November 03, 2010
If concussion safety and maintenance -- and how different states are handling head safety in their own way -- has provided the dominant storyline from high school football across the country, one of the most intriguing secondary concerns suddenly facing school athletic departments is copyright infringement. With Florida State's lawsuit against Southeast (Fla.) High serving as a national springboard for debate, a handful of schools have suddenly been faced with a need to adjust or completely remodel their schools logos.
The Washington Post's James Wagner recently wrote a similar expose focusing on the struggles schools in the D.C. area have had with copyright infringement, with one notable twist: In D.C., the copyright issues were first sparked in 2008 during the presidential campaigns, and the school found guilty of stealing a collegiate mascot could place the blame squarely on one man's shoulders: Lou Dobbs.
According to the Post, Dobbs hosted an evening broadcast of his then-CNN program in the midst of the 2008 campaign at Freedom-South Riding High School in Virginia. Unbeknownst to Freedom-South Riding administrators and CNN producers, the school's gymnasium where the show was filmed featured a large logo of the Freedom-South Riding Eagle plastered on one of its walls, a logo which is a near-exact replica of the logo of Georgia Southern University. When a Georgia Southern alum watching at home noticed the logo, he reached out to the school's athletic department, which then began an investigation into the Freedom-South Riding logo.
"I blew them up and put them on top of each other," Georgia Southern associate vice president for legal affairs Lee Davis told the Post. "And no question it was a tracing."
As a result, Freedom-South Riding was forced to pull its traditional Eagles logo from team uniforms and all team gear. It continues to pay $1 per year -- and will do so for the next decade -- to use the logo in its gymnasium and on other large, expensive items that were seen as irreplaceable in the immediate future.
Of course, plenty of other Washington-area schools have encountered similar legal difficulties. Westfield High in Chantilly, Va., is among 40 schools being sued by the University of Wisconsin for using the college's trademark "motion W." Other schools like Centreville, Va., reached an agreement with Kansas State to use the college's trademark "Powercat" logo for only $1 per year ... so long as they never portray it in blue and red, the colors of Kansas State's in-state archival Kansas.
"We did it officially because, God forbid, we do something, some alumni sees something and some attorney sends us a cease-and-desist letter," Jimmy Sanabria, Centreville's athletic director, told the Post.
Yet no school has had the bad luck of Freedom-South Riding, which became a victim of its own national exposure. Given Georgia Southern's significantly lower profile, it's unlikely it would have become aware of Freedom-South Riding's use of Southern's soaring eagle without someone bringing it to the college's attention.
Who would have guessed the man to do that would be Lou Dobbs?