Sunday, January 28, 2007

Trademarks and Copyrights

There are lots of things we look at and are familiar with whose significance is unclear. Take for instance the ubiquitous c with a circle drawn around it or (c) or ©, the copyright sign. Or how about the R with a circle around it, or ®, the registered trade mark sign. Or the superscripted TM or ™, the trademark sign. (And I don't know what's the difference between a trademark and a registered trademark.)

I hold a healthy distaste for commercialism in religion in general and in Evangelical Christianity in particular. I've whined about that long and loud elsewhere. This Sunday I was watching the Christian Education minister of my church give a presentation that ended with recommendations for several helpful resources that the church will provide to families AT COST. I've no gripe with my church for offering what looked to be a quality, professional set of materials guaranteed to...

idunno, guaranteed to do everything humanly possible to...

well, you know, make your kids, uh...

you know, turn out right.

Hmmmm. I've always had a distrust for Christian Education professionals, too. But I digress.

There on the three huge projection screens at the front of the church were beautiful PowerPoint slides of the helpful resources the church recommended and would provide to families at cost. The price seemed reasonable, too. Of course, the price did seem to be more than that of mere paper and ink. It was roughly the cost of a trade paperback book.

I didn't think much bad about that until I saw OneWord.

I don't remember TheWord that was projected on the PowerPoint slide, but it was one of those TwoWord concatenations with the first letter capitalized and AnotherLetter inside was capitalized, too. This is annoying, but I'm innured to this SortOfKitsch.

But riding at the end of TheWord were two little subscripted capitals: TM. YouKnow™ it was trademarked.

At that point, my mind left church. I started thinking about intellectual property law. Intellectual property law exists in three modes: trade secrets, copyrights, and trademarks.

If you own intellectual property, you must "stake your claim" by indicating your ownership via placing a copyright notice or trademark on your work. And you must insist that everyone else mark that thing similarly. This is just complying with the law of the land. When you open the hymnal (remember what those looked like) or see the last slide on the PowerPoint display with a Copyright notice, it is there at the insistence of the copyright holder.

No doubt, the ™ I saw at church had been placed up there at the insistence of the people that my church was buying these resources from.

It is their right. It is the law of the land.

But Why?

The trademark exists to do only one thing: it asserts the right of the trademark holder to sue someone who misuses the trademark. It gives the trademark holder the right to sue. The right to sue. To sue.

There is a book that was written so long ago that no copyrights on it are possible. It was a compilation of several authors, one of whom a tentmaker who said this:

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?

Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?

But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.

Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Now, given the aforementioned. We can draw some reasonable inferences. The Bible forbids two Christians from suing one another. However, it does not forbid a Christian from bringing suit against a non-believer to assert his rights. Nor does it forbid a Christian from defending himself in court against suits brought by non-believers.

Obviously, the purveyors of trademarked or copyrighted materials who insist that their marks appear on PowerPoint slides or in hymnbooks or church bulletins cannot be sure that the people they want the right to sue are Christians or not. Perhaps these vendors believe that any customer who'd violate a copyright is a non-Christian.

Conversely, it seems more likely to me that the vendors themselves are not Christians and thus free to bring suit against anyone.

1 comment:

Christine Ansorge said...

Consumer Christianity is a fascinating world.