Fans say YES after LEGO says NO (& refuses to fulfill an order for artist Ai Weiwei) Reply

Reading excerpts from a rejection-letter from the LEGO toymaker to the Australian National Gallery in response to a bulk legoorder for an upcoming instillation by the famous, artist Ai Weiwei… is a cautionary reminder of how quickly viral backlash can unfurl.

In addition to refusing to fulfill a bulk order for toy bricks placed by the museum, the LEGO toymaker evidently requested the following in their rejection-letter:

  1. The LEGO trademark cannot be used commercially in any way to promote, or name, the artwork; and
  2. It must be clear to the public that the LEGO Group has not sponsored or endorsed the artwork/project.

In response to the LEGO toymaker’s rejection-letter, collection points have been established around the world for LEGO brick donations to support the art project and the artist has decided to make a new work defending freedom of speech and political art.  (I’d say it’s pretty clear to the public that the LEGO Group has not sponsored or endorsed the art project).

The Brooklyn Museum is accepting LEGO brick donations – donations can be placed in the sunroof of a car parked in front of the museum or can be sent by mail –>

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

For personalized legal services you are welcome to contact me at

See also: earlier posts on trademarks at; a BBC News article titled, “Australia gallery collects Lego for Ai Weiwei at; @iplegalfreebies and

Wholesome image…. An Apple A Day Reply

While apple picking recently, I noticed the phrase “An Apple A Day” printed on my apple-picking bag.  AppleSeeing this phrase made me curious as to the origin of the longer, common phrase, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  To me this common phrase is a marketing win, win, win; because, it invokes the following three qualities: 1) Health, 2) Wholesomeness, and 3) Daily Use.  I suspect it is no coincidence that APPLE Inc. selected a word-trademark bearing these qualities.

While I love apples… I do not eat one everyday.  However, I do use my APPLE laptop and iPhone daily.  (What would Johnny Appleseed think?)

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

For personalized legal services you are welcome to contact me at

See also: earlier posts on trademarks at; a Smithsonian Article on Johnny Appleseed titled, “The Real Johnny Appleseed brought apples and booze to the American frontier” by N. Geiling at; Washington Post article: “History behind ‘An apple a day’″ by M. Ely at; @iplegalfreebies and

When Monkeys Sing & Pigs Fly (Copyright news update) 1

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monkey selfie is available on

It’s been quite a week for U.S. Copyright law!  This week a judge in California ruled that the popular (and commercially valuable) song “Happy Birthday to You” is not protected by copyright.  If the judge’s ruling stands the Happy Birthday song will become part of the public domain.

Also in California, a lawsuit was filed by PETA claiming that the copyright of photographs taken by a monkey (monkey selfies) should belong to the monkey. Presumably PETA should be allowed to collect and administer royalties from the photos on the monkey’s behalf.

It will be interesting to follow this monkey’s business… and these lawsuits.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq.

For personalized legal services you are welcome to contact me at and

See also, another post on the monkey selfies at; more posts on copyright law at; the “Happy Birthday Case” is Marya v. Warner/Chappell available at; The Washington Post article titled, “Monkey wants copyright and cash from ‘monkey selfies,’ PETA lawsuit says” by J. Moyer at; New York Times article titled, “’Happy Birthday’ Copyright Invalidated by Judge” by B. Sisario at; @iplegalfreebies and

CITYSTICKS & POPSICLE tale of two trademarks Reply

CITYSTICK picCITYSTICKS & POPSICLE are two different trademarks for tasty frozen treats.  These two trademarks are owed by two different companies and are both registered with the USPTO.  USPTO trademark registration grants the owner of each trademark exclusive rights to use the registered trademark when selling, advertising and promoting their frozen treats.  This means that the words CITYSTICKS & POPSICLE are off limits to any other person or company selling frozen treats.  For example, if another person or company uses either of the trademarks to sell or advertise competitive goods without permission of the trademark owner they may be infringing the trademark and might be asked by the owner to stop using the trademark (i.e. to cease and desist from infringing the trademark).

