Thursday, April 14, 2011

What We Learned From our Mothers

Do not steal. And if you do steal, give it back and apologize.

Many of us learned this basic truth in our youth, but the message is often forgotten in adulthood. Or, so it seems when it comes to IP infringement. Indeed, the more public and obvious the infringement, the greater the apparent need for an embarrassing public apology.

We all may recall that John McCain's presidential campaign, along with the Republican National Committee and the Ohio Republican Party, were sued by Jackson Brown for infringement of his classic "Running on Empty" during the McCain-Obama presidential contest. McCain provided an embarrassing and public apology for the infringement as part of the settlement of the ensuing litigation.

Most recently, two days ago former Florida governor Charlie Crist posted a video apology on You Tube relating to the unauthorized use by his 2010 Senate campaign of the Talking Heads' 1985 classic "Road to Nowhere." The full text of the Crist apology is transcribed and follows:
Hi, I’m Charlie Crist. During 2010, I ran for a seat in the United States Senate. During that campaign, a video advertisement utilized a song made famous by David Byrne and the Talking Heads called Road to Nowhere. The advertisement was posted on my campaign website, on You Tube and sent out via e-mail. Regrettably, the campaign did not ask permission to obtain a license from Mr. Byrne to use Road to Nowhere in the advertisement. In fact, Mr. Byrne has never permitted his songs to be used for advertising of any kind, a position I respect deeply. The use of David Byrne’s song and his voice in my campaign advertisement without his permission was wrong and should not have occurred. I do not support, nor do I condone, any actions taken by anyone involved in the Senate campaign that were inconsistent with David Byrne’s rights, or with any other artist’s rights, or the various legal protections afforded to intellectual property. I sincerely apologize to David Byrne for using his famous song and his unique voice in my campaign advertisement without his permission. I pledge that should there be any future election campaigns for me, I will respect and uphold the rights of artists and obtain permission or a license for the use of any copyrighted work. Thank you.
It is an ironic observation that politicians as a class are not immune to infringement claims when many politicians are working in Congress to stem abuse of U.S. IP. In any event, politicians, and all of us, need to be vigilant concerning the wrongful use of IP owned by others. This is particularly true when oversight may be lacking in large organizations, or when the IP misuse occurs during the heat of the moment. Indeed, this is exactly why organizational and managerial tools must be in place in all organizations to insure that infringement does not occur by lower ranking employees.

And if infringement does occur, someone will have to eat crow. Or, post an embarrassing apology.

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