Here’s the story about how Indiana University stopped Indoctrinate U. — a documentary that is critical of political correctness on American college campuses — in its tracks a few weeks ago, even though the school — good old “IU” — is not even remotely connected to the film:
In brief, a lawyer representing Indiana University wrote to Maloney’s company early last month claiming that the “Indoctrinate U” logo was similar to IU’s. Maloney does not concede the claim of infringement, arguing that differences between the two logos are “readily apparent” and that in any case his movie does not compete with IU’s educational offerings. But he decided to stop using the logo anyway, figuring it was cheaper than fighting.
“In an act of good faith, we voluntarily took the Indoctrinate-U.com site offline while we reviewed our options,” he writes. He didn’t publicly name the university because that “would have caused needless controversy and made it harder to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to the dispute.” The Web site returned once the logo had been stripped from it, from the promotional videos and from the movie itself.
The university is now demanding we hand over a sum of money that would essentially bankrupt On The Fence Films.
I have to say, I’m a bit stunned. I understand that some academics might have a problem with our film; it covers academia’s dirty little secrets. Nobody likes to be criticized. But Indiana University is not mentioned in the film at all! So their heavy-handedness seems a bit extreme.
He’s stunned because, ironically, he forgot — despite making this film — that universities are big business, and are among the biggest IP pigs around. Okay, I can’t deny that the original Indoctrinate U logo is probably confusingly similar to the Hoosier’s symbol — but there’s been no harm, no foul (i.e., no damages and presumably no evidence of bad faith infringement). I’ve pushed back on these shakedowns before and seen institutions with “IP programs” that depend on a positive cash flow back off on the money demand. Perhaps a little negative publicity would help that happen here.
UPDATE: IU backs down.