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Ford Claims Ownership Of Your Pictures 739

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the like-a-child-shouting-MINE dept.
Mike Rogers writes "In a move that can only be described as 'Copyright Insanity', Ford Motor Company now claims that they hold the rights to any image of a Ford vehicle, even if it's a picture you took of your own car. The Black Mustang Club wanted to put together a calendar featuring member's cars and print it through CafePress, but an attorney from Ford nixed the project, stating that the calendar pics and 'anything with one of (member's) cars in it infringes on Ford's trademarks which include the use of images of their vehicles.' Does Ford have the right to prevent you from printing images of a car you own?"
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Ford Claims Ownership Of Your Pictures

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  • EULA (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:48PM (#22037592)
    Does Ford have the right to prevent you from printing images of a car you own?

    Hold on a moment. Let me get the EULA out of the glove box.
    • Re:EULA (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sandbags (964742) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:02PM (#22037910) Journal
      Well, they DO have a right. The Ford emblem, vehicle design, and likenesses are registered trademarks of their company. Where they can't prevent you from printing pictures of your own vehicles for personal use, they CAN prevent an organization (in this case a car club) from printing, selling, (and thus profiting) from those images without their permission.

      Even magazines doing reviews of vehicles need the permission of the maker in order to print the article (most have standing agreements). Newspapers can, for example, show a photo of a car wreck, but were they to runa review, they'd need permission to use the images, even if they were taken of vehicles owned by the paper.

      This is not Ford saying "you can't take and print pictures of your car" It's just them saying "we're so concerned we're loosing money to the imports that we're going to sue you for trying to make even a few bucks from a fund raiser, unless you're interested in profit sharing that is..."

      • Re:EULA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:16PM (#22038316) Journal
        And thus yet another American industry is suing itself into extinction.

        I think what the United States needs right about now is a virus that kills about 80% of all litigators. You still need a few for legitimate, rational affairs, but it's clear that American civilization is going to be crushed under the weight of sheer greed, stupidity and self-destructive self-interest.
        • Re:EULA (Score:5, Funny)

          by plague3106 (71849) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:18PM (#22038372)
          No, I think Ford is going into extinction by making shitty cars.
          • Re:EULA (Score:4, Funny)

            by reboot246 (623534) on Monday January 14, 2008 @05:53PM (#22042570) Homepage
            I heard that 90% of all Fords ever made are still on the road. The other 10% actually made it to where they were going. Gives new meaning to the term, "Fucked On Recent Deal".
        • The Fedex Incident (Score:4, Interesting)

          by seanadams.com (463190) * on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:33PM (#22039802) Homepage
          And thus yet another American industry is suing itself into extinction.

          Reminds me of the unbelievably asshatted C&D that Fedex sent this guy - for posting pictures of his house decorated with Fedex boxes: http://www.fedexfurniture.com/couch.html [fedexfurniture.com]

          You can not buy better publicity that that at any price. I could imagine someone doing this deliberately for the Streisand effect, but that would require a lawyer with a sense of humor, a sense of irony, or even the slightest shred of humanity.
      • Re:EULA (Score:5, Informative)

        by ivan256 (17499) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:23PM (#22038492)
        Ford only has the right to prevent others form using their trademarks in an inaccurate or misleading manner. You are completely free to use Ford's marks to refer to Ford products and the Ford Motor Company itself. Even in a derogatory manner if it's true, or in a commercial manner as part of an original work. (For example, a book called "The History of the Ford Motor Company", or "Ford Cars from 1958-2008 in Photos")

        The pictures of the cars are copyrighted to the person who took the picture.

        The only thing Ford is in the right about here is that they are perfectly allowed to send cease and desist letters to anybody they'd like, and they can even file suit. They would almost certainly lose, though.

        This works the same way with people too. A newspaper can sell 10,000 copies with the picture of (insert your favorite NFL football player here) on the front page if their photographer took the photo out on the street where he wasn't under any NFL ticket/press contract.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by holophrastic (221104)
          First, there is a huge difference between my taking that NFL picture and your local news media doing the same. Your country has all sorts of freedom of the press laws, to keep your other industries from screwing you over. It's your whole checks and balances thing. But if you're not a part of the press -- and you can't just declare yourself a reporter -- then you can't simply publish a photograph of anyone you see on the street.

