Authorship

You Can Trademark That?  They Can Own What? Who Knew?

There are many reasons we have IP laws – but primary among them is to encourage creative types like artists and inventors to profit from their efforts by way of royalties or exclusive rights.  To encourage those efforts, the intellectual property laws give authors and creators a relative monopoly over something they’ve created – a trademark, an invention, a script, a computer program, etc.  It’s like society is saying “you made it, so you can own it – at least for a while…”

But a natural tension immediately presents itself when we grant these exclusive rights.  Our culture wants to embrace, use and assimilate all that is cutting edge and new without having to ask for permission.  We take – no, we borrow Pharrell Williams’  “Happy” riffs and make them background music to our YouTube® videos of our cats and our dogs.  We expropriate “just a” screen capture from the Godzilla movie and create e-cards or embed them on our Facebook® pages.  Our post-90s, crowd sourced, media-centered sensibility has created this “if it’s out there it must be free” (or “it wants to be free”) ethos … Keep reading

Nora Ephron

Last night, Nora Ephron passed.   Already the internet andblogosphere are filled with this news and discussion of the loss of an incredibly prolific, comical and impactful artist.  While she is associated with a broader feminist agenda, her real contributions were in giving comic and touching voice to life experiences that happened to be shared primarily by women.   Her clarion call to women, especially younger women, to “…be the heroine of your life, not the victim,” might have been her most poignant gift.

But what, you may well ask, has Ephron’s passing to do with intellectual property or the law of information?  Well everything and nothing at once…  I was once asked to opine upon the intersection of intellectual property protection and gender.  I was flummoxed by this question at first, feeling that certainly there was gender blindness when it comes to IP rights and their exploitation.  But if you scratch beneath the surface — as Ephron always did — the story is much more complicated.It’s breathtaking to remember that women were still considered chattel until several hundred years ago.  Then, having thrown off that burden, we still could not own property for another huge block of … Keep reading