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Ford Motor goes after 13 year old girl
January 24, 2001 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Ford Motor goes after 13 year old girl for her domain name. Personally, I'm disgusted with corporate America right now.
posted by tj (54 comments total)

 
metafilter's being sued by Phillip Morris, for obvious reason's and I'm about to sue coz metafilter is illegally exploiting "ME".
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:17 PM on January 24, 2001


I don't understand. Why is TJ disgusted with corporate America?
posted by Postroad at 12:20 PM on January 24, 2001


Cause I work there
posted by tj at 12:22 PM on January 24, 2001


It's happening with Warner Brothers and anyone with "Harry Potter" in their domain name.
posted by bkdelong at 12:23 PM on January 24, 2001


The names change. The stories stay the same. No matter how wrong the company is, it doesn't matter. They know it and they don't care. Big business will always do everying in it's power to make money. It's not ethics to them, it's business. Even if they know they won't win against you, it doesn't matter. They'll bring you to court simply to cost you huge amounts of money in legal defense fees. They are making their point, flexing their muscles. If corporations had a conscience, they wouldn't be making those huge amounts of money in the first place.
posted by tomorama at 12:25 PM on January 24, 2001


If her site was related to the Jaguar auto nameplate, then sure, no problem... but they should at least look at these sitess before firing off suits, since their nameplate is ALSO an endangered species.
posted by tj at 12:27 PM on January 24, 2001


Yep. That too. I'm going out on a limb here, but I beleive the jaguar was around long before the car.
posted by tomorama at 12:29 PM on January 24, 2001


I know it don't matter a damn, but I'm going to write these idiots a letter. They should know that this kind of activity is WORSE for their "brand" than having it used in a 13 year old's URL.
posted by Doug at 12:31 PM on January 24, 2001


tomorama, it's those sorts of unsubstantiated facts that get people in trouble in the first place!
posted by schlomo at 12:32 PM on January 24, 2001


There's a lot worse going on with corporate America than some intellectual property bullshit, though I agree it's disgusting.
posted by sudama at 12:36 PM on January 24, 2001


tomorama: Yeah, I hate owning a car and computer and shit. If there were no corporations I wouldn't have that problem.
(not to say they're not bastards, and quite frequently, but really, was it a mom and pop shop that made your processor?)
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:39 PM on January 24, 2001


sudama, this isn't "intellectual property bullshit"... It's picking on a 13 year old girl for chrissakes! I agree tho... it's the tip o' the iceberg
posted by tj at 12:40 PM on January 24, 2001


Welcome to U.S. trademark law, also know as "protect it or lose it."
posted by kindall at 1:02 PM on January 24, 2001


I see no problem here...any company has a right to protect its name.
posted by Bag Man at 1:12 PM on January 24, 2001


Bag Man, you're kidding right? Jaguar, so should GM sue the producers of NOVA as well?
posted by tj at 1:16 PM on January 24, 2001


Better watch your back then, Bag Man.
posted by Skot at 1:17 PM on January 24, 2001


Did I say "down with all corporations, eleminate big business"? Nope. I'm pointing out facts.

Don't put ideas in my mouth :)
posted by tomorama at 1:18 PM on January 24, 2001


James Whistler better watch his ass when Microsoft finds out he has been capitalizing on their "Whistler" name for about a century or more.

Atleast thankfully almost every trademarkable (is that even a term?) word has been used and corporations are having to make up terrible new words, like Xterra.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 1:24 PM on January 24, 2001


I'm pretty sure Bag Man was joking. I hope.
posted by Doug at 1:25 PM on January 24, 2001


Their number is (800) 392-3673, why not call them and let them know you're displeased. Be polite, and make sure to give whomever you talk to enough information to understand the problem.
posted by baylink at 1:30 PM on January 24, 2001


Apparently, you already are; "all circuits are busy now."

Heh.
posted by baylink at 1:31 PM on January 24, 2001


Business is good. Corporations co-opting culture is bad.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:46 PM on January 24, 2001


There's no way Ford has any right to that domain, whether the owner is 13, 33 or 103 for Christ's sake.
posted by sudama at 2:01 PM on January 24, 2001


tomorama, they're not just doing it to waste their time, although that's exactly what it is in the case of the 13 year old girl. Usually, the losing side pays the legal costs of the opposing side, making the only cost of a lawsuit for the winner the time it took to occur
posted by jpate at 2:08 PM on January 24, 2001


I'm going to have disagree with a blanket statement that "corporations co-opting culture is bad." Do not the people who work for a corporation have exactly as much right to our "culture" as anyone else?

