DC Agrees To Allow Use Of Superman Logo For Memorial Statue

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DC Agrees To Allow Use Of Superman Logo For Memorial Statue

Jeffrey Baldwin Superman Statue

UPDATE: The company has reversed its position.

Update 07/9/14: After two days of minor controversy, the company has officially reversed that decision. by The Toronto Starhas reported this morning that DC will allow the statue to be made as originally designed.

"DC Entertainment uses a flexible set of criteria when we receive worthy requests such as this, and at times have reconsidered our initial stance," a DC spokesperson said in a press statement. "After verifying the support of appropriate family members, DC Entertainment will be allowing the Jeffrey Baldwin Memorial Statue to feature the Superman 'S' shield."

Prior coverage of this story continues below.

Update: While DC still hasn't provided an official statement, its communications with Boyce have been quoted by The Toronto Star. An email, attributed to DC's senior vice-president of business and legal affairs Amy Genkins, states that "for a variety of legal reasons, we are not able to accede to the request, nor many other incredibly worthy projects that come to our attention."

While still somewhat vague, the tone of the email does suggest more sympathy on DC's part than other stories have implied. We will keep you appraised of further developments.

Original Story: In 2002, five year-old Jeffrey Baldwin died from complications caused by malnourishment and years of abuse from his grandparents and caretakers. His death was horrendous and tragic, which inspired IT worker Todd Boyce to have a memorial statue made in his honor. Learning of Baldwin's love of Superman, Boyce decided that the statue should bear his favorite hero's symbol when it was erected in Greenwood Park, Toronto, this year. Unfortunately, according to Boyce, DC Entertainment refused the logo's use on the memorial.

"Basically they didn't want to have the character of Superman associated with child abuse. They weren't comfortable with that," Boyce told The Canadian Press. "To be fair to DC I don't think they wanted to say no. I think they gave it serious thought."

Upon hearing more of Jeffrey's life, and seeing a picture of the boy in a Superman costume, Boyce immediately decided to integrate it into the statue. The memorial, in its current form, depicts Baldwin wearing his Superman costume while standing proudly on a park bench. Boyce now claims, however, that the request was turned down by DC representatives on the grounds that it's in poor taste.

"He wanted to fly," Jeffrey's father, Richard Baldwin, later testified. "He tried jumping off the chair. We had to make him stop. He dressed up (as Superman) for Halloween one year ... He was so excited. I have that picture at home hanging on my wall. He was our little man of steel."

While the story paints DC in a severely unflattering light on the surface, intellectual property holders do face the risk that unlicensed use of products can undermine copyright ownership. Disney famously stopped three Florida daycare centers from using Disney characters in murals in 1989 for this very reason. Further, and more relevant here given the reason claimed by Boyle, while what happened to Jeffrey Baldwin was horrific, it makes some sense that DC would be incredibly reluctant to link the event to one of its biggest characters.

That being said, DC Entertainment has previously allowed for its intellectual properties to be used by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Further, Superman's likeness has in the past been used to commemorate real-world deaths, and DC has also published stories addressing child welfare issues directly.

It must also be noted that so far DC has not responded to media requests regarding this matter, and all accounts of this story are derived from the original article published by The Canadian Press, which relies exclusively on testimony by Boyce and by Jeffrey Baldwin's family. Which is to say, this story ought to be approached with healthy skepticism until DC issues a statement. We've reached out to DC Entertainment for a statement, and will update this story with any new information.

Regardless, the important factor here is to acknowledge Jeffrey at his happiest, not dwell on trademarks, and Boyce seems to agree. "(I) realized that the most important thing is to have a fitting monument for Jeffrey, that it's about him," he said. In response, he will change the letter on Superman's logo from an "S" to a "J" before it is cast in bronze for a September unveiling.

Source: CBC

Permalink

I'm sick of publishers thinking about the bottom line. As if a move like this could serve any potential harm to the image of superman, he is a fictional character and in this child's short and miserable life Superman was his venue of escape to feel good about himself. People seeing a statue dedicated to Jeffrey Baldwin in a superman costume is going to make onlookers probably think more highly of "the intellectual property" and in turn DC.

flarty:
I'm sick of publishers thinking about the bottom line. As if a move like this could serve any potential harm to the image of superman, he is a fictional character and in this child's short and miserable life Superman was his venue of escape to feel good about himself. People seeing a statue dedicated to Jeffrey Baldwin in a superman costume is going to make onlookers probably think more highly of "the intellectual property" and in turn DC.

While I am among those who think that copyright law is absurd, I also recognize that it is, currently, the law. DC, and Disney, and Marvel, and any number of companies would be fools to risk losing their copyrights because they permit unlicensed use.

