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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Law is a curious thing

Last month, Houghton Mifflin Company filed a lawsuit against a religious organization, Jews for Jesus, for violating copyright and trademark laws. According to Houghton Mifflin, a New York-based childrens’ book publisher, the group violated the company’s rights by using the childrens’ storybook character Curious George in religious materials without seeking permission beforehand.
It was inappropriate for Jews for Jesus to use Curious George, a universally recognized childrens’ book character, to sell its religious beliefs. Even worse, Jews for Jesus violated the laws of this country by ignoring the copyright and trademark regulations. They should, therefore, take full responsibility for all negligent actions.
Jews for Jesus, an evangelical group with the purpose of spreading the word that Jesus is the chosen Jewish messiah, created a pamphlet entitled, “Are You Curious?” in which drawings of Curious George were used to appeal to children and young adults.
The pamphlet states, under the likeness of Curious George reading a book is the passage, “One day, George opened the Bible where he discovered that Y’shua (Jesus) is the promised Messiah of Israel.” Aaron Abramson, a member of Jews for Jesus and the originator of the Curious George campaign, believes Jews for Jesus has done nothing wrong by utilizing the childrens’ story book character in its materials.
“If you give something out for free, you’re within your rights to do it. We’ve been doing this with a million different topics. We’ve been doing it for 30 years,” Abramson said.
The fact that Jews for Jesus boasts about using other pop icons or events in their religious campaigns is evidence of the nonchalance of Jews for Jesus concerning the infringement on other’s rights.
Instead of recognizing the illegality of using copyright material, it is viewing the issue of using Curious George without Houghton Mifflin’s permission in its pamphlets as Houghton Mifflin’s problem for being lenient with its product over the years.
“It is surprising and a bit ironic that Houghton Mifflin lacks an ordinary sense of humor and as a literary organization cannot detect parody. While Curious George is known for getting in and out of trouble, we’re not looking for trouble. Our hope is that Houghton Mifflin might look to Curious George as inspiration to lighten up, smile and learn to enjoy life,” said Jews for Jesus Executive Director David Brickner.
Houghton Mifflin, a top publishing company for more than a century and a half, has good reason to protest the indecent and illegal use of one of its characters. It was wrong for Jews for Jesus to associate a childrens’ book character with a religious stance because Curious George was created to relate to everyone. For one group to use for their goals, without permission, a childhood character cherished by many is unacceptable.
For a company that emphasizes education, it is only proper that Houghton Mifflin move to protect the reputation and symbolism of its most loved and popular characters.
It could be easy to turn this issue into an example of religious persecution, but the lawsuit between Houghton Mifflin and Jews for Jesus is based on a violation of rights and nothing more. It should not be thought of a religious organization being shunned for its beliefs but as an organization ignoring the established rules of corporate society.
For more than 60 years, Curious George has been the responsibility of Houghton Mifflin. Luckily, Houghton Mifflin has protected the integrity of a childrens’ book character that many growing up have learned a valuable lesson from – when you make a mistake, you must take responsibility for it.

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