I understand the sentiment, but I think it's overly broad.
posted by kindall at 2:30 PM on January 24, 2001


jpate- is that true? I thought loser pays only worked in England...
posted by Hackworth at 2:59 PM on January 24, 2001


Hackworth -- I'm pretty sure that's where the case is being tried (if at all)
posted by tj at 3:02 PM on January 24, 2001


No, you're right, we should just acquiesce all intellectual rights that are currently in the public domain, and sell them piece-meal to Disney and Turner. In return, instead of having pieces of culture be owned by socities, we’ll go to theaters and be forced to pay to enjoy things we previously owned. Oh wait, that is what we do.

Legally, corporations have all the rights (except voting) that humans do, which is postively sick. There is no sense in giving an artificial creation the same rights that I have. A corporation can amass more capital, have employees, create holding corporations to stave off lawsuits and be in a million places at once.

Go ahead and disagree. Hold your position that corporations are more entitled to owning culture than people (this is how the laws are set-up — this girl will lose the suit if Ford goes through with it), and I'll continue to believe people are more important than profit.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 3:08 PM on January 24, 2001


I'm sure Ford is just trying to recoup money any way that it can, to pay for the lawsuits by the company's Ford Exploder.
posted by 120degrees at 3:21 PM on January 24, 2001


Hackworth - I've heard of cases in the US where that happens I believe, and I'm almost certain here in Canada, that's how the game works
posted by jpate at 3:54 PM on January 24, 2001


Hmm. I'd like to rail against Ford here, but I'm just a wee bit suspicious of this one, simply because the spelling "center" and the UK registration address don't quite fit.

Here's the google-cached court docco, anyway. And I assume the Ford Presidential Library isn't on the list of future targets.
posted by holgate at 3:59 PM on January 24, 2001


Hmmm...

www.geektools.com/whois:
Registrant:
Gapmount Limited
7 Lightley Close, Sandbach
Cheshire, n/a CW114QE
United Kingdom
(PH) +44 7976 749907

Domain Name: JAGUARCENTER.COM

Administrative Contact:
Hall, John (JOHA328) ukdemon@ukdemon.demon.co.uk
7 Lightley Close, Sandbach
Cheshire, n/a CW114QE
United Kingdom
(PH) +44 7976 749907

Technical Contact:
Stapleton, Bryan (YNFT1) stapleton57@earthlink.net
10203 Buckmeadow lane
Damascus, MD 20872
Canada
(PH) (818) 541-9764 (FAX) (818) 541-9764

Billing Contact:
Hall, John (JOHA324) ukdemon@ukdemon.demon.co.uk
7 Lightley Close, Sandbach
Cheshire, n/a CW114QE
United Kingdom
(PH) +44 7976 749907

Registration Date: 13-Jan-2000 14:29:46
Expiration Date: 13-Jan-2002 14:29:46

Domain servers in listed order:

NS0.PORTLAND.CO.UK 212.15.64.83
NS1.PORTLAND.CO.UK 212.15.64.25

Have we been suckered in reverse, folks?
posted by baylink at 5:08 PM on January 24, 2001


Hold your position that corporations are more entitled to owning culture than people

Sure, be glad to, as long as you continue to hold your position that the people in corporations aren't really people.

What? You never said such a thing? That's okay, because I didn't say what you said I said, either. So now we're even, eh?

What I said is that a blanket statement such as "corporations co-opting culture is bad" strikes me as overly broad. I don't really see how you can place a moral judgment on something like that. In any case, I don't see why I deserve to be demonized just because I filed some papers. I'm a corporation and I (or rather my corporation) owns some things that could reasonably considered culture. Why am I bad?

