Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture
This is an absolutely fascinating -- and in many ways, chilling -- account of how our commonly owned language is being privatized. No, we are not making this up, as outlandish as it sounds.
Corporations and celebrities, among others, are trademarking and copyrighting even the most common of words and phrases -- and then suing anyone who dares to use them, even in the most innocent of fashions. This is not some alarmist piece of propaganda. To the contrary, this is an extremely well-researched and documented book that raises the issue of privatization of our culture and language to a shocking level.
There are plenty of examples in "Brand Name Bullies" about how we are being deprived of the right to use common names and phrases (think about how the singer "Madonna" has successfully laid claim to the rights to the name "Madonna," even though the real Madonna -- as in the New Testament -- preceded her by a couple of thousand years.) Take for example the Disney Corporation, who copyrights fairy tales that were in the public domain -- such as Cinderella, Snow White, and Peter Pan -- and then sues people for using the names and stories that they stole from our cultural heritage!
And Congress, which gets big buck campaign contributions from the entertainment and media industry, keeps extending the length of copyright laws, so now copyrights belong to estates for years and years after a person dies. In fact, even the image of the deceased celebrity belongs to the estate.
Essentially, David Bollier (the author of the book), argues that we are increasingly trademarking and copyrighting public life into private for-profit hands. One result is that artistic and literary creativity are being increasingly stifled because a person can be sued for accidentally using a few notes from a copyrighted song or for using a Barbie doll in an art exhibition.
And how many artists and struggling writers can afford to fight blue chip law firms that are paid a fortune for intimidating anyone from using a copyrighted or trademarked phrase, name, or notes?
This is really a remarkably insightful and provocative book that leaves you wondering if we are going to have to pay a fee for speaking at some point in the future, lest we accidentally mutter a trademarked or copyrighted name.
"Brand Name Bullies" is a real eye opener.