Stephen Speicher

Ayn Rand's Intellectual Property

6 posts in this topic

In another post, Bill Bucko mentioned being uncomfortable with the internet use of names based on Miss Rand's characters or works, including some names being used on THE FORUM.

The June 1968 issue of The Objectivist, in a "Statement of Policy, Part II - By Henry Mark Holzer," who at that time was Miss Rand's attorney, expressed concerns about and restrictions upon various uses of Ayn Rand's intellectual property. One particularly relevant statement is the following:

Another category of names to be strictly avoided, either for study groups or for undertakings of any kind whatsoever, is the names of Miss Rand's fiction characters (for instance, a designation such as "The John Galt Society"). Miss Rand has asked me to stress this point emphatically. Her fiction characters are Miss Rand's property; they are not in the public domain. In issues of this kind, Miss Rand has the protection of United States statutory and common law copyright.

I take this statement to be supportive of Bill Bucko's expressed concern, and I am inclined to require change of any member's username that is a variation on the name of a character or book created by Ayn Rand.

I have no doubt that those who have chosen these sort of usernames did so based on admiration of Ayn Rand, not as disrespect. Regardless, Miss Rand's wishes, as stated by her attorney, seem quite clear. If anyone can offer evidence which supercedes this Statement of Policy from the 1968 The Objectivist, or if anyone can offer a reasonable argument why Miss Rand's policy should not apply to us here on the internet some almost 40 years later, please present the information or arguments here. I will keep this thread open for a couple of days, and unless I can be convinced otherwise, I will have to insist on changing any usernames that conflict with the express wishes in that Statement of Policy.

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Stephen, this is a fascinating issue. I'm going to do more thinking about this, but there are two things I wanted to raise right away.

1) Since Adam Mossoff, our Law Expert for THE FORUM, is an expert especially in the field of intellectual property, perhaps it would be a good idea to bring this issue up with him before any action is taken?

2) This could be way off-base, but I'm now also concerned about whether the very name of this forum is in a similar violation of Miss Rand's legal rights. In the same article that Stephen referenced, Henry Mark Holzer also wrote (emphasis added):

In the former policy statement (The Objectivist Newsletter, April 1965), Ayn Rand gave her approval to the use of her name for study groups, in a form such as "The Ayn Rand Society" or ''The Ayn Rand Study Club." As the context indicated, this was intended exclusively for college groups, but it has led to other and totally inappropriate uses of Miss Rand's name. Therefore, Miss Rand hereby withdraws the permission to use her name in connection with any group or organization of any kind. She suggests that legitimate study groups use names like "Students of Objectivism," "Objectivism Study Club," "Society of New Intellectuals," etc., to indicate their philosophical context without implying any formal connection with her.

Does this mean that "THE FORUM for Ayn Rand fans" is also improper?

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Does this mean that "THE FORUM for Ayn Rand fans" is also improper?

Not to mention Allan Gotthelf's philosophical Ayn Rand Society.

I think you are right in that we need the view of those more expertise in this. In addition, since ARI is the official representation of Ayn Rand, I will speak with them. However, note that ARI participated on a chat channel a while ago, and the channel was named aynrand.

This obviously requires so more detailed investigation.

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I doubt the names "Dagny", "Dominque" and "John Galt" can be protected. The former two are common names, and the latter is a real historical figure (the founder of Guelph). "Atlas Shrugged" is certainly protected, and "Hugh Akston" and "Dagny Taggart" very probably are. Those are my lame and lay opinions, and it would be interesting to see what Adam Mosoff has to say about that. I will work it into my other related question for him.

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Does this mean that "THE FORUM for Ayn Rand fans" is also improper?

I think it is quite proper, and an excellent name.

A name such as "The Ayn Rand Forum" would lead to confusion as to whether the forum actually spoke for Miss Rand or her position on issues.

"The Forum for Ayn Rand Fans," on the other hand, makes it clear that we are fans. Any sensible person will understand that fans may or may not accurately reflect the views of the person they admire; and that we as fans are not speaking for Miss Rand herself.

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Does this mean that "THE FORUM for Ayn Rand fans" is also improper?

I think it is quite proper, and an excellent name.

A name such as "The Ayn Rand Forum" would lead to confusion as to whether the forum actually spoke for Miss Rand or her position on issues.

"The Forum for Ayn Rand Fans," on the other hand, makes it clear that we are fans. Any sensible person will understand that fans may or may not accurately reflect the views of the person they admire; and that we as fans are not speaking for Miss Rand herself.

Your explanation is exactly what occurred to me, but I still want to hear from some experts, and from those who have the responsibility of protecting Ayn Rand's good name.

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