The real issue here is that Ford is obligated by U.S. trademark law to defend its marks, or lose them. Given the current rocky state of trademark as it relates to the Internet, you can't blame them for going after anyone who looks even a little like they might be infringing. The solution is to change the laws so they don't have to go after every possible little infringer.
posted by kindall at 5:15 PM on January 24, 2001


i was going to say basically what baylink just suggested, tho without his evidence... tho we all get the knee-jerk reaction of "ford vs 13-year-old? EVIL CORPS!!!" you have to read these things carefully... notice that the site in question has, well, no content. sure, maybe it's a low priority for the girl, but maybe...

and: "At some point in time, when the lawsuit was filed, every single one of the people in the suit had tried to profit from the name, some by turning around and selling it," Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley said.

so maybe we don't know the whole story... remember www.msdw.com? it was some kid's "mud splash downhill world" or something... morgan stanley dean witter was suing... it turned out the father had squatted 60-plus similar domains...
posted by zerolucid at 5:55 PM on January 24, 2001


I apologize if I jumped the gun on this one, people. I was pretty fired up after reading the story.
posted by tj at 7:23 PM on January 24, 2001


..disgusted with corporate America ... right now???

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:37 PM on January 24, 2001


well yeah, but for many other things... at the moment
posted by tj at 7:41 PM on January 24, 2001


Overly broad? Perhaps it's such a “broad” statement because corpratization affects every facet of modern life.

Why am I bad?

I guess I need to make this real simple for you: When a corporation takes ownership over intellectual property that was in the public domain, people lose and corporations win. Since corporations do not add to the cultural sphere — by definition they only take from it — there is a net loss.

This happens all the time: its Disney Films business plan. From the Seven Dwarves to Mulan, they take public domain intellectual property, create a film, then sell it back to the public in the form ten dollar movie tickets and merchandise. The net loss is twofold: people lose part of their culture as it becomes copyrighted, and it forces them to pay the corporation to get it back.

Pepsi owns a hue of blue, 3COM’s name is on a stadium, billboards dot the cityscape and advertisers sully even the halls of schools with their profit motive. Again: public domain to private ownership to the detrimant of society.

Ford’s “defense” of its “trademark” (if it turns out to be true) may be legal, but my position is that the entire system of trademarking, copyrighting and so on, is opposed to basic values of culture in society. Basically, culture cannot flourish when it is continually torn from the public’s grasp. As would be the case when/if Ford wins this lawsuit.

Believing “people that work for a corporation” share, in some way, the property that the corporation “owns,” is utterly naive. Perhaps you’re thinking that the ownership comes back in wages. But culture cannot be transformed into money: people can only exchange money to experience it. In the end, the coporation retains ownership. It’s not as if workers for the corporation all share in its holdings. There are very specific laws protecting companies from its employees. But, I’d like to note, not vice versa.

When corporations have too much power — capital, property (intellectual or otherwise), finances — the people lose.

Sure, be glad to, as long as you continue to hold your position that the people in corporations aren't really people.

I’d agree with that. There is a certain loss of humanity when working inside the machine. Otherwise, ethical dilemmas such as the one provoking this thread wouldn’t exist. A human can be reasoned with, the corporate machine cannot.

But the real reason I charcterized your position in that way (“corporations are more entitled to owning culture than people”) is because that is what your ideological stance has effectively given us. Because corporations are forced to aggressively protect their “brands,” trademarks, service marks, and so on, we (culture) effectively give up our rights. Look at this case (or etoy vs. etoys, Bianca’s Smut Shack vs. RadioShack, ad absurdum): a very simple bit of expression handed over to a corporation because it might effect how people view Ford.

You, and your view on this, sides with Ford; This girl shouldn’t call her website Jaguar Center, because that sounds too much like a line of cars Ford makes. Regardless of how the content is evaluated, the site must be stopped.

My position is the opposite: Whether or not somebody might view Ford differently is tough cookies. This girl, in every sense, has a right to call her little site about felines whatever she wants. Except, perhaps, “Ford Motor Company.com”
posted by capt.crackpipe at 7:45 PM on January 24, 2001


"The real issue here is that Ford is obligated by U.S. trademark law to defend its marks, or lose them. Given the current rocky state of trademark as it relates to the Internet"

Umm, actually the real issue is that a jaguar is a large sleek cat first and foremost... which is why the car nameplate "Jaguar" is named after it. Which in turn, gives the nameplate it's value.
posted by tj at 8:38 PM on January 24, 2001


Since corporations do not add to the cultural sphere — by definition they only take from it

Which dictionary is this definition in you're quoting?

Pepsi owns a hue of blue, 3COM’s name is on a stadium, billboards dot the cityscape and advertisers sully even the halls of schools with their profit motive. Again: public domain to private ownership to the detrimant of society.

