Sarajevo's City Government Says No One Can Use The Name 'Sarajevo' Without Its Permission

from the Sarajevo:-Where-the-Name-Sarajevo-Goes-to-Die dept

The city of Sarajevo passed a law in 2000 forbidding anyone but the city of Sarajevo from using the name Sarajevo. Not much has been said about it because the Sarajevo city council hasn't done much about it. But recently owners of Facebook pages containing the word "Sarajevo" have been receiving legal threats from the city's government.

Sarajevo resident Aleksandar Todorović wrote a long blog post detailing the stupidity of this law, which contains firsthand accounts of Facebook page owners who've been threatened with criminal proceedings for failing to secure permission to use the name of a city on their pages. As Todorović notes, his blog post is illegal, simply because it hasn't been pre-approved by Sarajevo's city council.

The law can be read here (and loosely translated by Google). It basically states the city owns the name and all others wishing to use it must ask the city council for permission before using it. It also states there are some requests that just aren't going to be granted.

The use of the name of the City of Sarajevo may be granted to legal entities for the purpose of entering the company or the name of the legal person and the name of the product, if their activity does not violate the reputation of the City of Sarajevo and contributes to its affirmation.

If an entity uses the name Sarajevo, it can face fines for not asking permission first.

Legal persons and natural persons who use the coat of arms and the name of the City of Sarajevo without the approval of the competent authority or who, contrary to the given authorization and this decision, misuse the coat of arms and the name of the City of Sarajevo, shall compensate the City of Sarajevo for any damage caused by such behavior.

There is no statutory limit to damages the city can assess. The following paragraphs leave that to courts to decide, following input from the city on the amount of "damage" it has sustained from unauthorized use of the city's name.

Those obtaining permission may dodge being assessed for damages, but that doesn't mean they won't be paying anything. The city will license its name to approved parties for an annual fee ranging from ~$60-3,000 a year, depending on the financial health of the entity. (The law gives non-profit entities the low end. The other ranges are determined by the number of people employed by companies using the city's name.)

For years, this law has been dormant. But for whatever reason, Sarajevo's government has started cracking down on Facebook pages using the city's name.

The administrator of [a] Facebook page [Sarajevo Forever] published a Facebook status containing this text on January 18th:

I have received a threatening letter from the city’s government in which they are warning me that I have to pay them a certain amount of money for the usage of the name Sarajevo in the name of my Facebook page. If I don’t start paying them, they will start their Facebook teams and contact the court so that they could shut down my Facebook profile.

According to that same author, this Facebook page isn’t the only one that got this message:

All other Facebook pages that promote the city and have the noun Sarajevo in its name got the identical threats.

And so, all of this is very real. The city council in Sarajevo contains full ownership over the name Sarajevo, in a legally-binding decision based upon an article of the law that defines what a city is, and the city’s Statute, which claims that the usage of the city’s symbols (but does not mention the name of the city as its symbol) are to be controlled by a separate legally-binding document published by the city’s council.

Those receiving quasi-C&Ds from the city of Sarajevo were told to respond within seven days or be faced with possible criminal prosecution. Those threats have now been dismissed by the city. Maybe someone up top had second thoughts or experienced a little backlash. Whatever the case, the city has now granted all Facebook pages permission to use the city's name without having to pay fees or face criminal charges. There's been no amendment to the city's statute, so this unofficial waiver could be revoked at any time.

As Todorović notes in his lawbreaking blog post, this law is every bit as stupid as other overreaching efforts at the intersection of government entities and intellectual property. He compares it to the European Union's decision to grant exclusive control of images of the Eiffel Tower at night to the country of France, thus banning anyone from photographing the tower after dark -- or at least preventing them from marketing or distributing these photos.

It may be the law was written to extract licensing fees from companies using the word "Sarajevo" in their names. It's still a stupid idea but that would have at least made sense in the way most licensing requirements work. But it's written to include both businesses and private individuals and it would apparently cover the name of city used descriptively to designate the location where things occurred -- like blog posts about stupid laws the city of Sarajevo has passed. City governments have no business trying to "own" their cities' names. Hopefully Todorović's post will gain enough traction the city council will be forced to scuttle this supremely stupid law. If a law turns you into a cartoonish supervillain the moment you try to enforce it, it's probably not worth the trouble to keep it on the books.


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  • identicon
    David, 26 Jan 2018 @ 3:45am

    Who better than Sarajevo?

    Here is where World War One started, and copyrights and its ilk (this seems vaguely like trademark related but the law in question clearly exceeds the scope of that) are what World War Three will be about.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yes,I know I'm commenting anonymously, 26 Jan 2018 @ 3:55am

    the sheer incompetence

    Legal persons and natural persons who use the coat of arms and the name of the City of Sarajevo without the approval of the competent authority or who, contrary to the given authorization and this decision, misuse the coat of arms and the name of the City of Sarajevo, shall compensate the City of Sarajevo for any damage caused by such behavior. (emphasis mine)

    Tey wrote a law that can be literally interpreted to only apply when two conditions are met. If one refrains from using both, one is within the law. A good example of lawmakers not thinking about wording, to their own detriment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2018 @ 5:06am

      Re: the sheer incompetence

      Just speaking for my anonymous self, I wouldn't put to much weight on the fidelity of a Google translation of a legal claim.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2018 @ 7:55am

      Re: the sheer incompetence

      "A good example of lawmakers not thinking about wording, to their own detriment."

      sounds to me like this was the exact intention.