          Second, yeah, as a personal person, you can comment on your car. You can state
          • Re:EULA (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Sancho (17056) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:18PM (#22039500) Homepage

            Consider this whole calendar thing. Of course you can't publish a Ford calendar withour Ford's consent.
            Right. Luckily, this wasn't a Ford calendar. It was a BMC (Black Mustang Club) calendar.

            Confusion in the marketplace is one of the largest driving factors of this sort of copyright infringement.
            You, like so many, have confused "trademark infringement" with "copyright infringement." Confusion is not an issue with copyright--it's an issue with trademark.

            Luckily, trademark is what Ford is talking about, here.

            You can't go out, and take photographs of your car, and then publish an ad, a billboard, a newspaper full-page spread, and a television commercial advertising your car as the best/worst.
            I wouldn't say that without advice from a lawyer. Certainly I can take a picture of something I own and publish it. I can publish that it broke down 3 times in the first month. I can publish lots of things, generally. The question here is largely whether or not the picture of a trademarked object (it strikes me as weird that an object can be trademarked) can be published. It seems reasonable to me that it could be.

            You can't pretend, and make people believe, that you are Ford.
            From what I've seen of the calendar, they weren't trying to.

            Similarly, and for the exact same reason, you can't say that all Ford cars break, just because yours did.
            That's not entirely true. Slander and libel laws are a little bit different for public figures (in the US.) There's a much, much higher burden of proof that there was a reckless disregard for the truth. You also have to convince the judge/jury that the average person would believe that the claims are true. It's not likely that the average person would believe that "All Ford cars break," though this is a bad example anyway because all cars break, eventually. Parts simply wear out.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by caitsith01 (606117)

          The only thing Ford is in the right about here is that they are perfectly allowed to send cease and desist letters to anybody they'd like, and they can even file suit. They would almost certainly lose, though.

          Actually, in many jurisdictions it is an abuse of the court's processes to threaten legal proceedings when you know you have no basis to do so and with a collateral purpose (that is, not to assert genuine legal rights but to obtain some commercial or other advantage). I'd say this satisfies both of th

      • Re:EULA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mmurphy000 (556983) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:29PM (#22038666)

        The original purpose of trademarks was for consumer protection. Specifically, it was to prevent consumers from being confused when buying products and services, so when they see a "Ford" branded car that they know it came from the Ford Motor Company.

        That's why, for example, there is still a Domino's Pizza and a Domino's Sugar. Two firms independently have trademarks on "Domino's", but they're on two separate products (pizza and sugar). Consumers are unlikely to mistake a large pepperoni pizza for a pound of sugar, and vice versa.

        If this club were making its own cars and trying to brand those as Ford using the Ford logo, or if the club were making its own cars and constructing them in the likeness of a Ford model, then trademark protection has merit — we don't want consumers mistaking Fords and pseudo-Fords. However, in this case, the club is selling a calendar. Ford is not in the calendar-making business, and it is difficult to imagine that a consumer will somehow mistake a calendar and a car.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Daniel_Staal (609844)
        Just a comment: Trademark != Copyright. Allowed uses differ significantly.

        Anyone can reproduce a trademark, without limit or exception, as long as one condition is met: It's use always refers to the trademark holder's product exclusively. You can show the Ford or Mustang logo all you want, as long as you are using the to refer to Ford Motor Company and it's Mustang automobile. Using them to refer to any other product, service, or company is however forbidden.

        Copyrights are more general: You are not allow
      • by OSPolicy (1154923) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:37PM (#22038916) Homepage
        >Even magazines doing reviews of vehicles need the permission of the maker

        That is incorrect. Chapter 17, section 107 of the United States code clearly states that "the fair use of a copyrighted work... for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."

        Here, your example is perfectly on point with 17 USC 107. The review would be criticism, comment, and news reporting at a minimum, and arguably teaching.

        >they CAN prevent an organization (in this case a car club) from printing, selling, (and thus profiting) from those images without their permission.

        This is also incorrect, but not as egregiously. 17 USC 107 distinguishes commercial and noncommercial ventures as one of the factors in determining whether a particular use is fair use. However, in this case even the Red Cross (a nonprofit) could run afoul of the law by printing the calendar because of "the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole". That means that if they print a pic of the entire car, that fact counts against them. Speaking of factors that count against them, 17 USC 107(4) raises the consideration of "the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work." Here, that means that Black Mustang Club is reducing the value of the design because nobody is going to buy a Black Mustang Club calendar and also buy a calendar from Ford. (Black Mustang Club would counter that they are raising the value of the Mustang by printing the calendar, but their claim is speculative whereas Ford's claim of reduction in the sale of Ford calendars is pretty solid. Judges don't like speculation.)
  • Free Marketing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:50PM (#22037616) Homepage Journal
    And they wonder why their stock is in the toilet. They're trying to stop free marketing of their products. How dumb is that?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mosch (204)
      The real problem here is the law. If Ford fails to go after this sort of violation, they lose the rights to go after other violations in the future.

