Good grief! A volcanic island in the exact shape of cartoon character Snoopy has emerged in the sea near Japan. But Snoopy is copyright. God’s going to get into BIG trouble.
He’s done it before, mind you. Fly to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia and you’ll see that the islands of Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug form a perfect smiley face: but the round smiley is a logo developed by a US insurance company in 1963. In the Spratly Islands, near the Philippines, God made an island in the exact shape of a boomerang. Were Australian aboriginals asked for permission?
Having long experience of copyright problems, I can tell you that such incidents trigger an exchange of letters as follows.
Dear Sir or Madam, it has come to our notice that the Pacific Ocean now features a clear likeness of our exclusively-owned intellectual property Snoopy (TM). We ask that it be removed at once; otherwise we reserve the right to use the full force of the relevant laws against you. Yours, United Licensed Products Syndicate (ULPS).
Dear United Licensed Products Syndicate, which laws are you referring to? If it’s the laws of physics, I believe I wrote them. Yours sincerely, God.
Dear God, we refer to the Copyright Act of 1976, but please note: our client Charles Shultz created Snoopy more than 60 years ago.
Dear ULPS, Please note: I created all matter, including the stuff which evolved into carbon-based lifeforms such as Mr. Schultz, 13.8 billion years ago.
Dear God, Do you have any proof of this?
Dear ULPS, I have the universe. Will that do?
Dear God, Possibly. Our attorney asks that you send us a copy.
Dear ULPS, It’s a bit big.
Dear God, Sad to say we have empty desks as the media business has been tough in recent years. In view of this, our attorney says you may retain the Snoopy-shaped island in its present position provided you send us a $20 million a year licensing fee which you can recoup by building tacky attractions on it and charging visitors exorbitant fees. This is the normal method.
Dear ULPS, That’s not my style. I usually provide everything free of charge au naturale.
Dear God, The fee is payable whether you monetize it or not. Incidentally, our attorney says that matter is quite a significant invention and would like to know whether you have other potentially profitable developments we could license?
Dear ULPS, Sure: time, consciousness, the multiverse, 11-dimensional space, etc.
Dear God, please send samples to our acquisitions department with stamped addressed envelopes for ease of return.
Dear ULPS, Okay, will drop off something tonight.
(One day later.)
Dear God, This morning we opened the door to the acquisitions department to find that it led into a vast space 14 billion light-years across containing a mix of star systems and dark matter.
Dear ULPS, Oh good, it means the multiverse I sent you has arrived. Have fun.
Dear God, Our attorney fell into it and is now drifting close to Alpha Centauri, screaming.
Dear ULPS, Oops, sorry! Would you like me to rescue him?
Dear God, Er, no hurry.
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org)