      When it comes to government, only a fool believes in this saying "Never attribute to malice what is sufficiently explained by stupidity"

      When it comes to government, never assume stupidity because malice is far more prevalent!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2018 @ 4:26am

    Sarajevo already has the assassination that launched World War I tied to it as well as the Siege of Sarajevo in the 90s Bosnian War firmly planting the city's name in every history book and their worried about damage from Facebook? Will they go after Trans-Siberian Orchestra for the song 'Sarajevo 12/24'?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ThaumaTechnician (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 4:47am

    Up next...

    A law about the pronunciation of "chowdah".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ryuugami, 26 Jan 2018 @ 5:01am

    I actually LOL'd

    Oh god that tag box... Touche, Mr. Cushing. Touche.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sarajevo Sucks AIDS infected donkey dicks, 26 Jan 2018 @ 5:51am

    Name says it all.

    The name has been used without license for how many years?
    They ain't got a leg to stand on, especially after the citizens rise up and whip the council with their wet spaghetti noodles.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      SSAIDD, 26 Jan 2018 @ 5:54am

      Re: Name says it all.

      Sorry if that was over the top, my fever addled brain hit submit before thinking.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 1:38pm

      Re: Name says it all.

      I wonder if the city has granted itself permission to use the city's coat of arms and name?

      They may have assumed they don't need to, since they ARE the City of Sarajevo, but depending on how that law is written, they may actually be required to prosecute themselves!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sarajevo, 26 Jan 2018 @ 6:49am

    Come at me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2018 @ 7:19am

    This is where we desperately need Carol Kane

    On loop, yelling "Sarajevo! Humpberdinck! Sarajevo! Humperdinck!" at Billy Crystal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 7:54am

    from the Sarajevo:-Where-the-Name-Sarajevo-Goes-to-Die dept

    Alternatively, Sarajevo:-the-Spot-on-the-Venn-Diagram-Where-Copyright-Defamation-and-the-Right-to-be-Forgotten-Meet dept.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 26 Jan 2018 @ 8:01am

    Simple answer

    Remove any mention of Sarajevo from the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 8:29am

      Re: Simple answer

      You just mentioned Sarajevo, but good idea.

      [...]

      Dammit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2018 @ 9:18am

        Re: Re: Simple answer

        I was wondering about that point - how to warn people not to use the name S******* without actually using the name S******** raises issues about whether metadata is capable of being a criminal offence, at least in S*******.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          orbitalinsertion (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 11:53am

          Re: Re: Re: Simple answer

          The City Which Shall Not Be Named.

          This would be a hideous postal address, but safe, i suppose. It's going to be hell for tourism. Što da radimo na odmoru? Come to the City Which Shall Not Be Named. Let it happen now!™

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 8:33am

      Re: Simple answer

      Better than that, remove Sarajevo from maps, charts, directions, airline destinations, train schedules, birth records, passports, street addresses, id cards, phone books, etc.. See how that impacts their trade, including the loss of tourists. Do tourists even go to Sarajevo anymore? They certainly won't if they cannot find it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 1:19pm

      Re: Simple answer

      Nah, the simple answer is change your spelling to $arajevo. Now it's legal AND appropriate!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike-2 Alpha (profile), 28 Jan 2018 @ 11:54pm

      Re: Simple answer

      Brilliant idea! Someone tell Bielefeld they're off the hook. We've got another city to unexist.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mark (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 9:13am

    Could be worse...

    Years ago, someone alleged:
    Reproduction without the express permission of MS Magazine is strictly prohibited.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 10:48am

    The only way to handle this...

    I'm going to open a restaurant called "Sarajevo Olympic Taqueria"* with the slogan "where e-mail was invented" and let their lawyers fight to the death over who gets to file first.

    *using taqueria to avoid brand confusion

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 1:41pm

    How far does a city's jurisdiction run?

    I mean, if they have no authority beyond the city limits, and the Facebook page is not hosted on a server inside those limits, how exactly can they impose fines or send cease & desist letters that have any legal force to them whatsoever?

    It seems to me to be the same issue as that Canadian court issuing global orders and expecting them to be carried out even in places where obeying the order would be illegal.

    But this takes it a step further -- Google at least does business in Canada. How much authority can the City of Sarajevo exert over someone who is not inside their jurisdiction, never has been inside it, and possibly never will be inside it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sarah Yevo, 26 Jan 2018 @ 2:10pm

    Uh, oh...

    I think I have a problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Awkward Communard, 26 Jan 2018 @ 3:56pm

    I've been all over Europe, but man I'm going to

    miss Sarajevo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 26 Jan 2018 @ 10:51pm

    OK, How About ...

    ... “Gavrilo Princip City”?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave P., 27 Jan 2018 @ 10:06am

    Bloody stupid!

    Cor blimey, mate! Around these UK parts, this would be regarded as pure lunacy. How can copyright or any legal action be applied in this case?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DaveinCanada (profile), 28 Jan 2018 @ 6:43am

    Sarajevo

    am i a real-life troll for commenting with the sole purpose of adding to 0ogle's search list?
    if so, life goal complete
    #sarajevo for life

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2018 @ 10:13am

    There goes my plan to sell Sarjevo sex dolls and Sarajevo war crime diaries.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2018 @ 10:15am

    You'd think the Sarajevo government would have better things to do what with them being war criminals that need to face a firing squad and all.

    But I guess copyright tops worrying about the horrific crimes against humanity you supported, condoned and continue to assist in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 28 Jan 2018 @ 11:18am

    Sa-ra-je-vo!

    Sa-ra-je-vo!
    Slowly I turn,
    Step by step,
    Inch by inch...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chuck, 29 Jan 2018 @ 10:06am

    Some days

    Ever have one of those days when you wish the fiction from your favorite video game were a reality?

    Oh how I wish the Brotherhood of Nod's Temple Prime would sprout up right under city hall right about now.

    Too much to ask for, I suppose.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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