Can you demonstrate some of this detriment? How does it harm society to have 3COM's name on a stadium? How does a profit motive "sully" things? How does granting Pepsi the limited right to a particular color for use in marketing its products harm anyone?

There are very specific laws protecting companies from its employees. But, I’d like to note, not vice versa.

Of course there are, don't be silly. There are so many of these laws all large companies have people on staff specifically to ensure that the company complies with these laws. Ask someone in the construction or manufacturing business about OSHA sometime.

A human can be reasoned with, the corporate machine cannot.

You act as if a corporation were not controlled by people. Now admittedly a bureaucracy does have some semblance of a mind of its own at times, but the bottom line is someone is in charge. Would you hold the Ford Motor Company executives who made the decision to send the defective Firestone tires to South American countries and attempt to cover up the debacle personally responsible for their actions? Yes? Any sane person would. But you can't have it both ways. Either the humans who made that decision are responsible, in which case they control the corporation and reasoning with them is essentially the same as reasoning with the corporation -- or else they do not control the corporation and therefore cannot be held responsible for what the corporation did.

Since you hold the position that "there is a certain loss of humanity when working inside the machine," how long would someone need to work for a corporation before they are fair game for euthanization and organ harvesting? (How long before they're worth less than a dog?) Is it a linear progression of loss of humanity (e.g. so much percentage per year) or does it just happen once when you file the papers or take the job and then you've lost all the humanity you're ever going to lose? Can you ever get it back? How do you define "humanity," anyway and what does it mean to "lose" it?

Obviously we're coming from completely different worldviews here, but I'm really, really trying to see yours. And, just as obviously, failing utterly...
posted by kindall at 8:40 PM on January 24, 2001


Wow. Ford is suing anyone who is attempting to profit from a site with one of their trademarked words in the domain name? So, they don't mind if someone runs a site called www.lincolnsucks.com or www.fordstore.com, but they don't want anyone reselling a domain name they've purchased and never used that doesn't have anything in it concerning their brand? Huh?
posted by Neb at 8:55 PM on January 24, 2001


re: the article

how about that guy with the two domain names with 'ford' in them? in addition to demanding the domains relinquished, they want him to pay $6,000 in "damages."

sick.
posted by judomadonna at 9:13 PM on January 24, 2001


Can you ever get it back? How do you define "humanity," anyway and what does it mean to "lose" it?

It sounds like you’ve never heard these questions before. Time to to do some self-exploration if you don't know what it means to be human.

I can't give you several years of education in a single thread. Here’s a reading list and some resources. If you really do want to see my point of view, then you'll evaluate these.

General:
Tyranny of the Bottom Line: Why Corporations Make Good People Do Bad Things

The Affluent Society (very quick synopsis)

Affluenza

The McDonaldization of Society (synopsis)

Re Corporations buying public spaces:
“A sense of place is a disappearing resource in America today. The corporate focus of globalization is turning every moment of our days, and every nook and cranny of our lives into something for sale.” — Ralph Nader

What he actually means: if our the public sphere is owned by a conglomerate of corporations, how does that reflect on ourselves? Currently, we see consumerist propoganda everywhere we look. That accurately reflects our society: rampant consumerists whom are seriously effecting every aspect of their lives, from their psyches to the environment.

Re Pepsi buying blue:
Really, this is too obvious. Pepsi owns a shade of blue, now no one can use that shade of blue in a certain instance, without breaking the law. Neither you, nor I, nor any individual can copyright a color, but corporations can. So, where are your priorties? Why should a corporation be able to own a color? Do you believe people should be subservient to artificial entities?

Re Ads in schools:
Are Philip Morris Textbook Covers Luring Children to Tobacco?

GAO Report Shows Most Kids Not Protected from Ads in Schools
“In-school marketing has become a growing industry. Some marketing professionals are increasingly targeting children in school, companies are becoming known for their success in negotiating contracts between school districts and beverage companies, and both educators and corporate managers are attending conferences to learn how to increase revenue from in-school marketing for their schools and companies.”

This, among a myriad of other reasons, has a negative effect on youth because it effectively bypasses a parent’s responsibility to screen content they deem appropriate. Are schools a place of learning, or are they specifically for creating consumers?

