by Paul Alan Levy
Much just like the case of Jeremy Whittaker a number of years in the past, a demand letter from the overall counsel of an elective transit district within the East Bay seeks to intrude with the political marketing campaign of a candidate in search of to switch the lawyer’s bosses. The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District has threatened Victoria Fierce as a result of her campaign web site violates an ordinance adopted by that municipal physique as a result of it comprises images during which the AT Transit emblem could be seen, and since the administrators in opposition to whom she is operating haven’t licensed her to hold such photographs. The photographs embrace two photographs of an AC Transit bus and one shot of an AC Transit route signal (such because the picture right here, additionally displayed with out authorization).
So AC Transit calls for that Fierce take away the photographs and stop “another unauthorized use.”
There is a twist on the silly demand letter that Whittaker obtained from Mesa’s exterior counsel – as a substitute of expressly alleging trademark infringement, AC Transit depends on an ordinance that purports to make unauthorized use of the emblem “unlawful.” Now, I’m no skilled on California municipal regulation, however i’ve not been in a position to determine any California statute that confers basic police powers on a municipal transit district, in order that it has any energy to make it “unlawful” for a member of the general public to show its emblem. And even when the District had such powers, the First Amendment wouldn’t enable a authorities physique to forbid truthful noncommercial speech that reveals a municipal bus or route signal on which a emblem is displayed.
So I assume that the company has in thoughts to fall again on trademark regulation to deal with the show of the emblem as a type of infringement. however the notion that Fierce may very well be discovered accountable for infringement primarily based on her show of those photographs is simply as absurd because the notion that AC Transit might proceed in opposition to Public Citizen for the graphic that accompanies this weblog publish.
My letter to AC Transit’s General Counsel Jill Sprague explains why Fierce just isn’t going to take the photographs down. I invite Sprague and her elected bosses to publish a remark justifying their heavy-handed assault on Fierce’s marketing campaign website online.