April 15, 2011

Oh, That Anne Shirley

Two articles on IP rights and Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables have crossed my desk recently. First is

Andrea Slane, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Legal Studies, Guarding a Cultural Icon: Concurrent Intellectual Property Regimes and the Perpetual Protection of Anne of Green Gables in Canada, forthcoming in the McGill Law Journal. Here is the abstract.

The article examines problems for the public domain raised by the ongoing intellectual property protection afforded to the classic Canadian children's novel Anne of Green Gables. The author suggests that three conceptual difficulties in distinguishing between different intellectual property regimes have allowed the owners of rights in the novel wider and longer protection than they should enjoy: 1) confusion between concepts of source in copyright and source in trade-mark; 2) confusion between an author's moral rights and personal reputation in copyright and goodwill in trade-mark; and 3) willingness to grant public benefit to public authorities seeking official marks protection without consideration of the public interest in limited copyright terms.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

The second is

Cecily Devereux, University of Alberta Department of English and Film Studies, "Not a 'Usual' Property": A Hundred Years of Protecting Anne of Green Gables, 7 Law, Culture, and the Humanities 121 (February 2011).

Why might redhaired, freckle-faced Anne still be controversial, especially after a hundred years? Because the Montgomery heirs and the Prince Edward Island Provincial government jointly own the rights to the trademark (they administer it through the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority), and they guard those rights. Creators of a website established in 2008, Anne's Diary, began using images of Anne without permission. The creators billed it as "the most secure website for children in the world," and it certainly boasted many security features, including a fingerprint reader and registration papers. The problem was that it used the Anne of Green Gables trademark and image (friendliness, security, safety, home) without a license, although the creators apparently tried to get permission. The PEI government and its attorneys began to investigate, according to the Canadian Trademark Blog.  I clicked on a number of the links at Anne's Diary, none of which seem to work now, and the girl's image now on the home page, while redhaired and straw-hatted, does not really resemble Anne Shirley.

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