      As such, American law is written such that they must either attack people who mean no harm, or lose the right to defend themselves in the future against actual harms.

      This isn't Fords fault, it's the broken-ass laws of the United States.
      • Re:Free Marketing (Score:5, Informative)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:17PM (#22038352) Homepage
        Yes. This is Ford's fault.

        They could choose another option: License their trademark for a pittance.

        They don't have to "object". They can also "authorize".
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by onecheapgeek (964280)
          But until the club actually agrees to and signs such a license, they must attack and prevent. Such is the nature of trademark law in the US.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by wytcld (179112)
        If it were sold as a Ford brand calendar, and if Ford sells calendars, then Ford has to enforce the ownership of its mark in the category of calendars. But if Ford is loyal to its core business, its car business, and if the calendar isn't marketed as "Ford brand," then Ford certainly doesn't lose its "Ford" trademark for cars, and doesn't even lose the Ford trademark for calendars. Ford need do nothing.

        Write this one up to stupid lawyers who don't know jack about marketing and good will. Good will, by the w
  • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:50PM (#22037622) Journal
    Wow, this is bad. Just the other day I was wondering about IP rights in taking pictures of products, and if arguments about IP in pictures of other stuff carried over.

    Now, imagine what it's like if you have to get permission to put *any* product in *any* picture.

    I have no idea what legal grounds Ford has, but this MUST be prevented from spreading to pictures of products in general.

    (Of course, Ford could just be trolling for easy cash because of that whole not-funding-workers'-pensions thing...)
    • by SydShamino (547793) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:00PM (#22037840)
      Fortunately this one has been easily solved years ago. Think about all of the movies that have, as background vehicles, a Ford, GM, Chrysler, etc., vehicle.

      No, I'm not talking about the ones where the car is featured prominently (Transporter, Transformers, etc.) - in those the movie studio clearly got permission (or was paid prominently for their use). I'm talking about background vehicles. The studios do not and never have paid for their use when they were filmed on a public street. If Ford tries to press this, they'll have the movie studios pressing against them.
    • by nolife (233813) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:02PM (#22037904) Homepage Journal
      Yes but let's use yet another car analogy here, what if Ford.... oh wait.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by samkass (174571)
      1. Ford is alleging Trademark violations, not Copyright, from what I've read. The distinction is pretty important when it comes to what rights you have to the pictures that you took (and therefore have copyright over).
      2. If Ford doesn't defend their Trademarks, by law they lose them. Thus, the law compels companies to act like this, whether the companies like it or not.
      3. There are exceptions in the law for works that are sufficiently derivative. If you're selling calendars of cars that look like they co
  • no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:50PM (#22037628) Homepage
    they own the design of the car. but the photographer owns their picture.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      It's not so simple. The calendar looks like it might be trading on Ford's trademarks. Put it this way, if the Mustang wasn't in a particular image, would anyone want to pay the same for the image?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MBCook (132727)

        As much as I want to dislike Ford for doing this, I'm with you. Shortly after reading this and realizing that the headline is sensationalized... I realized that the calendar is just like one Ford might sell only made by a third party who isn't paying Ford anything. No one cares that it's the something-something-car-club, they would be buying it for the images of the Mustang's design.

        If I drew my own copies of my favorite Dilbert strips, could I sell a book of them? Seems like basically the same thing.

        Now

      • by msauve (701917)
        apply to automobiles, not calendars.
  • Huh (Score:5, Funny)

    by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:51PM (#22037636) Homepage Journal
    I was going to use a car analogy to show how ridiculous this was...
  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [reggoh.gip]> on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:51PM (#22037640) Journal
    All your images are belong to us.
  • heh heh (Score:4, Funny)

    by 427_ci_505 (1009677) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:51PM (#22037646)
    Bold moves indeed.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:51PM (#22037650) Homepage Journal
    I did. Wouldn't want to gain the benefit of my ill gotten gains. No - better to send them all back to the CEO where they'll be safe. You should too.
  • Wrong question. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79 @ g m ail.com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:52PM (#22037664) Homepage
    Does Ford have the right to prevent you from printing images of a car you own?

