This is an example of our intellectual property laws gone awry:

Kembrew McLeod
Conceptual, 1998

In 1998, Kembrew McLeod trademarked the phrase “Freedom of Expression” and created a zine with that title. He enlisted a friend, Brendan Love, to pose as the publisher of an imaginary punk rock magazine also called Freedom of Expression, whom he then pretended to sue. McLeod hired a lawyer and didn’t let her in on the hoax. The lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to Love:

We represent Kembrew McLeod of Sunderland, Massachusetts, the owner of the federally registered trademark, FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION … Your company has been using the mark Freedom of Expression … Such use creates a likelihood of confusion in the market and also creates a substantial risk of harm to the reputation and goodwill of our client. This letter, therefore, constitutes formal notice of your infringement of our client’s trademark rights and a demand that you refrain from all further use of Freedom of Expression.

Shortly thereafter, the Daily Hampshire Gazette ran an interview with McLeod. He played it straight, telling the paper, “I didn’t go to the trouble, the expense and the time of trademarking Freedom of Expression just to have someone else come along and think they can use it whenever they want.” Two years later, when McLeod asked to reprint the Gazette article in his book Owning Culture, the paper denied him permission.

From, and exposition of art that violates intellectual property laws.