Amy Alexander on Wed, 7 Aug 2002 21:05:34 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> parody rights discussion end<->restart

> Date: Mon, 05 Aug 2002 09:47:37 -0700
> From: MWP <>
> Subject: hasta basta
> As much as I would like to keep the conversation going I have basically
> been told to shut up by a nettime moderator. Anybody who wants to
> sustain a conversation with me (or chew me out etc. - I can take it!)
> email me at
> Otherwise, goodbye lemmings!

that's too bad i think. maybe it appeared to be a conversation about 
apostrophes or about a coffee shop in portland, but i think the broader 
context is worth discussing in a larger forum, so i shall respectfully 
attempt to reply on-list anyway:

what the discussion seemed to be rolling around to is something i 
hear fairly often - frequently when someone is about to self-censor: the 
assumption that if a phrase/text/logo is obviously intended to be similar 
to something else, that it's automatically a rip-off - illegal and 
immoral. it's not, but there are some folks around who would like us to 
think it is.

as some might know i've been around this fun legal block a little bit. of
course i'm not a lawyer and i'm not qualified to get into legal specifics;
yet on the broader level i think it's a good thing for media-involved
people to discuss.

the situation varies from country to country, but for example in the US,
there's a tradition of parody and satire being legally recognized as
protected forms of free speech, as they're considered significant forms of
social criticism. there's also a long proud tradition of corporations
attempting to wield lawsuits or threats thereof - with legal merit or not
- in order to squelch parodists. these can come in strange forms. (enter
my follies, 1999, documentation at

this lawyer-wielding serves to create a "chilling effect" and also
confuses people into self-censorship (because they assume that their use
of an obviously similar parody name or image is trademark infringement).
like everything else legal, parody rights aren't cut and dry, but it
doesn't mean people should automatically relinquish them either - and 
that's what i see happening too often. 

obviously i don't know how things will turn out for samantha buck's 
sambuck's store, and i'm also not holding her up as the poster child for 
corporate critique.  but the following page:

shows that while it's not cut and dry, the victory of the "lardashe"  
jordache jeans parody would seem to indicate there's at least a good chunk
of hope for samantha, (depending also on who owns the judge and all that
good stuff. :-) ) i also don't mean to ignore the obvious fact that her
name *is* sam bucks.

and by the way, that link i gave above,, is the website not 
of a US intellectual property agency, but of a commercial law firm who 
specialize in IP matters. ahem. confusion anyone? :-)

intellectual property. it isn't just for lawyers. er, well, uh... 


Recontextualizing script-kiddyism as net-art for over 1/20 of a century.

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