    You mean "Does Ford have the right to prevent you from selling images of a car you own?

    And the answer should still be know. Just thought I'd clarify.
  • Ford's response (Score:5, Informative)

    by microcars (708223) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:52PM (#22037672) Homepage
    here is a copy of the letter that was alledgedly sent to another automotive club when they tried to publish calenders themselves. (I ripped this posting from BoingBoing...)

    "Although you and your members may own the Ford automobile, you do not own the rights to the trade dress. Taking pictures of any Ford automobiles, placing them on products (i.e. calendar, mugs, t-shirts, etc.) and making them available to the public for sale is an infringement of Ford's intellectual property rights."

    "Because of the cachet of the world-famous Ford name, thousands of independent businesses and people make a living from or pursue a hobby related to Ford products and services. Unfortunately, many of these businesses improperly attempt to affiliate themselves with Ford by using Ford trademarks and trade dress (for instance, the depictions or photographs of Ford's distinctively shaped vehicles) in advertising their products and services."

    "If a business not affiliated with Ford uses any Ford trademark, whether through the use of photographs, depictions or silhouettes, or any confusingly similar variation thereof, without Ford's express, written consent, then that business is violating Federal and state trademarks laws."

    "It is also not sufficient for a business to state that it is not affiliated with Ford but continue to use Ford trademarks without permission. The business is still misappropriating the goodwill and reputation developed by Ford, and attempting to capitalize on or profit from Ford's goodwill and reputation. Even with the best of intentions, unauthorized use of another company's trademark is against the law."

    "At times Ford enthusiasts question why Ford is so adamant about policing it's trademarks and preventing unauthorized uses or infringements of them. It is quite common for someone who is using a trademark without permission to say, "I'm giving Ford free advertising, so why does Ford care?" Ford cares because it is important that Ford be able to exercise control over the quality of the product or service bearing Ford's trademarks."

    "To protect the value of its trademarks, Ford is obligated to object to and pursue unauthorized uses of its trademarks and trade dress, even if the use of the trademark or trade dress does not appear offensive or objectionable."
    • Re:Ford's response (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kebes (861706) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:22PM (#22038488) Journal
      Ford's letter is quite well-written and even includes answers to genuine questions. However I think they are over-reaching beyond what the law allows. In particular, they claim:

      "It is also not sufficient for a business to state that it is not affiliated with Ford but continue to use Ford trademarks without permission. The business is still misappropriating the goodwill and reputation developed by Ford, and attempting to capitalize on or profit from Ford's goodwill and reputation. Even with the best of intentions, unauthorized use of another company's trademark is against the law."
      IANAL, but my understanding of trademarks [wikipedia.org] was that "likelihood of confusion" really was the central criterion. That is, you can indeed captialize on someone's else's reputation (e.g. you can publicly say "Ford company purchased product XYZ!" if that happens to be true), as long as you do not claim official endorsement. If you make it sufficiently clear that you are not affiliated with Ford, then you are not infringing their trademark. I can use the word "Ford" and I can use the Ford logo, as long as it is for legitimate purposes and there is no consumer confusion (e.g. in commentary, parody, etc.).

      The use of wording like "depictions or photographs of Ford's distinctively shaped vehicles" (emphasis added) is similarly over-reaching. By that rationale, every product is distinctive and thus cannot be used in a commercial image.

      In any case, I don't think trademark law was intended to provide the blanket power that Ford is grasping for (where they inherently own all commercial endeavors that happen to include a Ford product somewhere).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by VoidWraith (797276)
        The problem is that Ford has licensed other companies to produce calendars, coffee mugs, and the like, as they state in their letter. Since they are affiliated with these companies using their trademarks to make these things, having a non-affiliated company making a similar product creates confusion for the purchaser. Is it an authorized Ford calendar, or is it from a company that is not affiliated with Ford?

        If you bought a Ford calendar and found it to be terrible, or unflattering of their vehicles, or som
  • by Chanc_Gorkon (94133) <gorkon&gmail,com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:53PM (#22037706)
    This definitely is the straw that breaks my back....I was looking at the Ford Fusion as our next car. Not anymore....

    Ford you get to lose out on at least one sale.

