DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

The Price of Fame

Posted in Copyrights, Guest Bloggers, Trademarks

–James Mahoney, Razor’s Edge Communications

Mother was a dyed-in-the-wool Boston Bruins fan who knew as much about the local game as any sportscaster. She didn’t quote stats, but she sure knew team and player histories, strengths, weaknesses, strategy and game tactics. And into her nineties, she still called penalties and off-side like a pro.

So it wasn’t surprising that granddaughter Deena, who worked the elite bah at the Gahden (that’s “bar at the Garden” for those who don’t speak Boston), saw a chance to make Mom’s day by getting Bobby Orr to sign a birthday card for Mom’s 80th.

Being artistic, Deena created a card that combined No. 4’s picture with a voice bubble saying, “Happy Birthday!”

Now Mr. Orr is one of the truly gracious sports heroes and a consummate gentleman, so of course, he agreed to autograph birthday cheer for an old fan. However, he paused a moment when he saw the card, then asked where Deena got it.

“I made it,” she smiled.

“You know,” Orr replied amiably, “I could sue you over this.” Then he smiled and signed the card. But the message was delivered, and my niece learned a lesson about trademark and copyright.

I was reminded of this recently on a visit to a local restaurant. They have a fun sense of humor, and some of their custom decoration includes doctored images of local luminaries from both sides of the law “interacting” with a signature menu item. You can even buy some of the graphics on quality t-shirts.

Since they’ve been in business for awhile now, I suspect that either they’ve secured the necessary rights, or the celebs aren’t aware of the use of their image. I’m betting on the latter. I’m also betting that the celebs won’t be as accommodating as Bobby Orr was about the birthday card.

One thing is certain, though. If they haven’t properly licensed the images, the restaurant may eventually learn first-hand the price of fame.