There are a couple of blurbs floating around the internet about yet another Ford crisis. But this one doesn't have to do with slowing sales or workers on strike. No, this one is Ford's lawyers doing their best to destroy what little positive press Ford has left by threatening to sue a group called the Black Mustang Club for wanting to print calendars of their members' cars at CafePress. Now, printing items with trademarks is against the CafePress policy, but I'm pretty sure that even if it weren't, Ford would still have done shut this project down.
I have many problems with this incident. First, Ford is claiming that they own the rights to all of the photos taken, even though they were taken by the BMC members themselves. So, if I were to take a picture of my wife's Ford Focus, they would claim to own said picture. I find this hilarious. They don't even own the car (well, in two months they won't), much less my picture of it. Yes, Ford has trademarks, but they do not have a copyright. Your picture is copyrighted by you, not Ford. In all likelihood, I expect that this calendar will eventually be published, and in the unlikely event that this does go to court, Ford will be laughed out. I'm sure my wife will have some interesting comments on the IP aspect of this incident.
But what really makes me laugh and shake my head is that Ford is throwing away free advertising. I mean, if people were taking pictures of Ford vehicles and making fun of it, I could at least understand the possible motivation for this. But why on God's green earth would you stop a group of people who adore your product from printing calendars and spreading the good word of Ford as far as possible? The answer, plain and simple, is corporate greed, and it is destroying this nation, as well as the rest of the world. (Now, the AFL-CIO is not the most unbiased of organizations, but I think I can trust you to read past any embellishment to the facts. Some of the examples of exploitation on their site are pretty disgusting.) The line of thinking Ford is taking here just boggles my mind. Whoever approved this bone-headed move needs to be fired; Ford has enough problems as it is without people on the inside destroying what little good will people have left for the company.
After lots of further research and discussion with my wife (who knows a lot more about the trademark side of things than I do), it looks to me that what Ford did was not legally out of line and may have, in fact, been legally necessary. However, I do think it was a bit heavy-handed. I think that it could have been handled much better on the PR side of things, but then PR and lawyers seem to mix about as well as water and oil. It's all about appearances, and no matter what Ford says, most people who look at this are going to view it as a big corporation picking on the little guy. Hopefully, BMC will be able to get permission to print the calendar through proper channels (I see no reason why they shouldn't); the question will be if Ford is going to charge them some outrageous licensing fee. It will be interesting to see what direction this goes in.