Weekly Rochester Events #319: Much Smaller Than a Mountain of Corn
Thursday, February 17, 2005
In case any of you remember, I created a T-shirt that had the icon of a guy falling on a triangular road sign with the words under it that said "Caution: Gravity." Well, a few months ago I was notified by
(where I have my storefront that sells this stuff) that I was in violation of a trademark. Apparently, there's this company that — get this — has a trademark on the word "caution" ... at least when printed on clothing. I asked them what they wanted and they said they were worried that people searching for things like "caution shirts" or "caution clothing" would find the shirt I was selling in my CafePress store and think it was actually their brand. I offered to change the description immediately — after all, I'm not selling anything associated with them,
but apparently that wasn't good enough. They insisted that I remove the "Caution: Gravity" shirt altogether, and even suggested that I could come up with some other design.
Well fine. After I made the
Valentine's Day "Heartbroken Bear"
stuff, I figured I should add more items for sale. I revisited the "Caution: Gravity" shirt and changed it to "Beware of Gravity" as shown to the right. What an unnecessary pain in the ass.
Worst of all, though, is that the name of the company utilizes their trademark so I can't tell you what it is without getting permission from them which I don't want to bother to do.
On a related note, some friends [of friends, etc.] of mine had one of their essays published on a website they never permitted. The discussion of what to do began with the American-standard rant of "let's get this guy," but I suggested that they just insist that the website owner simply cite the article properly — as it was, a citation for the correct authors was present, it just wasn't complete.
I mean, what's the deal with ownership of ideas anyway? Wasn't it the point of copyright law in the first place to give the original author a temporary monopoly over their work so they could profit from its novelty? It wasn't to permit ownership of ideas for all of perpetuity to assure the profitability of a corporation (I'm looking at you, Disney). Unfortunately, this isn't the case any more and it seems that the benefits of these laws aren't going to the most creative, only the most litigious.
Think about it this way: everything you've ever know has been told to you. Thus, one way or another, every idea you will ever have is derivative, not novel. By locking up all the source ideas in corporate vaults ... er ... [let me do a little bias correction] ... by making every idea that anyone has thought before you off-limits, all we're doing is choking off the world of progress.
I'm intentionally blurring several thoughts here. To me, the sharing of ideas is what is at issue. Sometimes it is mired in copyrights, but more often than not, patents and trademarks are nothing but landmines on the march of progress.
I mean, consider the "caution" issue I described above. I stepped down because I didn't care all that much to fight, and I couldn't afford to do so even if I wanted to. The thing that burns me up, though is twofold.
First, this kind of thing only fucks the little guy. I can't fight back, so a trademark holder can put the smack-down on my works even if it has nothing to do with them. However, I could go out and start a "Jeb Bush" line of clothing, but do you think I'd have any capacity to sue the Republican party for printing it on a T-shirt?
Second, there's a difference between a signature logo and a novelty T-shirt. Do the makers of
Ralph Lauren Polo
clothing run around all the time preventing every time someone uses
in the name of one of their designs? My point is that the novelty T-shirt has become a tool of free-expression much like the website or the picket sign. While there will be some gray areas — wherein the courts would need to make a call — the use of common language words (English or otherwise) on a T-shirt should not constitute trademark infringement just as they don't in other communication.
Now you'll also see that my "Beware of Gravity" shirt is copyrighted. If someone created a shirt with exactly the same design, I'd tell them to cut it out, but if they thought up the same thing — maybe with a different icon — then I don't really care. And after 10 years or so, they can use the exact same design because its well will have run dry (as if it already hasn't.)
So now let me jump to litigation and responsibility. It seems to be all the rage, what with our beloved president announcing an end to "frivolous asbestos lawsuits." I guess my definition of "frivolous" is different from his, though — rather than being about whether deep-pocketed asbestos corporations might be hurt, my definition has more to do with whether a danger is obvious or knowable.
By that I mean there are some dangers that are obvious. A sharp knife, designed to cut things, can cut fingers just as well — duh. My recurring example is stairs. Stairs are about as least-obvious as you can get as far as danger, but they are really quite dangerous if you think about it. So far (thankfully) I haven't seen a push to put warnings on every staircase enumerating the potential dangers of using one. I guess obvious
things are those things that most people will identify if prompted — "did you know you could cut yourself with a knife?" versus "did you know that a live electrical wire on the ground can hurt you just by going near it?"
The other side is "knowable." I put it that way because either it's known, or it can be known. For instance, mesothelioma, the cancer caused by asbestos, has been known since the 1940's, yet asbestos was still used in all varieties of materials — most of the time without any warnings. On the other hand, prior to the 1940's, no such disease had ever been discovered, so as far as a company that did reasonable safety
research, it wasn't knowable at the time.
