17 January 2007

Ampelfrau and Ampelmaennchen

We received at the Open ClipArt Library yet another request to remove the "famous" Ampelfrau and Ampelmaennchen images, this time citing trademark infringement. The message appear to come from their creator, thomas.fuchs@ampelmann.de, is quite strong and sound like this:

Dear Mr. Gates,

on your website "openclipart.org" you offer two cliparts
called "Ampelmaennchen" and "Ampelfrau" as a
license-free download. We are the owners of the
registered trademarks "Ampelmännchen" and
"Ampelfrau". So we challenge you to remove the two
symbols from your page within the next two weeks.

Best regards

Thomas Fuchs

Note: Matthew Gates has made the images in SVG format and submitted them.

My belief is that is stupid to protect with trademark and restrict usage of road traffic signs created with public money. Info on Wikipedia here and here.

I see there is a movement on OCAL to remove them, so I saved a copy:

ampelfrau ampelfrau ampelmaennchen ampelmaennchen

Now good luck in removing them from all the mirrors, version control systems, packages, applications, distributions etc.

PS: I wonder if "Ampelfrau" and "Ampelmaennchen" would be ever registered as trademarks in my non-german speaking country.


    Hash: SHA1

    Hi Nuci,

    I'm Matthew Gates, the guy who made the SVG version of these images. I made them after seeing some charming pictures of the street signs in question on Flickr. I understand (and share) your surprise that it's possible to get trademarks for these pieces or art - especially given their history. I would like to make it clear that when I created the images and submitted them to Open Clipart project, I had no idea they were trademarked.

    Whatever my personal feeling about the trademark claim, I don't think the Open Clipart project is the proper place to challenge it. The law may be crazy. It might not be the law in the country you live in. You might disagree with the premises on which the law is made.

    It's all rather irrelevant. The Open Clipart project is more important than two images. Personally, I'm disappointed that someone wants to "own" a charming piece of art and prevent it's use, but it could well be legally binding (I have no idea - IANAL), and frankly I don't care to go through an expensive and troublesome process in the courts to find out if the claim holds water.

    Matthew Gates: matthew[at]porpoisehead[dot]net

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.3 (GNU/Linux)

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  2. I understand your position and I expect OCAL to delete the files (someone else, not me), this is why I made a backup on my own site.

  3. also a backup page in Romanian language, hosted in Romania and obeying the Romanian law.

  4. Knowledge is for common good. A man is sum total of his experiences from around. Inputs come from around, some thimes from far away cultures hence nothing can be absolutely a one man's property.

    Imagin how it 'd be if Indians have patented the concept of Zero or the Decimal system ?
    The System of patents must go!(in a global village environment)