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Did They Get Through the Loophole?

Hot on the tails of 20th Century Fox getting in trouble for their Silver Surfer marketing (placing Silver Surfer pics on the back of quarters), Warner Bros. followed it up with their own currency marketing at Comic Con, placing Joker faces on numerous one dollar bills along with the phrase “Why so serious?” (Here is an article about the other wacky things they did to promote Dark Knight at ComicCon).

Note that they specifically did NOT put the web address, www.whysoserious.com, so do you think that creates a good enough loophole? Click “Read the Rest” to see the pertaining federal statute and play lawyer yourself!!

US Federal Law

§ 475. Imitating obligations or securities; advertisements

Whoever designs, engraves, prints, makes, or executes, or utters, issues, distributes, circulates, or uses any business or professional card, notice, placard, circular, handbill, or advertisement in the likeness or similitude of any obligation or security of the United States issued under or authorized by any Act of Congress or writes, prints, or otherwise impresses upon or attaches to any such instrument, obligation, or security, or any coin of the United States, any business or professional card, notice, or advertisement, or any notice or advertisement whatever, shall be fined under this title.

I think by avoiding actually placing the web address on the bills, they successfully skirted violating the statute, but I’m curious as to what you other legal minds out there think. My pal Slam makes a good argument that, really, there is no way they can claim this ISN’T advertising, so yeah, Warner Bros. screwed up.


Yeah, I think it’s pretty demostrable as advertising.

They seem to get away with the Jesus Loves You dollars (Google-able as “Jesus dollar”). Joker dollars might be a little less religious, but the same idea.

Jesus dollars aren’t advertising a movie, though.

Yeah, exactly.

The concern here, Eriata, is that they do not want people making money by advertising on US currency. So if you write, “Jesus Rules!” on a dollar – no problem.

If you write, “Jesus Rules – Jesusrules.com,” which is a website where you sell T-shirts, etc, THEN you’ve got a problem.

There were people outside giving out the bills but not mentioning what they were or what the advertised. Inside, none of the retailers were talking about it either, and one apologized to me for having one (because he didn’t know the Joker thing peeled off). I have to say, it was pretty lousy advertising on their part all around. Maybe that’s why they can get away with it.

Santa Dollars no problem either, because the sticker on the bill is clearly for charity. But Joker is just marketing and brand identity.

Rohan Williams

July 29, 2007 at 8:55 pm

Lousy advertising, Greg? Seriously? The whole viral marketing thing Warner has going seems to be working pretty well so far, and the movie’s still a year away!

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