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Wacky Packages - Still Illegal After All These Years
Morton Salt forces eBay to ban sale of vintage children's collectible
By Gregory Grant
May 7th, 2003
If your age puts you in the 30 something crowd then you probably remember
Wacky Packages. Wacky Packages are stickers (peel and punch-out) that were
released by the Topps Chewing Gum Company between 1967 and 1992. They
parodied common household products and were extremely popular among
children in the 1970's. Kids loved them because they were fantastically
rebellious for the times, they had an edgy humor and they showed
characters that were massively appealing to children.
Wacky Packages were more than a fad since they raged for at least two
years and stuck around for several more. They are still actively
collected, traded, bought and sold. The advent of the Internet has
allowed collectors from all over the country to reach each other fueling
desires to finish those old unfinished sets.
However, not everyone was as big a fan of Wacky Packages as the kids were.
Many of the companies that had products being parodied filed cease and
desist (C&D) letters. This lead to Topps pulling some titles during
production creating "short printed" wacky packages which fetch a pretty
penny these days.
Now to everybody's disbelief, in the year 2003, 35 years later, eBay
started shutting down auctions for the Wacky Packages card "Moron Salt"
which parodies "Morton Salt." This title came out in 1967 and was pulled
about half way through the run because the Morton Salt Company filed a C&D.
Now most Wackys change hands these days on eBay. There are some
500 auctions going at any given time. But for a couple of months you
could not sell "Moron Salt" on eBay. Who could believe it but they
actually forced eBay to ban auctions of a 35 year old children's trading
Ebay's explanation is as follows:
"A member of our Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) Program [Morton Salt
Division of Morton International, Inc.] notified us, under penalty
of perjury, that your item infringes their copyright, trademark, or
other rights." And they followed up with the threat "If you relist
this or any other similar items on eBay, your account could be
This raises the question on whether Morton Salt's interpretation of
copyright infringement is correct. We don't know if they were advised
by their lawyers that their ban could not hold up, or maybe they realized
the negative publicity was not worth giving to an obscure sticker parody.
In any case they did not maintain their ban longer than a couple of months.
Of course the Wacky Packages collectors thought this was fabulous. They
would thank Morton Salt directly if they could, because that is what Wacky
Packages were all about. It's nice to know it still gets under their skin
35 years later. That makes collecting them even more like it was in 1973
(just adding a few zeros to the prices).
© copyright Greg Grant, 2003. This article is available for
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