Week 10 Blog: Cease and Desist! Property and Propriety©

Early intellectual property issues perhaps?

This week’s article by Coombe and Herman (2001) discuss intellectual property and corporate propriety on the Internet.  Corporations are finding it increasingly difficult to monitor and protect their brand image due to the fact that the Web provides the ‘technological means and social and cultural conditions’ for the public to ‘evade their subject positions as mere consumers of corporate imagery’ (Coombe & Herman 2001, pg 920).

A major point of the article is the ‘intertwined relationship between property and propriety’ (pg 923). The article references Steve Jones (1993, cited by Coombe & Herman 2001) who identifies that the word ‘property’ means ‘one’s own’, referring to ownership, whereas propriety refers to a behavioural standard. He suggests that intellectual property links the two concepts.

Various examples are provided in the article (Coombe & Herman 2001) of companies attempting to protect their intellectual property. Coca-Cola issued a cease-and-desist letter to a website displaying collections of vintage Coca-Cola bottles and cans. Warner Bros did the same to owners of Harry Potter fan sites. In additions, numerous companies have attempted to shutdown websites which provide ‘cultural commentary and artistic appropriation’ of their brand (Detritus.net, cited by Coombe & Herman 2001, pg 933).

I can understand why a company would want to shut down a defamatory website which is spreading false information. However, I think it is counterproductive for massive corporations to shut down fan sites, collector’s sites, and any other sites which do not defame or attempt to profit from the brand. I believe companies should be trying to cultivate and promote these online communities as they reflect positively on the brand and provide further brand exposure at no expense. In my opinion, the censorship of these websites can be seen as a failure to allow freedom of speech.

– Katie Challita 3663620


Coombe, R & Herman, A 2001, ‘Culture Wars on the Net: Intellectual Property and Corporate Propriety in Digital Environments,’ The South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 100 issue 4, pp.919-947

Image sourced from http://offthemark.com/search-results/key/intellectual+property/