By: Sharon Aron Baron
Writing about crime, politics, and local events becomes mundane after a while. Hence, we occasionally liven things up with a little humor, including poking fun of the city that we cover here on Tamarac Talk.
Well, we must have touched some nerves after making fun of the mayor because the law firm for the City of Tamarac, Goren Cherof Doody & Ezrol P.A., sent our publication a cease and desist letter telling us that our unauthorized usage of the city’s logo was trademark infringement for the article “It’s Good to Be the King when you are the Mayor of Tamarac.”
You heard that right. Your taxpayer dollars were used to go after this website. And your mayor and commissioners signed off on this.
The article compares the mayor to a king, said that he’s far too special to answer his email from the “lowly plebeians in his fiefdom.” Also, how city staff has to round-up “seat warmers” to fill the chambers for his State of the City addresses, luring them under the guise of receiving a proclamation.
It clearly isn’t our most important work, but humorous articles break up the crime and other news on this site.
We contend that using the city logo with the Burger King mascot photoshopped in front of it is clearly a parody of protected free speech and that using taxpayers’ dollars to have the city’s attorneys fight sophomoric cases like this is an insult to all of our residents.
What’s so frightening is that it seems that the city and the law firm of Goren Cherof Doody & Ezrol P.A. were unaware of the right of free speech enshrined in both United States and Florida Constitutions and the doctrine of fair use.
The fair use doctrine allows the use of copyrighted materials for purposes such as criticism or comment, which is not a copyright infringement. See 17 U.S.C. § 107(1982). As 17 USC § 107 makes it obvious, the purpose of this section is to prevent copyright from being used as a device of censorship, which is exactly what the City of Tamarac is trying to do.
Copyright used to inhibit the free flow of information conflicts with the Constitution’s free speech protections when used in this manner. Without the fair use exception to copyright, free speech would be, at best, inhibited and, in some cases, eliminated. Debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open and may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasant attacks.
Moreover, as we stated, our use of the city logo in this article is a parody.
This isn’t the first time that the City has picked on Tamarac Talk in its attempt to stifle public commentary, either. Using taxpayers’ dollars to fight bonafide, protected free speech like public commentary is mismanagement of priorities and money. Clearly, the City should spend its funds on more important issues, like security and public works.
Last April Fool’s Day, we wrote an article for our other website Coral Springs Talk that the City of Coral Springs was annexing the City of Parkland and photo-shopped Coral Springs commissioners in front of the City of Parkland sign.
The article seemed serious, but when readers went further, it had a silly quote from then-Parkland Mayor Michael Udine. Hundreds of people fell for it. One home buyer in Parkland threatened to cancel her closing that day. Residents were calling both city mayors and commissioners, asking if it were true.
Mayors Skip Campbell and Michael Udine were such great sports too. The point we’re trying to make is that the City of Tamarac doesn’t understand parody, and they certainly don’t appreciate anyone making fun of them.