POPSICLE is the older of these two trademarks and it’s no coincidence that the CITYSTICKS packaging pictured to the left and below does not use the trademarked term POPSICLE.  Instead the packaging reads, “ice pops with personalities.”  (As you can see, I quickly ate half the CITYSTICKS ice pop before I thought to photograph it for this post.  It was tasty).CITYSTICKS USPTO screen shot

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

For personalized legal services you are welcome to contact me at

See also: more on the POPSICLE trademark and protecting exclusive trademark rights  at, other posts on exclusive trademark rights at; USPTO (U.S. Patent & Trademark Office) resources at; #trademark, #branding, #valueyourbrand @iplegalfreebies and

New Rules for Creative Revenue Reply

Creative revenue streams – Here are a few of my favorites:FullSizeRender (8)

  • Inexpensive monthly subscription fees for access to video tutorials (for example teaching folks to use photography equipment or to play an instrument)
  • Parlaying social media followers into an eager audience for a book launch.
  • Composing music scores for videos and films. (It’s often much more economical for film and video makers to commission original compositions than to try and get rights to popular songs.  When I saw a preview of the documentary “Doing It In The Park: Pick-Up Basketball New York City” one of the filmmakers shared that he wished he’d commissioned an all original score from the outset).
  • Demonstration YouTube videos that include a retailer affiliate link. (Retailer affiliate links make money when folks click the link and make a purchase).

I believe that smart, creative, entrepreneurial folks can rise to the top, get noticed and make money (if they want to).

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

For personalized legal services you are welcome to contact me at

See also: “How to write a © Copyright Notice and Why to Use it” at; Posts on trademark topics for new businesses:; #creativerevenue, #valueyourart, #valueyou; @iplegalfreebies and

Positive PR Spin (The Silver Lining To Controversial Use of Instagram Photo) Reply

A Positive PR Spin appears to be the outcome of choice for at least one of the folks who appeared in Richard Prince’s controversial display at the Frieze Art Fair in NYC earlier this summer. (The controversial artwork consisted of enlarged screenshots of people’s Instagram photos used without warning or permission – reportedly selling for $90,000 a piece. Blogged about here at

Lo and behold, the Instagram photo of Ms. Deere (pictured to the right) that Richard Prince put up for Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 8.38.40 AMsale at the Frieze Art Fair was a photo that Ms. Deere posted to Instagram to promote a friend who makes beautiful, hand-crafted dolls (notice the doll in the photo to her right). The silver lining to Richard Prince’s use of Ms. Deere’s Instagram photo is that the photo was seen by even more folks… garnering more attention and notoriety… which Ms. Deere has been able to spin and re-share on social media for additional promotion of her doll maker friend.

Below is a photo and text shared by Ms. Deere recently on Instagram to refocus folks attention to the promotion of her doll maker friend. (As of today, Ms. Deere has 348K followers on Instagram).  Fingers crossed that Ms. Deere and her doll maker friend each make at least an additional $90,000.

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BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

For personalized legal services you are welcome to contact me at

See also: earlier posts on this controversial exhibition featuring Instagram photos and; more information on Instagram’s Terms of Use at; Observer article: “Hey Doll, the Instafame of Pidgin at; Washington Post article: “A reminder that your Instagram photos aren’t really yours: Someone else can sell them for $90,000″ at; @iplegalfreebies and

Using the Registered Trademark Symbol: ® Reply

trademarks on the streetWalking down the block today in New York City, I noticed a dozen famous trademarks: WHOLE FOODS MARKET (store sign), NYC TAXI (decal on a cab);  LOUIS VUITTON (purse), 7 ELEVEN (store sign), CON EDISON (on a service truck), UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE (on a blue mail box), DUNKIN’ DONUTS (store sign), POLO RALPH LAUREN (logo on a man’s shirt), NIKE (swoosh on a shopping bag); HAAGEN-DAZS (on an ice cream delivery truck); GAP (store sign) and MTA (logo on a poster announcing a subway update).

Once a trademark has been registered with the USPTO, the trademark owner is vested with a bundle of exclusive rights to use the trademark AND the owner also has the right to use the coveted Registered Trademark symbol: ®.  The photo-collage inserted into this post points out several uses of the ® symbol that I noticed out on the street.

Here is a brief excerpt from the United States Patent & Trademark Office’s website on using the ® symbol:

[Y]ou may use the federal registration symbol “®” only after the USPTO actually registers a mark , and not while an application is pending. Also, you may use the registration symbol with the mark only on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the federal trademark registration.

Registered trademarks are all over the streets of New York City!

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

For personalized legal services you are welcome to contact me at

See also: Other blog posts on using trademark symbols at; USPTO (U.S. Patent & Trademark Office) resources at and; INTA (International Trademark Association) fact sheet on trademark use at; @iplegalfreebies and

Avalanche of photos uploaded in a 24-hour period Reply

Image shared in Facebook

Image shared on Facebook

Seeing the printouts of photos uploaded to Flicker over a 24-hour period is a sobering visual of the amount of content uploaded and shared in one day (on just one of many online photo-sharing websites).  Mountains of photographs… from floor to ceiling… as part of an installation by Erik Kessels titled, “24hours in Photos.” and  The photographs included in this second link are particularly amazing, because, the instillation appears to be in a church and echoes a “devotion” to online photo-sharing which may be an almost, automatic reflex for many folks.  Personally, I find the sheer volume of content that folks share online staggering (often without even considering the rights that may be given away by merely using and posting the photos to an online photo-sharing website or social media site).

