Keeping it Real: Fighting Back Against Fake News


Fake news took center stage yesterday as panelists discussed its impact on the publishing industry and the need for a speedy response. Ed Conlon reports.

“Breaking News: Donald Trump Shot on Stage” might be a gripping headline, but it is just an example of the growing phenomenon of “fake news,” which panelists discussed yesterday in IM01 Industry Breakout: Trademark Issues in the News and Publishing Industries.

Fake news, which many have identified in the past few years as a major threat to democracy, may have benefitted publishers’ business models, prompting people to seek quality and reliable content, but it is bad for their IP, said Jeffrey D. Parnass (News Corporation, USA).

He moderated a session on IP challenges faced by newspapers, book publishers, and other content producers, with Karen Louie (Harlequin Enterprises Limited, Canada), Nick Redfearn (Rouse & Co. International, Indonesia) and Kate Teh (Telegraph Media Group, United Kingdom) joining the panel.

Ms. Teh presented the fictitious President Trump story, which had been attributed to The Telegraph, and said the accompanying picture of the President lying bloodied on the floor had been taken from a WrestleMania event in which he had participated.

In emerging markets, the problem of fake books is still widespread, Mr. Redfearn said, noting that universities want fast access to textbooks and may use illegitimate printing or photocopying services to achieve this.

Even though this might seem to be more an issue of copyright, sometimes it’s easier to rely on trademark protection, especially when the trademark in question has been printed on the illegal cover.

Mr. Redfearn also discussed illegal reproduction in China of the Harry Potter series via machine translation, which was done “within days” of the books’ release. This type of activity can destroy a publisher’s ability to release an official translated version itself, he added.

Enforcement in emerging markets is a “matter of speed,” so cease-and-desist letters should be filed as soon as possible—the “whole industry needs to move very quickly,” he said.

However, he added, trademark rights need to be balanced with concerns over free speech and editorial freedom, and the public relations implications of any action should be carefully evaluated.

The session also assessed examples of flattery—where the infringer thinks the use does not harm the trademark owner because it is flattering, said Mr. Parnass.

Typically in these examples, the trade dress, title or logo of a book or newspaper are very similar to those of an existing publication, potentially causing brand confusion and dilution.

Ms. Teh, who said The Telegraph sees instances of flattery quite regularly, commented on one example by saying she was “particularly flattered that my riveting legal terms and conditions were worth copying.” 

Did you enjoy reading this story? Sign up to our free daily newsletters and get stories like this sent straight to your inbox

INTA17, Copyright, Fake News, International