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Media & Communications Law

Ex-Lawmaker Copyrights His Name in Seeming Bid to Nix News of His Rape Case

Posted Dec 17, 2009 1:49 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A former South Dakota lawmaker has copyrighted his own name and is forbidding newspapers to use it without advance permission, threatening a penalty of $500,000 or more if they violate this instruction. The action follows his conviction in 2007 for the second-degree rape of two foster daughters and witness-tampering.

Responds the Daily Republic to the threatened penalty: "Nice try, Ted Alvin Klaudt, of Walker, S.D."

Laura Malone, who serves as associated general counsel for intellectual property for the Associated Press, responds that individual and company names can't be copyrighted, reports the Argus Leader.

Although names can be trademarked, that is in association with commercial goods and services, Malone says. Hence, "even if there was a valid trademark, the mere use of the name in a news story is not an infringement of trademark."

Klaudt is serving a prison sentence of more than 40 years. A daughter confirmed the copyright notice, but wouldn't say why her father sent it, the Argus Leader reports.

"I suppose he's trying to certainly control the use of his name and prevent unflattering characterizations or uses of it," attorney Troy Leonard tells the newspaper. He is an intellectual property practitioner in Sioux Falls.

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