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So you don't think it can happen to you...

Discussion in 'General Chit-Chat' started by Bigdawg, Mar 25, 2010.

  1. Bigdawg

    Bigdawg Just Me

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    Just want to share this because it could have been me 3 years ago... I was selling the same shirt!

    My husband and a friend took several pictures of a certain Speedway for the express purpose of making t-shirts. We knew that we couldn't use any of their images. We smeared out the sponsor billboards (weren't sure we could use them) and proceeded to make about 500 or so shirts using the image incorporated into our design.

    We used to sell at the race - standard procedure is for TBI (TN Bureau of Investigation) to come around and check for copyright infringements. We always sweated it a little because some of our shirts are take-offs on beer and alcohol shirts, but we always made sure it was easy to see they weren't the actual brand. Operated this way for 4 years or so selling tee's that were cleared EVERY TIME by TBI as legal.

    Since we no longer live up there, my friend has been selling shirts instead - using some of our mutual designs as well as one he created with a wanted poster, picture of the Speedway and "Most Wanted Ticket in Racing"... he's actually sold these for a couple races - cleared every time by TBI...

    well... not this time. He left his wife and a friend at the track while he went to replenish and TBI showed up, slapped the cuffs on both of them and proceeded to start taking his whole stock of shirts. All of them. My friend made it there in time to diffuse the situation and get his wife out of cuffs, but they did take the shirts with the picture of BMS on it. Telling him how lucky he was they didn't take everything and cart them all off to jail...

    Bottom line is it didn't matter that we took the picture... or anything else. Even taking a picture of the track and selling something that had the pic on it was illegal. Personally had no idea (obviously) and apparently neither did the previous TBI agents...

    So... if you thought copyright law was gray before... this might tell you something...
     
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  2. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    Falls under the same area as having recognizable people. Just as you need a model release in that instance you also need a written release to use a picture of any private property that is recognizable.
     
  3. signmeup

    signmeup Major Contributor

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    How does Google earth get away with it?
     
  4. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    About 15 years ago, shortly after getting our first printer.... we were going to make a large sign of a local Minor Team Baseball Field and incorporate that into the background of a picture for our sign at the same stadium with our advertisement on it. We were ready to print it and gave them a heads up with a proof. I really only sent it because everything looked so cool and I was showing off. We did a neat job on this layout and then they said..... yeah, that's cool looking, but you can't use our ball field or anyone elses. Well how do I get a picture of a ball field with the perfect angle, lights and still make it look like it's this one. Their come back was... that's the point.... you can't. That was my introduction as to how this stuff works.

    They had me make a sign from pictures they took of players and they had to get rid of the names and haze over the players' faces a little because one player was no longer with the team and didn't give them permission to use the picture with him on it. So to make them all look the same... we had to do it to all of them.
     
  5. signmeup

    signmeup Major Contributor

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    Gino that sounds like a job for content-aware man.
     
  6. G-Artist

    G-Artist Active Member

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    It is not 'illegal' until a court of competent jurisdiction says it is.

    The most ignorant and ill-informed are the folks who are the alleged inforcers.
    You'll have to trust me on that.

    BTW, I hope those folks are also deputized federal officers. Otherwise, depending on
    cirumstance, they may well be out of their jurisdiction.
     
  7. Flame

    Flame Major Contributor

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    Exactly

    Yep. Watch em sweat when you threaten to sue... (not that I ever would, but still...)

    It is a very grey area. And I've seen people get busted for taking photos of streets and such. HOWEVER... PUBLIC property, is free for all. So a busy city street and such... you're fine. Even private property is honestly all up to how the judge is feeling that morning. I used to be a photographer for a couple small magazines and took some photography classes in college, and it's really an interesting subject. What IS legal, what IS not, and what you can sell and what you can get away with.
     
  8. Bigdawg

    Bigdawg Just Me

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    In answer to the are they deputized federal officer - yep... fancy TBI badges and all... I have no doubts of the authority and had seen others actually lose everything... in court... not local court, federal court. That's why we were always very careful.

    The photo thing is interesting to me, because my dad was a professional photographer. And one of the things he told me was that a release was needed when there was ANY expectation of privacy (a sitting, a private meeting or club) but that publicly there was little you could do because there was no expectation of privacy. I actually applied that thinking when we took the picture - we had looked online at the time and the law was very unclear in what we could find (remember this was 5 years ago or so) but it did seem to support that theory.
     
  9. Salmoneye

    Salmoneye Very Active Member

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    So a skyline photo that is to be sold has to have a release from every recognizable structure? Give me a break.
     
  10. royster13

    royster13 Very Active Member

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    Does it have any bearing that a specific location is a central part of an item being sold?....

    Our area has painted some murals on private buildings and they claim that if someone were to produce them on souvenirs there would be some sort of copyright issue....I have never understood how an image of a building could be copyrighted but never looked into it...
     
  11. Mike Paul

    Mike Paul Major Contributor

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    I guess one would legally need a written release to post a pic of a completed job on their website...
     
  12. signmeup

    signmeup Major Contributor

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    Here is an except from the website of the World Intellectual Property Organization (www.wipo.int)

    2.1 Can you freely take photographs that include trademarks?
    Unlike copyright law, trademark law as such does not restrict the use of a trademark in a photograph. What trademark law does forbid is using a trademark in a way that can cause confusion regarding the affiliation of the trademark owner to the image. If consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that a photograph was sponsored by the trademark owner, then there may be trademark infringement.

    Example: Printing a photograph containing the Nike trademark on sportswear could result in trademark infringement. In fact, by such use it would be assumed that you are trying to appropriate some of the goodwill associated with the Nike trademark. Consumers will presumably think that the fabrics are affiliated with the Nike trademark.

    Is it possible the building was trademarked?
     
  13. Techman

    Techman Major Contributor

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    So the TBI goes on fishing expeditions?

    Or, are they driven by complaints?
     
  14. Pro Image

    Pro Image Major Contributor

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    Tech....Its the largest event to take place in TN......over 160,000 people in the Bristol area.........Its more like a catching expedition rather than a fishing one.......They know someone will be there with illegal stuff........
     
  15. Bigdawg

    Bigdawg Just Me

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    Standard Track Policy.... has been for years. The county and city come around to each booth to check licenses and resale certificates. That's your opportunity if you are from out of town to buy a weekend license. Accompanying one of those locals is a TBI agent who looks over your stock. If they see a problem they address it right then and there. There are also spot checks throughout the 4 days you are set up to sell.

    Yes - there were HUGE problems with rip-offs and this is the only way the campgrounds on the track (and right next to it) will allow you to sell. Only if you pass those checks... the crazy part is the shirt passed that check for at least 4 races.

    our first year they hauled the guy next to us to jail and took his truck and trailer (from Indiana) for transporting his Git-R-Done t-shirts across state lines with it. Scared the hell out of us so there's never been any question that we had to be above board. We thought we were.
     
  16. Dice

    Dice Active Member

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    So by that standard every single person that carries a camera into a raceway is committing trademark infringement?

    If any of you are in in a similar situation like BigDawg. Hire an Attorney on retainer, have them on speed dial. If the officer gives you problems dial your Attorney and hand them the phone.

    Don't let them push you around. No Legitimate business owner should have to worry if they are going to get carried away in handcuffs when the law is so grey.
     
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