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April 22, 2009

More IPR Conflicts [9:13 am]

I have never, as Steven Colbert puts it, “twatted,” but we all knew that this was coming: Lawyers Enter Twitter Tempest (pdf)

In February, Adam Robb Rucinsky began poking fun at Ms. Freeman online using her byline and Restaurant Girl, which is the name of her Daily News column and her blog.

Mr. Rucinsky, a 30-year-old part-time art dealer who uses his middle name as his last name when he writes, sends silly blurbs on Twitter and writes inane blog postings that purport to reflect Ms. Freeman’s musings about New York City restaurants, like “Governor of Texas raving about Secession on TV all week. Must be great word of mouth for Bouley!” His fake Restaurant Girl also ventures into more cosmic concerns: “Does anyone know what happens to all the chocolate bunnies no one bought for Easter? Are they put to sleep?”

To try to put a stop to it all, Ms. Freeman had lawyers from a Beverly Hills firm send Mr. Rucinsky a stern letter ordering him to stop using the names Restaurant Girl and Danyelle Freeman by the end of this month.

His joke infringes on her rights to her trademark, Restaurant Girl, the lawyers wrote. He should stop using that name or Ms. Freeman’s name in parody form on the Internet, the letter said.

Mr. Rucinsky, who has been talking to his own lawyers and doesn’t plan to budge, said he started the Twitter parody and a subsequent blog as a creative writing exercise. He thought he had found a rich target in Ms. Freeman’s style, which melds the top-of-the-head immediacy of a blog with the breezy tone of a late-night phone call from a friend on her way home from a night of sangria and tacos.

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Some Copyright News and Transactions [8:52 am]

  • Rodgers and Hammerstein Catalog Sold (pdf)

    The sale represents a transfer of power over one of America’s most famous song catalogs and the licensing rights for future productions of the musicals, which until now had been controlled by the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, a Manhattan-based company that is widely known in the theater world for its quality control and the active involvement of two heirs, the writers’ daughters Mary Rodgers Guettel and Alice Hammerstein Mathias.

    As part of the deal — the value of which was not released — Imagem is also acquiring the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and retaining its management, led by its president and executive director, Theodore S. Chapin.

  • A New York Times Editorial: The Brando Brand (pdf)

    Perhaps one day movie stars and celebrities will leave their names and likenesses to the public domain. That would clear up what might be called the Brando problem — the case of a major public figure who dies and leaves behind a potent if contradictory image and no clear commercial legacy. The effort to create a Brando brand out of the Marlon Brando trust is in the hands of his rather oddly assorted trustees: a producer, an accountant and his former personal assistant. So far, their major activity has been suing companies for infringing upon Brando’s name, which is trademarked.

  • From The Boston Globe: King Family: I have a financial motive (pdf)

    The family of Martin Luther King Jr. continues its litigious crusade to “protect” the civil rights leader’s image by demanding tribute from anyone who uses it.

    A reference to this AP wire services report: Family of Dr. King Charged Group Building His Monument (pdf)

    The family of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has charged the foundation building a monument to him on the Mall about $800,000 for the use of his words and image, an arrangement one leading scholar said Dr. King would have found offensive.

    [...] “One would think any family would be so thrilled to have their forefather celebrated and memorialized in D.C. that it would never dawn on them to ask for a penny,” Mr. Garrow said, adding that Dr. King would have been “absolutely scandalized by the profiteering behavior of his children.”

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