McTrademarks and McSkools

Today Labour were describing the Government’s Charter Schools as McSkools, and we’ve probably all heard stories of McDonalds trying to assert their trademark of almost McAnything, so soon armchair lawyers were talking of legal action against Labour. To complicate matters Labour also used the golden arches ‘M’ in their poster (which they’ve since removed).

The ‘Mc’ prefix has become synonymous with cheap, basic, and standardised. It’s a common piece of language as the UCSD point out:

California Law Review: “McLaw: Lawyering for the masses (about easily accessible and inexpensive basic legal services).

“Forbes magazine: “McArt” (about mass-marketing art stores that are open 7 days a week).

Erma Bombeck, syndicated columnist: “McStory on the paper’s front page” (about the preoccupation of the media with certain stories e.g. the octoplets)

And McJob is even in the dictionary.

So Labour are using well-established and common language and there’s little doubt that calling anything McSkools is legal. The only arguable bit is using the golden arches trademark,

(credit: Labour, and this guy for taking a screenshot)

Of course parodies of McDonalds happen all the time, especially in the artistic communities who remix. In the US their law recognises that there’s a balance between giving trademark holders complete control within our society Vs restricting effective means of speech that draw upon our shared culture. Who should have this control has been a continuing debate within New Zealand artistic circles because New Zealand artists lack remix rights — unlike our Australian and United States neighbours.

An example that comes to mind is back in 2001 TePapa removed tshirts that parodied company brands known to employee Pacific Island workers for low wages. A decade later TePapa do not have images of their purchase online.

In 2001, Kihara’s T-shirt series Teuanoa‛i – Adorn to Excess which parodied well-known corporate logos were exhibited at Te Papa and later added to the national museum’s collection. The T-shirts featured Kihara’s quirky take on well-known brands, turning logos such as The Warehouse to The Whorehouse and KFC to KKK. The exhibition created controversy in the media and raised legal questions about copyright versus artistic expression. Following legal advice, Te Papa removed three of the 28 T-shirts from its exhibition, but purchased the entire series. (cite)

The Greens have a Copyright (Parody and Satire) Amendment Bill that seeks to give New Zealand artists the same rights as Australian and United States artists. The question now seems to be whether these rights should include trademarks too – not just copyright.

Media Release – Leaked TPP text puts New Zealand’s economic future at risk (Fair Deal)

As noted by CFF trustee Daniel James “New Zealand has less history to draw on than many of the other countries in the agreement, and that means large increases to copyright extension drastically reduce the pool of available resources that New Zealand artists have to comment on their own heritage.”

Media release follows…

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The last time to speak to Govt on copyright this year?

Tomorrow the deadline for submissions on the Parallel Importing of films. Since 2003 cinemas have been in a blessed position by having their competitors severely limited. These competitors (DVD importers) can’t sell legal movies to New Zealanders — artists or otherwise. With the introduction of legal options it’s always been shown that piracy rates plummet, so why are they limiting legitimate and legal movies? Even the government’s own report says that the justification for the ban is “weak”.

The government are now proposing to extend the ban for another 3 years, but back in 2003 speaking in Parliament about the ban, John Key (then an opposition MP) said: “Under this system, choice will diminish. Prices will go up and product availability to the consumers of New Zealand will go down. [...] [The public] want to enjoy a movie that is current and not wait to see it in nine months’ time, when it has gone from being fashionable to unfashionable. They are not interested in watching a movie that has already been bagged by movie critics on radio stations and television.” (source: Consumer NZ)

This is an excellent opportunity to speak to government on copyright, and it may be the only time we get to speak this year, so get your submissions in!

Official instructions here and be sure to ask us (twitter, email) if you have any problems.

Need ideas for your submission? See our previous submission on the bill here (PDF).

Fair Deal international press briefing

This morning Fair Deal international had a press briefing. The coalition is announced its expanded international network amidst the TPP negotiations in Lima, Peru, and the expanded coalition consists of organisations from six of the twelve negotiating countries.

The briefing was MC’ed by TUANZ CEO Paul Brislen. Bronwyn Holloway-Smith spoke of how the TPP may affect New Zealand artists. Read on for a transcript of Bronwyn’s brief speech at the event.

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Our Submission to MBIE on Commercial Parallel Importing of DVDs

You might not know it but New Zealand has a ban on commercial parallel importing of DVDs that were bought legally overseas. Australia doesn’t have a ban, and neither does the U.S. When the government previously reviewed the ban in 2008 their own studies showed that the argument for retaining the ban was “weak” but despite that it was maintained. Recently MBIE called for submissions [PDF] again on parallel importing and we responded [PDF].

