Victims of plagiarism can sue based on legal theories other than copyright infringement. In a recent Connecticut plagiarism case, the lawsuit was based on conversion and civil theft. Coster v. Duquette, No. UWYCV075005297S, 2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3082 (Super. Ct. Dec. 3, 2008)
If Citibank wins over "THANKYOU", then I can see an end to the controversy over saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" -- Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly should just register a trademark for "Happy Holidays" and then everyone will have to stop saying it.
Surprising to see the MPAA's take on this, in the StarTribune article linked within the post: "Even after senators curtailed the proposal's reach, objections remained among some powerful interests. Elizabeth Mottur, a lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association of America, said it could expose filmmakers to lawsuits if they portray historical characters or even use historical footage in movies. She used 'Forrest Gump' as an example. 'You can say, yes, that movies are protected by the First Amendment,' Mottur said. 'Yes, but now the burden is being shifted to the company to go to court and fight the charge and prove their First Amendment right.'"
Finally, here is The State Bar of California's response to my complaint about Marta Thoma Hall (see my earlier comments in this thread for history):
"The State Bar of California is in receipt of your letter regarding Marta Thoma Hall. Although the State Bar can take certain limited action against non-lawyers under section 6126 of the Businesss and Professions Code, our primary jurisdictional authority is over California attorneys.
"We contacted Velodyne regarding your complaint that Ms. Hall was issuing legal notices to third-party resellers on Amazon.com and eBay.com from Sock and Bruster Internet Policing Services Inc. LPC, Legal Prosecution and Collection Agency, a fictitious agency. It is the State Bar's understanding that Ms. Hall is no longer in her former position at Velodyne; therefore, it is unlikely that Ms. Hall will continue to send these legal notices.
"We are interested in the information provided and we will keep your complaint on file; however, we are closing your matter at this time without prejudice. Should we require additional information in the future, we will contact you.
"Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. Very truly yours, Kevin Kim Law Clerk"
One of the few areas where Techdirt has its head in the sand is thinking that the Streisand effect always works against the takedown requester. Haven't you noticed that marketers and PR folks now know exactly how to use the Streisand effect as a publicity tool? This story is a perfect example. The sentence "Going any further would really get the tongues wagging, which was the exact thing the league was hoping to prevent" should much more accurately say "Going any further would really get the tongues wagging, which was the exact thing the league was hoping to accomplish." As you wrote, MLB is very internet-savvy; this just proves it again.
It's ironic to see Spike Lee challenged by a ridiculous trademark controversy, considering that he sued Spike TV when they started up because he apparently thinks he is the only Spike in the entertainment industry.
A quick update on my unauthorized practice of law report to The State Bar of California -- today I received this postcard:
We have received your complaint against a non-California attorney and have assigned it the number shown below. We will contact you when our evaluation of your matter is complete. Thank you for your patience. OFFICE OF CHIEF TRIAL COUNSEL/INTAKE Inquiry # 14-27528
The State Bar of California Office of the Chief Trial Counsel, Intake Unit 845 S. Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90017-2515 Attn: UPL Project
To the State Bar of California UPL Project:
This message is to alert you about the possible unlawful practice of law by an unlicensed individual in California.
Marta Thoma Hall (whose business address is Velodyne Corporate Headquarters, 345 Digital Drive, Morgan Hill, CA 95037) held herself out to be an attorney representing Velodyne Inc., operated a phone "legal prosecution" agency, provided legal counsel to Velodyne Inc., and delivered legal advice -- all without being a member of the California Bar or the bar of any other jurisdiction.
Hall's actions are encapsulated in email messages she sent to at least three vendors on Amazon.com and Ebay.com: "20YearsUSAF" at Amazon.com and Ebay.com; "CCYL" on Amazon.com; and "Barbara's Bag of Holding" on Amazon.com. These actions are documented on Amazon.com at [URL for Amazon Seller Central discussion appears here]
Hall's email messages purpurted to be a notice of "legal prosecution" from an apprently fictitious law firm representing Velodyne, and in that fictitious role advises and counsels recipients misleadingly on their legal rights and responsibilities. The email message sent by Hall to "20YearsUSAF" reads:
[text of first letter from Hall to 20YearsUSAF appears here]
The crime here, I believe, is unauthorized practice of law, which in California I think is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. With language in the Sock and Bruster letter like "our engagement representing Velodyne", "notice of legal prosecution", and "Legal Prosecution ... Agency" -- as well as statements purporting to interpret the law -- I'd wager there's a pretty clear case to be made.
To me, this looks like another deliberate use of Streisanding to get publicity for everyone involved. So Francesa is an opinionated jerk who takes a ridiculous stand and then hammers away at anyone who disagrees: That's exactly what sports jocks are supposed to do -- haven't you ever listened to sports radio? This story helps Francesa's professional reputation, and it's no skin off his nose if the parodists get publicity too; actually it's even better for him if they do. If I were his PR advisor, I would have suggested he handle this exactly the way he's doing.
Is it Senator Wyden who misspelled "misled" in the headline, or is it the headline writer? Of course your spell-checker won't catch this because "mislead" is a real word too -- just not the right one here.
I agree with those other commenters who point out that this smells like an opponent's using the Streisand Effect, rather than the congresswoman or her supporters. Either way, though, it's nice to see our political class getting increasingly internet-savvy.
I agree that this lawsuit seems pretty stupid. However, I have to empathize with Johnny Monsarrat. Most of us have youthful indiscretions we'd prefer not to air in public. Surely Johnny Monsarrat's arrest and being accused of harassment fit this category. I hope he can find a different way to clear the air that's better than ill-advised legal action.
Restaurants use their own birthday songs, movies rarely include "Happy Birthday", and even kid-oriented radio stations don't play recordings of this song. Are people paying to download it? Where are the royalties coming from?
I don't think it's fair to say these attorneys practice law by boilerplate. Indeed (as Mr. Masnick indicates in his original post), the documents these attorneys have produced do not sound at all like standard legalese -- they seem casual and unique. I don't think I've ever heard of defendants' colleagues referred to as "minions" in a complaint before, for example.
Thinking about whether intellectual property is unethical, you probably already considered this: In most of the world, recognition that government-granted economic privileges aren't based on morality seems to be the basis for distinguishing between "moral rights" of authorship (like the right of an author to be correctly credited for his or her work) and "economic rights". But of course most moral rights aren't recognized in the U.S.
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