Confusing apple

The Australian supermarket chain Woolworths applied for a trademark in August last year. Woolworths’ new logo is a  stylised “W” with a leaf on top, but apparently Apple thinks different (sorry bad pun, couldn’t resist). Apple has decided that it will challenge Woolworths trademark application (via Techgeek). Apple claims that the similarities could potentially confuse the consumer. I can’t see it myself…

Trademark Violation

On my way to work I saw an interesting advert on the tram. Göteborg University is attempting to attract new students by using the Pirate Bay trademark. The advert has changed the logo slightly by replacing the skull and crossbones with a globe but this still makes it a trademark violation… I guess that piracy sells even academia.


Digital Billboard Liberation

The higher philosophy behind billboard liberation is the re-appropriation of public space. It is a reaction against the commercialization of the world in which we live where there is a virtual monopoly on the right to broadcast messages into the public sphere. Individuals and organizations (for example the Billboard Liberation Front) carry out acts of adbusting in order to show that culture jamming is a way in which protest is possible.

In a rare example of digital billboard liberation a hacker known as Skullphone has hacked ten of Clear Channel Communications’ digital billboards in Los Angeles. The to achieve this billboard liberation Skullphone had to hack into the Clear Channel network and insert his trademark skullphone between the commercial messages shown on the billboards.

Update: Fresh information suggests that this was not a hack at all but a paid commercial approved by Clear Channel. More information will be presented as soon as it is available.

(via Supertouch who also has more pictures)

Do you own your library?

After having packed most of my books into boxes, physically transported them to their new home and placed them haphazardly in the bookshelves to await the slower and more pleasurable task of re-arranging my books I feel a strong sense of ownership, property and belonging. My books are part of who I am. Their physical appearance and their content are telltale clues to the identity of their owner.

I have previously written against the e-book but there is a specific issue which is important to point out. Cory Doctorow has written a short note entitled In the age of ebooks, you don’t own your library. The note points out the tendency of e-books to limit the rights previously held by the book reader. Today when buying files for the e-book reader the transaction is often termed as a license and may (this needs to be tested in the courts) limit the ways in which we can buy, sell, borrow and copy our books. In the worst case scenario licenses such as these will spell the end of borrowing books from friends and become another nail in the coffin of the second hand bookstore. Cory writes:

It’s funny that in the name of protecting “intellectual property,” big media companies are willing to do such violence to the idea of real property — arguing that since everything we own, from our t-shirts to our cars to our ebooks, embody someone’s copyright, patent and trademark, that we’re basically just tenant farmers, living on the land of our gracious masters who’ve seen fit to give us a lease on our homes.

The physical property we own will be dependent upon our behavior towards the content we require to fill it. Television requires the shows and we must pay the cable company, computers require software and we must license it, e-books will require us to subscribe to the rules of those who own the content.

Unless we stick to the old fashioned paper versions of course…

On the fringes of copyright

The New York Times has an article about a chef who has tried to sue a competitor for infringement of intellectual property.

The suit…charges that Edâ??s Lobster Bar copies â??each and every elementâ?? of Pearl Oyster Bar, including the white marble bar, the gray paint on the wainscoting, the chairs and bar stools with their wheat-straw backs, the packets of oyster crackers placed at each table setting and the dressing on the Caesar salad.

There has been a growth in restaurants and chefs attempting to use of intellectual property arguments (copyright trademarks, patents and trade dress) to protect their businesses. As far as I have seen they have had little success.

Copying someone else’s bar or restaurant idea or menu may be a bit tacky and sad but this cannot be used to create intellectual property rights in these areas. If we were to begin protecting restaurants in this way then why not all parts of the service industry? Why stop there when we could begin using intellectual property to prevent our peers from dressing or behaving in the same way as we do?

Restaurants, food manufacturers, wine makers etc etc regularly explore, reverse engineer and learn from their competitors. There is no intellectual property limiting their ability to conduct these activities. Despite this lack of property protection there seems to be no limit to the amounts of human ingenuity and creativeness in relation to food and drink.

Maybe intellectual property should consider limiting the scope of protection and return to free market systems as opposed to creating false monopolies.

Video Campaigns and Responses

Starbucks and the government of Ethiopia have been discussing the trademark rights to some of the finest coffee in the world. The root of the conflict is that Starbucks has not recognised Ethiopia’s ownership of the Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe names. (BBC News 26 October & 30 November 2006).