The restriction limits our access to legitimate copies of works that our peers in the rest of the world are already discussing, dissecting, and deriving new ideas from. It leaves us behind the curve, but without an offsetting benefit to the New Zealand creative sector.

New Zealand artists can import movies for non-commercial use (e.g. from Amazon), albeit at an additional cost that a commercial importer could avoid through economies of scale. This effectively prices many films out of reach, or it puts additional costs on New Zealanders who will send their money offshore (with a corresponding loss of tax revenue to the New Zealand government, which supports New Zealand artists through entities such as the New Zealand Film Commission).

If the public cannot, for example, legally obtain current material in a timely manner, then they may become skeptical of copyright law as a whole – if there are no suitable legal options then people will be more likely to use illicit channels. Maintaining a ban on commercial parallel importing decreases the supply of legal alternatives which affects all artists, not just individuals seeking to create market segmentation by controlling distribution.

Read our full submission here [150KB, PDF].

US Supreme Court upholds First-sale Doctrine. Importing books is not a copyright crime.

Historically publishers tried to restrict the resale price of second-hand books by putting a notice specifying a minimum price in the cover of the book. Absurd, right? Well the US Supreme court agreed that people could ignore that, sell their books for any price, and that principle was called the First-sale Doctrine. Recently a Thai student bought cheaper books overseas and imported them for sale but the publisher tried to use copyright to prevent the second-hand books from being sold and there’s been an ongoing court case to establish whether First-sale Doctrine applies to overseas purchases too. Today the court ruled that it does apply. As ArsTechnica report,

The importation of copyrighted goods made abroad has been an increasingly contentious issue in recent years. Easy access to Internet resale markets like eBay and Amazon have made it possible for a new breed of entrepreneurs to buy low and sell high in a wide array of areas. The Supreme Court handed these resellers a major victory today, issuing a decision [PDF] that makes it clear that the “first sale” doctrine protects resellers, even when they move goods across national boundaries.

Of course if “intellectual property” was more like real property there would have never been a lengthy court case because it’s understood that, for example, people buying a bar of chocolate can do anything they want with it. Buyers are not encumbered after their purchase. The idea of restricting what happens to a legally purchased item is just another example of how “intellectual property” is not property as we know it and rather that copyright should be thought more of as a monopoly right. That right expires in due course, and it has important limitations like Fair Dealing/Fair Use* and the First-sale Doctrine.

Not In Our Name: ACTA defeated!

ACTA was supposedly brought in to protect artists but it would have done more harm than good. Thankfully it’s been killed in a vote in the EU with 478 against and only 39 for.

Strasbourg, July 4th 2012 – The European Parliament rejected ACTA by a huge majority, killing it for good. This is a major victory for the multitude of connected citizens and organizations who worked hard for years, but also a great hope on a global scale for a better democracy. On the ruins of ACTA we must now build a positive copyright reform, taking into account our rights instead of attacking them. The ACTA victory must resonate as a wake up call for lawmakers: Fundamental freedoms as well as the free and open Internet must prevail over private interests.

Read more at laquadrature.net.

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‘Ireland’s SOPA’ to pass without parliamentary vote

Take action. Protect the Irish Internet from censorship

Stop SOPA Ireland

Wired UK report that “Ireland is soon to have a law similar to SOPA passed that would give music and movie companies the power to force Irish ISPs to block access to sites suspected of having copyright infringing material on them.” (emphasis ours)

“Irish citizens won’t have a chance to lobby their democratic representatives because there won’t be a vote on the law [...] in the Irish Parliament. Instead the law is being enacted by ministerial order because it is being prepared in the form of a Statutory Instrument.”

Sign at the petition against it at StopSOPAIreland.com.

Details of Infringing File Sharing Regulations Revealed

Minister Simon Power announced today that the regulations covering the Infringing File Sharing law will set notice fees at $25 (the cabinet paper recommended $20 but Cabinet decided on $25 after ISPs suggested $40, CFF suggested $30, and RIANZ suggested $2). The cabinet paper [PDF] has many more details. As we tweeted on Friday the submissions will be released this week.

The law comes into effect on the 1st of September 2011 and the fees will be reviewed by cabinet on 1st March 2012.

We’ll update this story as analysis comes out…

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