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May 30, 2004 - Adventures in Intellectual Property Rights

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I thought my friends in France would get a kick out of this first item.  The French gave us the big lady with the torch in New York harbor.  It seems they gave Rio de Janeiro that big concrete statue of Jesus up on Corcovado.  Very impressive.  The French do commemorative statues well.  They give them away as gifts.  And now there is a licensing dispute regarding cheap souvenirs of this Rio statue.  The French heirs want a big cut. 


This is most curious.  I do wonder that Henry, the writer below, may not be reliable, as he seems to think Rio is on the Pacific.  But perhaps the story is true otherwise.


Would the families of Bertholdi and Eiffel now be thinking of suing folks in New York for a cut of the profits from hundred of thousands of miniature plastic Statues of Liberty?


See Heirs Press Creator's Claim to Rio's Christ

Locals grouse as the French family of the iconic statue's sculptor seeks royalties.

Henry Chu, Times Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2004


The basics:


For 73 years, the colossal white figure of Christ the Redeemer, this city's best-known icon, has gazed beatifically out to sea from its lofty perch on a mountain high above the madding crowd. Visible from nearly every part of Rio, the giant statue with outstretched arms is such a ubiquitous presence that residents, when asked who owns it, are prone to say, "Everybody."

Not so fast.

A family in faraway France has caused a minor stir here by claiming the copyright to the beloved figure and all royalties stemming from its reproduction — a potential fortune judging by the multitude of T-shirts, postcards, paperweights, key rings, figurines, magnets, placemats, porcelain plates and other souvenirs bearing the monument's likeness.

The descendants of Paul Landowski, the sculptor who fashioned the statue's massive head and hands, say that a 1998 Brazilian law on artistic authorship entitles them to the rights to the use of the statue's image. Apparently concluding that the meek won't inherit much, the family has hired lawyers to press its claim, in court if necessary.

But the demand has touched a raw nerve of patriotic indignation among some people who believe that Brazil's cultural heritage — and possibly those of other countries — is on the line.

"It belongs to mankind," actor Bemvindo Siqueira said of the monument. If Landowski's heirs succeed in their quest, "you could start a never-ending claim of property rights," he warned. "After the Christ, the Statue of Liberty could be next."


Yes, that is a concern.  Ah, those perfidious French!

Well it seems the family's Brazilian lawyers dismiss this “extreme scenario.”  It’s just a matter of legal rights.  "We're not talking about who it belongs to. We're talking about rights of authorship," said Maria Luiza de Freitas Valle Egea, one of the family's attorneys, who is based in Sao Paulo.  "The whole world knows that Paul Landowski was the sculptor of Christ the Redeemer."


You can click on the link for the whole history of the statue in Rio, and much detail regarding the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Brazil's independence from Portugal, in 1922.


But the things is vastly popular – and THAT is the problem.


Last year, more than 1 million visitors hiked or rode a small train through the Tijuca forest up to the site. The views from the base of the landmark are breathtaking, with sunshine glinting off tiny white buildings and the sapphire canvas of the Pacific [sic] Ocean below.

Inevitably, the statue's image has been stamped endlessly not just on the kitschy trinkets hawked by souvenir vendors but on shop signs, book covers, travel brochures, stationery and anything else in need of an instantly recognizable symbol of Rio.

The question now is whether the use of the image of Christ the Redeemer belongs to the public domain, Landowski's descendants or the Catholic Church, which also lays claim to the statue but says it has no interest in charging for the commercial reproduction of its likeness. The Landowskis' attorneys contend that the law on intellectual and artistic property guarantees the family rights to the work for 70 years after the sculptor's death in 1961.


"His heirs hold the original sketch he made," said Christiane Ramonbordes of the Society of Authors in the Graphic and Plastic Arts, which represents the Landowskis in Paris. "Whether it's a historical monument or not doesn't change the exclusive rights to the work granted by the law to the heirs."


Hey!  The problem?  It’s the merchandizing rights!  We’re talking millions of dollars here!

Well, as our friend Emma in France says...


Well as one finds it difficult to make a living working these days.  It seems to be that everyone is going to even greater lengths to think up clever ways of getting some money.  C'est la vie.


Perhaps so.  But this week we see this is not always the case:


Hitler Heir Doesn't Want 'Mein Kampf' Royalties

Mon May 24, 9:50 AM ET


BERLIN (Reuters) - A German historian said Sunday a distant relative of Adolf Hitler could sue the state of Bavaria for royalties from the Nazi dictator's book "Mein Kampf" but the retired Austrian engineer said he wants no part of it.


