Iconic director Woody Allen is suing American Apparel for $10 million in damages from the unauthorized use of his image. Billboards like the one pictured above have appeared in both New York and California, as well as online, as part of their latest ad campaign. Not a surprise to see AA embroiled in controversy. It pretty much seems to follow them, and of course that’s all by design. With billboards like this. it’s not surprising. I’m not a lawyer and certainly don’t claim to know all the facts of Allen’s lawsuit, but on the surface it sure seems like a pretty dick move by AA.
I stumbled across this story over at Boingboing. Blogger Scott Beale at Laughing Squid got himself in hot water with Best Buy’s lawyers for posting on a parody shirt. The shirt, shown above, features the ‘likeness’ of the Best Buy logo tag. Scott received a cease and desist letter for merely posting on someone elses shirt. Seriously. You can read the letter on his site. Best Buy lawyers initially claimed he was ‘promoting’ the shirt, which they deemed to be an infringement upon their copyright and trademarks. Fortunately after a little back and forth their lawyers issued an apology to Scott stating that while they object to the unauthorized use of their logo, they ‘respect the First amendment rights’ of bloggers.
A revised version of the shirt is for sale at Neighborhoodies. It looks like they’ve removed the yellow color on the tag – likely to keep themselves out of further legal trouble. $5.99. View the original Laughing Squid post and the yellow tag version of the shirt here.
Pretty lame misstep on Best Buy’s part. Regardless of issues of fair use, a cease and desist for mere reporting on an event is absolutely ridiculous. No doubt the original prank pulled off by Improv Everywhere (which featured the shirts in question) was covered by countless local newspapers and television stations. Did they receive cease and desist letters for reporting the news? Somehow I don’t think so.
The Arizona Republic ran a story this morning that caught my eye. Dan Frazier, of Flagstaff, Arizona is selling anti-Bush t-shirts that says Bush Lied, They Died, printed on top of the names of 2,800 soldiers killed fighting the Iraq war. Protests by some of the families of servicemen listed on the shirt has brought about legislation in Arizona to make it a crime to use the names, or photos, of servicemen for commercial purposes.
Louisiana and Oklahoma have already passed similar laws brought about by the t-shirt. Dan Frazier has stopped selling shirts in those states. Texas and Arizona now have legistration on the books to try and do the same. Dan Frazier is quoted as saying, “It’s protected Speech. It’s political speech and there’s no bones about it.”
Moral and Ethical Issues
Aside from any legal issues at hand, the shirt will certainly will stir up some strong feelings over whether or not it is in good taste. Does it honor these soldiers? Do that fact that their names are printed over anti-bush statements affect whether it’s an appropriate use of their names?
Individuals do have civil protection against the use of their names or images. As you can imagine you can’t simply put Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton’s name on a shirt and sell it without their permission. But does the same rule apply to dead soldiers? Do those rules of protection inhibit the freedom of political speech? The proposed Arizona legislation would change the usage of their names from a civil offense to a misdemeanor criminal offense.
What Do You Think?
Let us know what you think. Vote below, or feel free to post a comment.