For years, New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and the NYPD waged a small-scale war in Times Square to turn it into a family-friendly tourist attraction on par with Las Vegas. It succeeded... mostly. Porn shops were replaced with toy stores and chain restaurants.
The war continues, even after this overhaul. Anywhere tourists gather en masse will draw the attention of less-desirable city residents. Panhandlers and street performers continue to converge on Times Square, hoping to earn a few bucks from out-of-towners. Much to Bill Bratton and the NYPD's chagrin, Times Square continues to draw a disproportionate amount of New York City's boobs. And topless women.
[A]t midday Thursday, there were 38 costumed panhandlers, five topless ladies and an artist who paints people’s naked bodies in full view in Times Square...
The city is trying to figure out how to keep these topless women out of an area
where tourists can also witness the spectacle that is the nationally-infamous Naked Cowboy
. Nothing seems to be working especially well and any efforts targeting female toplessness specifically will obviously (and correctly) be hailed as sexist (and a possible violation of the First Amendment).
The other element it wishes to banish is a direct result of the city's decision to turn Times Square into Disneyland Lite: costumed street performers. Many dress as Disney/comic book characters and make money by charging tourists for photos with them. Some of these performers are known to become aggressive when photos are taken without "permission." (Read: in exchange for $$$) Others are known to commit more heinous acts
There's been a series of incidents and arrests since then, including accusations of groping by Cookie Monster, and also Woody from "Toy Story."
Spider Man was arrested in 2014 for allegedly demanding tips in an aggressive manner. Earlier this year, a Youtube video went viral of another Spider Man locked in a brawl with a heckler right in front of Toys R Us.
So, New York is still New York even if Times Square isn't really Times Square anymore.
Police commissioner Bratton wants to add more officers... to enforce not much of anything, apparently
Bratton said the unit was in the works for some time but was fast-tracked after the media began focusing on the desnudas and how their kind of panhandling can be “easily spread to other parts of the city.”
That said, Bratton added, “there’s only about one crime reported every day” in Times Square.
This new unit will patrol Times Square and attack "quality of life" issues… like painted women. Or intellectual property infringement
The city’s top cop said Thursday they got the cold shoulder from Disney and Marvel when they tried to enlist them in the fight against the costumed characters preying on tourists in Times Square.
The NYPD specifically asked the companies if they wanted to charge the hustlers who wear Mickey Mouse, Spider-Man and other well-known costumes with copyright infringement.
Look! It's IP law abuse to the rescue, a favorite tactic of this IP-abusing
First off, these costumed performers would more likely fall under trademark
infringement than copyright
infringement. The characters are covered under trademark law. Creative works using these characters are what's covered by copyright. But that distinction doesn't matter to these blustering officials. They're only concerned with enlisting the public to fight their battles for them. Any differences between copyright and trademark enforcement can be sorted out by Disney, Marvel, et al.
Fortunately, the companies seem less willing to abuse IP law to help out Bratton and the NYPD. Disney's lack of interest in filing lawsuits isn't altruistic, however. It won't participate with Bratton's plan because it doesn't know who
these performers are. The amount of time and money spent to discover this would easily outweigh any compensation gained.
Disney -- being Disney
-- prefers to have legislation written on its behalf.
The bill — which would require the horde of Spider-Men, Mickeys and Minnies and other costumed panhandlers to undergo background checks and carry IDs — was introduced back in September by Councilman Andy King (D-Bronx).
“We have been for years working with previous and current administrations as well as the City Council trying to get legislation passed that would require registration and identification of these costumed characters,” said Disney spokeswoman Zenia Mucha.
This would solve Disney's (and Marvel's) "problem" without either corporation having to look like an IP thug. But the legislation isn't going anywhere and Bratton wants his Time Square free of Mickeys and Spidermen now
. So, he's asking these companies to file baseless and pointless lawsuits almost solely on behalf of Bratton and his cleanup crusade.
The city's top cop is also willing to let Disney, Marvel, etc. work for free
“They want no part of it,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on the John Gambling radio show. “We've encouraged Walt Disney, ‘Put your characters out on Broadway free of charge so people don't have to worry about their kids being groped,’” he said. “We said to them, effectively, ‘Since you control the rights of them, put them out in front of the Disney Theater.' They want no part of it.”
Disney and Bratton may not see eye-to-eye on the specifics
of the solution, but they do agree on one aspect: someone else
should do all the work.
The regulatory angle (licensing performers) Disney prefers puts the city and its police force to work for
the companies. Bratton's suggestions (filing bogus copyright infringement lawsuits, "free" costumed performers) puts the companies to work for
the city. As long as they only agree on this element, nothing will ever move forward.
And once again, we see that government entities -- like many private companies -- are quick to turn to abuse of IP protections once they've run out of good ideas -- or, in this case, when they didn't have any good ideas to begin with.