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Ford Claims Ownership Of Your Pictures 739

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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  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:51PM (#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.
  • by Araxen ( 561411 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:54PM (#22037734)
    There's are sculptures in Chicago in one of their parks that you can't take any pictures of as it's been deemed by the artist as infringing on his IP rights. /boggle

    I don't know though if it's been tested in court yet though.
  • Re:no (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:59PM (#22037820) Homepage

    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 if the calendar has different cars (say it was 12 sports cars and the Mustang was just one) then I could see Ford being in the wrong. But the whole calendar seems to be taking advantage of them.

  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:00PM (#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 ThePromenader ( 878501 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:02PM (#22037896) Homepage Journal
    A well-known and longstanding example of "copyright insanity" is the SNTE's claim over any picture taken of the Eiffel tower at night. When challenged, the "claim" didn't hold up in court... but as long as the claim is there, you have to legally challenge it to gain reason over it. Few can afford to do so, thus the "law" stands even today...
  • Running a red light (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sunshinerat ( 1114191 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:04PM (#22037976)
    Does that mean it will be illegal to take a picture of me and my car when I run a red light or when I am speeding? Interesting marketing tactic. That would increase interest in Ford automobiles.
  • Thank you, Ford (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:05PM (#22037986)
    With enough publicity in the right places, this could expose IP trolling for the absurdity it is. Stewart, Colbert, Leno, Letterman, listen up...

  • Barbie, too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) * on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:06PM (#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 careysb ( 566113 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:07PM (#22038058)
    Or, can the insurance adjuster take a photo of your car after a wreck?
  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:24PM (#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.
  • Re:Ford's response (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Xelios ( 822510 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:28PM (#22038664)
    "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."

    And that is one of the (many) things seriously wrong with IP laws. Companies are actually obligated to hunt down infringing material and assert their rights on it, or they risk losing them to the public domain. Ford shouldn't shoulder the full blame and ridicule for this fiasco, the whole IP system is stupid and flawed.

    Some months ago I read a wonderful article in Wired about the Japanese anime market, specifically the amateur manga artists who hold annual conventions showcasing their work. They infringe liberally on animes owned by large publishing firms, yet those firms turn a blind eye. Both parties see this as "anmoku no ryokai", essentially an "unspoken, implicit agreement". The amateur artists create works based on well known animes, showcasing their talents and telling the stories they want to tell. In return they draw more people to the original animes owned by the publishing firm. Under Japanese copyright law none of this is allowed, but nobody enforces it because they all see the economic benefits it brings to the anime market. The West could take a lesson from them.
  • Re:EULA (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:35PM (#22038850)
    I'm not entirely sure that this is as clean a topic as you suggest.

    Part of being a photographer is the laws surrounding copyrights of your photos. Effectivly you own a copyright on any photo you take starting the instant you take it. Before you can enforce said copyright it must be registered as such, but the copyright begins the instant you press the shutter.

    Photographs cover a wide range of topics from art to satire and along the way, any number of corporate images, icons, logos or products can make their way into these photos. But the photos are still owned by the taker.

    I can see Ford's point. They want brand protection, and a cut of any mony made off of their brand image. And certainly a Ford Calendar would trip their sensors as it's a direct trading on their name/image. However if the calendar was instead a calendar of members of the Ford Fan Club and happend to have the cars in the background, it would be easy to argue that Ford cannot stop them.

    Additionally if the calendar were a private group item for the members, with each paying the cost oif prining it for themselves, I'm sure any lawyer can poke a hole in the suit, stating that it's just another form of photo sharing and For doesn't try and stop them from swapping digital images online.

    Further, if enforcing trade images of a trademarked product were this easy, every clebrity in Hollywood would (and some have) trademarked their own distinctive licenses and thus block quite a bit of the tabloid trashing (not all of course since some of it falls under the freedom of press realm).
  • That's fine (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mdonley ( 1059086 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:53PM (#22039120)

    I would not be happy about it, but I guess I can give them the right to complain about how I use pictures of my privately owned Ford vehicle in certain circumstances if I'm looking to make a profit based on the fact that the items are from their brand and represent the likeness of their brand that they've spent years crafting..

    But what Ford really needs is someone at Ford re-thinking how they themselves use the pictures of their vehicles in search of profits!

    Join the Ford Boycott!!!! [boycottford.com]

    Click here [afa.net] for an offensive sample of their advertising dollars at work...

  • Re:EULA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by reebmmm ( 939463 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:09PM (#22039350)
    You are certainly right that trademark laws were originally developed for consumer protection purposes (a shortcut for identifying source).

