(Roughly) Daily

The Annals of Intellectual Property, Volume 712…

In 1998, University of Iowa professor Kembrew McLeod trademarked the phrase “Freedom of Expression” and created a zine with that title.

Freedom of Expression

McLeod enlisted a friend, Brendan Love, to pose as the publisher of an imaginary punk rock magazine also called Freedom of Expression, whom he then sued.  McLeod hired a lawyer… but didn’t let her in on the gag. She sent a cease-and-desist letter to Love:

We represent Kembrew McLeod of Sunderland, Massachusetts, the owner of the federally registered trademark, FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION … Your company has been using the mark Freedom of Expression … Such use creates a likelihood of confusion in the market and also creates a substantial risk of harm to the reputation and goodwill of our client. This letter, therefore, constitutes formal notice of your infringement of our client’s trademark rights and a demand that you refrain from all further use of Freedom of Expression.

Shortly thereafter, the Daily Hampshire Gazette ran an interview with McLeod. He played it straight, telling the paper, “I didn’t go to the trouble, the expense and the time of trademarking Freedom of Expression just to have someone else come along and think they can use it whenever they want.”

Karma– and the state of intellectual property laws– being what they are, two years later, when McLeod asked to reprint the Gazette article in his book Owning Culture, the paper denied him permission.

This story, and many other wonderful examples of “Illegal Art” (including Todd Haynes’ glorious Superstar, in which the Karen Carpenter story is retold, with Barbie dolls playing Karen and her brother) at Illegal-Art.org: here.

As we prepare our applications, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that a mural in Rockefeller Center, New York, commissioned from Diego Rivera by  Nelson Rockefeller, was premiered…  It was scraped off the wall seven months later because it contained, as a detail, a portrait of Lenin.

Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 13, 2008 at 1:03 am

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