Marketing of junk food to schoolchildren
This propaganda campaign for bad nutrition is intensifying. Soda pop is an example. Advertising Age reported last year that "In the last 18 months alone, the number of exclusive soda contracts in school districts has increased nationwide 300%, to 150."

Commercial-Free Schools
“Representatives of the drug Prozac will come to your school to "teach" you about depression. Exxon has ecology curriculum that shows how clean the environment of Alaska is.

“Companies collect information about you at school. In New Jersey, elementary school kids filled out a 27-page booklet called "my all about me journal," basically a marketing survey for a television channel. Students in Massachusetts spent two days tasting cereal and answering an opinion poll. ZapMe! corporation puts "free" computers and internet hookups in schools. Then they monitor your web browsing habits and sell the information, neatly broken down by age, gender and postal code, to their customers. ”

Still no problem with ads in schools? Still see no ethical dilemma?

Re labor laws:
I was talking about intellectual property rights. There are no laws protecting worker ownership over corporate ownership. By definition workers in a corporation give their work to the company, not vice versa. One can rationalize why this is so, entering into a contract, etc; but the fact remains their is no equal ownership vis a vis intellectual property rights. For instance, I cannot put a novel permanently into the public sphere.

Re Firestone Execs:
See, right there, you prove yourself to be a perfectly rational, intelligent person. More so, it turns out than our own laws pertaining to corporate malfeasence. Corporate Executives are not personally liable for the products they make in the US.

Firestone/Bridgestone basically colluded to use potentially dangerous products. Who, as it turns out is liable for this? No one. The Corporation is. We didn't punish people, who made the decisions, we punished the corporation, as if the corporation made the decision.

Taken out of Firestone/Bridgestone’s sphere of influence, none of those people would’ve knowingly distributed dangerous products. So, why did they?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:31 PM on January 24, 2001


Time to to do some self-exploration if you don't know what it means to be human.

I've done lots of self-exploration and only discovered what it means to be me. Well, "meaning" is a rather difficult word to assign to life; I know what it is to be me. What it means? Probably nothing, actually. Regardless, I don't think such a small sample is a very good foundation for extrapolation...

What [Nader] actually means: if our the public sphere is owned by a conglomerate of corporations, how does that reflect on ourselves? Currently, we see consumerist propoganda everywhere we look. That accurately reflects our society: rampant consumerists whom are seriously effecting every aspect of their lives, from their psyches to the environment.

And I take it you think this is a bad thing. In fact, I take it you think that it is so self-evident that this is a bad thing that no further words need be spent on the matter. In fact I would wager that you think anyone who doesn't immediately see the evil in our society's "rampant consumerism" is, um, a little slow on the uptake. But sorry, I'm wary of proclamations from on high. "Because so-and-so said so" is not a very good way to convince me of anything; it's just another religion.

Neither you, nor I, nor any individual can copyright a color, but corporations can.

Actually, nobody can copyright a color. You can trademark one, and yes, an individual can do so. You obtain a trademark by using a particular symbol, word, or (yes) color in your marketing. Once you have established it through practice as yours, if anyone else attempts to use it (particularly in a way where it might cause confusion in consumers) the law protects you against newcomers. It protects you more if you register your intent to use your mark.

Now you or I might have difficulty getting our particular shade of blue enough exposure to establish preeminence in the minds of the public because we don't have the resources to spend millions on advertising. This is more an issue of having money and/or fame than being a corporation, however. Dennis Rodman might manage it with his hair color. Although, he's probably incorporated.

Re: labor laws... I was talking about intellectual property rights.

OK, I get your point. I see it this way: a creative type (engineer or artist) trades some or all rights to his work to his employer in exchange for steady employment. Of course, there is no requirement whatsoever that the employer be a corporation for this to happen. The employer could be an individual or a partnership and the employee could still make that trade. Again, this is not an issue specific to corporations.

For instance, I cannot put a novel permanently into the public sphere.

Sure you can. By default everything you create is copyrighted by you at the moment it is fixed in tangible form (and in typical publishing contracts you merely license the copyright to the publisher). However, you can explicitly disclaim all rights to your work and thereby put it in the public domain.

... on to another thought I had on the drive home.

