Can a fight song or school motto be registered?
The other day, I was having a conversation about copyright law, you see, I’m an online article author and I produced several e-books, and before my time as a writer, I was quite concerned about protecting the operations manual of our business. from falling into the hands of competitors. I have been moderately successful at all of the above and therefore have quite a few experiences both positive and negative when it comes to copyright law.
Now, during our conversation we touched on the writing of quotes, slogans, poems, and even school fight songs that are often used in football, basketball, and other athletic competitions. Obviously, if you have a good fight song, let’s say you’re a college or university, someone could hijack it and use it at their high school in some small town somewhere in the United States. Now, as a big university, you probably don’t care if a high school uses it at their football game.
However, it is his brand and his school’s fight song, and he needs to protect it. A very short quote or school motto could be a trademark. However, it is difficult to register something that has not been used in interstate commerce. However, if you are a college student traveling to other states for athletic competitions that would be enough, then you could register it. If you do, you legally have more teeth if someone uses it without your permission.
Of course, if your school’s motto has multiple sentences and your fight song has multiple verses, then obviously a trademark is in the completely wrong place, and you won’t be able to get that from the USPTO. So can a copyright be enough? In other words, if you put a little “c” at the bottom that alerts everyone that you claim copyright, and they can’t use it without your permission, and of course you’d give them permission sometime, then it’s safe, TRUE?
Hardly anyone could still try to take it, you can even use it on your blog or modify the words to make your school look bad. In that case, they are violating your copyright in many ways, but you still have to defend that. They could claim that they added significant new value by changing the words and trashing the school fight song, so is that okay? Well, legally they might have a good defense in that case under the “fair use” principle; however, that does not make you or your school very happy.
And if you think that won’t or can’t happen, think again, it happens all the time. The problem with trademarks, patents, copyrights, and other things of this nature is that even if you claim copyright, have a trademark, or have filed a patent for something, that’s where the fun begins, of thereafter you still have to defend it. It costs money, it takes time, and the Internet is rampant with the hijacking of copyrighted material. In fact, I hope you will please consider all of this and think about it. In the meantime, good luck.