What’s in a Name?

Posted on March 19, 2010


This is fun: Some guy (maybe a geeky one like the author of this blog) writes a blog entry about someone named Lindsay, who may or may not be a milkaholic, in his blog. And this blog is used to promote a company’s books and publishing services. Bang! Here comes the punchline: A celebrity with the same first name sues the blog and company for disregarding said celebrity’s right to exclusive commercial control of her name. Not sure if I’m still laughing here.

Makes me think what would happen if there were a documentary made about teenage milkaholics and in an interview with one of the subjects in her bedroom there’s a picture of our celebrity with a milk mustache. Bang! Another suit? Of course, especially if that film production company is charging people to view the film.

Makes me think (again, sorry, I know I have got to stop this nasty habit) what would happen if a writer wrote a novel whose protagonist was a teenage milkaholic and the author wrote a passage describing said protagonist’s bedroom and, in particular, naming — by first name only — a celebrity in a photo who had a milk mustache. And wrote about the protagonist’s idolized fixation on that particular celebrity. And that protagonist later goes off on a crime spree to support her milk habit (tarnishing the image of our celebrity). And, of course, the publisher (and author) of this book are charging people to acquire a copy of the book. Bang! Again? Another lawsuit? What fun…

Comedian gets up on Letterman and starts making jokes about a celebrity with a milk mustache who has that very common name. He’s getting paid (I hope more than scale) for his stand-up schtick. And for whatever reason, he’s bombing — the audience just doesn’t think he’s funny. And Letterman’s getting paid, too, as well as the network and all its affiliates. Bang! You guessed it…

Almost as much fun as the Trademark Anti-Dilution Act that Bush junior’s buddies let loose on the First Amendment. (While this act makes exclusions for fair use, parody and news commentary, there’s no agreement to what constitutes fair use — and parody and documentary can be money-making [commercial] activities.)

While we shouldn’t let people rip off celebrities by capitalizing on their right to make money on their names (making it seem like the celebrity is endorsing stuff they wouldn’t endorse, etc., but there’s no actual or implied endorsement in the tv ad, just a joke at that milkaholic’s expense), celebrities, for one thing, have got to be able to take a joke, and have got to realize that by their celebrity status that they are not afforded the same privacy as the rest of us unknowns. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Or maybe if you are a big enough celebrity, with big enough lawyers, you can — with milk, of course. Bang!

Note: The author of this blog disavows any similarity to a celebrity chef's use of the
exclamation "Bam!" and the "Bang!" used here.