A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: intellectual property

Monetizing Mug Shots: A Legal Analysis

Jane Lynch Mugshot

By Zachary Edelman

A picture is worth a thousand words. And when that picture is a mug shot it might be worth a whole lot more.

That not so attractive mug shot of you (who are we kidding?) — that godawful shot of you –for a DWI that you prayed nobody would ever see? It’s the first thing that comes up in Google searches of your name, thanks to websites like JustMugshots.com, BustedMugshots.com and FindMugshots.com, which compile mug shots from public records and put them into easy-to-search databases. And they’re getting rich doing it. Some sites charge up to $400 to remove your photo from their database. The problem: Many people don’t have that kind of money. And even if they do, once they pay one site that incriminating photo just pops up on another one.

Some people have decided they’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, and are suing the websites purveying the embarrassing pics. After all, people demanding money to delete photographs – or else – is extortion, isn’t it?

A lawyer for BustedMugshots.com and MugshotsOnline.com argues that the First Amendment protects the websites’ practices because mug shots are public records.

But Scott Ciolek, representing Ms. Lashaway and Mr. Kaplan, vehemently disagrees. He says the First Amendment argument is “logically false” adding that, “The law prohibits demanding money to stop embarrassing somebody”.

Many media outlets have reported on the lawsuit, but none have assessed its legal merits.

LASIS zooms in.

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Hey That’s My Line! Now Pay Me!

Samsung Apple Ad

By Will Bartholomew

Cut to: A scene outside an Apple Store. A long line waiting for the doors to open. The text on the screen flashes “Los Angeles, California.  Only 7 hours to go.”

Young guy in a grey sweatshirt: “I heard that you have to have an adapter to use the dock on the new one.”

Another young guy in a grey sweatshirt “Yeah, yeah, but they make the coolest adapters!”

Samsung’s latest ad campaign skewers the cult of Apple by featuring hipster-types uttering lines like these. The ads are caustic. They target, grab hold of, and shake for all it’s worth the perception that Apple devotees are snooty, entitled, and clueless about the inferior caliber of their beloved products. The message is like a heat-seeking missile homed-in on the most vulnerable chinks in Apple’s armor.

These ads didn’t spring from the minds of marketing gurus in gleaming Manhattan towers, though. As The Wall Street Journal reports, many of the lines are the brainchildren of regular folks — maybe sitting on their couches, in sweats — posting on Twitter.

I don’t know about you, but if I came up with a real witty zinger, and then saw it in an ad on TV, I’d want some credit.  And compensation. Would I get it?

Is what we post on social networks our intellectual property? When our social networking gems are used by marketers — or in TV shows, movies, books, or music —have they been stolen? Can we sue?  LASIS explains.

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Honda Adds Fuel to Godzilla’s Fire

http://ataricommunity.com/forums/showthread.php?t=555749

By Dawn Mikulastik

What’s got Godzilla all fired up? A thirty-second long commercial for a minivan, that’s what. And even if monsters don’t scare you, the giant reptile’s litigious parent company, Toho Co., Ltd., will.

Earlier this month, THR,esq reported on a lawsuit filed by Toho over a commercial that Honda aired for its Odyssey model during the NFL Playoffs. The complaint claims that the ad, which attempts to make minivans appealing to young dads through the use of fire, a puma, heavy metal, and an unlicensed three-second clip of Godzilla, infringes on Toho’s registered trademark and copyrights for the movie monster. But will its case stand up in court or will a judge say that Toho is full of hot air? (more…)

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Saber Rattling and the iPad: Truth v. Media Myth About the “iPad” Trademark

By Ted Wills

Used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user,

Within hours of the unveiling of the iPad, Apple’s newest electronic device, word of a possible Apple misstep hit news sites. In addition to the new device’s moniker being the butt of jokes, major media outlets gleefully reported what appeared to be a serious trademark problem for Apple’s nascent iPad brand. The Japanese company Fujtisu already has a device called an iPad. Fujitsu has been seeking a trademark registration for its iPad since 2003. Fujitsu announced that “it is aware of . . . . the possible infringement on our trademark.” Fujitsu’s trademark lawyer, Edward Pennington of Hanify & King, described Apple’s position as “awkward.”

But a closer look at trademark law and Fujitsu and Apple’s legal filings cast doubt on Mr. Pennington’s assessment of Apple’s position and may disappoint the journalists who smell blood in the water. Dan Hunter, an intellectual property professor at New York Law School, believes that Apple will have little difficulty in defending its trademark position for iPad. “Fujitsu will probably do some saber rattling and Apple will do some saber rattling back. But in the end, Apple is in a good position to defend against any infringement claims from Fujitsu.”

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Conan Escapes NBC, But What of His Characters?

Used under a Creative Commons license from Wikimedia Commons

By Trevor Timm

While most of the media attention about Conan O’Brien’s exit agreement with NBC has focused on the large $45 million payout for him and his staff, and the “non-disparagement” clause that prevents him from publicly criticizing his former employers, the press overlooked an equally interesting provision that keeps all of Conan’s characters in the hands of NBC.

The copyrights to popular characters from Late Night with Conan O’Brien and the Tonight Show such as Masturbating Bear, Conando, and Pimpbot 5000 will still be owned by NBC, as well as recurring comedy bits such as “Year 3000” and “Desk Driving.” Because the two parties agree that the characters are “work-for-hire”—meaning that since NBC paid the writers to create them for the show, they also own the copyrights—Mr. O’Brien cannot use them for any other show he might host in the future. However, the agreement does bring up other unanswered questions about one character in particular and the music that usually accompanied the other characters’ appearances. (more…)

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