    To heck with suing. Just hurt em where it hurts....their profits.
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:53PM (#22037712)
    As if we needed another one.
  • Stupid (Score:5, Funny)

    by Digital Vomit (891734) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:53PM (#22037716) Homepage Journal

    I've heard a lot of stupid claims over intellectual "property" before, but this one really takes the cake*.

    (*used with permission from Duncan Hines, a subsidiary of Pinnacle Foods Group, LLC.)

  • Be More Specific (Score:5, Informative)

    by hardburn (141468) <hardburn&wumpus-cave,net> on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:56PM (#22037770)

    The blanket term "Intellectual Property" covers a wide range of laws that often cover the same basic concept (creating a system of ownership for ideas), but are implemented in very different ways. When discussing these laws, it's very important to be specific about what kind of IP is being discussed.

    The summary makes it sound like Ford is claiming copyright on the pictures (which they almost certainly don't have the rights to). However, it seems that Ford is actually claiming trademark status on the car's design, and an image of that car would therefore infringe on that trademark.

    Not only that, but the tags (the most abused feature on Slashdot) cite "patent", another set of IP laws which have nothing to do with anything here.

  • Public View (Score:5, Informative)

    by airos4 (82561) * <changer4.gmail@com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:56PM (#22037778) Homepage
    Well, IANAL, but I was a videojournalist for ABC News for a while. The law as we were taught it was that anything visible in the public forum does not need permission to be used. This, btw, includes exteriors of houses, anything visible from the street, and people walking down the street. So by my thought, since these cars were visible in public, they are fair game for anyone to take pictures of.. and once the picture is taken, the rights generally belong to the photographer or his/her agency (unless the club put in the contract that they will own the rights to those images).
  • by ChromaticDragon (1034458) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:59PM (#22037828)
    It simply seems to me that the simplest and most appropriate thing for Ford to do here would have been to provide all the necessary permission for them to proceed with their artistic work, or license it with a smallish fee if necessary.

    That would have seemed like a win-win sort of thing. Free marketing, retention of their rights, etc.

    It does seem that with trademarks you are indeed obligated to protect them or you may lose them. But I don't quite see why Fordwould have had to be so foolish about it.

  • by jone_stone (124040) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:03PM (#22037942) Homepage
    I used to work as a game programmer and one of the issues that came up is that in order to use any recognizable building design (for instance, if you based your game in Seattle and wanted to use the Space Needle as part of the landscape) you have to pay a licensing fee. The design is still copyrighted, and to use it in a commercial product amounts to infringement.

    It seems like that's the issue here -- it's a calendar they were going to sell, right? At the very least, Cafe Press was going to make money from the sale. Seems like the legality is pretty clear there.

    Now, whether Ford should exercise its rights in this instance is another issue, involving public relations and stuff like that. Seems like a bad move to me, but it's their choice.
  • Thank you, Ford (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Deadstick (535032) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:05PM (#22037986)
    With enough publicity in the right places, this could expose IP trolling for the absurdity it is. Stewart, Colbert, Leno, Letterman, listen up...

    rj
  • Barbie, too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) * on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:06PM (#22038004)
    I've been down this road before. My sister was a dealer in collectible Barbie dolls. She wanted to do a calendar showing dolls in various settings. Mattel threw a fit. Ultimately, Mattel agreed that she could use pictures of things she owned (the dolls) but that she couldn't use the text "Mattel" or "Barbie" except in a small disclaimer. So the calendar got published as a "11.25-inch Fashion Doll" calendar. In the Barbie world, "11.25-inch Fashion Doll" is code for "Barbie."

    I'd guess in the instant case the publication could happen if they eschewed the use of "Ford" or any model designation. Kinda defeats the purpose if you have to leave the word "Mustang" off a calendar of Mustangs, but there you go.

  • by Grond (15515) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:07PM (#22038076) Homepage
    Ford is making a valid trademark claim, not a patent or copyright claim as the summary, tags, and category would suggest. Ford does not claim to own the pictures, and it is certainly not making a patent claim. What Ford is doing is claiming trademark and trade dress rights in its name, logo, and the stylistic features of its vehicles. Ford is alleging that the Club's calendar trades on the good will that people associate with the Ford name, logo, etc, which is not allowed under state and federal trademark laws.

    Furthermore, trademark law requires trademark owners to respond to such acts of potential trademark infringement. If they do not so act, then later infringers may point to the inaction and claim that Ford has abandoned their trademark. Note that this is unlike copyright and patents, which give the rightsholder more discretion in pursuing individual cases.

