by Max Brantley
The sun may always shine on the Arkansas Travelers, but the Travs have effectively told one unhappy Traveler fan to put his unhappiness where the sun doesn't shine, in a legal way.
We've told you about John Crow, a Sherwood liquor store owner who's voiced unhappiness with Traveler management changes instigated by Russ Meeks, who calls most of the shots nowadays for the minor league baseball team. Crow came up with a bumper sticker to express his feelings, shown above.
Crow printed 500 bumper stickers to distribute free tonight at a "Hotter Stove" event from 7 to 10 p.m. tonight at Reno's in North Little Rock. Facebook page has details. Crow's event is totally free. It's a protest of its own to a $20-a-head "Hot Stove" event an hour earlier at Embassy Suites in Little Rock.
The Travelers will NOT be mocked. Crow has received a cease-and-desist letter for his "unauthorized use" of the Travelers' mascot from Walter M. Ebel III of the Friday Eldredge and Clark law firm (bigger than which they don't get in Arkansas.)
"The Arkansas Travelers have been using the Shelly mascot for many years and have a substantial investment in this symbol. It is the Arkansas Travelers' position that this mascot and its likeness are subject to legal protection from unauthorized use under applicable law. Accordingly, in the event you do not promptly adhere to this request and immediately cease using all likenesses of the Arkansas Travelers' Shelly mascot, and remove all references to this symbol from all prodeucts and materials you are using or proposing to use, we will have no choice but to advise our client to pursue all available remedies to protect its legal rights with respect to its Shelly mascot."
Well. Short story. Crow plans to go ahead with distribution. He has advice from a lawyer that it's a "fair use" of the trademark under law as a parody protected under the 1st Amendment. The lawyer relies on a case in which Mattel sued an artist, unsuccessfully, over his use of a Barbie doll in bizarre ways to make a statement about objectifying women. Further, the lawyer observed, Crow has created something transformative, or new, from the image, which isn't an exact copy.
Who knew the Travelers had a Shelly mascot? It's so well-known I've never noticed it. But never mind that. The Travelers have thrown John Crow into a briar patch. He intends to munch there happily on a mountain of publicity he wouldn't have received but for the Traveler management's thin skin.