It’s been ten years since Boston Red Sox President Larry Lucchino dubbed the New York Yankees “the Evil Empire’’ - on account of the team’s large coffers, excessive salaries, and, um, occasional success on the diamond. Since then, Yankees fans have come to embrace the idea of their players as the ones everyone else loves to hate. The team celebrates its dubious honor, too, by playing the Imperial March from Star Wars before each home game.
But now the team is taking its reputation for evil a step too far by threatening to sue a mom-and-pop operation hawking anti-Yankees merchandise that parodies the team as “Baseballs [sic] Evil Empire.’’ The devil himself couldn’t have thought up a worse PR move.
Tracy Carey, a former mortgage broker, began selling T-shirts and hats featuring the Yankees’s interlocking NY logo enmeshed with a devil’s face out of her Long Island garage three years ago. (Certain enlightened parts of Long Island are known for their Yankees hatred and Red Sox love.) Although Carey has sold fewer than 1,000 T-shirts, the Yankees filed a copyright infringement claim, arguing that her logo deceives the public into thinking the merchandise is official team gear.
But Carey’s products are clearly not reproductions of the original. They are parodies, which are protected under fair use statutes. If satirists weren’t allowed to mimic original works, the well-established legal principle goes, their audiences would never be able to understand the points they are attempting to convey. The Yankees should drop their objections and move on.