Could anyone make a case that, for example, "Looney Tunes" is not part of our culture just because it is owned by AOL Time Warner? Would those cartoons be more a part of our culture if Chuck Jones et. al. had done them as part of some kind of artists' collective and retained all the rights? (Would they be richer today if they had done so, given that they wouldn't have had the backing to get them widely distributed?) In general, would our culture be somehow objectively better if artists had virtually no chance of reaching a mass audience because they refused to make unholy alliances with corporations? Would we even have a culture, or would we as a nation share even fewer common memories and experiences than we do now?

To put this far-too-long thread to bed (I won't reply further, I've got quite enough to think about already before I dare to engage you on this topic again, not to mention some reading to do) I'm glad to have found some common ground with you on the issue of individual responsibility for corporate actions. Yep, anyone who makes decisions that kill people should be held personally and criminally liable. I'm all for that.
posted by kindall at 12:19 AM on January 25, 2001


Court costs and damages for legal fees are among the things that may be awarded in a civil case, but generally aren't.

This case ... I dunno. I'm leaning toward "suckered". It's just too lame to be believed -- the girl has, like, four half-assed pages about jaguars with borrowed photos and she needs a domain name? This smells, to me, more like the guy who registered msdw.com just prior to the Morgan Stanley Dean Witter merger, then claimed it was for his son's dirt-biking site, "Mud Sweat's Downhill World". Except he was a notorious cybersquatter.
posted by dhartung at 5:16 AM on January 25, 2001


And I take it you think this is a bad thing.

You would too, if you looked at the evidence. It amazes me that anyone can believe thatrampant consumerismisn’t necessarily bad.

You can trademark one, and yes, an individual can do so

Legally, perhaps. But in all practical terms an individual doesn’t have the resources to do so. An individual with vast corporate holdings behind them, however, could.

However, you can explicitly disclaim all rights to your work and thereby put it in the public domain.

Upon doing so, anyone can just grab it from the public domain and trademark it. Just ask Victor Hugo. There are no property rights that work for the public sphere. My point still holds: public spaces and culture can be plundered without recourse.

Could anyone make a case that, for example, "Looney Tunes" is not part of our culture just because it is owned by AOL Time Warner?

A better way to phrase the question would be “What are the effects of corporate ownership of culture?”

AOL Time Warner would — and does — make that case. “Media producers” were one of the big Congressional lobbies that recently extended the life of trademark laws from 50 to 125 years. Effectively, this means their work isn’t part of the public sphere — they still retain ownership over it.

AOL/TW know well enough that their work has shaped our culture, but they refuse to let people use these icons in their own speech.

If it were part of our “culture” I could use Bugs Bunny in my speech, but I certainly cannot. Currently, I have to give AOL/TW money before I can view some art that has shaped our self-image.

In general, would our culture be somehow objectively better if artists had virtually no chance of reaching a mass audience because they refused to make unholy alliances with corporations?

This has nothing to do with my arguement. I’m not advocating abolishing corporations, just equality in property rights laws. Currently, they vastly favor corporations over individuals and the public.

Yep, anyone who makes decisions that kill people should be held personally and criminally liable. I'm all for that.

Too bad corporate protectionism is rampant enough to protect them from justice, isn’t it? In fact, Firestone’s payments are legally capped at $925,000. Firestone is responsible for over 100 deaths, and all they are criminally liable for is less that one million dollars.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 6:02 AM on January 25, 2001


Oh, forgot about this one.

Culture, Inc.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Expression a great book regarding corporate ownership of public goods.


From a review:
“I think one of Schiller's most important contributions to our understanding of information media is his insistence that ownership matters - that the corporate owners of mass communications media do actually use it (both consciously and unconsciously) for their own purposes, which are domination and control. Conversely, one of the great triumphs of neoliberal ideology has been to convince so many of us that it does not matter, that the media are ideologically neutral and above social conflict, and that the concentration of media ownership in a few private hands is natural, inevitable and perhaps even beneficial.”
posted by capt.crackpipe at 6:31 AM on January 25, 2001


The real issue here is that Ford is obligated by U.S. trademark law to defend its marks, or lose them.

Yes, but you left out two very important words.

"defend its marks from infringement"

What constitutes 'infringement' is very well defined legally in the Lanham Act, and I'm reasonably confident that this sort of use would *not* constitute infringement. In general, I don't think that the mere inclusion of a trademarked word in a domain name per se constitutes infringement; infringement can only be claimed based on the *contents* of the site.