Oxfam began a campaign against Starbucks in order to help the Ethiopian coffee farmers. The idea is that if Starbucks signs the agreement with the Ethiopian intellectual property office the Ethiopian farmers will have more control over their products and this will result in better prices.

The Oxfam campaign is a typical online/offline mix with physical demonstrations being augmented with an information website containing documentation, photographs etc, and an â??act nowâ?? part where individuals can get involved on their own. A textbook example of an information campaign.

Oxfam have also created a video shot from their â??The Starbucks Day of Actionâ?? on December 16. The most natural place to leave a video on the Internet today is on the site YouTube so naturally Oxfam posted their video on YouTube (Watch it here). The video features demonstrators explaining their views and the positive reactions of people they meet.

What is interesting is not that the Internet is being used in this way but rather the Starbucks response. Starbucks created their own video response on December 20th  featuring the Head of Starbucks Coffee team answering questions. They too posted their video on YouTube (watch the Starbucks response on YouTube).

What is unique about the whole story is the way in which Starbucks as a corporation reacted to the unconventional protest use of YouTube. By responding in kind they showed that they understand the way in which information is created and consumed on the Internet.

Digital video cameras – and in particular mobile phone video cameras – have made the documentation of resistance a necessity. Websites such as YouTube and Google video have created an infrastructure for sharing of the results. By removing the need for camera crews, production teams and broadcast capabilities the creation and distribution of film has fallen into the hands of the creative amateur. The implications of this is that both the protesters and their corporate targets need to quickly master and use this medium of communication.

Whatever the outcome of the Oxfam campaign â?? this is the future of resistance information warfare.

Che Guevara Mashup

On 5th of March 1960 Alberto “Korda” Gutierrez took two pictures of Che Guevara. In 1967 the Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli received two copies of the famous print at no cost.

Che by Korda

Feltrinelli started making posters from the prints with the notice â??Copyright Feltrinelliâ?? down in the corner. The image was on itâ??s way to become an international icon â?? it has been transformed, transplanted, transmitted and transfigured all over the world.

Korda never received a penny. For one reason only – Cuba had not signed the Berne Convention. Fidel Castro described the protection of intellectual property as imperialistic “bullshit”. Does this mean that Korda’s work is in the public domain? Probably not – but it is in a serious grey area.
Today I saw a new chapter in the Korda print. Paul Frank have made their fame (at least in my opinion – but then again this is not a fashion blog) from their cartoon monkey

The Paul Frank monkey is a cultural icon. So is Korda’s Che image. Paul Frank have now playfully (?), respectfully (?), irreverently (?) created a mashup of these two icons into this inevitable (?) conclusion…

When Che t-shirts became popular again (after the fall of the Soviet Union) I remember hearing a few mumblings from people that “young people” were adopting the icons of the revolution without any knowledge about the content, struggle or ideologi – the past had in fact become a trademark belonging to no one. I tried then to argue for the role of the cultural icon – but some still stuck to their guns and argued that the young were adopting symbols without knowledge and the manufacturers were profiteering on the ideology of the revolution.

From Korda to Paul Frank…evolution?…regression? You decide…

Freelancers & Copyright

My last post was an attempt to blog via mail but it was less than successful since all that was posted was the header. I obviously have a lot to learn in this area. The post was supposed to include this text:
Today I am attending the Nordic Seminar for Freelance Journalists. This year it is being held in Kungälv at a conference center with a great view of Bohus Fästning (Bohus Fortress). The whole event is between Friday and Sunday but I am here to talk about Creative Commons licensing for the intellectual property slot on Friday afternoon.

Bohus Fortress

The IP block begins with a discussion on recent caselaw which is followed by a presentation called the archaeology of copyright. After a short coffee break I will present Creative Commons licenses and the session closes with a presentation of the Nordic and European Union rules of Copyright. This sounds like an interesting way to spend the afternoon even if it seems like summer has finally arrived.

It will be interesting to hear first hand from the point of view of freelance journalists their views on copyright and hopefully we will even discuss the influence such technology as blogs.

I was concerned that the freelance journalists would not take well to CC but I could not have been more wrong. Their major concern is that their work can be (and often is) “stolen”, in addition to the need to be better at negotiating for payments for the online use of their work by their print media customers.

They often spoke of their concern for their reputation and themselves as trademarks – in particular their concern that online publication in forms that they could not predict may seriously damage their future work.

We had a very good discussion and the response was positive.