My friends and I are starting a tutoring company. We go to different schools in California, so we’re offering services at more than one college. Because of this we’ve got all the universities where we can tutor listed on our website. We got a letter from the state schools saying that we can’t use their name for commercial enterprises. That we’ve got to take the name of their schools down. Are school names copyrighted? Do we really have to do this?
— Billy, Junior, Private College or University, California
Well, unfortunately, you do have to take the school names down. But it’s not because of copyright laws. It’s because of a specific state law in California. California Education Code Section 89005.5, which says:
“(2) No person shall, without the permission of the Trustees of the California State University, use this name, or any abbreviation of it or any name of which these words are a part, in any of the following ways: (A) To designate any business, social, political, religious, or other organization, including, but not limited to, any corporation, firm, partnership, association, group, activity, or enterprise.”
In plain terms, this means that you can’t use their name to promote your business without the university’s permission.
Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t allude to the fact that you’re offering your services at certain state schools. You could say something along the lines of “Tutors for all California Schools with tutors in” then list the cities where you’re working. It won’t take a genius to figure out that if you say that if you’ve got a tutor in Long Beach, you’re working at Cal State Long Beach.
Work along those lines and I think you’ll get your message across. More importantly, you’ll avoid breaking the law and pissing off the university counsel.
C.L. Lindsay III is the founding executive director of CO-STAR, the Coalition for Student & Academic Rights, and author of the book “The College Student’s Guide to the Law: Get a Grade Changed, Keep Your Stuff Private, Throw a Police-Free Party and More!” in bookstores now. CO-STAR is a network of lawyers, professors and students who work to protect academic freedom and constitutional rights at college campuses nationwide. If you have a question for CO-STAR, log on to their Web site at www.co-star.org.
The material in this column addresses general legal issues only; is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such; and may or may not be appropriate to a specific situation. Laws and procedures change frequently and are subject to differing interpretations. This column is not intended to create, and does not create, a lawyer-client relationship and is not intended to be a substitute for legal counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.
© 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
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