Ramblings & ephemera

Ridiculous trademark and fair use stories

From Mark Sableman’s “Copyright reformers pose tough questions” (St. Louis Journalism Review: June 2005):

Kembrew McLeod of the University of Iowa explained how as a graduate student he applied for a federal trademark registration on the phrase “freedom of expression” as a joke, not really expecting that even a green-eye-shaded trademark examiner would approve it. The result? He got the trademark registration – and his certificate appears on the frontispiece of his current book about the abuse of intellectual property – a book titled, “Freedom of Expression™.” …

Victor Navasky, editor of The Nation magazine, told the story of his copyright case, which became a U.S. Supreme Court landmark – a story that from his perspective involved his use of only a tiny newsworthy portion of Gerald Ford’s memoirs, a book that he considered “designed to put you to sleep.” The resulting whirlwind lawsuit, however, put no one to sleep, and led to a 1985 decision that made copyright “fair use” determinations more difficult than ever. …

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