Copyright on "religious" imagery

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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retrocausality
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Copyright on "religious" imagery

Post by retrocausality » Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:32 am

If the age of a religion is less than the copyright duration, what are the implications for making t-shirts that reference the religion?

Specifically, "The Flying Spaghetti Monster", which was originally created by a then-24-year-old physics graduate Bobby Henderson in a letter to the Kansas State Board Of Education prior to the Kansas Evolution Hearings as an argument against teaching intelligent design in biology classes.

It is a clear parody religion, although followers claim it to be "genuine" when it suits, (e.g. the recent news story of Christopher Schaeffer, an American politician that was sworn into office as a New York council member while wearing a colander on his head).

The movement is less than 10 years old, and in case you're not familiar with it, it is basically a modernisation of the Russell's Teapot argument against religion - that the onus of proof is on the person making the outlandish claim - combined with a new take on the old scientific rule that "correlation does not necessarily mean causation", shown using a graph that plots global temperature throughout history against the total number of pirates in existence at the time. "Fewer pirates = higher global temperature!"

As long as we didn't use actual artwork from the site, or quote the "religious texts", The Gospel Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster and Loose Canon, would we be able to create t-shirt designs about the religion on the basis of "badge of support, loyalty or affiliation", i.e. Arsenal vs Reed?

I've just realised by taking a look at the wiki page to refresh my memory of Arsenal v Reed that this might actually be more of a trademark question rather than specifically copyright again. Sorry. :) Feel free to ignore the question if you're busy. ;)

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:08 pm

HI Phil,
Although I am aware of this 'religion' I can't say I am familiar with their detailed doctrine. Given that ideas alone are not subject to copyright, I don't think you run any significent risks in parodying either the 'religion' itself or its symbols. By symbols I don't mean any literal logos or other graphic works which are probably subject to copyright, but more the things which symbolise their 'faith', such as the colander you mentioned.
And to be honest I don't think that Arsenal v Reed is relevant here. However the new parody fair dealing exception should be, when/if it comes into force in October 2014.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

retrocausality
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Post by retrocausality » Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:16 am

AndyJ wrote:HI Phil,
Although I am aware of this 'religion' I can't say I am familiar with their detailed doctrine. Given that ideas alone are not subject to copyright, I don't think you run any significent risks in parodying either the 'religion' itself or its symbols. By symbols I don't mean any literal logos or other graphic works which are probably subject to copyright, but more the things which symbolise their 'faith', such as the colander you mentioned.
And to be honest I don't think that Arsenal v Reed is relevant here. However the new parody fair dealing exception should be, when/if it comes into force in October 2014.
Hi Andy,

Has there been any more news about that new parody exception? I haven't heard anything more about it since probably late last year when the recommendations were released.

Just to clarify, the "religion" itself is a parody of other religions, whereas we would be looking at making designs that show support for it, rather than looking to parody it.

While I'm here, there was something else I wondering about, just out of interest, not related to t-shirts...

I'm a fan of Formula 1. At the weekend, Nico Rosberg, a German driver had been planning to drive at his home Grand Prix wearing a helmet with a picture of the football World Cup on it, to show support for his national team, who had just won the trophy.

FIFA apparently got in touch with him to tell him that he wasn't allowed to wear it, but the news articles were vague about the details, citing only that him wearing the helmet was a "commercial venture", that "it would affect FIFA's relationship with their own sponsors", and that it was "an IP issue" (one headline said "image rights" issue, but I was fairly sure that was a misuse of the legal term - isn't "image rights" a US right to protect your own personal image - i.e. a person's image, not an object's image or a company's image?).

I was surprised at this one. I thought he would have been fine, as long as he wasn't selling helmets with the design on.

There were personal sponsorship logos on his helmet too, but surely that's not what the law means by "commercial venture" in this situation?

Could you shed any light on which IP infringement FIFA were claiming, and why Rosberg's solicitors/legal advisors seemed to agree?

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Post by AndyJ » Tue Jul 22, 2014 3:08 pm

Hi Phil,
The Parody exception is due to become law on 1 October 2014, assuming all goes to plan in Parliament.
As for FIFA and their intellectual property 'land grab' I think this page from their website tells you all you need to know about their policy on intellectual property. And this pdf puts it in simpler terms. A fair amount of what they say lacks legal backing, but since they have enormous economic power, countries and other large organisations such F1 bend over backwards to help FIFA enforce their policy. To see just how expansive their branding policy is, and how they have the resources to back it up, here's the FIFA European Trade Mark registration for the main Brazil 2014 symbol. You will note that it covers virtually all of the 45 classes of goods and services. Clearly this mark is not and never has been in use in all of those classes, and so this is a registration wide open to challenge. But it won't be challenged either with OHIM or in court, again because of FIFA's financial muscle.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

retrocausality
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Post by retrocausality » Tue Jul 22, 2014 3:34 pm

AndyJ wrote:Hi Phil,
The Parody exception is due to become law on 1 October 2014, assuming all goes to plan in Parliament.
As for FIFA and their intellectual property 'land grab' I think this page from their website tells you all you need to know about their policy on intellectual property. And this pdf puts it in simpler terms. A fair amount of what they say lacks legal backing, but since they have enormous economic power, countries and other large organisations such F1 bend over backwards to help FIFA enforce their policy. To see just how expansive their branding policy is, and how they have the resources to back it up, here's the FIFA European Trade Mark registration for the main Brazil 2014 symbol. You will note that it covers virtually all of the 45 classes of goods and services. Clearly this mark is not and never has been in use in all of those classes, and so this is a registration wide open to challenge. But it won't be challenged either with OHIM or in court, again because of FIFA's financial muscle.
:shock: Crazy! So essentially, "don't get into an intellectual property dispute with someone that has a lot more money than you, even if you're absolutely sure that you're right and they're wrong" is the moral of the story?

How very deeply unsatisfying do I find this?!

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