Reading a Death Warrant in Tehran

In late 2004, I blogged about a case in which an Iranian human-rights activist, Shirin Ebadi, faced a Treasury Department ban on the American publication of her memoir. Although I never followed up, the ban was eventually lifted, and her memoir will finally be published next month by Random House.

The NY Times Magazine has a chilling excerpt, in which Ebadi finds a surprising name on a death warrant.

(I wonder whether this entry will spark another incoherent rant from the same anonymous commenter who trolled here previously.)

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MTA jackassery

This is ridiculous: The MTA is suing a Brooklyn bagel shop, claiming it is violating the MTA’s trademarks. The shop, F Line Bagels in Carroll Garden, has a subway theme, based on the nearby F train.

Now, the original point of trademark law was to protect consumers, and by extension trademark holders, by avoiding marketplace confusion. If you’re Milton Hershey, marketing your new chocolate bar, you don’t want some fraudster to copy your name and package design to sell inferior chocolate. And if you’re a consumer who happens to enjoy Mr. Hershey’s product, you’d like to know that you’re buying the real thing, not some cheap knockoff.

So, tell me MTA: How is a subway rider likely to confuse F Line Bagels with the nearby Smith-9th St. subway station? Especially since F Line Bagels appears to be much prettier and cleaner than any Brooklyn stop along the F line?

Copyright office seeks to save the orphans

I haven’t followed copyright and intellectual property here as closely as I used to, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the U.S. Copyright Office has requested public comment about using orphan works.

Simply put, orphan works are copyrighted creative works for which the rights holder is hard to find. For example, perhaps your grandfather published a collection of poetry through a small publisher in 1947, having sold to that publisher his interest in the poems. You would like to republish the collection, but the original publishing house is now out of business. Who owns the copyright?

Or say your parents are celebrating a wedding anniversary. You are throwing a party for their dearest friends, and as party decorations, you want to enlarge and display some of your parents’ wedding photos. You take the originals to a nearby lab, but the lab owner refuses to reproduce the photos, saying the original photographer owns the rights.

The copyright office is seeking to clarify issues surrounding these orphan works. If this problem affects you, please consider telling the office.

Sony admits screw-up

I’ve blogged before about the war within Sony between its consumer-electronics division and its entertainment unit. In a nutshell, electronics wanted to bring an iPod-like media player to market; entertainment whined, “But people will steal our movies and muuuuuuuuuuusic.”

Boing Boing points to a piece from the AP, in which a ranking Sony exec admits his company made a mistake.

Huh. Guess what, Sony. The market’s now three years ahead of you.

Baptist pastor denounces Religious Right

I Am A Conservative Christian, And The Religious Right Scares Me, Too

“[N]o longer does the Religious Right represent conservative, Christian values….Are we heading for a modern day religious inquisition, this one led not by the Catholic Church but by the Religious Right? Are we witnessing the type of marriage between Church and State that America’s founders originally feared?”

Bush meets with anti-gay censor

Guardian Unlimited | Arts features | ‘We have to protect people’

What should we do with US classics like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Color Purple? “Dig a hole,” Gerald Allen recommends, “and dump them in it.” Don’t laugh. Gerald Allen’s book-burying opinions are not a joke.

Earlier this week, Allen got a call from Washington. He will be meeting with President Bush on Monday. I asked him if this was his first invitation to the White House. “Oh no,” he laughs. “It’s my fifth meeting with Mr Bush.”

So this is how Mr. Bush is exercising his “clear mandate” from the American people. Fuck you, America.