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Magick and Insane Rules

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on June 19, 2010 | Comments (2)

Over 15 years ago, Microsoft spent half a decade trying to trademark the term “Windows.” They sued a company named “Lindows” and eventually just paid them $20 million to change their name. Today, there is a long list of rules available as to how you can use the word “Windows.” You could be sued if you use “Windows” in the wrong way.

Apple got a trademark for their iconic “iPod.” That’s understandable. But they extended it to anything with “pod” in the name and legally threatened companies that used that term.

Various well-funded companies buy up small companies with patents on small bits of computer codes. If another company, on its own, comes up with something vaguely similar, the owner of the patent—although never making any product—will sue for millions, hoping the other company will pay them off rather than paying even more to defend themselves in a court case.

If you have ever illegally download a song, you have stolen a few cents from the musicians and perhaps 90¢ or more from the handful of companies that dominate the music industry. The industry representatives, the RIAA, believes anyone who does that should be fined $750 per song and wants $1.5 trillion from a company that allows the illegal downloading of materials under copyright. I’m against theft, but $1.5 trillion? BP is only setting aside $20 billion for the decimation of the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding land, economies, and jobs caused by the failure of their drilling operation.

In the 1970s, a man named Bikram Choudhury came from India to the U.S. and began teaching yoga in studios where the heat was set at 105° Fahrenheit. He has tried to copyright the 26 traditional yoga postures (asanas) that he uses. If successful, other schools wouldn’t be able to teach those poses (in the order he gives them) without paying him money.

In fact, the U.S. patent office has issued about 3,000 patents on yoga postures and variations. In response, a group in India is trying to patent some 900 traditional yoga postures so others can’t keep them for themselves.

Stop the Insanity!

These amazing abuses of trademark, copyright, and patent laws needs to be examined and corrected. Theoretically, if I wrote, “I had to open the curtains on the windows around the area I call my personal pod in order to use my computer,” I could be sued by the two largest technology companies in the world, who collectively have a current value of over $480 billion. This is insane.

Or how about this: a guy named “Joe Somebody” writes a book that includes a variation on a basic ritual such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram or the Charge of the Goddess. He gets a copyright on the book and self-publishes it for a couple hundred dollars. Then, claiming copyright, he threatens to sue every publisher with a book that includes those rituals unless they license it by paying him 10¢ for each copy sold. My guess is that most publishers, rather than paying perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, will pay him off.

Right now, every time a play is produced on Broadway, the writer of the play gets a fee for performing rights. Joe Somebody could sue your Order or Coven and demand a fee each time you did the LBRP or the Charge.

To the best of my knowledge, these things haven’t happened…yet. But as magick becomes more mainstream, I won’t be surprised to see this sort of thing happen. I strongly support the idea of copyright and patents. People deserve to make money from their original work. It is the abuse of such protections that needs to be examined and corrected.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Kyle
on June 19th, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

Strongly agreed. As an attorney, I see personally how this has gotten out of control, and largely it’s due to our litigious-friendly legal system. There are some strong benefits to our legal system, but one of the *major* weakness is that one individual can bankrupt another just by causing him to incur massive legal fees. Since there is very little in terms of penalties for filing frivolous lawsuits, the powerful often try to shakedown the weak. And with new technology coming out constantly, the law is having a hard time catching up with the reality of the world we live in. Many things today are trademarked, patented, and licensed that were never intended to be. Slogans and jingles I get. But actually speeches have been trademarked. One notable example is Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which cannot be said or printed without paying royalties. Even a Washington, D.C. monument to Dr. King ran aground when the builders were told they could not etch into stone the speech without paying royalties (his image is trademarked, too). Today, shockingly in my opinion, certain medical tests, treatments, and *YOUR OWN GENES* are trademarked. If a lab develops a test for a certain gene (to, say, diagnose a hereditary condition), only they themselves can test for that gene in the future, charging 10s of times what it would cost otherwise. If a lab or doctor discovers a gene in YOUR body, they can then copyright it! So if you go to the doctor, and she finds you have “abc123″ gene, she can trademark YOUR gene, and anyone (including you) wanting to test for “abc123″ in the future will have to pay YOUR doctor a royalty. You don’t see a penny, of course. There are some legal organizations and lawyers in court now trying to stop or at least limit this. Let’s wish them luck.

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#2 
Written By lyn thompson
on June 19th, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

if he got the copyright he would have a hell of a time defending it in court, he would have to prove that his derivative work was different enough from the original which is under public domain to be a unique work and copyrightable and then his copyright would only protect what made it unique and not extend to the ordinal piece.

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