    However, you're probably not right about the selling calendar thing. My guess is that Ford or its licensees have produced Ford Mustang calendars. So my guess is that use of the Mustang marks for calendars is probably a category of good which they are already in the business of exploiting. The same thing for just about every other type of merchandise: t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc.
  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:17PM (#22039486) Journal
    The original thread in the BMC post seems to be down at the moment. Probably another fool attempting to run a forum serving thousands from home seeing how it hasn't quite refusing the connection yet isn't producing anything usable.

    But besides that, we don't know enough of the context here to make a rash and contextually opinionated stand. If the selling point of the calendar is because it has fords owned by members of the club, it would seem that the incidental inclusion of ford is prime to the marketing of the calender. If the calendar just prints club owners cars and other brands like GMC or Porsche might be included, then it wouldn't matter as much. And in so much as the marketing of the calendar plays a role in this too, if the market is club owners, then it is downplayed, if the market is everyone, then it is more important. But the real question and probably part of the real answer is how did ford find out about it?

    I mean the calendar isn't printed yet, it had been sent to the printers who had a policy of not printing copyright and trademarked items. Most likely what happened here is a simple set of confusion. The printing company probably had an employee that noticed these were all ford cars, referred it to some legal department that didn't know anything about the intent or purpose of the calender who in turn contacted ford to see if it was ok to print the photos. So now ford, without the proper context, is informed that someone is attempting to make a calendar with their images and trademarks and logos in it and they are ordering it in bulk enough to make it a commercial venture. They most likely denied the printing out of a knee jerk reaction and sent a letter to the club which has contact information in it.

    I mean how else would the club know that ford found out about the calender before it was printed and delivered and put a stop to it? I'm willing to bet that all that is needed is for the club to do is contact Ford Directly and explain the situation then get a waiver to present to the printing company. All the information we have so far is second hand relayed from a party being denied indirectly. It is the print shop that was denied and communicated with, not the BMC club. IT is more likely a misjudgment on the printing companies side in an attempt to cover their own ass. We have no assurances that anything presented to ford accurately reflects the situation outside someone wanted to print photos of their cars and logos.
  • The Fedex Incident (Score:4, Interesting)

    by seanadams.com ( 463190 ) * on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:33PM (#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.
  • by drakaan ( 688386 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:58PM (#22040330) Homepage Journal

    Trademark isn't relevant either.

    Trademarks exist in order to prevent one company from marketing something that appears to be a product of another company.

    There are two potential trademarks at issue. One is "Ford", and the other is "Mustang".

    The creators of the calendar are not selling Ford calendars, nor are they using a trademark in a way that would be likely to make a purchaser of the calendar believe that Ford Motor Company created the calendar.

    The creators of the calendar are also not selling Mustang calendars, nor are they using the trademark in a way that would be likely to make a purchaser of the calendar believe that the owner of the Mustang trademark (the Ford Motor Company) created the calendar.

    The calendar is clearly associated with "BMC" (aka, the "Black Mustang Club"), and the Club's title did not apparently raise the ire of Ford's trademark lawyers (as it shouldn't have). If they were taking pictures of cars on Ford dealership lots, then maybe Ford would have a point on copyright, since they nominally own the vehicles on those lots, but not on trademark, at least not as the calendar is currently composed.

    Yes, the OP failed to mention trademark, but that doesn't make Ford's move any less bone-headed. Ignoring the fact that they are alienating a group of people who are (or were, at least) fans of one of the company's cars, they are opening themselves up to countersuit, and a whole bunch of bad PR...all over a fan calendar. The lack of immediate reaction from their PR department (legal did WHAT??? Our bad...go ahead and print the calendar...Chevy sucks!) is staggering.

  • Fish (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @05:02PM (#22040432)

    But why on earth do people call their Porsche PorSha?

    In the film "A Fish Called Wanda" someone comments on a girl whose name was Portia: "why would someone name their daughter after a car?"...

    And speaking of fish and English language pronunciation, Bernard Shaw once remarked that the word fish could be spelled "goti": G as in laugh, O as in women, and TI as in action.

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @05:02PM (#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 @06:06PM (#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 @06:07PM (#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.

  • Re:Form? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Divebus ( 860563 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @06:11PM (#22041812)
    Here's a fix: Make the Ford dealer remove all brand marks from any car you buy, or make them pay for the advertising space.
  • Re:Nope. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tic!lock ( 1207584 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @08:02PM (#22043704)
    What's even funnier is that none of them seem to agree on whether it's legal or not. :)

      (As a part time photographer who sells his pictures I have an interest in this, and *my* lawyer tells me that as long as there isn't any brand confusion - that is, as long as I'm not selling my pictures as "official" photographs, I have nothing to worry about. I'm currently going round and round with the local city council over the same issue, ie photographs of historical city landmarks which the city seems to think they have the rights to limit photographs of. They even have that printed on the landmark info posts. Sigh. Can anyone point me to relevant cases? )


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