Florida City Sends Bogus Trademark C&D To Blogger Because It Doesn't Like Its Logo Parodied
from the GOVERN-YOURSELF-ACCORDINGLY dept
You’d think city lawyers would talk to other lawyers before sending cease-and-desist letters to citizens. Or, at the very least, page through a few pamphlets on intellectual property law before threatening people with legal actions completely unmoored from statutory authority. But if they all did this, what would we write about?
The city of Tamarac, Florida, is the latest participant in the long-running MMO we call “The Streisand Effect.” Apparently, the city doesn’t like its logo being used by someone who has little respect for the city’s governance. It would presumably approve of its logo being adjacent to more respectful writing, but the lack of legal threats directed at home-teamers makes it difficult to gather test cases.
As the Miami New Times reports, the city of Tamarac is unamused by a blogger’s disrespectful parodying of its logo/leader.
Last month, independent blogger (and human limerick) Sharon Aron Baron, who runs the blog Tamarac Talk, wrote a short post encouraging Tamarac residents to run for mayor in 2018. The post, titled “It’s Good to Be the King When You’re the Mayor of Tamarac,” detailed various ways in which Baron thought Mayor Harry Dressler may or may not have been doing a poor job as the city’s leader. The post included a photo of the city’s unremarkable logo with Burger King’s King mascot superimposed.
That image apparently enraged someone at the city so deeply that the city’s attorney, Julie F. Klahr, got involved, sending Baron a cease-and-desist letter demanding that she stop making fun of the city’s precious logo.
Here’s the image that so bothered the city’s legal department that it issued bogus legal threats. (Burger King apparently remains unperturbed by this use of its intellectual property.)
The city calls it “unauthorized use,” but the city isn’t allowed to control every use of its logo. No one needs to ask permission before engaging in parody. (What a sad, sad world it would be if that were true…) The deputy city attorney, Julie F. Klahr, should know better. Perhaps she should have asked the partners at Goren Cherof Doody & Ezrol for some legal guidance before issuing this bogus C&D with their letterhead. Or maybe the law firm doesn’t care what sort of stupid letters assholes send with its name all over it. Whatever the case, the letter makes sure the recipient knows the city’s engaged in IP thuggery with its sign-off sentence (in all caps): GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY.
Sharon Aron Baron, the author of the offending posts at Tamarac Talk, has responded to the legal threats by posting the letter and reminding the city that pursuing bogus legal claims isn’t the best use of taxpayers’ money.
We contend the use of the city logo with the Burger King mascot photoshopped in front of it is clearly a parody which is protected free speech and that using taxpayers dollars to have the city’s attorney’s fight sophomoric cases like this is an insult to to all of our residents.
What’s so frightening, is that it seems that the city and the law firm of Goren Cherof Doody & Ezrol P.A. were unaware of the right of free speech enshrined in both United States and Florida Constitutions and the doctrine of fair use. The fair use doctrine allows the use of copyrighted materials for purposes such as criticism or comment, which is not a copyright infringement. See 17 U.S.C. § 107(1982). As 17 USC § 107 makes patently obvious, the purpose of this section is to prevent a copyright from being used as a device of censorship, which is exactly what the City of Tamarac is trying to do.
Baron says “copyright,” but the letter (correctly) says “trademark.” It doesn’t really matter which form of IP is being abused to stifle free speech. It’s the stifling. (Although it does help to know the IP specifics when fighting bogus demands…) The city should know better. Either it doesn’t know or it doesn’t care. Neither of these is a good look for public servants.
It’s kind of hypocritical to toot your fair use horn while throwing roadblocks up in front of people looking to do the same thing.]
Filed Under: florida, free speech, julie klahr, parody, sharon aron baron, tamarac, trademark
Companies: goren cherof doody & ezol
Comments on “Florida City Sends Bogus Trademark C&D To Blogger Because It Doesn't Like Its Logo Parodied”
Maybe the accused should turn this around and demand compensation for his content being linked to a crime and him being accused of being a criminal…Seek redress from the court and demand the person in question pay out of their own pocket or even force the local taxpayers to pay huge monetary compensation, maybe then this uneducated official will be removed from their position and forced to work in burger king. No i like Burger King too much to allow them to be harmed by someone like this.
