“Congress shall make no law…abridging freedom of speech.” Reply

Among other cherished values, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. The U.S. Supreme pencilsCourt often has struggled to determine what exactly constitutes protected speech. The following are examples of speech, both direct (words) and symbolic (actions), that the Court has decided are either entitled to First Amendment protections, or not. [quote from & available at www.uscourts.gov]

The First Amendment states, in relevant part, that:

“Congress shall make no law…abridging freedom of speech.”

Freedom of speech includes the right:

  • To use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages.
    Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).
  • To engage in symbolic speech, (e.g., burning the flag in protest).
    Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989); United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).
  • Not to speak (specifically, the right not to salute the flag).
    West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).
  • Of students to wear black armbands to school to protest a war (“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”).
    Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).
  • To contribute money (under certain circumstances) to political campaigns.
    Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976).
  • To advertise commercial products and professional services (with some restrictions).
    Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976); Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977).

Freedom of speech does not include the right:

  • To incite actions that would harm others (e.g., “[S]hout[ing] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”).
    Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).
  • To make or distribute obscene materials.
    Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).
  • To burn draft cards as an anti-war protest.
    United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).
  • To permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration.
    Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).
  • Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event.
    Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).
  • Of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event.
    Morse v. Frederick, __ U.S. __ (2007).

See also: the text above (emphasis added) and other information on the meaning of free speech at http://www.uscourts.gov; the full text of the U.S. Constitution at http://constitutioncenter.org/constitution/full-text; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Legal Requirements for Commercial Email Messages Reply

Are you gearing up to send emails to your customers, clients and/or colleagues about your products and services? Keep in mind that commercial email messages are regulated by the CAN-SPAM Act.  The good news is that compliance with the legal photo(2)requirements outlined in the Act isn’t difficult.

Here is a brief rundown of the Act’s main requirements:

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information – accurately identify the sender of the email
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  3. Identify the email message as an advertisement
  4. Include your physical postal address in the email so recipients know where you’re located
  5. Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future email from you
  6. Honor opt-out requests promptly
  7. If you hire folks to handle your email-marketing, monitor what they are doing on your behalf to ensure compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act.

Here is a short excerpt from the CAN-SPAM Compliance Guide for Business issued by the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection on compliance:

Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to- business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.

Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, so non-compliance can be costly. But following the law isn’t complicated.

Check your holiday email blasts twice before sending them out to folks.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also:  The CAN-SPAM Act at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-108publ187/pdf/PLAW-108publ187.pdf (section 5 lists the requirements for transmission of commercial email messages); the CAN-SPAM Compliance Guide for Business issued by the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection at http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business; http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/can-spam; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Copyright ≠ Confidential: Key to Tire Litigation & Wrongful Death Claims Reply

Copyrighted works that have been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office are not vested with the same confidential treatment as trade secrets because they are available to the tirepublic.  Each time a person or entity registers an original work with the U.S. Copyright Office, a copy of the work that the applicant wishes to register is submitted along with their application.  This submitted copy of a published, literary work (which is called a deposit copy) is often made available to the public via the Library of Congress and a national network of libraries.

The fact that copyrighted materials are public records and not confidential is a basic principle of U.S. Copyright Law.  This basic principle of copyright law may create big changes to tire litigation and the evaluation of wrongful death claims related to faulty tires.  To date courts have routinely held copyrighted reports containing data on tire safety is inadmissible in tire litigation because, the reports contain trade secrets and are thereby confidential.  However, it seems that the copyright notice on the reports and their availability (upon request) to the public in the stacks at the Library of Congress and other libraries has been routinely overlooked.

Proper application of copyright law in tire litigation could alter the evaluation, treatment and admissibility of copyrighted reports containing data on tire safety.  As a result, copyright law has the potential to impact public safety.

For more information on this topic, See the article titled “The Tire Industry’s Abuse of Copyright Claims and the Corresponding Defenses of Copyright Misuse and Fair Use of Smithers Documents” co-authored by me and my uncle, Bruce Kaster Esq.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: a full bio of Mr. Bruce Kaster who has extensive litigation experience against major tire manufacturers and vehicle manufacturers, including Bridgestone, Firestone, Goodyear, Continental General, Cooper Tire, Ford Motor Company and others at www.tirefailures.com and a copy of our article and other resources at www.tirefailures.com/helpful-resourses.html; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

 

 

Female Watson: Great for many reasons including Copyright Reply

WatsonFabulous, smart, strong, witty, problem solving female characters are always great.  Recently, Hollywood has been recasting some traditionally male characters like Watson (from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous Sherlock Holmes stories) as women.  Additionally, Hollywood has been developing new central characters from the Doyle’s classics.  For example, Watson’s wife (barely mentioned or developed in Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories) is becoming a featured charter in the new BBC series based on the literary classic.  Also Lucy Liu is featured as Dr. Joan Watson in Elementary, a new series set in NYC.  This is a great trend for developing new, dynamite leading ladies.

