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Todd Sheppard

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Subscription Inflation From Wine Advocate — All It Seems, And Less

$199 subscriptions for the trade?

This piece from Dr Vino got me thinking: The Wine Advocate introduces new terms for the trade

The more expensive subscription does come with something valuable: a specific license for a specific number of words to use on a shelf talker, web site or brochure: See the T&C for more. 


Copyright law does not cover “facts.” This means that a winery or any other member of the trade can state that ‘Parker gave this a 99″ or “The Wine Advocate [or insert publication or critic name here] gave this a [insert score here.]”

Folks, facts can’t be copyrighted. Paying $199 instead of $99 does give you the right to use specific wording and phrases. BUT, anyone … commercial or private, can state the facts.


Then there is the grayer area of “fair use” that allows anyone to use portions of any copyrighted work in their own articles, blog posts, reviews, etc. just so long as the excerpts are pertinent and SHORT.

How short?

“Parker gave this 99 points and called it ‘mind-boggling’,” would pass muster for fair use.

Fair use, however, can be up to a court to decide.

Frivolous lawsuits are filed every day. And this industry has a big mob of copyright trolls out there who file lawsuits over common words, phrases and places that have been in use for centuries (See Why I Am Trademarking Pi for a deeper look into troll-dom.). Litigation threats from people with deep pockets go a long way toward enforcing bogus Intellectual Property.

So, given that, if I were using something from anyone at all (not just Parker) in COMMERCIAL speech like an advertisement, I’d go for their WRITTEN permission … or snap up Parker’s $199. Let the trolls hide under someone else’s bridge.