The great thing about being an IP professor is that you get to comment on the pressing information technology and information freedom issues of the day.

Like, oh, chefs copying other chefs’ creations. (blogpost here)

And, oh, the BIG issue: will elvis impersonators still have a livelihood in the future? Last night, if you watched closely, you might have seen me spouting forth on ABC news on the issue of whether transactions recently occurring over the Elvis Estate in the US would lead to Elvis impersonators losing their jobs (short version of the story here). Apparently, a new majority holder in Elvis Enterprises is threatening to crack down on ‘unauthorised’ Elvis impersonators. ABC News called me to comment (on my day off!!! Nothing like taking time out from a heavy shopping expedition to do a quick media interview. And nothing like taking a quick stop by the Myer make-up counters to get ready…).

Frankly, I can’t see that there will be a legal issue for the impersonators here. Far more important issues were being ventilated by Cory Doctorow last night in Melbourne (and tonight in Sydney – go if you can!)

Back to Elvis for a minute. Obviously, there would need to be a disclaimer noting that any event/impersonator was not ‘authorised’ by the Estate. Australia does not recognise ‘publicity rights’ or personality rights (ie, property rights in celebrity image). There are Elvis Presley trade marks (see 449961 for publications, 449965 for “entertainer services, entertainment, production of sound recordings, television entertainment and theatre productions” – most likely to hit the impersonators). But even trade marks cannot prevent people from using a term descriptively (John Smith, Elvis Impersonator; John Smith sings Elvis). Would it prevent “The Elvis Festival”? Maybe – but how about “The Festival of Elvis?” I wouldn’t have thought so – that’s arguably descriptive (non trade mark) use.

Frankly, the whole thing is a good argument against publicity rights. There’s a thriving business out there of Elvis Impersonators. Wouldn’t it be a pity to lose them?

Meanwhile, the really important issues in IP law were being ventilated by Cory Doctorow to a sold-out crowd at ACMI. It was a very impressive talk, which wove in all the big digital copyright issues into one, comprehensive, interesting, engaging and non-technical, non-legal talk. Personally, I was impressed at three things:

  1. Doctorow’s ability to draw in all the big digital copyright issues into just one talk;
  2. His ability to explain things in plain English; and
  3. His ability to put things not from a hippy-freedom-loving-but-it’s-free-speech-man perspective, but rather a ‘how do I make money on the Internet/what’s an internet-ready business model perspective. So good to see the non-fluffy commie-lefty perspective which still maintains that digital copyright must not hamper innovation.

I’ve got copious notes, and hope to blog later about the content of the talk. But if he’s not sold out already in Sydney tonight, I can offer a personal recommendation.