public domain set of legal citations. As a bit of background, legal citations tend to follow a standard found in the Bluebook, which is put out by the Harvard Law Review Association (which, confusingly, is actually made up of four top law schools). Many have criticized the Bluebook heavily, including appeals court judge Richard Posner who has ripped into the Bluebook, and suggested a much simpler form of legal citations, leading (in part) to something called the Maroonbook, from the University of Chicago Law Review. And, yet, the Bluebook has still mostly remained atop the heap, generating a ton of money for the law schools that back it. A few years ago, the Bluebook ran into some intellectual property issues, when Professor Frank Bennett sought to build support for the Bluebook into his open source citation tool, Zotero, and the Harvard Law Review Association obnoxiously said no, claiming copyright over citations (which seems… questionable).

After all of this, law professor Chris Sprigman and public records warrior Carl Malamud realized that an earlier version of the Bluebook had fallen into the public domain. They then announced they would use that public domain version as a base, and then build their own competing citation manual, called Baby Blue. On Christmas Eve, Harvard Law Review was so freaked out by some tweets by Malamud implying that Baby Blue was ready to release, that it had a high priced lawyer dash off a threat letter warning him not to release the book.

He did so anyway, and tons of law students (including those at Harvard Law), signed onto letters in support of Baby Blue. But, in the end, legal fights are draining — mentally, physically… and monetarily. And thus, Malamud and Sprigman have somewhat thrown in the towel, noting that since the Harvard Law Review Association seems so worked up about the use of the word “blue,” they will rename their book as the Indigo Book. You can see it here.

You and I have discussed this several times. Professor Sprigman and I believe strongly that there is absolutely zero chance of confusion, dilution, or any other harm that trademark aims to prevent in our use of the title Baby Blue. Nobody would mistake the work we?ve created with The Bluebook. This is not a trademark issue.

Nevertheless, Professor Sprigman and I, as we have repeatedly told you and your paid outside counsel, have absolutely no interest in litigation on this issue. We will defend ourselves in court if necessary, but we feel this would be a waste of your time and would quickly become a stain on the reputation of the Harvard Law Review. That you would not drop the threat of litigation in our prior conversations has baffled me, and the current renewed threats are very disturbing.

Even though your legal threats are baseless and, frankly, amount to little more than an attempt to bully into submission lawful competition, Professor Sprigman and I have decided to change the name, taking into account your preferences. In particular, you demanded that the word ?Blue? not be present in the title or the subtitle. The Indigo Book is now on our web site. I trust this will put an end to this.

It’s always at least a little bit disappointing when people feel compelled to change their plans due to what appear to be baseless legal threats, and it’s unclear what the Harvard Law Review Association will think of the Indigo Book, but one hopes that the folks at the HLRA have at least started to realize how ridiculous they look in all of this.

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Companies: harvard, harvard law review association

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Comments on “Public Domain Citation Book, Baby Blue, Renamed To Indigo Book, Following Harvard Law Review Threats”

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David says:

I'm confused.

[b]ut one hopes that the folks at the HLRA have at least started to realize how ridiculous they look in all of this.

Uh, we are talking about a publication focused on law practice.

I mean, that’s like pointing out to Penthouse Magazine that they have had several women depicted in less than adequate business attire recently.

The majority of law practice and the resulting payments revolve around ridiculous claims that are so out of whack with reality that it’s cheaper for your opponent to settle than trying to correct all your bullshit on his own dime.

And in order to have government work make best use of law education, public prosecutors and state attorneys get to play the bullshit card for forcing opponents into settling even when innocent, in the form of plea deals. So the general law practice approach of telling your opponent to eat shit or risk paying through the nose works also in state positions.

So Harvard owes it to their reputation not to stop this harrassment. This is a game of poker where both sides know that Harvard has the losing cards, so Harvard is raising the stake until Bennet has to fold because just securing the credits needed for calling their bluff would be too expensive.

This is Harvard Law, the best of U.S. law. They are going to play this by the book.

Anonymous Coward says:

Another lock on Public Domain?

So, by this logic, if the Herman Melville estate held a trademark on the name “Moby Dick” because they were still selling copies of the book – and someone came along and tried to offer a cheaper (or even free) version of the book, they would likely have to rename it to something like “Story About A Big White Whale” in order to do so?

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