The New York Times Ate My Slogan

You may have noticed that The Food Section logo looks a little scantily clad. Gone is the subheading/tagline "All the News That's Fit to Eat," a parody of the New York Times' famous slogan, "All The News That's Fit to Print."

Mastheadillustration Two days ago, I had the surprise of receiving a cease and desist letter from the New York Times demanding that I immediately remove the "All the News That's Fit to Eat" tagline because, in their words, the "use of this similar slogan capitalizes on the good will and reputation associated with the Times's trademark and constitutes trademark dilution and infringement."

Since I have neither the resources, time, or energy to defend myself against the risk of a lawsuit, I regret to inform you that I decided to cave in.

However, I remain perplexed as to why the Times decided to pick on me. I couldn't be the first person to create a spin on the Times slogan. Even a cursory google search of the phrase "all the news that's fit to" will produce more than 750,000 results -- web site slogans, article titles, books, and even a couple of music albums. Take theyankeeuniverse.com ("All The Yankees News That's Fit to Print"), for example, or prrag.com ("All the news that's fit to spin"), or thebrushback.com ("All the sports news that's fit to print"). Here's just a small sample of the many words that have been transposed with "print": ridicule, byte, fund, aggregate, depress, strip, censor, trip, tint, fake, and dis (my own personal favorite).

All the News That's Fit to Sell, a book published by the venerable Princeton University Press, is for sale on Amazon, not to mention All the Art That's Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn't) and All the Math That's Fit to Print. In the field of music, there's folk singer Phil Ochs 1964 album, All the News That's Fit to Sing; lesser known is the Mulchmen's release All the News That's Fit to Surf!

I could go on and on. But, if I've learned anything from my googling, it's that my attempt at parody was not so original. In fact, the idea of parodying "All the News That's Fit to Print" turn out to be one of the more hackneyed forms of expression in our popular culture. It's the "Mad Libs" of cliches.

The irony of all this is that not only is "All the News That's Fit to Eat" so obviously a parody, this entire web site is a play on the established food media.

So, was I annoyed when I first heard from the New York Times? Of course. And, I still am angry. But, I have realized that there's another way of looking at this entire episode. That the Times would take this little one-man operation so seriously that it would marshal its legal department against my alleged "dilution" of its brand tells me that the New York Times is paying attention to The Food Section, and that's a good thing. In a backhanded way, it's really very flattering.


 





Comments

I love the Times but this is a bit silly. I'm sorry to hear about the tagline. But, like you said, take it as a compliment. You have many, many fans and readers and this tiny pebble on this delicious road will only bring more attention to your site. Cheers to you!

 

So sorry to hear that. Did they take this opportunity to thank you for the great exposure and link love you've given them over the years?

Also, will you be taking reader submissions for a new slogan? :)

 

Oh Josh, that stinks. Don't you write for the Times T magazine? Not that that matters to their crackerjack legal staff, I'm sure... How ridiculous.

 

I love the TIMES, but someone there has just a little bit TOO much of it on their hands. Love your site, great attitude, go forth and create!

 

blech on you, new york times.

i have a food blog called thursday night smackdown, and i continue to be surprised that the wrestling people haven't tried to come after me. because they are musclebound and humorless. i'd think the times would have a better sense of wit.

 

Wow, talk about picking on the little guy. I do agree that it's nice that they are paying attention to you, but sheesh!

 

I'm sorry you were picked-on by the mean old lawyers.

How about a subheading/tagline contest for your readers? I'd be happy to contribute a brand new copy of Bruce Aidells's Complete Book of Pork as a prize for your winner. :)

 

I say congrats! You're important enough to get noticed by the NY Times :)

 

Maybe the Times might prefer things if you changed your slogan to "All the Food That's Fit to Charge Too Much For."
That would fit in with their current food section mantra.

 

I read the NY Times and I say fuhgedaboudit. NY Times has its own financial difficulties to the extent that I doubt they can afford to go after you - especially since you did such a good job researching your defense!

 

"All the news that fits, we print." Oldest joke in the world. I believe Walt Kelly used it on the cover of a Pogo comic book. Don't think he was sued either . . .

 

Have you seen the Times financial situation lately? Hold off for a few a year or so and you can put it back up without worrying about it, as there won't be anyone at the NYT left to sue you.

 

Change it to all the food that's fit to eat - which makes more sense anyway...

 

You're in good company if that's any comfort. In the 1980s, the Times went after a computer game company called Infocom, which published a fan newsletter called The New Zork Times, Zork being the name of its flagship game. NYT actually sued over that one as if anyone would be confused....More at the URL below.

http://www.resonant.org/games/infocom/Infocom_Homepage/Articles/NZT/nyt.html

 

As Dave said, the Times & other newspapers are going through rough times. I think they've decided to wage war on online mediums including blogs who are growing in popularity. Just look at the silly shenanigans the AP is up to with regards to Google & bloggers.

The good news is that you probably showed up on the NYT's radar because your readership is growing & they're afraid at some point you'll be a real threat. So in that regard, congratulations!

