News

Public Domain not in the cards

Matt Haughey, September 6th, 2003

Earlier this year, officials from the US Defense Intelligence Agency came up with the idea of producing decks of cards for US troops that identified Iraq fugitives. Playing cards have a long history in war, being part of both World War II and the Vietnam conflict. The Department of Defense released the cards as public domain and a cottage industry of card producers sprang up overight to sell them online.

Unfortunately, DOD officials didn’t realize the two joker cards carried the Hoyle Joker, a copyrighted image from US Playing Cards, the company behind Hoyle, Bicycle, and other popular brands of cards. As a result US Playing Cards has begun sending cease-and-desist letters to companies producing copycat cards, and the DIA is helping spread the word. US Playing Cards are currently selling their decks as the one true official set.

When dedicating something to the public domain, it’s important to clear the rights to everything contained within a work, which can sometimes be difficult for film and works of collage. We try to stress this point in the Public Domain Dedication process, but with stories like the Hoyle Joker it’s worth mentioning how important it is to make sure that you control the copyright on every part of your work before dedicating it to the Public Domain. [via Workbench]

One Response to “Public Domain not in the cards”

  1. Jeff says:

    An excellent and inexpensive primer on public domain use is a book from Nolo Press.

    You can find it on amazon or nolo.com by simply searching for “public domain.

    support creative commons and the public domain