A Lesson In Copyright: It Does Not Give You Total Control

from the in-case-you-were-wondering dept

A few weeks ago, we wrote about American Airlines was suing Google for trademark infringement due to keyword ads on Google using the phrase "American Airlines" that pointed visitors to competing airline sites or sites that sold American Airlines tickets alongside those of competitors. The history of similar cases suggests that American Airlines is going to have a tough time making its case. First of all, it's not illegal to use the trademarked name of another company in an advertisement as long as there's no indication that the ad is for them (in other words there's no customer confusion). Second, if there is confusion in the ad, then the problem isn't between American Airlines and Google, but American Airlines and the advertiser.

It's not clear why, but a week and a half after this story appeared, someone dropped by to add a comment to the story insisting that American Airlines is in the right here, though they don't give any support reasons why. What was odd, though, was that the comment linked to the copyright page of the website of a credit card processing service, saying that you could download the PDF of AA's filings there. That seemed especially strange. It's not clear why it was linking to a credit card processing service (which originally made me wonder if the comment was merely spam) or why any company would put up the details of a totally unrelated lawsuit on its own copyright page. The lawsuit isn't even about copyright, but trademark. However, what struck me is that the copyright page itself is wrong. It claims:
"No portions of this website may be reproduced or copied without the express written permission of the owner."
And then goes on to selectively highlight or quote certain parts of copyright law. Of course, this is wrong. As I did above, you can absolutely reproduce or copy portions of this company's website without the express written permission of the owner. It's called fair use, and while many copyright holders want to pretend it doesn't exist -- it absolutely does. Quoting a small portion of a website, especially for the purpose of, say, educating people about fair use, is fair use at work. Of course, this reminds me of when law professor Wendy Seltzer got a DMCA notice for trying to point out that the NFL misapplies copyright law in its own copyright statements that make a similar claim as the site above does.

Filed Under: copyright, copyright abuse
Companies: merchant card service


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  1. identicon
    Mr. Anonymous CowHerd, 1 Sep 2007 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Fair use IS a right

    Read the Fair Use section of copyright, much of which I posted above. It specifies no rights whatsoever. Nor are they "limitations" of copyright. Again, look at it. They do not mention any limitations, nor do they mention specific uses to be allowed.

    "Section 117 of the Copyright Act (enacted 1980) provides that the owner of a legal copy of a program may make a copy of it is for archival purposes."

    This applies to Computer Programs only, which is not what the article above, nor the article linked by the other user implied. Since the articles specifically mentioned the RIAA/MPAA, (or, the "AAs"), I did not feel the need to be specific on that point. My bad.

    "Any privilege expressly guaranteed by an Act of Congress is by definition a right. Look it up."

    Please show me where, in the Fair Use portion of Copyright, Or anywhere else, for that matter, it specifically mentions *any* act not carried out by the copyright holder as guaranteed (relating to copyright the AAs hold). Trust me, I've been looking it up daily for the past 13 years.

    "Because defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution needs to prove that a law has in fact been broken, and the defense needs to address the proofs that the prosecution brings forward."

    Only in criminal courts, not civil courts where most copyright cases are tried. This statement alone leads me to believe you have zero actual experience with copyright and copyright law. In civil courts, the burden of proof is on the defendant.

    "I put my real name at the head of this post. I challenge you to put yours, Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous CowHerd"

    Exactly what would purpose would that serve? The Law is available for anyone to read. Having a name attached to the person quoting it makes no difference to the validity of it since it can be so easily verified. If I were a paranoid person, I would suspect the intentions of that comment.

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