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MLB and Rangers Crack Down on Awesome Rangers Shirt

Remember when I told you about the most awesome Rangers t-shirt going? Yeah, well, Major League Baseball and the Texas Rangers apparently didn’t think it was so awesome. Or maybe they thought it was too awesome. In either case, they shut down the website for the “That’s how baseball go” guys. The shirt guys got cease-and-desist letters from both MLB and the Rangers. The Rangers said the shirt guys had appropriated the image of Ron Washington. The team also said in its C&D letter that it has filed for a copyright on the phrase “That’s how baseball go.” This according to Ricky Thiot, the shirt guy who started the whole deal. Thiot says he’d like to explore selling what he believes is his intellectual property to the team, but for now he’s waiting to hear back from his attorney.

As someone who works at a magazine, I’m all for protecting copyrights and trademarks. Absolutely. But I have a hard time believing that printing that “likeness” of Ron Washington violates any trademarks. Seems to me that that’s an original work of art. Now, as the for the copyright on the phrase “That’s how baseball go,” doesn’t that depend on who filed for it first? This is above my pay grade. I’m sure you law-practicing FrontBurnervians will set us straight — or at least inform us — in the comments.

23 comments on “MLB and Rangers Crack Down on Awesome Rangers Shirt

  1. Apparently a trip to the world series is all it takes for an organization to turn into corporate d-bags. Maybe the new ranger catch phrase should be “That’s how lawsuit go”

  2. Since it was first uttered on “The Ticket” and they are the ones that kept playing it on the air (mockingly or poking fun)which made it famous it seems that would be a good place to start for copyright protection.

    Of course, Ron Washington’s elementary school teachers may step up and demand credit where credit is due.

  3. Yes, it is important to make (more, or as much as possible) money off those greedy little fans. Especially if they are enthusiastic and happy.

  4. I can see MLB doing this but the Rangers? Seriously, the MLB group takes the same approach to fan support as Time Warner Music takes to its artists fan-base. Sad.

  5. While they’re at it, perhaps they should sue Mini-Wash and his parents.

    That’ll show ‘em.

  6. The auction drove up the final purchase price for Greenberg and Ryan. Gotta sue to make up the difference and sign Cliff Lee.

  7. Anyone want to start a pool on how much money (if any) Wash gets as a result of the MLB/Ranger effort to protect his image and his phrase? I’m going to take $0.

  8. Lawyer here.

    “That’s the way baseball go” is a slogan or phrase, and it can’t be copyrighted. It has to be trademarked, which is much more complex and drawn out, but the fact is that the rights to it probably are with Washington, since he created it. As far as his likeness, he and the Rangers(and MLBPA) control those rights as well. Yes, this kinda sucks for the fans, but players and coaches have pretty long odds to be able to make any money in this game at all, so when they can I’m ok with them being protected a little.

    Check out some FAQ on copyright law here: http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protect.html

  9. Well, thanks a lot, bin Ladin. I proudly wore my awesome Rangers tee to the Arts District shenanigans on Sunday (and got called out by a little girl that I assume was Tim’s daughter for wearing the same t-shirt as him). I will continue to wear said awesome t-shirt at all appropriate times, to be defined as: in the office until I get put on probation and ultimately fired; at home until it starts smelling funky; at all future Cowboys games; and at or within 50 yards of the Ballpark. Claw! Antlers!

  10. Tim,
    For an organization that sues anybody who uses the initial “D,” I’d speak softly on this topic.

  11. Looks like this guy from the comments of the first post totally called it:

    Chris @ October 27th, 2010 at 10:54 am

    I give it 48 hours before MLB’s lawyers are in touch.

  12. The trouble is in the profits. If the brothers are making images that are clearly for educational and/or artistic uses, fewer problems with IPR. Any nod in the direction that they understand their playing with an appropriated image/ phrase weighs in on their side (Fair Use Doctrine). However, the fact that they are seeking monetary compensation for a commercial product is grounds for legal pursuit. If they had sold the shirt in a limited edition as educational works of art with no substantial profit margin, the situation would be different.

    Whoever took the photograph of Washington that was appropriated could be the legal owner of the image. This is a point made in the Shepard Fairey case with photographer Mannie Garcia going fisticuffs with the Associated Press. To no surprise, the legal proceedings ground Garcia down to submission. Looks like Fairey is headed the same direction. Fairey had a strong case, but the tables were turned when it came to light he tried to destroy evidence. Important to play a clean game when appropriating images/phrases that are in cultural circulation–images/phrases that have meaning precisely because everybody shares in them. Sharing and making money off sharing are two different–but very related–subjects.

  13. I trademarked “baseball go” years ago, so I am suing everyone who uses part of my trademarked slogan.

    Well, I’m going to sue as soon as I settle with the guy who trademarked “go”.

  14. Luckily, I bought 3 before they were shut down. Wearing one today. Message seemed particularly appropriate under the circumstances. They also had a second cool shirt with words “Party like a Ranger” on the front and a soda bottle with Antlers growing out of the top on the back. Is that one still available?

    And Laray, Manny now has ownership of his image that Shepard Fairey misappropriated. I have a print (#2 of 50) of it, signed by MG, hanging on my office wall.

  15. I got three before they were shut down. And I can’t wait to give one to my big bro, who has been a faithful and devoted Rangers fan for 40 years. And he is going to love it even more knowing it’s “extremely limited edition”. :)

  16. I understand why the rangers made them quit printing the shirts. they didnt ask for permission to print someone else’s image and they used the ranger’s logo on one shirt and the team name on another. The rangers could probably sue for some of the profits. They need to figure something out b/c those are some awesome shirts and i didn’t get to buy one :(