Before sharing photos online, it’s always a good idea to read the Terms of Use of the website so that you are aware of how your photos may be used by other folks after you post them.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

For personalized legal services you are welcome to contact me at

See also: Other blog posts on Terms of Use for websites and social media at

I like Taylor Swift’s Voice (and she sings great too). Reply

This week the musician Taylor Swift spoke out against Apple’s proposed plan NOT to pay music royalties during the 90-day free vlaueyourarttrial they are offering to customers who sign up for the new Apple Music streaming service. In a savvy and effective move, Taylor Swift asked Apple (in a letter posted online) to change their policy and refrain from asking musicians to provide their music without compensation during the 90-day period. The letter begins with a threat to not release her new album on Apple Music streaming service due to the 90-day-no-compensation period.

The goods news: Apple responded the same day with notice that they changed their tune and WILL pay artists for streaming during the 90-day free trial period.

Tis A “Swift” Change to benefit musicians! Bravo!

Here is the full text of Taylor Swift’s letter (also available at:

I write this to explain why I’ll be holding back my album, 1989, from the new streaming service, Apple Music. I feel this deserves an explanation because Apple has been and will continue to be one of my best partners in selling music and creating ways for me to connect with my fans. I respect the company and the truly ingenious minds that have created a legacy based on innovation and pushing the right boundaries.

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.

These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.

I realize that Apple is working towards a goal of paid streaming. I think that is beautiful progress. We know how astronomically successful Apple has been and we know that this incredible company has the money to pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period… even if it is free for the fans trying it out.

Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done. I hope that soon I can join them in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music. I think this could be the platform that gets it right.

But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.


Thanks for your letter Taylor Swift. (You have a powerful voice!)  swiftchange

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

For personalized legal services you are welcome to contact me at

See also: Other blog posts on Music Copyright and royalties at; “Apple Changes Course After Taylor Swift Open Letter: Will Pay Labels During Free Trial” by S.Halperin at; “Apple Responds to Taylor Swift’s Open Letter, Says It Will Pay Artists During Apple Music Free Trial Period: ‘We Hear You’” by J.Andriakos at; @iplegalfreebies and

Happy 225th Birthday – US Copyright Law Reply

Happy Birthday US Copyright!  This week is the 225th anniversary of the first Federal US Copyright Law, FullSizeRender (3)which was signed into law by President George Washington on May 31, 1790.  The 1st US Copyright Law was enacted less than 2 years after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and was modeled after the British Statute of Anne.  Kudos to the First Congress of the US!  Here is a bit more information on the 1st US Copyright Law:

The law was called “An Act for the encouragement of learning,” and it protected “maps, Charts, and books.” The decision to protect maps and charts indicates that the First Congress wanted to encourage exploration of the American continent, including its lakes, rivers, and harbors. The decision to protect books confirms that the First Congress also valued the creation and distribution of authorship, both for informational and artistic purposes. These objectives are reflected in the works that were registered in the first month after enactment, which included an atlas, a spelling book, a collection of court decisions, and a “comedy in five acts.”

The first federal copyright law established many of the fundamental principles that are a vital part of the law today. It stated that copyright initially belongs to the author—the person who conceived and created the work— rather than the publisher or the state. At the same time, it recognized that an author’s rights are not perpetual but instead should be limited in time. And it recognized that authors are part of a larger economic ecosystem, and that they often transfer their rights to publishers, retailers, or other parties. The first federal copyright law established the principle that authors should have rights to control the use of their works, such as how they are printed, reprinted, published, and sold. It recognized that authors should have meaningful remedies to encourage others to respect these rights and to provide appropriate compensation when those rights are infringed. And it recognized the central role a registration system plays in documenting a public record of creativity, ownership, term, and other legal facts.   [Excerpt from the US Copyright Office commemoration at]

US Copyright Law has changed a lot in the last two centuries including offering copyright protection to a broader spectrum of works.  For example, US Copyright registration and protection is now available for computer software and website content which were not conceivable in 1790. (Not even a figment in George Washington’s imagination).   The full text of the 1st US Copyright Law is available at  and the current US Copyright Law is available at

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

For personalized legal services you are welcome to contact me at

See also: Information on how to write a copyright notice at; other blog posts on copyright at;  the US Copyright Office’s website at; @iplegalfreebies and