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Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Told You So!

Back in 2005 I wrote a post about how the issue of how intellectual property rights are routinely ignored/trampled in the Jewish community (in general), and most frustratingly; specifically within the observant community.

Here's what I wrote back then:

Anyone who knows me is aware that one of my (many) pet peeves is the rather, shall we say, casual attitude my 'observant' coreligionists have towards intellectual property rights and copyright infringement.

Walk into any Judaica store in the world and you will find bins full of kippot (yarmulkes) bearing the logos of every major sports franchise and sneaker company... Hannukiot (menoras) and dreidles (tops) painted with characters from the latest Disney or Pixar film... and other miscellaneous tchotchkes emblazoned with every conceivable proprietary image. 

The problem is that most, if not all of this stuff was created without bothering to get (i.e. pay for) rights to use the images and logos.

Whenever I have pointed this out to the store owners I have invariably gotten the old,

"Oh c'mon now... everybody does it." 

When I have tried to use terminology that should carry more weight with these guys such as 'G'nivat HaDa'at' (the term in Jewish law for stealing someone else's ideas or intellectual property), they wave me away with lame excuses such as,

"You think the Yankees really mind if some kid walks around with their logo on his kippah?  Puleeeze, I'm sure that not only are they me'ayesh (a technical term meaning to relinquish all claim to something) any money they might have seen from this kind of thing... but they probably like the exposure!"

Yeah... that makes sense.  If sales of Yankee tickets and Nike sneakers are up this year, it's because of all the free publicity they are getting on the heads of Yeshiva kids!

Well, it seems the chickens are coming home to roost. 

According to this article, Marvel comics and DC Comics are both suing the owner of a store on Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda street for selling Batman and Spiderman kippot (Yarmulkehs) without having secured the rights to do so.

I am normally a champion of small businessmen and entrepreneurs.  But in this case, I am pleased as punch that someone  has taken notice and is giving people who should know better (e.g. observant Jews) a lesson in the laws of intellectual property.

And before you weigh in to try to convince me how wrong I am, please imagine that you owned the rights to the Siderman and/or Batman images / intellectual property.  How would you feel about everyone making a buck off of what should be exclusively yours?

Okay... now you can talk.

Posted by David Bogner on September 20, 2012 | Permalink


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You are 100% correct. It is an a la carte attitude towards the law.

Posted by: lrg | Sep 20, 2012 3:30:54 PM

Hi David. Haven't read your blog in ages! But I'm sure its as good as ever.

I think the entire concept of intellectual property needs to be thought about again with the experience of the abuse of these rights in the high tech world in mind. Even without this re-thinking, isn't there a time limit on these rights? Spiderman must be older than most of us by now! I would think about these things to devise a defense brief (melamed zchut) before the throne of heaven for the people of Israel.

Posted by: Andy | Sep 20, 2012 3:35:53 PM

People have a bad habit of brushing off IP theft as being no big deal because everyone does it or they don't see it as taking money out of someones pocket.

Posted by: Josh | Sep 20, 2012 6:09:04 PM

One of the largest-scale examples of this lax attitude toward intellectual property rights is YouTube. There are countless videos obviously taken with hand-held equipment from a seat in the audience at a performance by [name of any major artist here]. People are genuinely confused when anyone objects to this. The attitude is that they are doing the artist a favor; the concept that the artist's work belongs to the artist, and that having paid for a seat at this live performance doesn't give them the right to decide what to do with the artist's work, simply bounces right off.

I acknowledge that in the case of a major figure with an established fan base, these YouTube postings probably don't cost the performer any significant income. It may indeed be that such things drive traffic to future performances and purchases of recordings. The point, though, is that the individual attendee still doesn't have the right to exercise control over someone else's work in this way. But trying to explain this is like talking to a brick wall.

Posted by: bratschegirl | Sep 20, 2012 7:34:51 PM

When people report such things to YouTube, they remove the video!

Posted by: Mark | Sep 21, 2012 7:05:23 PM

Mark: I think that's only true when the owner of the copyright makes the complaint himself/herself. YouTube makes it quite plain that they're not interested in getting third-party reports.

Posted by: bratschegirl | Sep 22, 2012 6:26:13 PM

As usual, you are 100% correct.

In fairness, it's not only within the observant community.

For example, there is a similar attitude to intellectual property rights when it comes to downloading TV shows, music, and films etc from unapproved sites. (Not, so far as I know, a mainstream activity in the observant community.) It's plain, common or garden theft. In my experience, when I point this out, I often get a lame argument back. That is, until I point out (like you do) that I doubt the offender would be so unconcerned if it were their intellectual property. At which point the discussion ends.

I do not fully understand why otherwise honest, law abiding citizens do not see it as theft. Did the pirates convince the public they were the good guys? Or are people just naturally so mean that they like not having to pay for stuff? It's sickening.

To go off at a slight tangent, so far as the observant community is concerned, it's another example of woeful rabbinic leadership.
If the rabbonim spoke about this and changed people's behavior, that would be a GOOD THING. And it would be even better, while they were speaking out about that, if they spoke out about driving with due care and attention, and consideration for other drivers. If the "norm" in the observant community was decent driving on the roads, what a difference that would make. And what an example. Well, I think it's important. End of rant.

PS: "Siderman"? Now, if you had said "Ciderman", I would understand. After all, you cannot get a decent cider in Israel...

Posted by: Ellis | Sep 23, 2012 7:34:07 AM

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