That said, as Marshall pointed out in the story, right now there's only one source for this story - and DC has previously shown a willingness to allow some use of their logos for good causes. I expect when DC finally comments there will be details we haven't yet heard.

Sounds fine to me. It's easy to drum up sympathy when you start talking about people dying, particularly children. But death is a rather common event, and there's no reason to expect to grant license to it's materials as a result of that.

Sure, it would be good of them to allow it. But I would not say it is bad of them to not.

Okay, someone who understands trademark law... is there anything that would legally "dilute" a trademark about granting "individual no-cost licenses" for people to use in these cases? I keep seeing people saying that these companies "have to defend their IP" as an excuse not to allow use where it seems they otherwise would. If they really didn't want to be dicks about it, why not use a simple legal method to do so?

JarinArenos:
Okay, someone who understands trademark law... is there anything that would legally "dilute" a trademark about granting "individual no-cost licenses" for people to use in these cases? I keep seeing people saying that these companies "have to defend their IP" as an excuse not to allow use where it seems they otherwise would. If they really didn't want to be dicks about it, why not use a simple legal method to do so?

The real issue - and the thing that makes me question the story as it's being reported everywhere (but not here, yay Escapist!) - is that DC supposedly said they didn't want the logo associated with child abuse. DC has previously allowed stuff like this, for non profits, and they've also used Superman to commemorate real world death. So...

As for copyright law, dilution of trademark only really becomes serious when it involves for profit enterprises, but there are certain risks associated with even non profits.

It may indeed turn out that DC denied the use. And it might turn out that it is even because they didn't want the logo associated with child abuse. Personally, that justification seems too tone deaf for a company of this size and with this media sophistication to claim, which is why I'm waiting until the company responds before passing judgment.

DC is morally and legally in their rights. Why are they under an obligation to allow their shit to go on anything and everything, with their opinion of the taste of the subject matter irrelevant? I kinda find this a little tasteless as well.

PrinceOfShapeir:
DC is morally and legally in their rights. Why are they under an obligation to allow their shit to go on anything and everything, with their opinion of the taste of the subject matter irrelevant? I kinda find this a little tasteless as well.

One more reason I am skeptical of this story. It feels like someone is trying a very overt public pressure campaign to me.

Odd story - sounds like there's more to it than has presently been divulged, so it would be wisest to wait and see what DC's official response will be.

That being said DC would be far better off allowing it. Circumstances aside, the general public can and will crucify them with rusty nails for the perceived indifference to a monument made to a child who suffered a tragic life and death.

Will be interesting to see how this develops.

There's a reason why copyright protection eventually expires and intellectual property enters the public domain - popular stories always become part of the culture that grew up listening to them. The works of Shakespeare, Dickens, Brothers Grimm, and thousands more have inspired generations of writers to write their own stories, and these modern day superheroes are no exception.

Everybody in the Western world knows who Superman is. He has been around for close to a century, meaning this child's grandparents likely weren't even born when Superman first appeared in print. But despite the very important role the character plays in our lives (helping to satisfy our imaginations, inspire our will to create, and setting ablaze our desire to better ourselves everyday), he does not belong even to the best of us.

Copyright law is so screwed up in the US.

Hu sounds fishy to me. Most of the time big names like Marvel and DC jump all over the chance to put on a good pr spin. I would expect them to be there handing out free issue of superman whatever they got him in now. Even if they where aginst this something tell me they will allow it now just becuase this will hurt the bottom line if they don't.

So the guy wanted to use the Superman logo on a memorial for a kid that died from child abuse. There is no way DC would get out of this conundrum unscathed.

Holy PR nightmare, Batman!

CAPTCHA: i see.

Well, glad to know you agree, oh unliving sentient intelligence.

Will you stop, please? Now you have me thinking of the end of The Iron Giant and Superman and everything. It's raining enough outside.

RossaLincoln:

While I am among those who think that copyright law is absurd, I also recognize that it is, currently, the law. DC, and Disney, and Marvel, and any number of companies would be fools to risk losing their copyrights because they permit unlicensed use.

Maybe I'm misreading the story, but it doesn't look like this is an issue of unlicensed use. They declined to authorise it, something rather different, far as I can tell. Am I missing something?

Scribblesense:

Copyright law is so screwed up in the US.

This revolves around Toronto.

RossaLincoln:

While I am among those who think that copyright law is absurd, I also recognize that it is, currently, the law. DC, and Disney, and Marvel, and any number of companies would be fools to risk losing their copyrights because they permit unlicensed use.