    None of this is to say that this is a good business decision. In its current financial state, Ford should be working with its few remaining fans to produce properly licensed calendars, shirts, etc that maintain Ford's intellectual property rights. That way, everybody wins. This sort of knee-jerk "shut 'em down" response does both the company and its fans a disservice in the long run.
  • by numbsafari (139135) <swilson@bs[ ]s.org ['d4u' in gap]> on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:08PM (#22038084)
    Oh...that was easy...
  • An answer. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:09PM (#22038118) Journal

    The Black Mustang Club wanted to put together a calendar featuring member's cars and print it through CafePress, but an attorney from Ford nixed the project, stating that the calendar pics and 'anything with one of (member's) cars in it infringes on Ford's trademarks which include the use of images of their vehicles.' Does Ford have the right to prevent you from printing images of a car you own?"

    This is a trademark vs copyright issue. The question asked is a red herring. The actual question is "Does Ford have the right to block one from selling, for a profit, an image that includes their trademark?"

    The answer is "Yes, they do have that right. They have to protect their trademark or they lose it."
    • YANAL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jgoemat (565882) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:00PM (#22039214)

      This is a trademark vs copyright issue. The question asked is a red herring. The actual question is "Does Ford have the right to block one from selling, for a profit, an image that includes their trademark?"

      The answer is "Yes, they do have that right. They have to protect their trademark or they lose it."

      This is a misconception. They do have the right to protect their trademark and they say the logo of the group is too similar to their trademark. Trademark is not however a right equivalent to copyright. The purpose of a trademark is to distinguish the products of an individual or business from others. It does not grant a copyright interest in pictures taken of the products, even if they include the trademark on them. These are the products of the company that bear the trademark, it is not confusing in the least. Read this odd case [lsu.edu] about the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame which trademarked their building design and the photographer that sold a poster of the building. The appeals court specifically noted this:

      It is well established that "[t]here is no such thing as property in a trademark except as a right appurtenant to an established business or trade in connection with which the mark is employed." United Drug Co. v. Theodore Rectanus Co., 248 U.S. 90, 97 (1918).

      When we view the photograph in Gentile's poster, we do not readily recognize the design of the Museum's building as an indicator of source or sponsorship. What we see, rather, is a photograph of an accessible, well-known, public landmark. Stated somewhat differently, in Gentile's poster, the Museum's building strikes us not as a separate and distinct mark on the good, but, rather, as the good itself.
      So the trademark is protected only so far as it is used as an indicator of the source or sponsorship of the product. It is completely legal to take photographs of trademarked goods and to sell them. Andy Warhol's paintings [poster.net] anyone?

      Thus without reading the complaint itself and the reasons Ford has we are left with only two conclusions. 1) they are completely brainlessly trying to infringe on the rights of the motor club 2) there is something more to the case of the mark of the club that is used to identify the source of the calendar is too similar to Ford's own mark. In the first case the summary is correct and Ford is wrong. In the second case the summary is misleading and Ford might be right.

  • Oh well (Score:5, Funny)

    by greg1104 (461138) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:11PM (#22038172) Homepage
    I'll just have to return to my previous hobby, taking pictures of Chevy trucks sporting a window sticker with Calvin peeing on the Ford logo.
  • by hellfire (86129) <(deviladv) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:16PM (#22038314) Homepage
    This isn't a new article, this is small time operations going "oh the big bad company pooh poohed our idea they should be ashamed. Let's slam them by posting something negative!"

    The "article" here is on a site called "AdRants." Good start huh? Then it links back directly to BMC's web page that tells you little except their side.

    Basically, BMC (Black Mustang Club), created a calendar for it's members of, well, black mustangs! They then sent this to cafepress, who then sells it to BMC members.

    Ford owns the rights to it's own trademarks, the Ford Logo and the mustang emblem. These are clearly displayed on the calendar, which you have to go a few links in to find. It's your car, and you can do what you want with it, but this is a specific "mustang" calendar and it makes clear references to the Mustang and Ford. Ford at least has some complaint. To untangle this will require a lawyer steeped in trademark law, which I am not.

