The Null Device

Looking out for #1

Another chapter in the annals of if-value-then-right: as maximalist interpretations of intellectual property dominate, defense contractors are fulfilling their duty to their shareholders by shaking model kit manufacturers down for hefty royalties, sometimes demanding as much as US$40 per kit. The old way of doing things, letting modelmakers sell kits for free and treating it as good publicity, is no longer accepted practice; these days, it's considered less as good publicity and more as negligence or mismanagement. Ironically, one effect this may have is the disappearance of kits for anything but royalty-free items, such as WW2 Nazi vehicles (for which there is no rightsholder*) and World War 1 items.

* Surely this is an oversight; had today's concept of intellectual property been current in 1945, the Allies would not have allowed the intellectual-property rights to Nazi vehicles to expire; perhaps they would have been auctioned to licensing companies shortly afterward. (On a tangent, had intellectual-property maximalism been the dominant doctrine in 1945, a lot of other things would have been possible, such assigning the swastika and the name and likeness of Adolf Hitler™ to an anti-Nazi foundation and allowing them to sue neo-Nazis for infringement, but I digress.)

Anyway, it's interesting to note that Allied vehicles from WW2 are still intellectual property. It was asserted, not too long ago, that the reason why historical cable-TV channels show so many World War 2 documentaries is because there is a lot of footage from that era which is in the public domain; elsewhere, it was suggested that in more recent documentary footage, if someone is accidentally filmed wearing a trademarked brand-logo hat, that requires the filmmaker to obtain rights from the owner of the trademark to use the footage. I wonder if whoever owns the rights to the Spitfire and such can figure out a way of putting these two facts together and monetising the rights to their trademarks appearing in WW2 documentary newsreels.

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