Wishing you continued success!

wickedmess

 

Amazing, isn't it, that an enterprise so dependent upon freedom of expression can be so disrespectful of the principle where others are concerned? I understand your desire not to risk a fight, believe me, but I highly doubt they would actually press such an idiotic claim. It's lawyering by threat, and as a lawyer myself, it makes me puke when my colleagues besmirch the profession in this manner.

 

Geez - even Rolling Stone stole the tagline back in the '60s with their 'All the News That Fits'.

The Grey Lady gets a Black Eye for this.

 

are they saying Your parody is Their intellectual property? sheesh. I'm no laywer but have a feeling you would NOT lose this "case" if it ever actually went anywhere. I am not trying to push you to fight; just guessing they assumed you would not, that they could easily scare you into backing down. so sorry to hear about it.

 

It's funny that they think that you're not allowed to use a variation of their tagline ... but you are allowed to use an opinion of them as your tagline. So just change it to "The NYTimes is a bunch of poopyheads who won't let me say that my news is fit to eat."

 

Well, paper is so yesterday's news.

 

My dog once had a rubber squeeze toy in the shape of a newspaper. It had the printed words "All the News That's Fit to Chew." The NY Times hasn't been the same ever since.

 

Yes, well, you're also copying their section headings, fonts and design, besides just the slogan. Indeed, if I said "You tried as hard as possible to make your blog resemble a section of the NY Times newspaper", that would be no less than the truth, would it not?

So it's hard to have any real sympathy for you. You were trying to attract their attention, and you succeeded. Congratulations.

 

I recognize that this seems like overkill (and it probably is). But trademarks have to be policed and defended or they can be lost (or at least diminished in scope and value). Because the NYT's trademark is famous and therefore can be diluted by use of similar or parodic marks in non-competing fields (as opposed to "infringed", which would require some hint at likely consumer confusion), they kinda have to police the mark. It's an almost automatic function at most large companies -- you just got caught in the crosshairs this time around.

Not that any of that is much consolation, but it's almost certain that it wasn't personal. Someone else will get the cease and desist (which we in the trade call "nastygrams") next time.

 

Yeah, how could they do such a thing to someone who designed their page to look exactly like the New York Times! With nothing obvious to indicate it isn't the Times? Let's see some more hard-hitting google journalism on that.

 

Ech... that really sucks. I have to say this reminds me the milk commission (or whatever they're called) going after this woman's site promoting breast feeding... she'd created t-shirts with slogans on it that said, I believe "Got (breast)milk?" possibly with boobies on it... and I think she had other t shirts that parodied pork being the other white meat? I forget exactly, but she was really mad - but then she was kind of making a profit off the slogans... so it's slightly different. I realize you run ads on here but... I don't know.

PS Seth Green is a total expert on parody laws... you should talk to him. I bet he'd have a solid defense for you.

 

Take it as a huge compliment - years ago I was running a software start up in my basement, called micro-software designs - we receive the very same type of letter from MicroSoft - they actually paid us to change all our letterhead, business cards, etc. We just reverse the words to Micro-Design Software and they were fine with that. Well the company grew quite large for the narrow field it was in, so in the long run I guess MicroSoft was right. They do invest mucho into their "brand". Be very happy that you are getting the ( much deserved) attention of big media. Best wishes for much continued success

 

I highly recommend you send the Cease & Desist letter you received to chillingeffects.org; they have a large database of C&D letters. They also have a FAQ about such notices that might help you out, should you change your mind and decide to fight the dirty bastards.

 

let's see:
you design your site to look amd read like the Times section. Parody?..Once, yes. 8 months of regular postingseriously about food stuff, no.
Did the Times sic the entire weight of their legal dept on you?. No, they just wrote a letter.
If you thought that there was any possibility of you being in the right, you could write a letter back and tell them to stuff it. You could probably find a law student to do it for free.

PS: I hope you continue the blog, it's a pretty good read.

 

I seem to recall from my sex-obsessed teenage boy years that there was a "weird news" section in Penthouse magazine called Hard Times. Their slogan was "All the news that's printed to fit."

Now one would think that the NYT would have far more of a problem with that, seeing as how they're so concerned about the "reputation associated with the Times trademark."

Actually, the Hard Times slogan fits the NYT brand of reporting these days...

Incidentally, the NYT got the coveted "Wankers of the Day" award from Atrios today for their actions against you.

 

Some years ago I published a mountain bike magazine called the Fat Tire Flyer. At the top of the Masthead we used the phrase, "All the poop that's fit to scoop."

Suck on it NYT.

 

I am a NY attorney with a lot of time on my hands, since being laid off from my firm. If you want to talk, I could advise you and potentially allow your byline to remain a thumbing-nose.

 

Don't worry. The Times will be history soon, then you can use it if you want. Too bad I'm not a subscriber... I'd cancel!

Shame on you, Times.

 

and don't forget the Columbia Spectator...