They are not risking anything. Copyright law does not work like that. You are not supposed to police the world for all possible uses or loose it. You have a RIGHT, but not a necessity to chase after infringers. If infringement would automatically mean loss of copyright then any game pirated automatically stop being copyrighted. copyright is extremely monopolistic law - the owner has a right to do whatever he pleases without any possible losses.

And inf licensing loss was the only problem they feared they could easily set up 0 cost license. No, its just that they are greedy and insane.

JarinArenos:
Okay, someone who understands trademark law... is there anything that would legally "dilute" a trademark about granting "individual no-cost licenses" for people to use in these cases? I keep seeing people saying that these companies "have to defend their IP" as an excuse not to allow use where it seems they otherwise would. If they really didn't want to be dicks about it, why not use a simple legal method to do so?

The risk is 0.
Any company telling you it needs to defend trademark to not loose it is flat out lieing and any news article stating that either is retelling lies or just lack grasp on the law.

Scribblesense:
There's a reason why copyright protection eventually expires and intellectual property enters the public domain

Used to*
After 32 years.

However the "Save mickey mouse" law made it basically authors life +95 years, which means it literally robbed public libraries. it also allowed relicensing of previuosly public domain work, which means that a lot of public domain got yanked out into copyrighted material.

Heck even the old broken 50 years law was better than what we have now. not that copyright should even last longer than 2 0years to begin with. didnt make profit in 20 years not going to make it now. if you did thats fine, now get off your ass and invent something new and let 20 year old stuff go into public domain.

I've never been comfortable memorializing victims as heroes, especially fantastical ones. Memorials can and ought be somber reminders of tragic events, a lesson to future generations not to repeat the mistakes of the past. To turn them into celebrations is a distortion of their meaning and strikes me as somehow dishonest.

My sympathies are with the victims of abuse and their loved ones, but I can't equate victims with heroes without some additional rational.

flarty:
I'm sick of publishers thinking about the bottom line. As if a move like this could serve any potential harm to the image of superman, he is a fictional character and in this child's short and miserable life Superman was his venue of escape to feel good about himself.

Like you are just saying, this is not even about the bottom line, it is about control for the sake of control. The article's usage of the phrase "intellectual property", and claims from apologist commenters like PrinceOfShapeir stating DC's "moral right" to stop "their shit" from being used, reveal how (a)copyright and (b)trademark laws have completely lost their original purpose of (a)"promoting the progress of science" and (b)protecting customers from mislabeled products.

This is no longer about creators asking a reasonable degree of monopolies just for turning their profession's non-rivalous results into profitable goods, this is about absolute authority over who gets to interact with culture and how, based on a fucked up perception that culture needs to be "owned" by default, and any deviation from that requiers special permissions and justifications.

DC didn't do an elaborate cost/profit analysis of this, they just think that it is "their shit" and therefore it is their "moral right" to stop it from existence.

Fanghawk:

While the story paints DC in a severely unflattering light on the surface, intellectual property holders do face the risk that unlicensed use of products can undermine copyright ownership.

If there is such a risk, then you can surely point to at least one instance of this happening? Oh, wait, you can't, because it's a lie.

best case scenario, you are confusing copyrights with trademarks, a completely separate branch of laws, and even then, the statement is untrue. Trademarks can be lost due to genericide (like the brands Aspirin and Escalator) or years complete non-use, neither of which threaten Superman.

Strazdas:

The risk is 0.
Any company telling you it needs to defend trademark to not loose it is flat out lieing and any news article stating that either is retelling lies or just lack grasp on the law.

Given that the article even used "copyright" and "trademark" interchargibly, it's probably the latter. The article that you linked, describes how Trademnark's certain elements have lead to this myth, but copyright doesn't even have anything similar to that.

People just badly fail at understanding that the two even have a separate purpose. Trademark law exists to secure fair dealing. If I buy an iPhone, I want to be sure that it's not a chinese knockoff, so only one company is allowed to use that word, Not because they are "creators" of it but because it is associated with them the most. Trademarks can last as long as the association lasts. If 10 years from now, iPhone becomes a common mainstream term for "mobile phone", it can cease instantly. If a brand lasts 200 years, it can last all through it.

Strazdas:
the "Save mickey mouse" law made it basically authors life +95 years

Actually it's still just 95 years after publication, or the author's life +70 years.

Not that it matters. The corporations have also noticed how bad the public is at distinguishing trademarks and copyrights, and started abusing this fact. Sherlock Holmes is in Public Domain, but it is still trademarked by the Doyle estate. Last year, Disney trademarked the name "Snow White" as in the Grimm character's name, for the purpose of any fictional portrayal. Trademarks are essentially being used as infinite copyright extensions.

Based mostly on the picture, my spin is that it isn't Superman, but Superboy. And DC lost the rights to him a while back. Maybe they're just asking the wrong copyright holders...