Interestingly, this tend also has potential copyright advantages for the creative folks writing these new leading ladies based on traditionally male roles.  The “copyright advantage” is that creating new original characters by definition creates new character traits, storylines and crime solving adventures which the owners of the new TV series can potentially own, control and monetize to a greater degree than if the stories, characters and adventures are taken from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books.  This is because some of the original story elements and characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books and stories, like Holmes and Dr. John Watson, have entered into the public domain and others are still under copyright protection and must be licensed from Doyle’s Estate.  (See this earlier post,  http://wp.me/p10nNq-z8 , for more information on this topic).

I love Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson!  How about a lady Holmes, next?  Holmes

Happy Halloween!

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: earlier blog posts on the topic of “public domain,” https://iplegalfreebies.wordpress.com/category/public-domain/; other copyright and public domain resources, http://www.copyright.gov, http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Does Richard Prince’s New Exhibition Feature Instagram Photos? Reply

Each piece in Richard Prince’s new exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue in NYC appears to be a screenshot of someone else’s Instagram post that Prince has commented on and then printed onto canvas …and is selling through the Gallery.  This novel exhibition is fascinating; because, it is an example of mining content posted to a social media website under broad licensing and terms of use.

Social media websites generally allow users to post content, including photographs, under the website’s terms of use that grant a broad license to the posted content. Users generally retain ownership to posted content under the terms of social media websites. However, monitoring who uses the content and whether or not permission is needed when other folks use content posted to social media can get murky and varies depending upon the website’s Terms of Use.

For example, the Terms of Use posted to Instagram includes the following language:

“you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service.”

“Any information or content that you voluntarily disclose for posting to the Service, such as User Content, becomes available to the public, as controlled by any applicable privacy settings that you set. To change your privacy settings on the Service, please change your profile setting. Once you have shared User Content or made it public, that User Content may be re-shared by others.”

Instagram and other social media websites do give users ways to report violations including copyright infringements and can (and often do) disable or delete accounts of users who repeatedly violate other users and the website’s Terms of Use. Back to Richard Prince, I read that his Instagram account has been turned on and off more than once. Evidently, this has become a flattering statement regarding the artist’s edginess. Since, Prince is a celebrity artist; Instagram may earn virtual cache by having him as a user. As far as the folks whose Instagram photos appear to be featured in Prince’s exhibit (New Portraits, at the Gagosian) I recognized a few celebrity faces and haven’t read about any objections or lawsuits.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: for more information about Richard Prince and his exhibition titled New Portraits at the Gagosian Gallery through October 25th, see: http://www.gagosian.com/artists/richard-prince, http://www.gagosian.com/exhibitions/richard-prince–september-19-2014 and http://www.richardprince.com/bio/; for more information about the exhibit see: http://www.supertouchart.com/2014/09/23/first-look-richard-prince-new-portraits-at-gagosian-madison-ave/, http://hyperallergic.com/152762/richard-prince-inc/, http://www.vulture.com/2014/03/how-richard-prince-got-kicked-off-instagram.html; See also Instagram’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy (note that the terms are subject to change): http://instagram.com/about/legal/terms/# and http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/#@iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

 

Own a .NYC Web Address for $25-$50 1

The open registration phase for purchasing .NYC web addresses has begun.photo

COST: .NYC web addresses can be purchased for an annual fee of $25-$50 from a variety of retailers. You may want to comparison shop between the retailers to find the best deal. (A  list of available retailers is available at www.ownit.nyc/register after running a name search)

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Any person, business, or organization with a physical address within the five boroughs can register a .NYC web address

THE FIRST STEP: Search for .NYC web address availability at http://www.ownit.nyc or https://www.godaddy.com/tlds/nyc?isc=ownitnyc

.NYC web addresses are a new breed of web addresses linked to a city domain. While we are all familiar with country domains like .au, .it, .fr, .ca, .de and .uk (Internet top-level domains, TLDs, for countries) regional domains are now available for cities to apply for.  As far as I know, .NYC is one of the first city domains to be launched.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: An earlier blog post on .NYC at http://wp.me/p10nNq-CK;  Frequently Asked Questions about .NCY at http://www.ownit.nyc/faq and http://www.ownit.nyc/what-it-is; ICANN website for more information on new generic top level domains (gTLDs) at http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Copyright Infringement: may not feel illegal but it is Reply

Three truths about copyright infringement:copyright

  • Making bootlegged copies of copyrighted movies available online for other folks to download and stream is a crime: copyright infringement
  • The Motion Picture Association of America and other associations, artists and content owners spend time and money tracking down folks who are infringing their copyright
  • Comments posted to an online forum acknowledging copyright infringement can be incriminating (despite a gleeful or playful tone).

