Why your trademark is important and an interesting story to go with it.

29 01 2009

I recently read a case about a company called Polaris Pictures Corp. This is not to be confused with Polaris Images, the reputable picture agency. But when I first heard of this case, that was the first thing I wondered. This is why trademark law is important.

There is a good reason why you wouldn’t want to confuse the two companies. First of all, PPC was barely a business at all. At best, they had an interest in some screenplays. You don’t want your clients accidentally calling this company.

Secondly, the company, was involved in some rather dramatic alleged scams involving insurance and a million dollar yacht. Not good pr to be associated with.

There is more than one case involving this company, but this one has a pretty good summary . It reads like a daytime drama.

This case is also an example of why I love it when an opinion is written by someone with good writing skills. Being a good writer is very important being a good lawyer and judge. The “truth is better than fiction” quality of this case would be lost on the wrong writer.


Magazine Death Pool

27 01 2009

A magazine on the list at http://www.magazinedeathpool.com

Well, just to make us newspaper fans feel better, there is a blog called the Magazine Death Pool which is tracking the various magazine closings.

Some of these truly look like they deserved to go, but some are a bit of a surprise.

The blog itself seems to have lasted quite a while

Virgin Mobile cased dismissed from Texas

24 01 2009

You may remember the case of the girl whose photo was posted on flickr and then used in an advertisement for Virgin Mobile in Australia.

Just a quick note to report that the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas dismissed the case against Virgin Australia without prejudice (meaning it can be brought in another court).

The problem with the case- jurisdiction. In order for a court to be able to impose a judgment against a party (a person or company), it must have personal jurisdiction over that entity. It can get this easily if the person is based in that courts area of jurisdiction (called general jurisdiction). It can also get this if the person conducts business or commits a tort in the jurisdiction, called “minimum contacts” (or if they consent).

In this case, Virgin Australia didn’t have either, so the court decided that it didn’t have authority over the company.

It should be noted that Virgin USA and Virgin Australia are completely separate entities, having no connections, according to the footnotes in the case. Virgin USA was also sued, but they were dropped from the suit and the only defendant left was Virgin Australia.

As the internet and the Web 2.0 sharing movement takes off, jurisdiction is going to be an important issue. Typically, if someone hurts you, it is physical, and in person. They have to be in your area (and thus in your jurisdiction) to hurt you. But this case is a perfect example of how someone in Texas was hurt by someone in Australia. Now the person who was injured will probably have to go to Australia to bring her case. And a girl in Texas is now forced to hire counsel in Australia, and possibly go to Australia to get relief for her injury.

If you are interested, the case is: Chang v. Virgin Mobile USA, LLC, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3051 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 16, 2009)

more on obamafying a photo

23 01 2009

Well, if you don’t want to go through all of the trouble of obamafying yourself in photoshop, as I described below, here is a pretty good alternative:


I tried it out, and it looked good, but watch out for the terms and conditions that I found unacceptable.

A Disturbing Equation

22 01 2009

I have been seeing several trends over the past few years. I hope that others are doing the math.

2+2=4. And that’s what scares me.

So here is what I am seeing:

Fewer and fewer staff photographers and reporters at newspapers across the country = less independent reporting = more reliance on “self-reporting” by subjects. This is often seen in the form of handout photos, whether from the government or from PR agencies or from corporate communications offices.

– Media acceptance of “press passes” as a permissible means of the government deciding who gets a right to report the news, even in a public place + More restrictions on granting of press passes by the government, especially by non-traditional media + the closing and reduction in coverage of many newspapers = Fewer watchdogs of the government and more control of the message by the government.

– More restrictions on access by government and corporate entities + media cooperation by accepting “hand-out” photos = more and more cases of photos appearing in traditional media that are actually manipulated or staged or, at a minimum, edited to make the subject look favorable.


Don't be a dunce! © Alicia Wagner Calzada

If you add up these three things, then you have this:

fewer independent journalists

+ more restrictions on access

+ more news provided by the newsmaker

+ more manipulation of the “news” by the newsmaker


= a deeper walk down the slippery slope of control of the message by the subject, AND a steep decline in truthful, accurate, reliable information available to the public.

