Thursday, May 26, 2011

More intellectual property silliness

From TPM:

The New York Stock Exchange now claims that you have to get their permission (express or implicit) before you use images connected to the New York Stock Exchange. So if you find a wire photo of the trading floor and use it to illustrate a story on Wall Street, you're violating the NYSE's trademark because they've trademarked the trading floor itself.

We found this out yesterday when we got a cease and desist letter from the NYSE based on an article published at TPM back in November. You can see the letter here.

TPM is represented on Media and IP matters by extremely capable specialist outside counsel. And we've been advised that the NYSE's claims are baseless and ridiculous on their face. But this is yet another example of how many large corporations have given way to IP-mania, trying to bully smaller companies into submission with inane and legally specious claims of intellectual property rights.

Well, TPM's small but we have big teeth. And we don't like being pushed around. So we're again posting the same picture as an illustration for this post. But really, what's next? Mayor Bloomberg trademarks his face and the city newspapers have to get his permission to publish photos of him so not to infringe the Bloomberg face trademark? Or more likely, the Empire State building trademark's the image of the Empire State building and demands a fee or bars photographs of the New York skyline.


So in the spirit of the moment I propose a contest. We know that NYSE now says you need their permission to show photographs of the Exchange in the context of news coverage. And if I understand their logic you'd actually need their permission to show a sketch you drew of the Exchange floor.

So here's the contest, what do you think NYSE's next preposterous claim of intellectual property rights will be? Can you say the words 'New York Stock Exchange' without their permission? Can you do a line drawing of the facade of the exchange without running it by the NYSE's lawyers?

As many have observed (including Thomas Jefferson who refused to patent any of his inventions), intellectual property laws are a necessary evil. They restrict the creation of new work in often onerous ways but they provide an increased incentive to create work that qualifies for protection. Even more importantly, they encourage dissemination of that work.

Over the past few decades, however, we've seen less interest in the necessity and more emphasis on the evil. The result is unfair, economically suboptimal, and undeniably silly.

[We've been down this rabbit before as you can see here.]

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