Tilting at Windmills (Pt. 1)

RE: Copyright Fair Use of United States Air Force Emblem in Historical Book

Dear Senator [———],

My name is Joseph T. Page II and I’m an author, military veteran, and constituent who resides in your state.

I’ve been given a cease-and-desist order by the United States Air Force Trademark Licensing division about the use of the United States Air Force Emblem in a pictorial history book. I’d like you or your staff to investigate this obvious overreach of governmental authority and blatant misinterpretation of copyright law.

Since 2013, I have published ten books on military history, concentrating on aviation or space and rocketry. I have used photographs, created by U.S. government employees during their duties, throughout all my books, so I am well versed on public domain images.

My latest project uses two public domain photos that are considered “offensive” to the United States Air Force, because they display the (trademarked) stylized USAF emblem – a folded pair of wings around a star. The images are of a statue of space and missile pioneer, General Bernard Schriever, at a military base in Los Angeles, California. General Schriever died in 2005, and the statue was dedicated in 2007.

One of the “offending” images with the AF’s stupid winged logo

The Air Force Trademark Licensing division has told me I have two choices regarding the logo – redact the image or remove the photos.

I have unsuccessfully argued that the inclusion of the logo is ancillary to the images’ proper subject – the statue of General Schriever – and not focusing on the logo for representative purposes.

Reading the Copyright Act, namely section 107 and the definition of “fair use,” I believe the display of the logo, is allowed for this purpose of historical preservation, since the logo image is not being used to portray any service sponsorship but ancillary to the image.

While the Air Force Trademark Licensing division has given me the “option” of redacting (blacking out) the logo on the statue pedestal, I have refused on the grounds that the redaction will be obvious and may shed negative light on General Schriever and the service themselves.

I write these books mostly to record the historical record about these activities that are likely to be lost in an increasing digital world.

I believe the Air Force lawyers are being pedantic about the ancillary inclusion of the symbol, are ignoring the definition of “fair use,” and are trying to bully me to altering the historical record, a digital one that they created using taxpayer dollars are a direct recipient of the product’s influence.

I have no problems embarrassing the service and their “order” on social media or looking for a sleezy pro-bono attorney familiar with copyright and a penchant for governmental “blood.”

I thought, however, before I perform the above “nuclear option,” that I’d try your office first.

I remember during my service time, that the military hierarchy does not like when congressional representatives or their staffers get involved. I feel like the USAF’s lawyers are acting like Goliath, and my role as David is going to come to a grisly end.

I know this seems silly, but I believe the Trademark division’s demands will set a dangerous precedent to any authors (or archivists) – whether academic through commercial, professional to amateur – wanting to present (or preserve) the historical record from material drawn from Service-created, publicly released documents. This precedent will seriously hamper the ability of historians outside of the service or Department of Defense in obtaining accurate or relevant visual reference materials for incorporation into future historical presentations, whether electronic or in print.

General Schriever did wonderful work for the security of this nation. An honest and fair product about his life and influence doesn’t deserve this parochial level of censorship.

Sincerely,

Joseph T. Page II

This letter was sent to two New Mexico Senators and NM District 1’s Representative on February 14. I will post their responses, if and when, I receive one.

Any sleezy pro-bono attorneys familiar with trademark and copyright law want this case? Just email me… I’ll give you all the details.

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