Friday, June 13, 2008

Quotes Flying? Better Duck!

Today, while working on a story about open source software in university IT systems, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with a remarkably smart admin, whose name I can't use here. He's quoted in an upcoming story, but I can't call him by name in this piece because of some rather silly policies at his organization.

This fellow has his Unix down. He's a smooth operator with a vast knowledge of systems and software. But his statements are closely monitored by the university publicity department. They've obviously got everyone on campus trained well, because the admin told me we'd have to get approval for the story from these folks before we can run it.

He assured me that these were reasonable people, who wouldn't want to quibble with any details in the story; they'd just want to ensure they were covered from a liability standpoint. To illustrate this point, the admin told me that if I referred to his IT team by the college mascot name, something I was able to Duck in my article, that Systems Management News and I could be open to trademark lawsuit from the NCAA PAC 10 Conference. That mascot, is, after all, owned by the college and the conference.

I'm sure this was all a misunderstanding. I'm sure the university of this unnamed state, one of the many, many states in our nation that begins with the letter “O,” has no plans to sue us. I'm sure the fear was that we'd have a massive pull quote on the front page featuring the animal, cartoon character, and worst of all, the name of the college mascot. Or that we'd show a bump in single-issue sales for using a specific college logo on the cover. Or, heaven forbid, that our readers would learn that such bright, articulate people were associated with that university.

Unfortunately, such is life in this litigious society. And perhaps some universities are just too sensitive about becoming known as the place where Animal House was filmed.

-- Alex Handy

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