September 19, 2006

"If nominated, Oprah Winfrey will serve..."

"...a cease and desist letter." Is she not justified in preventing people from appropriating her name and image to promote themselves?

20 comments:

J. Peden said...

When her production company is called "Harpo"? Just who was/is backwards.

Ricardo said...

Let's ask Kitty Kelley (among others) this same question.

Gerald Hibbs said...

So, how exactly is Oprah harmed by this guy's actions? That is what is claimed in the papers.

Okay, perhaps I'm just being vindictive, but if I were this guy I would switch over to harpooning Oprah mercilessly along the lines of the campaign being Oprah's bid for absolute power.

Anne can correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that immediately all of the complaints would immediately be without basis as such fair use is covered under parody/satire.

If Oprah's lawyers still kept coming that would be a wonderful opportunity to seek publicity and media attention to her over reach with spin that she's trying to crush the little guy and his free speech rights.

Whatever Opah's rights may be, these people need to learn to take themselves less seriously. She would have been far better served by appropriating such fan love (the guy has spent some $60,000!!!!!) and enjoying the joke by mentioning it on her show or perhaps even having the guy on for a segment.

It's kinda like the music companies going after a fan made music video on YouTube. It seems clear to me that such activities promote and extend the branding of these musicians/companies rather than take away profits and earnings.

Further, draconian measures against the fans are incredibly poor PR and actually do do damage to the brand.

J. Peden said...

"Harpo" is Harpo Marx, one of the Marx Bros., the most famous, and put forth as the smartest, of which is Graucho - even including Karl. Oprah is trading on "Harpo". So why is she complaining?

Ans: she is a fake.

Seven Machos said...

What kind of a weirdo wants Oprah to be president? What kind of a weirdo sues that weirdo?

It is an interesting case, though. It's not like this woman has been shunning the spotlight, and the rules as I understand them are a bit different for private persons versus celebrities.

Troy said...

Cut her some slack -- 69 year old retired teachers from Kansas City can be real bastards to near-billionaires.

Gerald's right ... He should go on an Oprah parody blitz. Bull Moose Party, Greenback Party, Tippecanoe and Dr. Phil too....

Ann Althouse said...

"Harpo" is Harpo Marx, one of the Marx Bros., the most famous, and put forth as the smartest, of which is Graucho - even including Karl. Oprah is trading on "Harpo". So why is she complaining?"

Oprah's Harpo is not based on Harpo Marx, but the character she played in the movie "The Color Purple," who was named Harpo. She was nominated for an Oscar playing that role, and by extraordinary coincidence, Harpo is Oprah spelled backwards. That is why she chose the name for her production company.

I agree that going after fan sites is usually bad, but trademark protection is important and she's got an amazingly valuable name.

That said, political campaigns are important as a free speech matter, and trying to draft someone as a candidate should be protected as part of political speech.

I'm just saying I don't think Oprah's being ridiculous here, but I don't think she should win.

(I haven't researched this as a legal issue. This is just a casual opinion.)

Malibu Stacy said...

A small correction: Harpo was the name of the husband of Winfrey's character Sofia in "The Color Purple."

Oprah's parents intended to name her after the Biblical Orpah, daughter of Naomi, but they bungled the spelling. Good thing, as Hapro doesn't sound like much of a media empire.

Derve said...

" Is she not justified in preventing people from appropriating her name and image to promote themselves? "


Whoa. For a minute there, I thought someone nominated her for something like Hottest ERISA attorney or something...

Marghlar said...

It seems like this guy's antics are either protected political speech (i.e., he really wants Oprah to be president) or else protected artistic expression (he thinks he's a funny satirist or something). For the publicity tort to work, it would have to be clear that the profit motive is uppermost in his reasons for doing this, which is not at all clear to me.

Pogo said...

"Brand protection" aside, this is really, really dumb. In my view, Oprah just damaged her own brand, by exposing us to the rumored near-tyrannical control she maintains over her enterprise. Rather than Earth Mother Supreme, she's beginning to look like Jimmy Hoffa in drag.

The man's a fly, and she came at him with a Howitzer. Unless he's some sort of stalker, this was a bad move.

As for 'brand protection'? This seems to be the new legal manuever to allow corporate attorneys to bludgeon those who dare criticize a company. It's getting ugly, too.

Ann Althouse said...

Malibu: Thanks for the correction. I guess the coincidence isn't that extraordinary. Isn't Harpo an abusive husband?

Malibu Stacy said...

Harpo was not much of a success at being the abusive husband that his father Albert was to Celie. Sofia cleaned his clock when he tried to beat her.

MadisonMan said...

I wonder what the reaction would be if someone 69-year old retired school teacher did this to Donald Trump (why isn't his production company Pmurt?) and he pursued the same legal course.

dklittl said...

"Brand protection" aside, this is really, really dumb. In my view, Oprah just damaged her own brand, by exposing us to the rumored near-tyrannical control she maintains over her enterprise.

The problem Pogo is that Oprah is bulletproof. There is obviously a sizeable segment of the population who has no interest in her self-help/mystical mumbo jumbo, but there is at least as large a segment who will follow Oprah to the ends of the earth. This incident won't dent Oprah's standing one bit among the "faithful". At this point, only a depraved act with a farm animal could hurt Oprah's brand.

Gerald Hibbs said...

Yeah, and Rosie was bulletproof. Google IS bullet proof, right? All the people annoyed with them over cooperation with tyrannical regimes will just get over it.

The problem is that the show is Oprah's life. She isn't going to want to quit until she is forced to.

The danger is that young women will be turned off by her amazing self-regard and give their eyeballs to a competitor.

At which time the competitor becomes the hot new thing. Oprah's current fanatical fans can check out the competition and like it.

Soon Oprah's cache is gone, her numbers dwindling and her power fleeing.

I'm not saying it will happen soon, but it happens to everyone sooner or later. Stuff like this helps it happen sooner.

When you make your living off of people adoring you its best not to spit in their faces because they adore you. "Live by the fan, die by the fan."

Joe Baby said...

We should elect Oprah just for the sheer pleasure of impeaching her. And in watching Gayle King be given the job of reforming Social Security.

And I could see James Frey in a John Dean-type of role.

Joe Baby said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Troy said...

There's a three word reason for never voting for Oprah Winfrey -- more Maya Angelou. Blech! Her Clinton poem was awful enough.

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