Saturday, April 30, 2011
trading my mark
Living in Mexico without a sense of irony is like living in Palm Springs with a bad slice. You can do it, but life will not be very pleasant.
That little adage popped to mind while I was walking past a new taco stand in our neighborhood. I hear it is quite good.
But I did not have food on my mind when I first saw the place.
It is called “Scooby’s Tacos.” And that face on the wall is not of the owner or his pet. It is, of course, Scooby the Dog. Famous cartoon character. And the property of Warner Brothers.
In November, I spoke to the Latin American Bloggers’ Conference about American and Mexican copyright law. And the basic rules we learned in kindergarten. Like, not taking other people’s property.
That is a tough act to sell in Mexico. Even though Mexico has a very thorough copyright and trademark law, you might suspect it is administered by Ali Baba and the forty thieves.
Cultural icons are treated as just that down here. If it is popular, it belongs to the public. And if it belongs to the public, there is no perceived problem in simply taking it and using it for your own purposes.
Mickey Mouse decorates the ice cream truck. Batman shills for the carnival on the merry-go-round. Disney princesses decorate almost everything imaginable.
And I will not even mention (but I guess I just did) the drug cartel-sponsored pirated CDs and DVDs.
Mexico is a country where little goes to waste. And if a trademark seems like a popular draw, users will slap it on anything that moves – or is stationary, for that matter.
I suspect, as a former lawyer, this creative piracy should offend me. After all, it is theft.
On the other hand, I am a bit ticked off at Disney and Time Warner who have effectively turned the copyright and trademark laws from a recognition of intellectual property rights to a monopolistic Chinese wall around aging icons. I suspect if either company owned the Mona Lisa, they would add a 600 year old grandmother clause to the law.
But I really don’t care. In fact, I have started playing a little game to discover the most creative (and jarring) use of trademarks.
One of these days, I may draft a post concerning the finalists for the award.
Nominees are always welcome.