So for the rest of us, this puts worrisome things into two categories.
On the one hand, we take risks on things that aren't known yet. There used to be mercury in shampoo before people realized it makes you go batty — nobody had any idea there'd be a problem and that's just the kind of unknowable risk we all take.
On the other, there's responsibility for our own stupidity. If we cut off our hand with a chainsaw, we can't really blame the manufacturer for making a saw that didn't know the difference between wood and arm — of course, the circumstances may be peculiar, like if the handle was too weak and when it broke, it stuck the throttle open and then wasn't controllable, but that's the reason we have these kinds of laws and courts in
the first place.
So beware of those mercury-powered asbestos-lined chainsaw-staircases.
This evening at
The Rochester Public Library
(115 South Ave.)
from 5:15 p.m. to 6 p.m.
will talk about
Signs of New York: History Markers and Their Stories
about the historical markers scattered around the state.
Friends of the Public Library flyer][all ages]
Tonight from 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. is a free
Community Skate Night
at the ice rink at
Manhattan Square Park
(130 Chestnut St.)
with music from
Beal's Rock and Roll Revue.
City Hall press release][all ages]
(112 Webster Ave.)
Imani Theatre Ensemble
The Flava of Jazz
starting around 8 p.m. both tonight and tomorrow with a reception at 7 p.m. both days.
from 12:12 p.m. to 12:52 p.m. in
The Rochester Public Library
(115 South Ave.)
Tsunamis and Earthquakes
and features geologist
Friends of the Public Library flyer][all ages]
The Dryden Theater
George Eastman House
(900 East Ave.)
will be showing
Ha-Olimpiada Harishonah Shel Imma(Mom's First Olympics)
starting at 8 p.m.
about a woman who loses her vision and takes up lawn bowling to enter the Para-Olympics. This will be followed by
about the sole survivor of a family of dwarfs experimented on by Josef Mengele as she and a disability advocate as they search for a missing film Mengele made of her family.
Eastman House calendar][all ages]
Tonight from 8 to 10 is an
Open-Mic Comedy Night
(389 Gregory St.)
While once it was a workshop type of environment, it's now more-or-less a regular open mic ... by default it's still a place to try out new stuff.
Daily Perks calendar][all ages]
Link of the Week:
Here are some links to organizations that are aiding the relief effort for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsumai on December 26. Please give to their general funds so they can distribute money in a way that makes the most sense.
The American Red Cross
is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers that provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. They are supporting the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) appeal for basic materials for survival and personnel.
focuses on child protection and immunizations, as well as helping countries in crisis with emergency assistance.
is a confederation of 12 organizations working together to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice. They are providing emergency aid equipment to help in disaster relief.
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including Monroe County and occasionally the Western New York region.) It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
The musical styles listed can include punk, emo, ska, swing, rock, rock-and-roll, alternative, metal, jazz, blues, noise band, experimental music, folk, acoustic, and "world-beat."
Events listed take place during the day, in the evenings, or as part of the city's nightlife as listed.
Oh, and it's spelled JayceLand with no space and a capital L, not Jayce Land, Jace Land, Jase Land, Jayce World, Jaceland, Jaseland, Jayceworld, Jaceworld, nor Jaseworld. (Now if you misspell it in some search engine, you at least get a shot at finding it.)
While I'm on the topic of keywords for search engines, this update includes information for Thursday, February 17, 2005 (Thu, Feb 17, 2005, 2/17/2005, or 2/17/05) Friday, February 18, 2005 (Fri, Feb 18, 2005, 2/18/2005, or 2/18/05) Saturday, February 19, 2005 (Sat, Feb 19, 2005, 2/19/2005, or 2/19/05) Sunday, February 20, 2005 (Sun, Feb 20, 2005, 2/20/2005, or 2/20/05) Monday, February 21, 2005 (Mon, Feb 21, 2005, 2/21/2005, or 2/21/05)
Tuesday, February 22, 2005 (Tue, Feb 22, 2005, 2/22/2005, or 2/22/05) and Wednesday, February 23, 2005 (Wed, Feb 23, 2005, 2/23/2005, or 2/23/05).
indicates an event that's a preferred pick of the day ... probably something worth checking out.
indicates a "guaranteed" best bet for the particular genre of the indicated event.
links to a band's page on IUMA.com which offers reviews and information about bands.
links to a band's page on GarageBand.com which offers reviews and information about bands.
links to a band's page on MySpace.com which is a friend-networking site that is popular with bands.
is an event that is "non-entertainment" for the masses such as practice sessions, open jams, etc.