“the law firm of Goren Cherof Doody & Ezrol”
heh heh heh… she said ‘doody’.
Her response should have been: “Please don’t send me a letter with the word Doody on it and expect me to take it seriously.”
Re: Re: Re:
I wonder if that law firm partner is related to Howdy Doody?
Sounds like an evil but incredibly clumsy law firm in a nonsensical cartoon (like Adventure Time). Pure comedy!
Re: Re: Re:
Is this the next parody?
Interview the lawyers
I have a suggestion for Tim and Mike: whenever they write stories like this, could they also interview the lawyers and ask why the case was filed.
I know I sound like a broken record on this issue, but I think it’s time we started hearing from the lawyers: did they file the case not knowing about parody laws? Or did they know the law and file the case because their client paid them?
Re: Interview the lawyers
And what do you suppose would be the responses they would get from said lawyers. Because I imagine that 9 times out of 10, these lawyers would realize their mistake by the time they receive correspondence from Techdirt, and their response would be silence. Because whatever their reason, it’s going to end up being a dumb or embarrassing one. And any words they try to utter in defense of it will only make them seem dumber.
Re: Interview the lawyers
Re: Re: Interview the lawyers
Sure, most of them would go “No comment”…if you assume they’re competent in the first place.
And based on the claims made in these C&D letters, that’s a fairly broad assumption.
Are you parodying the city's name?
You have flipped the ‘m’ and ‘r’ on at least three occasions in the piece itself and once in the ‘File Under’ section.
Please GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY. 🙂
Re: Are you parodying the city's name?
Um, the City’s name already is a parody.
According to the article, it’s the reverse of "Caramat", a line of car washes owned by the founder of the City. Of course, that’s not on the City’s history page.
Sadly, there appears to be no fallback support for this blocking, so NoScript users will not get to experience this silly barrier.
More like 4 versions, really. Vista and Windows 7 have already passed the end of mainstream support (meaning that they will basically only get security patches) and even extended support for Vista ends next month (so no security patches either).
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Take a screenshot, copy to Paint, then crop. Simples!
No There There
To sound official, Ms. Khlar cites to Section 3.01 of the City Charter. But that section of the Charter merely states what the City’s seal is to look like:
Ironically, the logo here doesn’t even comply.
Ms. Khlar then cites Fla. Stat. § 495.131, regarding infringement of state-registered trademarks. While the City surprisingly has a Florida trademark registration on this logo, both the City and the state apparently overlooked Fla. Stat. § 495.121, which prohibits registering the any mark that "[c]onsists of or comprises the flag or coat of arms or other insignia of the United States, or of any state or municipality, or of any foreign nation, or any simulation thereof."
I’m not saying this is a baseless threat. I’m saying (shouting?) GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY.
“You’d think city lawyers would talk to other lawyers before sending cease-and-desist letters to citizens. Or, at the very least, page through a few pamphlets on intellectual property law before threatening people with legal actions completely unmoored from statutory authority. But if they all did this, what would we write about?”
Puppies…you could write about puppies…
“Goren Cherof Doody & Ezrol”
They are a subdivision of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe.
Are they in the same chambers as Messrs Sioux, Grabbitt and Runne?
Change the logo from Florida City to the City of London (UK) and see how that works out.
The VIP Tent for City Officials
Leads to interesting speculation. It could be a legitimate city function where the officials are there to carry out city business. In that case, it needs to be open, pursuant to S:286.011; the consequences of violation could be noteworthy.
It is also possible that the tentind and feeding of the officials serves no legitimate function, but that could then be deemed “unauthorized compensation” under Ch. 713.
Fortunately, it’s not my file, so I do not have to decide.