The Marina Towers Condo Association Board met last Thursday, and as expected, blew past the concerns of unit owners in attendance and passed a new set regulations including the notorious Rule Number 5, which claims that the association owns copyright to the building and can shake down anyone wanting to take and publish a photograph of the complex to require MCTA permission and pay royalties . For those so inclined, you can actually download a recording of the meeting, from the Marina City Online website, here.
MTCA attorney Ellis Levin furiously backpedaled from the copyright claim, despite the fact that it's explicitly cited in Rule 5, and now contends the claimed protections derive from trademark law. Yeah, right.
1. How can the MTCA trademark something it doesn't own? Condo owners own the top 40 floors, other entities own the first 20 floors and the other elements in the complex.
2. As you can see from this list on this website of a seller of royalty-free stock footage, numerous buildings including, in Chicago, the Wrigley Building and Board of Trade, have obtained trademark protection, and as you can see from the webpage, it has intimidated companies like this to avoid problems by not accepting photos of these trademarked buildings. However, to the best of my knowledge, there is not a single successful prosecution against the photographers of trademarked buildings that has prevailed in court.
3. The Sixth Circuit of Appeals specifically rejected a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by the I.M. Pei designed Rock 'n Roll Museum against a defendant who featured an image of the building on posters he sold.
4. A claim at a previous MTCA board meeting that WBBM-TV Chicago paid the MTCA for use of the building's image, used to bolster the case for Rule 5, was refuted by station manager Joe Ahern, who stated clearly that the fee paid was only for renting space in the complex, "We do not pay to take shots of buildings”
Infatuated with their sense of self-importance, the MTCA board, in the best Captain Queeq tradition of paranoia, is obsessed with the idea that anyone could confuse authorship of photographs or writings on Marina City with the versions officially sanctioned by the MCTA. Rather than embrace an absolutely splendid website like Marina City Online, which offers up a dazzling collection of information and history on the complex, the MCTA would have us all sink to the level of the MTCA's own embarrassing web presence, pathetically designed and shamefully uninformative.
News flash to the MTCA board. Outside of you and your immediate families, the rest of the world not only doesn't even know the MTCA exists, it couldn't care less. To everyone else on the planet, Marina City is architect Bertrand Goldberg's architectural masterpiece. To demand that everyone must bow down before you is like the night janitor at the Louvre demanding top billing over Da Vinci. To be able to live in one this city's greatest masterworks is a rare privilege, and it would behoove the MTCA board to divert a little of the time they spend as Napoleonic grifters to being responsible caretakers of one of Chicago's great treasures.
For now, however, the rule has passed. There'll be no more news unless the MTCA board is actually stupid enough to try to enforce it.