According to a recent article in the NY Times, one of the founders of NinjaVideo served 16 months in prison for conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement. For more details on the NinjaVideo story, see the NY Times Article titled, “The Unrepentant Bootlegger” by Jenna Wortham on 9/28/14.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

@iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Using my photo? Did I inadvertently give rights away by posting it online? Reply

It’s so easy and fun to share photographs online that folks often give away rights to their photographs without even realizing it.  HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?  The terms, conditions and licenses that the photographer agrees to when posting a photograph to various social media and photo-sharing websites often grant other folks broad rights to use posted photographs.  Keep in mind that every social media and photo-sharing website has different terms, conditions and licenses that are agreed to automatically simply by USING the website and POSTING photographs and other content.  These terms, conditions and licenses are modified and updated frequently.

teen's flicker photo

Photo: Justin Ho-Wee Wong

Here is an interesting and fairly haunting example:  A photograph of a teenager was taken by her youth counselor and posted to his to Flickr account under a broad Creative Commons license that allowed others to use his work in any way, including for commercial purposes, if they credited the photographer. (See the inserted photo).  A slightly edited version of the photograph ended up in an advertising campaign for Virgin Mobil Australia. A lawsuit followed.

THE TAKE AWAY: Read the terms, conditions and licenses that you are agreeing to when using and posting photographs and other content to social media and photo-sharing websites.  Most popular social media and photo-sharing websites, including FACEBOOKPINTEREST and TWITTER have fairly broad terms, conditions and licenses that change frequently.  Websites post their terms, usually at the bottom of the webpage. These same terms that often give other folks broad rights to use posted content,  also contain the steps to follow if your photographs or other content are being used without your permission on the site and you want to request that it be taken down.

This post was inspired by my friend Mel and a host of social media comments about a photograph that ended up on a series of KEEP CALM shirts.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: Articles about the Virgin Mobil example above from the Sydney Morning Herald and The New York Times; photo of a Virgin Mobil Ad; Flickr’s Creative Commons licenses at https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/; other blog posts on photo copyright at https://iplegalfreebies.wordpress.com/category/copyright-photos; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Trademark: to keep bands called THE SUPREMES from popping up in every State Reply

“Yeah, I know and can appreciate what you do (as a trademark attorney working with musicians). Back in the day, different bands called THE SUPREMES were popping up in every State. You can’t have that.” A jazz musician friend said this to me the other day and it was music to my ears.

from the USPTO online database

from the USPTO online database

This is right on point. For a band like THE SUPREMES, who became the most popular female group of the Sixties, owning the trademark of their name grants the trademark owner (Motown Records and now Motown Records’ successor) the exclusive right to use the name “THE SUPREMES” for various music performance and recording services. [USPTO Reg. No. 1003076]. Owning the trademark rights in the name of your band grants the trademark owner the exclusive right to use the trademarked band name for specific uses – like music performance and recording services. This can be a tool to keep other bands or music groups from performing under the same name or a confusingly similar name without permission of the trademark owner.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: the USPTO TESS data base at http://www.uspto.gov/; a copy of the USPTO Certificate of Trademark Registration for THE SUPREMES, USPTO Reg. No. 1003076; The Supremes bio at http://rockhall.com/inductees/the-supremes/ ; Baby Love on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23UkIkwy5ZM; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

WORLD CUP – National Teams & Big Brands out on the field Reply

While watching the US play Ghana yesterday in the World Cup, I couldn’t help but notice that in soccer ballsaddition to the rivalry between the two national teams on the field… there was also a competition between famous brands on the field too.  Adidas, Nike and Puma were the three famous brands and trademarks that I noticed all over the field, players, officials, equipment and gear.  Adidas trademarks were on the game ball, officials and frequently appeared on the stadium’s sidewall advertising. Nike’s swoosh trademark was on the US jerseys and many cleats.  Puma’s leaping-cat trademark was prominently featured on Ghana’s jerseys.

Adidas, Nike and Puma are all famous brands.  Nike owns nearly 300 USPTO trademarks including their famous swoosh.  Adidas owns close to 150 USPTO trademarks including their famous three stripes.  Puma also owns many USPTO trademarks featuring its leaping cat.

Flashing trademarks out on the field, and World Cup endorsements is big business.  According to a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, Nike is the largest sportswear company in the world, with $25 billion in revenue.  Adidas (based in Germany) is a close second with $20 billion in revenue. Combined, these two brands control 70 % of the market for soccer gear.  Soccer is a big focus for Adidas and the brand has a long history with soccer sponsorship, including sponsoring FIFA since 1970.  Nike joined the soccer sponsorship game more recently in 1994 when the US hosted the World Cup.

Enjoy watching the rivalries play out during the World Cup this summer!  National Teams (and the sponsoring brands) will be giving it their all.

Great game last night. Thrilling 2-1 victory by the US over Ghana.

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

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also FIFA stats on the US v Ghana game at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/matches/round=255931/match=300186512/index.html#nosticky; the USPTO TESS data base at http://www.uspto.gov/; Bloomberg Businessweek article by Brendan Greeley, titled “Shootout Can Nike Beat Adidas at Soccer?”; Scores online at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/index.html and http://msn.foxsports.com/soccer/schedule?competition=12&season=2014; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.