In promotional giveaway, Pirates survive unforced error | Slag Heap

In promotional giveaway, Pirates survive unforced error

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As Pirates boosters know all too well, their team has a tendency to cripple itself with errors. But a recent Pirates gaffe -- involving a promotional giveaway -- may for once be giving fans something to smile about.

As the team's June schedule boasts, fans attending the Pirates' June 18 home game against the Cleveland Indians will receive a "Bill Mazeroski Canvas Photo Wrap." The freebie features the iconic photograph of Mazeroski rounding the bases, waving his hat in jubilation after hitting the Game 7 home run that won the 1960 World Series. 

maz.jpg

Sounds like a great 50th anniversary giveaway, right? There's just one problem. The promotion is being underwritten by Trib Total Media, the Tribune-Review publisher who has lately been engaged in an aggressive marketing campaign. And while TTM's logo will appear on the wrap ... the picture itself was first published by its bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"You can imagine that there was some concern," P-G executive editor David Shribman says, somewhat drily.

The image was shot on October 13, 1960 by Jim Klingensmith, a legend in the P-G newsroom, where he spent more than 40 years. And in that newsroom, alarm bells went off that the Trib -- whose ad campaign insists it is the paper of the future -- was now being given a chance to annex the past. The paper has, after all, been a presence in the city for only 20 years. 

The irony goes deeper, of course. The Post-Gazette used to be a part-owner of the Pirates, and its editorial page ardently supported building PNC Park at taxpayer expense. Among that proposal's biggest opponents, meanwhile, was the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. (In fact, as the now-defunct Brill's Content reported, the Pirates were supposedly kept off the Trib's front page because publisher Richard Mellon Scaife disliked the team's ownership.)

As you might imagine, once word of the giveaway got out, discussions ensued between the paper and the Pirates, who claimed that Klingensmith's image was in the public domain.

The question is murkier than you might think: Whereas copyright law governing material published today is reasonably straightforward (this blog post, for example, is protected for 95 years) copyrights dating between 1923 and 1963 would have elapsed ... unless they were renewed 28 years after their initial publication. And the records of such renewal are spotty. In any case, by the time the P-G tumbled to what was going on, the wraps had already been printed -- complete with photo and the Trib Total Media logo.

Tracey DeAngelo, the P-G's marketing director, couldn't say for sure whether the paper had the legal leverage to, say, prevent the Pirates from distributing the wraps. Anyway, she says, "At the end of the day, you have to choose your issues."

So the P-G and the Pirates hit on a compromise. Klingensmith, who still lives in the South Hills, will be on hand with his family at the June 18 game, where he'll be publically recognized for shooting the image. That will both honor a great photographer and clear up any confusion about where the image actually came from. Fans, meanwhile, will get to bring home an iconic photo and thank the local legend who shot it.

"It's really no harm, no foul," says DeAngelo. 

In fact, DeAngelo plans to be at the game. But she also says she probably won't be taking one of the Trib Total Media wraps home.

"I can have all the copies of that photo I want," she points out. 

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