    The statement that Ford owns the images of your car is bogus, and was an obvious tantrum reaction to having Ford put a cease and desist on cafepress' desk. The letter that Ford sent to cafepress is not anywhere to be found in the chain of articles here, and without that, whining is pointless and childish, because Ford might have a point. Trademark law protects the little guy as well as the big guys so you can't complain that Ford is being a bully here without more facts presented.

    Now there are plenty of grey areas here, legally. Can cafepress sell the calendar only to BMC? Can they sell it at cost only? What's the difference between selling pictures of your own car for $5, and selling a calendar? What's protected and what's not when you take pictures of property you own? Was a line crossed when you grouped 12 people's mustangs together and sold them to a specific group of people through an unaffiliated company? I'm not a lawyer, but the "article" fails to address any of that.

    Sure, Ford is being heavy handed, all the big corporations are. But you should only skip to "pounding the desk" in legal terms after you'd pounded on the law and/or the facts first.

    So there is no real news here, and Slashdot yet again lets it a crap article get in.

    I hope the next post defines the legal points I could not uncover.
  • by kimvette (919543) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:24PM (#22038528) Homepage Journal
    Porsche claims this too and they are notorious for filing IP suits based on trademark infringement, etc.

    The workaround? Slap a number on the car. Viola! Instant race car; it becomes YOUR trademark, and does not infringe on theirs.

    Do the same with your Ford Rustang (Yes, I am ragging on the Mustang - with this kind of action Ford deserves it. As an aside I actually LIKE the Mustang), your Ford Lightning, or whatever it is you want to include in your own original artwork.

    The number need not be intrusive. Just put a small Bill Elliot "94" on your classic Mustang. No more trademark infringement. Or, just digitally add it.

    This is done all the time by specialty shops which work on Porsche products.

    Note to Ford: Take a hike.
  • Ford is full of it (Score:4, Informative)

    by Charcharodon (611187) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:28PM (#22038642)
    Ford does not have the right to restrict the taking of or the sale of any photos of their products. Neither copyright or trademarks give them that kind of power. You might be on thin ice if you tried to sell an "Official Ford" Mustang calender, but a Mustang Club selling a calendar of their members rides is completely legit.

    Companies & cities have tried similar tactics with national landmarks and their buildings, to either gain a revenue stream or prevent anyone else from creating products that might compete with their own projects or be used in lawsuites or public criticism, but again all of them have been tossed out of court.

    Copyright only protects their original works, and Trademark only protects their products from duplication or, neither prevent you from making pictures and selling them for profit.

  • Photographer here... (Score:5, Informative)

    by photomonkey (987563) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:34PM (#22038834)

    Actually, this has always been the case.

    I'll preface this by saying that more freedom is always better, and I don't like Ford.

    However, this is not really an oddball case at all. Ford, I'm fairly certain, registers all their designs as trademark(s), thereby enabling them to legally preclude an entity from reproducing said designs for their own commercial purposes. In fact, in order to maintain their trademark, Ford has to actively defend their trademark which is likely the reason for this action. IE, if they let this relatively harmless group operate outside of fair use, they have to let everyone do so (in other words, their trademark is no longer a trademark).

    Although I wouldn't put it past them to try, they cannot stop you from taking pictures of your car to send to mom, put on your MySpace page or keep on your desk at work. They can't stop you from taking a picture of the car to put with your Auto Trader ad when you go to sell it.

    They probably can't stop you from using photos of a car in a fine art piece for sale or display (artistic appropriation is a bit touchy, but is generally allowed by the courts).

    They can't stop you from taking pictures of the car to accompany a news piece (for example, a photo of a Police Interceptor in flames or a photo of a Focus on the road for a review).

    As for printing playing cards, calendars, posters, coffee mugs, etc. and selling them, for profit or not, they will do what they can to keep you from doing so. That is pretty much in-the-clear commercial appropriation, and is not allowed.

    In other cases, usually the sports organization or the player him/herself owns the TM to their likeness to prevent me from going to an event, shooting pictures of the player and then selling prints/posters off my website. That doesn't mean that I don't still own the copyright to the photo, it just restricts what I can do to exercise my use of that photo. It doesn't stop me from publishing the photo as a news piece.

    One could argue that if these are heavily modified cars, they are no longer identifiable as Ford's TM, and then the logo could be airbrushed out and the photo/calendar is probably a-ok.

    The problem is that Ford is likely acting completely within their rights here, and unless this group has the cash to fight it in court, it's a case-closed event.