Werner Maser told Bild am Sonntag that Peter Raubal, whose father Leo Raubal was a nephew of Hitler, would have a strong chance of winning the copyright from Bavaria, which was given the German rights to the book by the postwar occupying powers.


"Peter Raubal is the only heir of Hitler that I know of," Maser said.  "As the closest relative alive, he could claim royalties from Hitler's book 'Mein Kampf'. Raubal would have to sue Bavaria.  I am quite certain he would win."


Hitler died with no immediate heirs but Leo Raubal was one of his half-sister Angela Raubal's children.  Maser said Leo Raubal long considered such a lawsuit before his death in 1979.  Bild am Sonntag said royalties could be worth millions of euros.


"Yes I know the whole story about Hitler's inheritance," Peter Raubal told Bild am Sonntag in what the paper said were his first public comments on the issue.  "But I don't want to have anything to do with it. I will not do anything about it.  I only want to be left alone." …


[ more details at the link… ]




Mmm.…  Interesting, though I think if I was the guy, I would do something unorthodox like fighting Bavaria for the royalties, and then after winning, passing every penny on to any association or organization set up and still existing to aid WWII victims and their relatives.


Agreed.  Why let the royalties go to waste?


And finally?


First the dispute over the merchandizing rights to that French statue of Christ overlooking the bay in Rio, and then the business with who gets the royalties from Adolph Hitler’s famous book.  And now this.  Will it never end?


Battle of the Bozos goes to an original

Saying credit for creating the character has long been misplaced, the clown authorities step in.

By Carrie Antlfinger, Associated Press, May 28 2004


MILWAUKEE - There are no hand buzzers, trick flowers or balloon animals in this clown story. The issue is who created Bozo the Clown - and the dispute is wiping the smile off some clowns' faces.

For years, promoter and entertainer Larry Harmon claimed to have created the character.

Now the International Clown Hall of Fame in downtown Milwaukee is formally endorsing a different version: Capitol Records executive Alan Livingston created Bozo for recordings in 1946, and the late Vance "Pinto" Colvig was the first person to play the clown.

Today the hall is posthumously inducting Colvig as the first Bozo.

That reverses the hall's Lifetime of Laughter Award given to Harmon in 1990 as Bozo's creator. The hall has since taken Harmon's plaque off its honor wall.

Kathryn O'Dell, the hall's executive director, said the hall was duped into believing that Harmon created Bozo and didn't find out the truth until ABCnews.com columnist and entertainment producer Buck Wolf reported Harmon was wrongly laying claim to the character.

"It was something that was hinted at and hinted at and we started to do research, and sure enough the information we were getting from outside sources was true," O'Dell said.

Although Harmon popularized the character beginning in the 1950s, Livingston and Colvig were the first to develop it, she said.

Colvig's voice was used in the first recordings, and he wrote some of Bozo's first songs, made the first live appearances and was the first Bozo on television.

Capitol Records Inc. sold all rights to Bozo the Capitol Clown - except the masters for the previous records - in the mid-1950s to Harmon, who a few years earlier had answered a Capitol casting call to be a Bozo.

Harmon ended up training more than 200 Bozos over the years and turning Bozo into a character for 156 cartoons that he sold in the United States and around the world.

Harmon, 79, said from his home in Los Angeles that he's saddened to have the hall remove his plaque, and he denied misrepresenting Bozo's history.

"Isn't it a shame the credit that was given to me for the work I have done, they arbitrarily take it down, like I didn't do anything for the last 52 years," he said.

He said he has always acknowledged that Livingston created Bozo the Capitol Clown. But he said he created Bozo's personality and image today.

"What I created for the world was me and my image, what I sound like, what I look like, what I walk like, what the costume looked like," he said.

Bozo the Capitol Clown had red mop hair and spoke with a drawl. Harmon's Bozo had bright orange-red yak hair and spoke faster.


Well, that’s actually settled, even if someone is made quite unhappy.


Emma in France?


I am at a loss for words.  Yes… completely "bozoed" !


It is amazing. 


Milwaukee, one must recall, is not only the home of the International Clown Hall of Fame, it is the birthplace of Liberace.  I haven’t visited the city in many decades, but it is now, it seems, becoming properly surreal.  Time to go back.  


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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