Copyright violations banned

The University’s Electoral Commission has set new rules concerning the use of copyrighted and trademarked material for the 2005 student elections.

Candidates in the elections are not allowed to use any material that has been copyrighted or trademarked without written consent from the owner of that material.

“These elections fall under something that the University has consented to,” said Kitwana Pounsel, who will serve as a poll supervisor for the elections.

“It is important that the University doesn’t look as if they are not aware of copyrights,” said Pounsel, who is responsible for drawing up the commission’s ban on using copyrighted and trademarked products.

Pounsel said she wants to make sure everyone understands and knows that they can ask the electoral commission questions at any time.

A letter of consent protecting the University from liability in lawsuits was included in the declaration of candidacy packet that each candidate received.

“The letter of consent states that the person won’t hold FAMU responsible,” Pounsel said. “Once they sign it, it’s their responsibility.”

According to the commission’s Spring 2005 point system, posting campaign material with copyrighted and/or trademarked logos is a major violation and is assessable to 50 points. The point system also states that 50 is the minimum number of points a candidate may acquire before they are considered for disqualification.

“When someone is found illegally using material, points will be assessed,” Pounsel said.

“We won’t encourage anybody to sue. That is based on the company.”

This is the first year that candidates are being required to sign the letter of consent.

“Concerns were expressed to the University by businesses that had been informed that their trademark was being used,” said Alice Mathis, director of the Office of Student Union Activities.

“We were asked to inform students about copyright and that’s what we did.”

Copyright issues were addressed at several points in the mandatory candidates meeting held Sunday.

It was also expressed to candidates that the commission would not approve anything that may include copyrighted or trademarked material without a notarized letter from the company.

At the meeting, commissioners explained the difference between copyright and trademark.

“I think it is very important because students can get sued, go to jail or possibly go through years and years of lawsuits,” said Ryan Morand, a fourth-year business student from Tampa.

Morand, 21, who serves as Mr. FAMU, used McDonald’s golden arches logo in his campaign during the last election.

“It was appeal. So it helped my campaign a great deal,” Morand said.

However, Morand did not have the company’s consent to use the logo.

“They didn’t require us to have it last year,” he said.

Some of this year’s candidates are OK with the new rule.

“I think the law is very necessary,” said Catherine Segar, a candidate.

“But at the same time, I believe the electoral commission is being too strict when it comes to things like colors.”

Contact Vineta Woodum at