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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Obama, Romney in a flap as Big Bird enters politics

There was a time when celebrity endorsements were seen as a vital adjunct to any serious political campaign. Never mind the arguments and the policies; the fact that a particularly charismatic or popular actor, pop star, fashion icon or sports hero identified him- or herself with a cause made it ipso facto a worthy one.  So long as the celebrity in question generated plenty of publicity and avoided doing such unpopular things as dodging taxes, being denounced as a love-rat or eating small kittens in the lead-up to the election, this ruse generally worked.

The IPKat is now pleased to inform readers that, even ahead of the value of attaching the right sort of celebrity to yourself, the notion of pinning the wrong sort of celebrity to your opponent is gaining momentum as the political weapon of choice in the Barack Obama camp, as the BBC ("Sesame Street urges Obama campaign to drop Big Bird ad") reports:
"The creators of Big Bird have called on the Obama campaign to withdraw a new advertisement that uses the character in an attack on rival Mitt Romney. The ad mocks the Republican candidate for singling out the public broadcaster behind Sesame Street for spending cuts. Mr Romney said in a presidential debate last week that he would slash funding to PBS, despite liking Big Bird.
[Katnote: Big Bird is an eight-foot two-inch (249 cm) tall bright primrose-yellow bird who stands two full feet taller than Arnold Schwarzenegger, a mere dwarf at 188 cm. BB can skate, dance, sing, write poetry, draw and even ride a unicycle -- but, like many a politician, he is prone to frequent misunderstandings].  
... Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind the long-running children's show, said in a statement that it was a non-partisan organisation.

"We do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns," the organisation said.

... Others wonder whether using Big Bird in an ad is a sign of Democratic desperation. That is rather over the top too: it's not chicken to run an internet advert that gets greater exposure because it's funny and the sort of thing people talk and tweet about. ...".
The IPKat assumes that Big Bird does not roam the prairies as a free-range bird but is protected by at least some of the usual intellectual property rights.  If this is indeed so, he wonders whether, in the litigation-happy United States, a failure to commence legal proceedings against the legal entity behind the Obama campaign, seeking injunctive relief and a seven- or eight-figure sum in damages, would be taken as a tacit endorsement.

Merpel thinks it would be fun to list some 'negative celebrities' and the political figures to whom they might be attached.

1 comment:

Roufousse T. Fairfly said...

The IPKat assumes that Big Bird does not roam the prairies as a free-range bird but is protected by at least some of the usual intellectual property rights.

Why do ask? Is the IPpuddykat interested in bagging himself the overgrown Tweety bird?

Of course did Henson protect most of his characters as soon as they were created. The USPTO TESS is a bit tedious to use, but I can provide a link to the Canadian trademark registration filed back in 1972 when Big Bird was barely hatched.

In Germany it is only the BB's bill which is protected, see the mugshot.

If this is indeed so, he wonders whether, in the litigation-happy United States, a failure to commence legal proceedings against the legal entity behind the Obama campaign, seeking injunctive relief and a seven- or eight-figure sum in damages, would be taken as a tacit endorsement.

But initiating proceedings against one side might be interpreted as an endorsement for the other side which had made this an "issue" in the first place... I saw the ad, and my gut feeling is that it falls under fair use and free speech provisions. Sesame's counsels might think the same, and could also fear a sort of Streisand effect.

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