Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Maybe Britney Spears should copyright and trademark her vag

Intellectual property law in the digital ages continues to be a complete mess. From today's NY Times:
In 2007, when Coleman Hickey was 14, he made a stop-action film using Lego pieces and figures to depict a concert performance of the song “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight,” by Spinal Tap, the parody band featured in the 1984 mock documentary “This is Spinal Tap.”

Among the fans of the video, which has garnered 82,000 views on YouTube and includes a musician hurling himself into the audience of Lego figures and crowd surfing atop their upraised plastic arms, are the members of Spinal Tap. The band showed the video during performances of its recent “Unwigged and Unplugged” tour.

But Lego is not amused.

As final editing was being done on a concert DVD of the tour, which included footage from the video projected on stage, Lego declined to grant permission to use its figures, which are protected by copyright.

So let me get this straight. If I want to see the bald vag of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, or Sharon Stone I can see it on any one of hundreds of internet sites like TMZ, NSFW, etc. But if I want to see a bunch of Lego characters playing air guitar to Spinal Tap songs on DVD it's like 'Whoa! Whoa! Are you CRAZY -- those little plastic people are covered by copyright law!'

Which leads me to a number of observations.

1. The corporate counsel at Lego needs to talk to the fucking marketing department at Lego. And maybe the marketing department can explain that the more people who see Legos used in creative ways, the more people will buy Legos.

2. How come Britney Spears doesn't own the mutherfucking copyright to her own body? How come celebrities -- naked or otherwise, are fair game (quite literally "fair use") but a Lego character -- oh we need to keep that top secret!

3. If Britney Spears really wants to keep her vag off the internet -- she should probably copyright and trademark it. Apparently U.S. Courts respect the symbols (c) and TM but not the rights of women to own the images of their own bodies. Fine, Britney should trademark her vag and anytime it shows up in the tabloids she can sue for infringement.

4. Alternatively, Britney could hang a little Lego block in front of her vag when exiting a car -- that way, at least corporate counsel for Lego would fight to keep the picture out of the tabloids (Nobody snaps a photo of our Lego blocks damnit!).

5. The intellectual property insanity from Lego comes just 8 days after a jury fined a college student $675,000 for illegally downloading 30 songs. That works out to $22,500 per song (which can be purchased for 99 cents each). Look, I'm no Johnnie Cochran, but it seems like there is a concept called proportionality. The guy downloaded something that is worth less than a Snickers Bar and the RIAA said, "Buy me a Prius for each violation mutherfucka!"

Again, let me get this straight -- the punitive damages in the Exxon Valdez were something like 2 to 1 (for every $1 in compensatory damages, Exxon was fined $2 in punitive damages). And the U.S. Supreme Court said, 'Whoa, Whoa are you CRAZY -- any punitive damages over 1 to 1 are excessive. Yet the RIAA was essentially granted punitive damages of 22,500 to 1. Fuck that and fuck the RIAA and fuck the major labels who invented DVD's just to sell their entire catalog twice -- only to discover that SURPRISE, digital anything can easily be sent around the web.

I don't know whether intellectual property wants to be free or not. But I do know that Lego and the RIAA and their lobbyists shouldn't be the ones deciding it either.

Here's the offending Lego video.

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