Intellectual property law jumps the shark (again)

You’d think that if you take photographs of your own property with your own camera and then put those photos on tee shirts, mouse mats, etc, that you wouldn’t be breaking the law. Well, you might think that, but you’d be wrong, as a Ford owners club found out:

The folks at BMC (Black Mustang Club) automotive forum wanted to put together a calendar featuring members’ cars, and print it through CafePress. Photos were submitted, the layout was set, and… CafePress notifies the site admin that pictures of Ford cars cannot be printed. Not just Ford logos, not just Mustang logos, the car -as a whole- is a Ford trademark and its image can’t be reproduced without permission. So even though Ford has a lineup of enthusiasts who want to show off their Ford cars, the company is bent on alienating them. ‘Them’ being some of the most loyal owners and future buyers that they have. Or rather, that they had, because many have decided that they will not be doing business with Ford again if this matter isn’t resolved.

If that’s the law, then the law is an ass. I sometimes wonder whether the whole of intellectual property law in its entirety shouldn’t be scrapped; on the whole, probably not, though every abuse like this makes the system harder to justify.

UPDATE 2008-Jan-25: Ford say it was a misunderstanding, and BMC can print the calendar after all.

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3 Responses to Intellectual property law jumps the shark (again)

  1. F0ul says:

    I’m not sure how true this is – the rules on copyright suggest that the shape of a car is only copyrighted for 15 years – so the old models are out of the loop.

    The thing is with most of these issues is that it always comes down to a court case, and, as no individual can afford to lose such a case, why risk it? This leaves the door open to Ford to play bluff my old customer!

  2. cabalamat says:

    The thing is with most of these issues is that it always comes down to a court case, and, as no individual can afford to lose such a case, why risk it?

    That’s always a problem when a large corporation brings a lawsuit against a person of normal means. One fix would be for there to be a provision when the means of the complainant are much larger than those of the defendant. I can think of two ways this could be done:

    (1) the complainant would be obliged to pay the defendant’s legal fees, up to the amount the case is costing the complainant.

    or (2) a provision that if the defendant wins, they get a significant proportion of the complainant’s assets; in this case the defendant could be entitled to own 5% of the shares in Ford if the case goes their way.

    Either provision would make it much less likely that large organisations or rich people would bring bullying lawsuits against those of average means

  3. George Carty says:

    Why not make big corporations “guilty until proven innocent”, on the basis that they have so much damn money they they ought to be able to PROVE themselves innocent if they are?

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