We’ve got a bigger problem now

1984pending
Or do we?

It’s like something out of 1984!

Where to start? Where to begin?

With the complaint, of course.  Not a Complaint-complaint, as in a legal pleading filed in real Murican court.  Rather, a kvetch — a complaining letter, or, rather, a take-down sent to Cafe Press in connection with activities of a UK bloke named Hadley, who can only hang his hat on the Magna Carta or whatever, as reported by Torrent Freak:

Hadley runs 1201 Beyond where he gathers and distributes his shows and writings, among other things.

Before he had his own site and store Hadley used CafePress to sell T-shirts. Although he never sold any, the old store didn’t go unnoticed by the Orwell estate.

Last week he received a worrying email from CafePress informing him that one of his designs had been taken offline due to an alleged copyright violation. The design in question, as seen below, mentions the number sequence “1984.”

According to the complaint the T-shirt design uses “George Orwell quotes,” but the only reference to the author are the numbers that make up the book’s title.

This appears to be a rather broad request, not least since copyright law does not protect book titles.

Yeah, or something:

Don't bother, it's here
Don’t bother, it’s here

The Orwell estate maintains that the use of the image violates their rights, according to its literary executor Bill Hamilton who we showed the contested design [sic].

“The estate has never licensed merchandising, nor have the licensees of the relevant film rights, under which merchandising usually comes. Some of the merchandising I asked to be taken down was in clear breach of copyright,” Hamilton tells TF.

Appreciating the irony of the whole situation, Hadley says he will reissue the T-shirt in his new store and won’t take any further abuse from the Orwell heirs.

“This is blatant abuse of the copyright system and more off it’s a ridiculous attempt to control something that needs no control.”

“I am in the process of having this image retouched and added to the store on my current site as I will not allow this kind of abuse of authority to stand.”

The article is a bit unclear, but, yes, it does appear that there’s no reference to anything other than the book’s title — 1984 — in the merchandise Hadley is selling.  And yes, as the article says, there is no copyright in the name of a book.  Moreover, even if there were, he is probably making fair use of the title, inasmuch as his graphic is commentary, saying, as it does, “1984 is already here” — i.e., the state of affairs described in Orwell’s 1984 is already here.

That’s commentary.  That’s fair use.

RDC-greyOkay, it isn’t particularly cogent commentary, inasmuch as the sentiment “1984 is already here” doesn’t make a lot of sense if it’s, um, already 2015.

But cogency is not one of the fair use factors!

Well, Cafe Press is well known for being a pushover for cease-and-desist letters, so no surprise that they folded like a cheap simile here as they have so often in these situations.  For Cafe Press, ignorance of copyright law is, you know… strength or something.

Ron Coleman