No One Said It Would Be Fun

Carla Ulbrich is an extremely talented singer-songwriter. In her song “If I Had the Copyright,” she speculates about how rich she would be were she to own the copyright on the word “fuck.”

How will I ever educate the world about intellectual property when a self-described professional smart aleck disseminates false information?

“What false information is conveyed in Ms. Ulbrich’s song?” I hear you ask.

Well, first, one cannot get a copyright for a single word. So there’s that. And if you have a copyright on a work titled “Fuck” that would not result in a royalty payment each time the word is spoken.

For example, Lady Crush owns the copyright on the song “Fuck” and no one is paying her a royalty when they articulate their feelings about the number 7 train.[1]

“Perhaps the song should have been titled ‘If I Had the Trademark’,” I hear you suggest hoping to shut me up.

‘Fraid not. Aside from completely destroying the song’s meter, having trademark rights in the word FUCK still wouldn’t result in royalty income sufficient to allow one to “retire on Brooklyn alone.”

There are currently five live applications to register the word “fuck” as a trademark.[2] If and when one of those becomes a registration, it doesn’t mean you’ll have to pay the owner a royalty for dropping the F bomb. It just means you can’t use it as a brand to sell goods or services that are similar to the goods and services in the registrations.

Truth is rarely as entertaining as Ms. Ulbrich. Such is life.

 

 

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[1] Title 17 USC §106: “Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following: (1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords; (2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work; (3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending; (4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly; (5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and (6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.”

[2] As of October 16, 2018, there are applications to register FUCK for: alcoholic beverages; clothing; snow globes; and toys.

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