Mikewas; any comments on this theory? Do you dabble in IP?
posted by baylink at 8:47 AM on January 25, 2001


Yeah, I think you're right about the infringement issue, baylink. It may well be a squatting issue, though; I don't have enough information to say.

I know I said I wasn't going to comment further on this thread, but:

Upon doing so, anyone can just grab it from the public domain and trademark it. Just ask Victor Hugo. There are no property rights that work for the public sphere. My point still holds: public spaces and culture can be plundered without recourse.

The source material remains in the publiic domain. What is protected is the derivative work. For example, there is nothing at all stopping you from making a cartoon of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" even though Disney already made one. What you can't do is use the same character designs, title style, and so forth, because those are Disney's, and they are Disney's because Disney artists invented them. Disney might try to put some heat on you, but if it ended up in court you would almost certainly emerge victorious if you had taken pains to distance yourself from the way Disney did theirs. And even Disney wouldn't raise an eyebrow if you made a live-action "Hunchback" or if you decided to prepare a new English translation from the original French or if you decided to write a science-fiction novel loosely based on the story. How many film adaptations of Mark Twain stories have there been? Dozens upon dozens, I'm sure. And Twain's original stories are still there, unchanged, despite all that's been done with them, and they still belong to the public.
posted by kindall at 9:44 AM on January 25, 2001


kindall:
You act as if a corporation were not controlled by people. Now admittedly a bureaucracy does have some semblance of a mind of its own at times, but the bottom line is someone is in charge.

Not really. The publicly owned corporation is an excellent vehicle for ensuring that nothing but the profit motive controls decisionmaking.

The board cannot run the company independently; every quarter they have to report to the shareholders, and if they do not live up to the shareholders' expectations they will be relieved of their positions, just like everyone else in the company.

Individual shareholders cannot run the company; there are too many of them and they don't own enough votes to make much difference.

Institutional shareholders, such as mutual funds, who do own large enough blocks of shares to have significant voting power, cannot use that power to do anything but benefit their own institutions. After all, they have their own shareholders who will demand answers if they don't get the profits they expect.

It's a clever system.

And even Disney wouldn't raise an eyebrow if you made a live-action "Hunchback"

I wouldn't be willing to bet on this. The intent of the law itself is nearly irrelevant when legal resources are poorly matched. It's the way the law can be used that matters.

I can vouch from personal observation that you can follow copyright law to a T and still have your business sued out from under you by a larger company. All it takes is one temporary injunction against sales of your allegedly infringing product and you're dead. Your opponent can lay siege against you, stalling pretty much indefinitely while waiting for you to run out of cash and starve. It doesn't matter whether they have a case or not, because you end up out of business anyway.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:56 AM on January 25, 2001


Regarding coporations vs. the humans who run them:

An important thing to remember about corporations is that in many ways they have MORE rights than natural persons. Corporations have perpetual existence. They can live forever, and as a result, obviously own and enforce their trademarks and copyrights forever.

For example, Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse was to have passed into the public domain, but a law passed in Congress - it had Sony Bono's name in the title, can't remember the exact name - made it possible for Disney to maintian its intellectual property.

Of course this begs the question, is it worthwhile to have works of art pass into the public domain for the "public good" (a word that means very little to people these days)? or is it more worthwhile to allow corporations to continue to profit from its IP?

Regarding coporations and the natural person's who run them, individuals are VERY RARELY held accountable for a corporation's actions. That's why corporations were created in the first place - they severely limit personal liability. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive. In order for an individual to be held accountable, the "corporate veil" has to be pierced. There are a strict laws regarding when this can or can not happen. It is difficult to meet the criteria. Certainly reading corporate governance codes is not the most entertaining, but it is fascinating.


posted by dante at 12:08 PM on January 25, 2001


More on the differences between corporations and people.
posted by harmful at 1:20 PM on January 25, 2001


It's worth emphasizing that there is a fundamental difference between an individual (and their ideals, morals, etc.) and the position they occupy professionally. When you work for a corp., you are charged with making decisions that are good for the corporation; not society or humanity. It doesn't matter what you believe personally when you're in a professional setting. If you don't like it, you can either quit, or face demotion.
posted by queequeg at 4:55 PM on January 26, 2001


Or on admittedly very rare occasions you can make 'em listen.
posted by kindall at 5:26 PM on January 26, 2001


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