04 June 2006

Chapter I - Statute of Anne vs. Trademark of Anne

Private Infringer isn't a super hero like Captain Copyright of course. He is just a lowly private who wants to know why everybody keeps trying to tell him what to do, even in the privacy of his own home.

Every time he tries to rip his CDs to put them on his MP3 player, that guy Captain Copyright in spandex pajamas, is in his face telling him it's wrong. Yesterday he downloaded a copy of DJ Dangermouse's Grey Album. When CC showed up to lecture him in his usual condescending way, Infringer tried explaining that DJ Dangermouse put it on the web for free himself. But Copyright said that didn't matter. Paul McCartney did not approve, and that is all that really did matter.

How was it, Infringer wondered, that a society which judges itself to be so enlightened could find it so easy to suppress art. He then thought about all the other lost art which he had either heard of, or in some cases, even seen parts of himself. "The Cat NOT in the Hat", "Eyes on the Prize", and another new book. What was it again? Oh yeah, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got in".

The last one was ChickLit, so the thought of reading it did not really grab him, but he did begin to wonder just how much stuff might be out there that had not seen the light of day long enough for him to be able to discover its existence. Even worse how much art was never being created in the first place because people were too afraid of the consequences?

Oh well, he wasn't going to worry about this now. He was almost home. With any luck the movie he started downloading this morning would be finished and he could kick up his feet, order some pizza, and chill in front of a great movie.

Rounding the corner onto his street in his busy downtown neighbourhood he saw the street vendor who often sells things in his little stall on the sidewalk. Usually the vendor sold the same old stuff, cheap electronics, cheap DVDs and CDs, and assorted nicnaks. Today some new nicnaks grabed his eye. Infringer had always been a ravenous reader. He had fond memories of when he was a kid and he read the entire collection of “Anne of Green Gables. “ with his mother. The new nicnaks all looked like various Anne of Green Gable characters. He picked up a couple to examine them thinking one of them possibly tied in with a some flowers and a bow might make a thoughtful mothers day present.

Choosing a rather nice one, which was distinctly Anne with the freckles and red hair, he paid the vendor and started to walk away. But he'd only gone about 3 feet when that self important busy body Captain Copyright flew in out of the blue. Wow. Just like a real super hero too.

“Did you know that you have just purchased an unauthorized and unlicenced product” said Captain Copyright in his deep, strong and authoritative voice. Everyone on the street could hear this and as he spoke the vendor started cowering in his seat and glancing up and down the street with a very guilty look on his face.

Infringer's first instinct of course was to immediately put the product back. Copyright spoke with such authority and certainty, and his words always seamed so reasonable on the surface that it was very difficult for anyone not to do exactly what he said. But Infringer gathered his strength this time.

“Oh no, not you again”, he sighed, “What, what, have I done this time?”

“That ceramic doll you just purchased was not licensed by the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority. It is illegal. You must hand it over to the appropriate authorities along with information about who you received it from so that they can all be destroyed. If you don't, the authorities will prosecute you instead.”

“huhh” Private Infringer was confused, “Wait a minute. I haven't done anything wrong. What do you mean licensed? What is there to license? These are characters from a book. There weren't even any pictures in those books. How can this be breaking copyright?”

“It isn't” said Captain Copyright with his arms crossed and a stern disapproving look on his face.

The look on Private Infringer's face was more a look of bewilderment. He began to wonder if perhaps Copyright's spandex pants were a little to tight and were cutting off circulation to the the part of his anatomy his brain must be in.

“It's breaking trademark law” Copyright continued, “The Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority is a corporation jointly owned by the province of PEI and the heirs of Lucy Maud Montgomery. They own all rights to any character likenesses from the books as well as the words 'Anne of Green Gables' and the Montgomery name”

Private Infringer still had a bewildered look on his face. “But wait a minute, these books are all in the public domain now aren't they? Doesn't that mean, they don't need to be licensed? Besides”, Infringer paused for a moment, “ I thought your name was Captain Copyright, not Trolling Trademark”.

Captain Copyright's face started to look a little more angry. Infringer began to get a little worried that maybe he'd gone too far and stepped over the line. He had heard about how Captain Copyright had completely destroyed people in the past with his powerful 'Statutory Damages' death ray. He did not really want to make Captain Copyright angry if he could avoid it. He broke eye contact with Copyright and instead stared down at his feet.

The Captain continued. “ It does not matter what the status of the books are. This is trademark law. There is no limitations on trademarks. The owner of a trademark can continue to dictate how that trademark is used for as long as they maintain its registration. The AGGLA has complete control of every....”


Copyright's words were suddenly interrupted by the loud sound of a vehicle backfiring. Copyright and Infringer both turned to see an old army jeep turning the corner of the street. Its paint was peeling, and smoke was coming out of the tail pipe. The front axle was obviously bent as the vehicle had a pronounced vertical wobble in its movement. It pulled up in front of Copyright and Infringer, coughed and sputtered then stopped. An old man got out who looked like he could be Moses' grandfather. He had a short white beard, wrinkled face, and a tattered but clean, old army uniform which was full of rusty medals.

