Of course iconic James Dean, who died in 1955 aged just 24, was sadly never able to tweet.
What happened here is that an anonymous Twitter user registered the username @JamesDean and tweeted tributes to legendary Hollywood rebel from this account. Although often referring to James Dean in third person, this account did bear no mention that it was neither an officially sanctioned nor a fan account.
Apparently CMG Worldwide, a firm that manages the actor's (and many other dead celebrities') licensing empire, was not particularly happy about this state of affairs [well, sniffs Merpel, if CMG was so concerned about unauthorised uses of James Dean's name and likeness, why didn't it think of registering the @JamesDean account in the first place, as other more tech- (or just marketing-) savvy celebrities are used to do?].
|Shammai, Gigi and Claire deceptively |
portrayed to look as if they were only
concerned about their meal,
when they are actually pondering
Twitter impersonation policy
Twitter's impersonation policy indeed states that "Accounts with similar usernames or that are similar in appearance (e.g. the same background or avatar image) are not automatically in violation of the impersonation policy [but this Kat suspects that this may nonetheless result in a violation of Twitter copyright policy]. In order to be impersonation, the account must also portray another person in a misleading or deceptive manner."
Could a @JamesDean follower possibly be misled into believing that those tweets actually came from James Dean himself? That would be actually quite miraculous indeed ...
Also Twitter's trademark policy implies that a certain degree of user (consumer) confusion is required [is this compatible with EU trademark law, especially when it comes to trademarks with a reputation?]: "Using a company or business name, logo, or other trademark-protected materials in a manner that may mislead or confuse others with regard to its brand or business affiliation may be considered a trademark policy violation." If you take a trip to the "James Dean" trademarks registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office, you'll see that there are just two trademarks still "live", for use in connection with "giftware - namely, porcelain plates, mugs and figurines" and "clothing, namely T-shirts, jackets and headwear", respectively.
|Probably reading a guide |
to the Top5 ways you can breach
the law on Twitter without knowing it
In all this, it would seem that no claim of copyright infringement was made, probably [but this is just Kat-speculation] because CMG does not own the copyright to the James Dean images - including the profile picture - published by @JamesDean.
Could Twitter rely on the First Amendment, for instance by referring to the transformative value of @JamesDean, similarly to what happened with this Kat's beloved Mad Men and the legal row over its opening credits?
|Ehm ... Are you perhaps |
being a little
too bold here?
Twitter declined to comment, on grounds that it does not“We looked at it as a positive sign that as the litigation moves forward, Twitter has suspended the site. No, there isn’t any judgement yet”.
Although the (current) outcome of the James Dean case appears (deeply) linked to the peculiarities of Indiana law, what might the broader implications be, both in terms of Twitter impersonation (and trademark) policies and user activities over this social networking site?
This Kat wonders whether all this may mean that the "bio" section of one's Twitter account is bound to become an actual "legal disclaimer" section about (1) Who you are NOT; (2) What you do NOT do; (3) Who/What you do NOT endorse.
Well, says Merpel, isn't this already what the bio section of lawyers is all about (RTs not endorsements, personal views only, not my employer's opinions, etc)?