A follow up to his first talk last winter — Jeff will be touching on the topics of trademarks, rights of privacy, and intellectual property law. Everyone really enjoyed his first talk, so we thought we’d ask him back to continue where he left off. [Meetup]
Update: My battery power is at 49% so this will be a quick live blog but I’ll try to get in as much as possible for those in attendance, and those following along online.
Update: On my way to the bar to grab a tasty beverage for my friends Duane and John, I ran into Steve Jagger from Ubertor and Reachd – I am now in possession of a Flip camera… and a beer. This is turning into one pretty great night!
Jeff Young takes the stage opening with a note about blogger defamation on the internet. Last time he spoke to copyrights, trademarks, privacy and various other things that would cause legal problems for us doing what we do (as bloggers).
He immediately addresses a big myth about how people think if you write down your idea, put it in an envelope and mail it to yourself then that is proof that it belongs to you. However, “just because you have the ability to stuff something in an envelope and mail it back to yourself does not mean you’re the creator,” says Jeff.
Photography permission is different from copyright law, Jeff says the people in the pictures have a seperate right of privacy and publicity than the photographer.
Case example: A man and an outdoor adventure company have a falling out and he writes a blog about the same types of outdoor adventures and competing companies. Without naming names he says that “some other companies claim” and “if you go with other companies you’ll end up in a soggy tent.” He was actually naming names on his blog saying that this company was unfavourable and shouldn’t be recommended to anyone else. This company goes on to form a law suit and Jeff states the man with the blog actually went to name “good companies” and “bad companies” and listed this particular one in the “bad” category. This case then went to court.
Note: Emails are written evidence and can be produced in court – either against your or in your favour regardless of intent.
“If you say nice things even though it’s not true, you’re doing fine.”
Note: Any publishing on the internet is considered publishing. [Editor’s note] I’m suddenly having flashbacks to all those comments and negative blog posts that have been written about me over the years.
In defamation law, the person suing you only has to prove that what you did was, “lowering the reputation of the plaintiff in the estimation of others in society.” Defamation is the new term for liable and slander.
Update: Back to the plaintiffs in the outdoor adventure company case – the plaintiffs were awarded a very hefty monetary sum from the blogger. Question: “Does that mean the tents were not soggy?” Jeff states, “the defense of truth is 100% usable.”
Ianiv asks a question about his blog about Vancouver Coffee and about cafe reviews – will he get in trouble if he says that the coffee was bad? Jeff says no – he said that if Ianiv were to purposely go out and create a site dedicated to that cafe, actively talked about their “bad coffee” and engaged others in a discussion about how bad the cafe was – then he might be in hot water. But since he has a site with the soul purpose of trying out coffee joints, he’s okay and can give an honest review.
Jeff would prefer it if we didn’t focus the entire discussion on defamation but on all law issues with new media. A great example of when “cease and desist” is not good enough is the Viacom vs YouTube case.
A comment from the crowd revisits the coffee shop review discussion by saying there are many more ways we as publishers can express our opinions ie. instead of “the coffee was bad” we could be saying “the coffee was roasted for too long leaving it with an unfavourable strong aftertaste”.
Update: Jeff’s advice is to be objective as a publisher and think twice before writing from your heart/emotions. He also says that a legal test for trademark infringement is if something is “confusingly similar” – (trademarks being art, logos, design for branding). “There are big differences between patents, trademarks and copyrights…” “… if it’s useful then it has to be patented…” “…patents only last 20 years, trademarks last forever as long as you remember to register, protect and renew it.” [Editor’s note: We’re all getting a crash course in law from Jeff right now – really neat stuff!]
Stating false facts or specifically targeting a brand can get you in trouble, however valid opinions are just that.
Update: A queston from David Drucker is about colour branding, Jeff uses fiberglass as an example. Sure you can make another brand of fiberglass but it cannot be pink because that shade is a branded trademark. He also says it’s worth it to register in the USA and he uses band names as an example. “By the way you can’t go to small claims for defamation,” states Jeff.
Duane brings up his problem with the real estate blogger in Vancouver and Jeff says it sounds like outright copyright infringement.
Update: If someone in Canada says they can use your photo out of Fair use, they’re wrong – Fair Use is parody (see: MadTV’s iRack ads).
Update: “Who owns the internet?” asks Jeff, Biehler is the first to reply correctly – the US Government. Yikes, Jeff just said that all those who have paid for domain names have in some minute way contributed to the US military effort (the room erupts in groans and laughter).
In terms of domain names, “if you don’t use it you lose it.” Jeff also explains that Apple Auto Glass in Langley is perfectly allowed to use the name “apple” because it in no way can be confused with Apple Computers – Apple is not in the auto glass industry. He said when it come to domain names, regular words actually don’t mean much as it’s all about branding.
Update: Jeff tells a story about “Section 3” of the privacy act AND Section 3 the restaurant on Mainland St in Yaletown which used to be called DeNiro’s (remind me to look that up when I get home for a potential future blog post).
Jeff now deals with the age of majority which is 18 in Canada and 19 in BC and deals with the issue of legitimate photography/model releases when it comes to children for marketing purposes, child actors, athletes etc.
I’m now at 21% and the little battery icon is turning red PLUS all this talk of liability is freaking me out [kidding… kinda] Wrapping up the live blog now, thanks for following!