I’ve never been to a shawarma restaurant. Nor have I ever had shawarma. Hell, before I moved to Ottawa I’d never even really heard of the stuff. But I’d still support a restaurant of that variety who wanted to stick up for the home team–yes, even if the home team was those bastards from Montreal. The NHL has a different take on it, apparently. One such restaurant near the Bell center thought it might be fun to hang a poster with a cartoon character in a Canadians jersey slicing shawarma with a sword, with the phrase “Go Habs go!” underneath it. The NHL sent him a letter indicating he was in violation of copyright, so the restaurant owner painted over the Canadians logo. They sent him another, indicating the phrase “Go Habs go!” was also trademarked, so he painted over that. He eventually just took the sign down. You’d think that would satisfy the NHL, right? Clearly, you don’t know comissioner Betmman. Instead of being satisfied they’d finally intimidated a local restaurant into not giving the team and the league some much needed free advertising, they rewarded him by demanding he pay $89000 to the league, or $1000 per day of the sign’s existence.
I’ll be the first to say it aughta be illegal to support the Canadians. But then, I’m a Leafs fan–I can say that. But to take it to this level, and claim copyright violations over something that would very obviously be fair use if Canada had a fair use clause, just smacks of “I don’t care”. The team was, and I have to hold my nose to type this, actually doing well, but still couldn’t be hurt by a little extra free advertising. The restaurant was in close enough proximity to the arena that supporting the team, whether or not the owner of the place is a diehard fan, makes perfect business sense for the restaurant and perfect PR sense for the NHL and the Canadians. And instead of recognising that, the NHL slaps a local restaurant in the face and sends a shakedown notice–compensation for using a logo and a phrase they say is trademarked (I’ll believe it when I see it). Now tell me Canada doesn’t need some serious copyright reform.