Intellectual Property

Invasion of Privacy, Copyright Infringement, or Just Shame at Sending a Ziggy Card?


NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana is suing an ex-wife and an auction house for violating "his copyright and privacy rights," reports The Smoking Gun. The first of three Mrs. Montanas recently sold a bunch of letters and memorabilia from the San Francisco 49ers star's college days at Notre Dame.

This case raises potentially interesting intellectual property rights issues: What is privacy to begin with? Especially for a celeb? Are love letters copyrightable and, if so, should most of us be sued for plagiarism too? Etc.

But mostly the case is just another reason to turn to Ziggy, a comic strip created by a father and continued by a son that is every bit as unfunny as the English protectorate under Cromwell I and II, Tom Swift under Victors Appleton I and II, and the current U.S. republic cum empire under Bush 1.0 and 2.0.

I half-suspect that Montana is simply upset at a Ziggy card going public, even one from the '70s, during Ziggy's zigariffic heyday. Based on the stuff below, it's hard to know what is Montana's own feeling and what is mass-produced sentiment. But personal embarrassment should never be enough to justify lawsuits.

NEXT: Phillies, Blunt

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  1. Years ago a friend and I had a joke Christmas gift exchange, where we got each other a bunch of stupid crap just for laughs. One of the things he gave me was a Ziggy comic book, except he had written his own captions and thought bubbles into the comics. It was vastly improved that way. It was actually funny. I still have it somewhere.

  2. I think I know what Joe wanted to do. Some sort of congress.

  3. I think the law’s pretty clear that a letter belongs to its recipient. If you get a letter, you can sell it. You probably can’t sell copies of it, though.


  4. As far as I can tell, the ex-wife isn’t making copies of anything, she’s merely selling items that she owns.

  5. I think I know what Joe wanted to do. Some sort of congress.

    That required Joe to do “a lot of thinking?”

    I think he’s talking about playing Roger Staubach’s Skittle Bowl.

  6. Who would buy that? [shakes head]

  7. Who knows, these days? Celebrities already get special rights like the right of publicity, so why not give them special copyright/privacy protection, too?

    I preferred an aristocracy that at least stabbed/shot one another on points of honor.


    Yes. He had to persuade her to come to him to perform her legislative functions.

  8. If I wrote anything so awfully banal as that card I’d want to make sure no one ever saw it…

  9. Hey, I’m impressed that Joe can write in complete sentences. He has a certain Jr. High style, but that’s not uncommon when it comes to matters of the heart. Way to not embarrass yourself even in a love letter written in your youth. YTM Joe.

  10. I didn’t notice that the little thought balloon was Joe’s work. Pretty friggin’ gay. Marino never drew any thought balloons, I bet.

  11. At least it wasn’t Garfield.

  12. So, Nick, are you implying that “Family Circus,” written by Keane I and Keane II, is not as unfunny as “Ziggy”? I demur.*

    *Also, I’ve always thought that Oliver “Big Ollie” Cromwell could be a very funny guy. Like the time he burned up all those Catholics in the cathedral? Funny! Funny!

  13. I preferred an aristocracy that at least stabbed/shot one another on points of honor.

    The trouble with those people was that they didn’t confine their stabbing and shooting to each other. They had a rather nasty habit of offing peasants for offending them, with no opportunity for the peasant to shoot back.


  14. See, that’s why they should never ask athletes any questions before, during or after the game.
    And you should NEVER ask for written answers, either, evidently.

    Steve Young would have made sure stuff like this had gasoline poured over it and burned in the backyard.

  15. I can’t decide what is more odious and disgusting… the ex-wife for selling this stuff, or the no-life losers who would buy it.

  16. This “card” leads to several thoughts:

    1. What a F’n playa. Dude. Homeboy got style. Using a ziggy card to score. That is priceless.

    2. The man has a way with words. I wonder if he used these cards on all the girls, or just the “special ones.”

    3. Three words – The power of Ziggy.

  17. Oops – I guess that is four words. lol.

  18. JCR,

    Let’s not bicker and argue over who killed who.

  19. Didn’t OJ finally get put in jail for assaulting someone selling his memorabilia?

  20. I prefer to think of OJ as free, searching each of America’s golf courses for that elusive, big-handed, murderous fiend who killed his ex-wife.

  21. I really wish that the news media didn’t obsess so much over celebrities. I wouldn’t wish fame on my worst enemy.

    Of course, the reason why we get to read this crap is because a lot of people want to. I really can’t fathom why. Don’t they have any respect for others’ privacy?


  23. What is it, and who’s doing it? He says he knows what he wants to do but then says she doesn’t have to do it if she doesn’t want to. I think it must be something more rarefied than mere sexual congress, PL, some refinement of conventional tastes to which only NFL stars dare aspire. And in this insane world where even a Hall of Famer and seven-time Pro Bowl player must beg a flight attendant for anal, even they may aspire in vain.

  24. In response to Pro Libertate:

    It’s actually not true that only celebs get a “right to publicity.” You have one too, it’s just that yours probably doesn’t have as high a market value as theirs. But if someone does take a pic of you and make it the centerpiece of a gazillion dollar ad campaign, you too can sue their ass off. Not too shed too many tears for the rich and famous, but if anything celebs arguably have fewer rights as a practical matter than the rest of us, because just about anything they do qualifies as “newsworthy,” making it a lot harder to overcome First Amendment defenses when they try to bring privacy claims.

  25. I’m not sure about “it” being rarefied, but it does sound rather complex. He’s got it all figured out, but if there are any details she’s not happy about, she can let him know. For instance, Bonobos in place of orangutans is okay.

  26. Chris,

    I’m in the business, so I know all too much about the right of publicity. In practice, it’s a celebrity right, but we get releases from hoi polloi, too.

  27. Are love letters copyrightable

    Anything is copyrightable if you straighten it out with a lawyer first.

  28. Ziggy sucks, but Prickly City blows goats!

  29. I didn’t notice that the little thought balloon was Joe’s work. Pretty friggin’ gay. Marino never drew any thought balloons, I bet.

    Marino never drew won any thought balloons Super Bowls, I bet I’m sure.
    January 20, 1985 – Stanford Stadium
    San Francisco 49ers (QB Joe Montana) 38
    Miami Dolphins (QB Dan Marino) 16

    Marino = Wussy

  30. Does Montana have Leonard Marshall’s autograph, or just a helmet shaped tattoo on his back?

  31. Paul,

    “Are love letters copyrightable”


    “Anything is copyrightable if you straighten it out with a lawyer first.”

    No. You don’t need a lawyer. You don’t even need a lawyer to register the copyright with the Copyright Office.

  32. The words in the letter are copywritable. The physical letter itself is owned by the recipient.

    So, she could sell the letter, but she cant publish the contents of the letter in a book, because he owns the copyright on what he wrote.


  34. I wrote a letter 5X as embarrassing as this to a young woman I really, really (still) care about, but at least it didn’t involve Ziggy. But to Montana’s credit, he didn’t use any cliche hypocoristics.

  35. Using a ziggy card to score. That is priceless.

    Otherwise known as “gettin’ Ziggy with it.”

  36. J sub D,

    Puh-lease. Since when can a QB win any game singlehandedly? Marino played with a team that usually had little defense or running game. Yet he kept them competitive with his killer arm. Nah, he’d never draw a thought balloon or use Ziggy to convey his messages of lust.

    Neither would Steve Young, unless it was after a concussion or something.

  37. Otherwise known as “gettin’ Ziggy with it.”

    Made me smile 😀

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