Everett Steele has run afoul of MLB’s Atlanta Braves. He hasn’t run onto the field, disturbing a game in progress. Rather, his transgression centers around a t-shirt produced by his company, Baby Robot Industries. At first glance, the t-shirt seems to be nothing more than a standard Atlanta Braves t-shirt, complete with text and logo. Upon further examination, the joke becomes more obvious.
Steele, who runs Baby Robot Industries with his wife, was inspired by a recent internet misspelling of the team’s name, actually released a t-shirt that reads “Barves.” They sell the shirts through one of their sites – atlantabarves.com, and donate the proceeds to the Atlanta Braves Foundation. While fans have embraced the misspelling and the resulting t-shirt, the Atlanta Braves have taken action and are investigating. They’ve forwarded information regarding the shirt directly to Major League Baseball, who handle all such infringement claims.
It’s too early to tell what the outcome will be, but both sides seem to have a legitimate leg to stand on. The big question that needs to be answered is when does parody cross the line into copyright infringement. In other words, how far is too far, in terms of how fans are allowed to express their enthusiasm?