“Who are you?” said Captain Copyright and Private Infringer at the same moment.

The old man paused in front of them for a moment to catch his breath.

“I am General Intelligence”, he said.

Copyright's face changed to look a little more worried. For years now he had managed to maintain order and control without having to worry about anything that had anything to do with Intelligence. Was this guy back now to undo all his good work. Copyright sized up this Intelligence and hopefully concluded that he was to old and frail to offer much of any opposition.

“What do you want?” scoffed Copyright.

“For years now I have not paid attention to these issues of copyright and Intellectual Monopolies, while you and your corporate friends have slowly tightened the noose upon our society. It is almost to the point now where nothing creative can be done without explicit permission from some corporate entity or another. Our culture is dying and what's left is being sold off to the highest bidder. I'm going to protect this boy from the likes of you.”

“Words of intelligence eh?” Captain Copyright scoffed with a wide grin on his face.

“Yes”, replied General Intelligence, looking a little perplexed by the new look on Copyright's face.

“The word is 'property' you simpleton”, Captain copyright shot back with a laugh. “Intellectual Property”, he yelled, “Boy, if you can't get that right, you really haven't got a hope defeating me.”. Captain Copyright was starting to feel much more sure of himself now.

There was a pause before Intelligence spoke again. Then he spoke slowly.

“I said 'Intellectual Monopoly', and that is precisely what I meant. Just because you and your control obsessed cohorts have managed to convince the world that the inappropriate use of the word property is justified, does not make it right. A monopoly right granted to you by the state, allows you to dictate other people's behaviour. It is not property. In fact it is the exact opposite of property, as it gives you the right to tell others how they may or may not use their own property. This is one of the first things I need to rectify.”

Copyright was starting to worry again, and small beads of sweat were forming on his forehead.

Intelligence continued, “Now as for this Anne of Green Gables thing.” the General paused as he turned to look at Private Infringer, “Alas my boy, I'm afraid Captain Copyright is correct. In fact the trademark owners already won a landmark victory in court which prevents anyone from making commercial use of any of the characters or names associated with the Anne of Green Gables story. Verbatim copies of the book are probably OK but any derived works would violate the registered trademarks.”

Private Infringer was in shock. “You mean these people can use trademark law to totally circumvent the purpose of copyright law and effectively maintain a monopoly on these stories forever?”

“I'm afraid so,” replied the General.

Captain Copyright had a look of satisfaction on his face, strikingly similar to the one Mickey Mouse wore the day the American overlords successfully extended their term of copyright, thereby saving their iconic mascot from falling into the hands of the pagan artisans.

“Not so fast Captain Copyright”, General Intelligence turned to Captain Copyright just as he was reaching for ceramic figurine, intent on smashing the poor thing to bits with the sincere belief that this was somehow going to save the world from evil.

He pulled a large roll of red tape out of his jacket as he continued speaking.

“The Private here is quite right. As you yourself have said, this is a trademark issue, and as such it is completely out of your jurisdiction. Not even the American FCC has successfully been able to rule outside their jurisdiction and impose their dreaded Broadcast Flag.” General Intelligence and Private Infringer both shuddered at these words. “You too are restricted by jurisdiction and will have to leave this poor boy alone.”

Captain Copyright was utterly stunned by this. Could General Intelligence really use such a technical detail to prevent Captain Copyright from saving the world for the exclusive cultural exploitation of large multinational corporations?

While Copyright was contemplating this horrible concept, his jaw slowly moving up and down so that he resembled some kind of large green fish trying to breath out of water, General Intelligence took advantage of the opportunity. With a little help from Infringer he tied Copyright up in the red tape as tightly as he could. Then the two of them proceeded down the road in the direction of Infringer's Apartment.

“Thank you General Intelligence, I thought I was a goner back there.”

“Don't thank me too quickly my boy.” said Intelligence, “These are dark times that we live in. They will get much darker too I'm afraid before they get brighter. These multinational corporations are very powerful indeed, and they have a tight reign on both our culture and our government. I've slowed Captain Copyright down by tying him up in red tape, but I certainly have not stopped him. He will be back, and he will bring his friends.”

There was a long pause as they walked slowly down the street together.

“I'm getting old my boy,” continued General Intelligence after a while, “and people don't listen to me very much any more. I can advise you, but I can do no more. If you want a society different than the one the multinational corporations and the collective associations want, then you will have to take action on your own. You will have to do something about it.”

They were approaching the front door to Private Infringer's third story walk up. Infringer knew the General would have difficulty climbing those stairs so instead of inviting him up, he thanked him, shook his hand, then reached for his keys and made his way up to the his apartment.

General Intelligence turned around and slowly started walking back to his jeep by himself. He didn't mind. He was actually getting use to being by himself. Most people, he we was beginning to think, simply did not want Intelligence. And he could live with that if they could.

Private Infringer checked his mail box on the way up and was delighted to discover that a DVD he had recently ordered from the BBC in the UK through mail order had finally arrived.

The saga continues...