    I'll reiterate that one of the pitfalls of trademark is that they have to be protected to be enforced, unlike (or at least less than) copyright. Some suit somewhere got wind of this and has no choice but to enforce their trademark to keep the trademark.

    Nothing to see here...

  • Scale models... (Score:3, Informative)

    by aitala (111068) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:01PM (#22039222) Homepage
    Similar suits are killing the scale model industry along with massively overinflated licensing fees.

    I had a longer post, but it got eaten by the server.

    Dr E
  • by CF4L (1072112) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:36PM (#22039856)
    Companies who weren't ruled by morons encouraged consumers to create calendars with their cars in it. The referred to this bizarre practice as "free advertising".
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:43PM (#22039994) Homepage Journal
    So, apparently, Ford's business plan is to:

    1) Find one of the three guys who's actually PROUD to own a Ford.
    2) Piss in that guy's corn flakes.
    3) ???
    4) Profit. I believe *I* made more than Ford did last year...

  • by byteherder (722785) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:54PM (#22040240)
    The legal issues in this case have been settled long ago. Ford holds the trademark on the image and likeness of its cars. The photographer hold the copyright on the pictures he took. For Ford to uphold its trademark, it has to contest all unlicensed use of its intellectual property.

    All that being said there is an easy way to resolve this. I work for a company that sells aftermarket car parts. On our website, we wanted to use the Ford blue oval trademark image to guide people who were looking for Ford car parts. We asked Ford for a royalty-free license to use there trademark and were granted permission. We included mockups of how we were going to use it so their lawyers didn't freak. Everythings was businesslike and professional. Businesses do this all the time.
  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:02PM (#22040442)
    It's amazing to me that so many people are completely ignorant about Intellectual property laws. Not just the posters supporting ford, but the Mod's moding them up as insightful. Ford is claiming their Trademark extends to pictures of their products. This IS NOT SUPPORTED IN THE LAW. The only one that has intellectual property protection for a picture of a car is the photographer who owns the copyright on the photograph. The only exception to this is photographs of people, and only when used commercially (because a person in an commercial ad can be seen as endorsing the product/service which could affect said person).

    Is it the media companies constant talk about Intellectual Property that has convinced all you ignorant posters that somehow a company has the right to the control how products are used or even pictures of products? It's absolutely astonishing that anyone would defend Ford in this matter as "protecting their rights". Well I guess they are protecting their made up rights which have no basis in the law. Maybe if all the corporations can convince Americans that this is the way the law is that congress will make it the law. Maybe, just maybe that is the ultimate goal. And with the confusion, fair rights and first sale doctrines along with freedom go out the window. Ignorance isn't an excuse, you should be ashamed.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Monday January 14, 2008 @05:06PM (#22041728)
    Ford doesn't need the right. Unless you have $50 million to fight Ford in a legal battle, then ford wins automatically.

    Msft does the same thing, that is what the scox-scam is all about. Msft does not like ibm, or anybody else, contributing to linux. So msft has made it clear that if you contribute to linux, you better be ready to spend $50 - $100 million defending yourself in a bogus lawsuit.
  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Monday January 14, 2008 @05:07PM (#22041756)
    This is just typical of how all corporations view their customers (cash batteries).

    You dont own what you buy, you liscense it. Thats the new mentality. You cant take a picture of yourself and print it, if you're wearing a hat that says ford on it :)

    That is how crazy it is.

  • by dotancohen (1015143) on Monday January 14, 2008 @05:28PM (#22042040) Homepage
    Four Old Rusty Doors?
    Forcing Our Rights Downyourthroat...
  • by cheros (223479) on Monday January 14, 2008 @06:06PM (#22042818)
    I think these boys have just managed to get themselves in line for a VERY large lawsuit. I have no idea which corporate idiot dreamt that up, but if they have been sending out letters they've dug themselves a rather deep hole, and not just from a PR point of view. Knowing corporate idiocy they will continue digging until they hit bedrock, then order in the dynamite to go deeper once more.

    Thankfully it's Ford. I mean, if it was Ferrari or something I'd care, but Ford?

    Ab-so-lu-te-ly, totally, completely insane. I thought I'd seen everything now, but this is award winning stupidity. This may not be bettered, not just in 2008 but possibly this decade (well, OK maybe by another Sony rootkit or RIAA, but those are easy targets. This is in a stupidity class of its own).

    Applause guys. Could we have the names of the clowns who dreamt this up so we could avoid accidentally employing them? Thanks.

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