"All the news that fits, we print"

 

On the other hand, I wouldn't have found this site if it hadn't been for this particular piece of bullying. So at least you got one reader out of it, possibly more.

 

You go! Your blog has been reposted on Poynter & your gain is the NYTimes' loss. See you on Facebook...and beyond.

 

Not only do you need to have a slogan contest, you need to title it "Food Fight with The New York Times!" Be sure to post it at "Is My Blog Burning (http://www.ismyblogburning.com/) for max exposure.

Here's my entry: "Mocking the New York Times Since 2008"

Feel free to insert a different verb, such as Dissing or Insulting. Less subtle, but let the lawyers chew on that.

 

Not to defend the Times' decision to call you out per se, but I think you don't know what "parody" actually means. I'm not all that familiar with your site, but it looks like you simply provide news and information about food. I don't see you "parodying" anything at all, and certainly not the NY Times.

Instead, you provide an alternative or one might say competing source of news about food...a direct competition to something the Times does. And you do it in a similar format, including the column style, centered headline, bits of stuff on the sides of the banner, etc - I mean, have you seen the Times' paper or page lately? And you use a very obvious analogue of their trademark, the same way they do. And you take ads and do this for money, right?

I'd say you fit quite nicely into the definition of trademark infringement here, at least enough to cause a sensible IP lawyer send a letter if not actually win a suit. (Dilution is another story - that claim seems silly. Dilution is for when you associate someone's mark with something considered "bad," like porn or something, though otherwise you would not be infringing. Not really applicable here.)

If you don't like it, have a word with Congress and get them to repel the Trademark laws.

Or find a way to do your business that doesn't appear fall foul of US intellectual property rules.

Sorry, but that's how it goes.

 

sorry, I meant to write "repeal," not repel.

 

Times(pun intended) must be hard if they have to attack the little guys. The Times are a big bunch of pussies and of course any publicity is good publicity.

 

Back in my dotcom days the company I worked for got a letter from a division of a rather large software company. They claimed our use of a "any graphic that contains a circle", the "circle" was part of our logo also violated their trade dress and would confuse the customers. Well there seemed to be a little problem with their logo, it wasn't trademarked yet, so we protested their logo and to this day they only have it registered and not trademarked. The tagline is no great loss, I really never noticed it anyway and you'll come up with something better.

 

I like how you handled this. Though I bet there is a new term you could create for the Dictionary of Modern Gastronomy that describes the New York Times' action.

 

My favorite, from the sixties, don't remember where:

All the news that fits, we print.

 

It's hard to believe that The New York Times is picking on The Food Section over the much-parodied slogan--now, when the Times is in such financial difficulty.

How about a new slogan contest?

Maybe a twist on New York Newsday's old slogan ("Truth, Justice and the Comics"), by way of Superman:

"Truth and Justice -- on rye."

Or the New York Daily News ("New York's Hometown Newspaper"):

"New York's Hometown Cooking."

Or the recently departed New York Sun ("It Shines For All"):

"It Dines For All."

 

They caught you and send you a form letter. Come up with something clever and original and get over it.

 

Gosh, I'm surprised the NYT didn't see fit to claim ownership of the phrase "The Food Section", too!

 

If they don't defend something they've copyrighted (assuming they did) they risk losing their copyright. Think of how people say Velcro, even though that's a brand name and not the actual name of the product sold by many companies. So many people use it that it's passing into generic language and soon Velcro wont be able to sue anyone for naming their product Velcro.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genericized_trademark

"A trademark typically becomes "genericized" when the products or services with which it is associated have acquired substantial market dominance or mind share. The term is legally significant in that unless a company works sufficiently to prevent such broad use of its trademark, its intellectual property rights in the trademark may be lost."

Also, I think you should keep it up as 'News that's fit to Eat'.

 

Maybe it is worth at least an e-mail to the EFF, see if they think you have a case and if they have someone interested in working with you?

http://www.eff.org/issues/intellectual-property
http://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers
http://www.eff.org/about/contact

 

Seriously, you should never cave in to garbage intimidation like this. Please put the slogan back up and respond to the NYT lawyers asking them for clarification as to why it is not clearly protected parody. Because it is.

Please don't reward this kind of crap by caving in. You only make it worse for the next person.

 

Just remember what Bette Davis said: "You're nobody till somebody hates you."

 

Perhaps there's an all-seafood version out there.

 

Companies large and small spend huge amounts of money to create, build and protect their trademarks. While it's easy to make The Times a bad guy, the fact is that intellectual property has value and rights and it doesn't matter if it's a small web site leveraging the mighty New York Times -- or visa versa -- to take and use for your own purposes that which belongs to some one else is not right. And the owner has the right to protect their property.

I'm all for protecting the little guy, but in this case, I'm on the side of The New York Times. I doubt very much if TheFoodSection.com would have used "all the news that's fit to eat" had the phrase not already earned meaning as a result of The New York Times spending many decades and millions of $$'s giving meaning to "all the news that's fit to print." Of course you should have given it up -- it doesn't belong to you.

 

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