It's about precedent. If they let it fly this time, then next time when they try and sue the neo-nazi who has the statue of Superman ripping black people like warm bread, the cease and desist won't fly.

Just because they die, doesnt mean ever Tom, Dick, and Harry should get a trademarked statue made, that they wont even see.
I am a Huge War40k fan, but I dont expect to be entombed in a fullsized and licensed dreadnought replica.

would have thought more of DC if they said yeh that cool. But no......boils down to money and the risk of loosing some. FFS

How the hell can someone do that to their own grand child?
It makes me sick to my stomach, almost brings me to tears.

Excuse me, I have to leave work now and go home to hug my children and tell them I love them.

Lono Shrugged:
It's about precedent. If they let it fly this time, then next time when they try and sue the neo-nazi who has the statue of Superman ripping black people like warm bread, the cease and desist won't fly.

this is FALSE. This is not how laws work. there is no precedent here. Companies are not forced to police their trademarks to sustain them. there isnt a single time this has ever been the case.

AstaresPanda:
would have thought more of DC if they said yeh that cool. But no......boils down to money and the risk of loosing some. FFS

no, it boils down to whatever idea DC has as this has nothing to do with money at all.

Alterego-X:
Given that the article even used "copyright" and "trademark" interchargibly, it's probably the latter. The article that you linked, describes how Trademnark's certain elements have lead to this myth, but copyright doesn't even have anything similar to that.

Superman the character falls under copyright but Superman's name and logo are trademarked. Hence why both were referenced.

I don't know if changing the S to a J will be enough to keep DC from going after them if they really want to, but I do like the idea as - like the article said - it makes the memorial even more about Jeffrey rather than Superman.

This IS coming from the company that refuses to acknowledge the contributions of Bill Finger in creating their biggest cash-cow, Batman.

DC just has been having lots of rough PR blowups lately. From horrible statements and decisions in their comics about women, homosexuals, and minorities, I guess we can add "child abuse victims" to the list of things they handle with the grace of a drunken hippo.

Superman was created to inspire, to be the ideal for even other heroes to aspire to. I look at that memorial and I see Superman inspiring a boy in a terrible environment to find joy and hope in a dark world. DC's actions, however "by the book", create cynicism, disappointment, and apathy towards Superman if that is their approach.

Then again, they did have Superman outright kill people in no less than three different mediums last year. So maybe my idealized version of the ultimate hero has been dead for awhile and I just haven't caught on yet.

I guess it is not the symbol for Hope after all. Thanks DC. Now we all know it is just an S.

Fanghawk:

Superman the character falls under copyright but Superman's name and logo are trademarked. Hence why both were referenced.

I'm talking about this quote:

"While the story paints DC in a severely unflattering light on the surface, intellectual property holders do face the risk that unlicensed use of products can undermine copyright ownership."

Which is a mismatched version of the more common urban myth about trademarks getting lost due to minimal enforcement.

All I hear are pethetic excuses from a cold heart of a company. Go f#%k yourselves DC comics, there's no excuse at all for denying the request. All they have to do is work out an agreement that he may use the logo for this one statue and bask in the good PR. Typical American corporations, too busy being greedy pigs to see what's right in front of them.

Pffft, Batman would step up. He's a stand-up kind of a guy on matters like this.

I don't understand companies doing things like this.

What kind of person would honestly believe that the initial refusal on DC's part would attract anything other than an outraged (or at least very negative) reaction.

If they'd just said yes straight away then they could have got some good PR out of this. Nobody is going to give them any positive press now, it'll just be seen as "immoral company bullied into doing the right thing".

Trishbot:
This IS coming from the company that refuses to acknowledge the contributions of Bill Finger in creating their biggest cash-cow, Batman.

it's not that they won't, it's that they can't. Bob Kane forced them to sign a contract to make him legally recognized as the sole creator (he did this via a lawsuit where he basically spewed out a bunch of lies and they just caved in to make him shut up as it was causing bad PR)

OT:
It's nice to see the story updated to see that they will allow it, especially considering the original unflattering tone of the story and sources painting as DC being unfeeling corporate drones, when it seems they were just making sure it was ok with all involved parties and not just the artist who made the sculpture.

Superman logo or not I think the fact remains, that statue makes that kids feet look huge. Was he into depression era footwear or was it just sculpted this way? I'd like to see an original reference photo.

So they agreed to it? Great! Nice to see this got a happy ending. Sure, I wasn't too peeved with them personally for not agreeing to do something they'd never said, or even hinted, that they'd do in the first place. Using the Superman logo for heartwarming stuff is nice, but not something everyone automatically has the right to do. But it's nice to see that DC decided to do the right thing.

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