Patrick Wensink’s “Broken Piano for President” and the Art of Ripping Off

Yes, I bought the Patrick Wensink novel. The one called Broken Piano For President. Yes, this is the novel that Jack Daniels decided was copyright infringement. Yes, the copy I bought still has that cover.

No, I did not know of Wensink before this recent explosion of national attention. But, yes, I had heard of Lazy Fascist press (HEY PPL GOOGLING “LAZY FASCIST PRESS” and “PATRICK WENSINK”–BUY SAM PINK & SCOTT MCCLANAHAN, TOO, THEY’RE TOTALLY WORTH IT) before all of this.

Would I have bought this if not for the media commotion?

I am not sure, but the story seems  interesting.. That’s part of the reason I bought it–I happen to like evil fast food empires and art rock bands.

Quite possibly. As I said, Lazy Fascist was on my radar. But I hadn’t been convinced to buy it yet. But, now because of all this, I have bought it.

But the only takeaway from publishers is this: Rip it off. Everything. All of it. All the time.

If Jack Daniels was trying to avoid the insinuation that Broken Piano for President and the whiskey were connected, they’ve only reinforced it. That was one of the impetuses for why I bought the book. It’s a great irony, but the association won’t be denied by Wensink or Lazy Fascist. The book should have the subtitle of: “Once made nationally famous by Jack Daniels” or “It’s okay if you found this book because of the extremely favorable media attention.”

There seems to be absolutely no way Wensink could have planned this, and if he or Lazy Fascist could have planned this, how’d they know it would have worked? That’s it–it was completely and utterly worth the risk no matter the response from Jack Daniels.

Right now, the negatives seem very minimal. If you’re a small publisher that tweaks a major trademark, it may get you tons of free press for your otherwise obscure book. And if it doesn’t get you any press, then you just stop using it. What’s lost? No one would have known about the book anyway. The perception is that Jack Daniels has acted extremely nice in all of this–but if they don’t next time? Then what? What will they do? Bankrupt a small publisher that’s already in the red?

There is this tricky part about the law, but the line seems to be moving towards the creative types. We’ve heard of sampling in rap music of course, there are those mash-up artists I download all the time, and a book written by David Shields as an example of appropriation and the one by Jonathan Lethem that explains it.

Not everyone is going to rip off every logo or slogan. Some have a moral conscience. Some won’t know what they’re doing. But if you know the risk and are comfortable with it, it seems totally worth it. National exposure or no penalty at all. Just do it.

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