Feelin’ Bernedon April 21, 2016 at 12:00 am
Yesterday I came across this article from the Daily Beast written by Tim Mak, a “senior correspondent” for that organization (I believe this only means that he combs news sites and writes about what other reporters have dug up, like a common blogger). The nub of his story was that Bernie Sanders’ lawyers have asked a T-shirt company, Liberty Maniacs, to stop using the Sanders campaign logo in a T-shirt that the company is selling online. Here’s their artwork, and below it the official Sanders campaign logo:
The T-shirt isn’t that funny, but whatever. It’s nothing a presidential campaign should lose sleep over. But what struck me was how pissy the Daily Beast’s article was, making Sanders out as some kind of trademark troll without a sense of humor. Several times in Mak’s piece the Sanders campaign is referred to as a “bully” using “high-priced lawyers” to intimidate a small business. Isn’t comrade Sanders supposed to be above these things?
As a guy who knows a thing or two about parody and trademark, the fact is that lawyers don’t give a rat’s ass about jokes at the expense of their clients. But if you are going to call their client (who is running for president) a totalitarian dictator, in so many words, you had at least better make an effort to alter the logo that the commie in question is using to sell himself. Liberty Maniacs didn’t really make that effort. In contrast, another, funnier shirt they are selling is an actual parody of the Sanders logo, and one that has not earned them a cease and desist letter.
Like the wise capitalist peegs they are, Liberty Maniacs is using the press to hype their contested shirts and hopefully make a killing. This got me thinking: as long as liberating someone else’s trademark is all in good fun, would Liberty Maniacs libertarians be willing to be the butt of the same joke?
With a self-tighteous boner as hard as steel, I contacted Liberty Maniacs and spoke to a representative named “Dan” through their live chat service. Here is our conversation:
I then sent them a picture of the T-shirt I am now itching to produce, along with my assurance that if they consider this to be some sort of trademark infringement and not rib-tickling parody, I will not print any of them up.