How can a nation make decisions about it’s government without accurate, truthful information. It can’t.

So who’s fault is it?

It is natural for anyone in power to want to control the message. But it is the job of the media to not cede that control. The media is failing. Furthermore, citizens are failing in demanding this of their media and of their government.

I’ll be looking to see how the Obama administration treats access. I am optimistic, but this is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue. It is something that happens with power. I challenge journalists everywhere to take a bigger stand.

It is our jobs. Don’t be a dunce.

Comparing the First Drafts of History

21 01 2009


On any day that follows a moment in history like yesterday’s inauguration of Barack Obama, newspapers are at their best. And it is a great exercise to look at the different front pages to see what they all look like, which photos were used the most, etc.

For several years, the Newseum has made this easy, by showcasing the front pages of nearly every major newspaper in the country.

You can see how the Inauguration coverage looks at http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/default.asp

They do this every day, and archive the special days so you can also pick a day that has historical significance for you, such as the day Pope Benedict was chosen (or the day the Phillies won the world series).

A quick glance at the gallery view of today’s front pages shows that a photo taken by Chuck Kennedy of the McClatchy-Tribune Photo Service with a remote camera was one of the most popular. It is a great image, and there is an article about how the photo was made on the NPPA website.

Obamafy ANY photo (photo booth plug-in not needed)

19 01 2009


Many people have taken advantage of the Obamafy plugin for Photo Booth software (works on a mac).

For some reason, I couldn’t get the plug-in to work, so I sought a way to do it in Photoshop, without a plugin. I couldn’t find anything on how to do this, so I figured it out and wanted to share it.

It wasn’t that complex. Here’s a step-by-step guide. It works best with a photo that is lit from one side, so that you have a shadow area. To do this, you need a good understanding of photoshop. You will be using filters (halftone and cut-out), and photoshop tools (paint bucket, lasso, marquee) and color range.

aliciamug aliciamug-cut-out2aliciamugwithhalftone1aliciamugobamafied1

First steps:

  1. Download from the internet the obama art that you want to imitate. Consider that there are 5 colors in your pallet: red, pale blue, pale blue stripes, black (or very dark blue) and white (or cream colored).
  2. Take your pre-existing photo and add filter>artistic>cutout. Select 5 or 6 levels, to match the number of colors in your pallet.

The Halftone:

  1. The first part you want to get out of the way is the half-tone portion (the stripes). Look for the line that indicates the beginning of the shadow area. This should be between the light area of the face and the darker area. In my case it is the tan area going right down the middle of my nose.
  2. Use the lasso tool to get a rough selection of the face area. This is so that you only get the highlights in the face for this color.
  3. With the face selected, go to select> color range and select the tan color. Now just the highlights in the face should be selected.
  4. Using the paint bucket, select the light blue in the obama photo that you want to imitate. Dump the color in your selected area. Do Not deselect.
  5. To create the stripes: filter>sketch>halftone pattern (select Pattern Type: line) and adjust the size of the stripes to your choice.

The Background:

  1. Now, using the rectangular marquee tool, select half of the image. Use the paint bucket tool to dump your background color. If your hair blends into the background, like mine does, you may have to use the lasso tool to avoid selecting the hair.
  2. Select the other side of the photo and do the same thing to the background. Make sure the hair is separated.

The Hair

  1. For me this was the trickiest part. My hair isn’t black, and making it black makes me look silly. So I just made the hair on the right red, and the hair on the left blue.

The Rest

  1. Now fill in the other colors using the paint bucket from your cut-out photo with corresponding colors:
  • lightest color and highlights= white or cream
  • middle to light color= light blue
  • shadow of face and darker shadows= red
  • darkest areas= dark blue or black

Clean up the spots that you missed using the clone tool. As a final touch, you can expand the canvas size of the image by a few points (image>canvas size) until you have a poster-like border (make sure your background color is cream or white).

P.S. More information is coming out about the photo that the original Shepard Fairey poster was possibly derived from. I have read that Fairey copied it off of the internet which has legal implications for such a iconic image. And certainly, an ironic act for someone who has been burned by intellectual property theft himself. At a minimum, it is good for a scholarly discussion. But I think it is irresponsible to comment without more facts.