[First of all: this whole entry was spurred by this entry over on Kerflop. So go read it first if you really care. (It was going to be a comment, but it got a bit long…) I haven’t read the original thread that she is responding to. Also, I do not intend to boycott pork products, and though I am all for breastfeeding, I think in this particular instance it’s almost not worth the fight, since I think that “the other white milk” isn’t a particularly apt slogan.]
The mistake in the Pork Board’s letter (which is probably half of what got people up in arms) was fairly stupid and egregious. Do your freaking homework, people. That said, I believe they have apologized for it and that’s good.
The whole entry is a very good copyright discussion by Jessica. It’s educating, I think, to see these things from the business side. Also, some things were made clear in the comment (towards the bottom) by Bryan – the difference between copyright and trademark. Very good points.
My first reaction to it all was, surely this could be possibly covered under parody — if Weird Al can take an ENTIRE SONG, instrumentation and all, and parody it legally, I would have to wonder about this shirt thing.
In the case of Jessica’s diaper patterns, I would say of course she should make an effort to protect them. Absolutely. Just like if someone (like, oh say, me, someday) had a novel (or poem, or short story) plagiarized, steps should certainly be taken. But (and here Bryan’s trademark comment is very clarified), I feel like language is in some way different, especially brief language, like a slogan. Language belongs to all of us. It’s more… slippery than something physical like a pattern. Especially terms and phrases that they WANT to be universally recognized… then they complain that it’s become part of the culture?
I certainly don’t want to devalue language, or imply that people shouldn’t be paid for their use of it. But when I publish a novel about modern life, it enrages me to think that I couldn’t mention McDonald’s, or Coke, or Kleenex, or that I’d have to say hook-and-loop-fasteners instead of Velcro, or in-line-skates instead of rollerblades. It’s all a part of the world around me, and the idea that I might get slapped in the face for trying to portray it accurately is upsetting to say the least.
It’s probably a ridiculous and unrealistic view, but… if I were to write a catchphrase, or a little song, or something like that — yes, I’d like to be paid for it. But if it eventually became such a part of society around me that people used it in everyday speech, that they accepted it as so much a part of their lives that they couldn’t remember who created it, because surely it had just always existed… well. To me that’s real fame.
ETA: There has been a happy resolution to the whole to-do. Yay!