African-Americans & Intellectual Property
“One way to look at plaintiff’s difficulties here is as further evidence of the disproportionate difficulties African-Americans have had in getting the benefits of IP protection.” — Rebecca Tushnet.
43(B)log. Strikeout: Baseball Player’s Claim Against Cards Fails. Jan. 5, 2008. Georgetown law professor Tushnet (no, the junior Tushnet) ends her analysis of a lawsuit against the Topps trading card company with this interesting comment. The lawsuit (which was based on right of publicity, trademark and related claims) was brought by the daughter of legendary Negro Leaguer James “Cool Papa” Bell, alleging that the trading card company did not have permission to print Bell’s likeness on a trading cards released earlier this decade. Tushnet’s summary says Bell granted to the Baseball Hall of Fame permission to use his name and likeness on various products. (Bell was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.) Tushnet’s comment raises interesting issues about IP protection and race.
Stories are legion about the extent to which creative, technical, or scientific achievements by African-Americans have been appropriated without initial or residual compensation. And strains of complaint often make it into the lyrics of contemporary music. (Even Jay-Z once said in “H.O.V.A.” “I’m overcharging labels for what they did to the Cold Crush.”) We would be very interested in seeing any articles, reports, books, or scholarly work that addresses this phenomenon and estimates the lost value therefrom.
(Editor’s Note: Copycense editors originally commented on this article in the Jan. 29, 2008, edition of Copycense Clippings, where it was a Quote of the Week selection.)
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