There’s a certain city in the Balkan peninsula whose name I cannot type here. Some of you might know it as the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina. This is a city in which the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria got assissinated, an event which triggered the World War I. It’s a city that, in the ’90s, survived a siege that lasted 1,425 days. It’s a city that welcomed people from all over the world in 1984, when it hosted the Winter Olympics.
I was already aware that I can’t show you the mascot of those Winter Olympics games, since doing so would be a copyright violation. What I wasn’t aware of is that I can’t even tell you the name of the city I’m writing this in because I haven’t asked the city’s government for the permission to do so.
On this photo, you can see one of my dearest cities in the Balkan peninsula. I’m free to use the images of it however I like, but I can’t name the city itself. The reason for that can be found in the Decision about the usage of the emblem, name and the flag of the City of Sarajevo,whose article 21 says the following:
Legal and private entities that use the emblem and the name of the City of Sarajevo without the permission to do so from the regulatory body, or against the issued permission and this decision about the usage of the emblem, name and the flag of the City of Sarajevo, have an obligation to pay for the damage caused by such behavior to the City of Sarajevo.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer and I was not able to find translations of certain sources used in this article. Therefore, I have translated them to English myself. If you do understand Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian language, you can find the original quotes in the Bosnian version of this article.
So, the City of Sarajevo gave itself the authority to be the judge of who can and can’t use the name of the city. This city is not the only city in Europe with some very dumb laws.
Paris, as a city that I am allowed to name, contains this tower:
And, while I can show you this image of it, I can’t show you the image of the same tower during night.
You see, the European Union gave France the liberty to enforce the copyright law on buildings. So, until the architect who designed the building dies and additional 70 years go by, nobody is allowed to use any derivative of that work for commercial purposes. While I do not have any commercial purposes for this article (in fact, others are free to re-use it under the CC BY-SA 4.0 International license, even for commercial purposes), I do not want to exclude the possibility of me ever turning this website into a website for commercial purposes (although that will probably never happen). So, I can’t show you the photo of that tower during the night.
Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, who also designed this landmark:
…died while listening to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in his mansion in Paris on December 27th, 1923. By using some very elementary calculus, we come to a conclusion that the derivative works (such as photos) of the buildings he designed should be allowed, since the designs of his buildings now belong to the public domain.
And while I’m free to show you the Statue of Liberty during the night (as I did above), I can’t do the same for the Eiffel Tower. The reason for that is that the lights on the Eiffel Tower were set up for the 100th anniversary of the tower, and the lights themselves are considered as a copyrighted material. That was the decision of the French court in June 1990, later upheld by the France’s court of last resort (Court of Cassation) in March 1992.
Since I am unfamiliar with such a dumb court verdict from the US, I assume that I am free to show you the photo of the State of Liberty during the night. However, I can’t show you a photo of the second building designed by that same architect if that photo was taken during the night.
Those decisions of the French courts are not nearly as dumb as the case of Sarajevo, a city that must not be named. So how did the city put the name of itself under its own protection?
According to the article 5 of the Law about the Principles of Local Self-Governance of the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina, this is a definition of a city:
A city is a unit of local self-governance that represents urban and infrastructural whole connected to the everyday needs of its citizens.
The article 56 of that same law states the following:
Federal and cantonal authorities have an obligation to do their best to consult with the local self-governance authorities when they are making a regulation that affects them.
According to the article 5 of the Statute of the City of Sarajevo (PDF):
City of Sarajevo has its emblem and its flag, together with other symbols, the usage of which is to be regulated by the city’s council in a separate decision, made according to the law.
And, according to the article 24:
Mandate of the city’s council lasts until the next council is voted to enter the City Council.
The Council of the City of Sarajevo mentioned those four articles in a preamble when it established the Decision about the usage of the emblem, name and the flag of the City of Sarajevo, which states that I can’t use the name Sarajevo without asking for the permission to do so from the city’s government.
However, the chance that the city will actually go against a civilian for his usage of the city’s name still seems a little ridiculous, doesn’t it?
Except, this actually happened to an owner of a Facebook page with ~14k page followers called Sarajevo forever. The administrator of that Facebook page published a Facebook status containing this text on January 18th:
I have received a threatening letter from the city’s government in which they are warning me that I have to pay them a certain amount of money for the usage of the name Sarajevo in the name of my Facebook page. If I don’t start paying them, they will start their Facebook teams and contact the court so that they could shut down my Facebook profile.
According to that same author, this Facebook page isn’t the only one that got this message:
All other Facebook pages that promote the city and have the noun Sarajevo in its name got the identical threats.
And so, all of this is very real. The city council in Sarajevo contains full ownership over the name Sarajevo, in a legally-binding decision based upon an article of the law that defines what a city is, and the city’s Statute, which claims that the usage of the city’s symbols (but does not mention the name of the city as its symbol) are to be controlled by a separate legally-binding document published by the city’s council.
Regardless of what derivation of the word you use, according to the article 7 of the decision:
Under the name of the City of Sarajevo, from the title 1 of this article, every derivation of the name is implied, including every abbreviation of the word Sarajevo.
And while that same decision contains a bunch of rules upon which a legal entity could use the name Sarajevo, there are only two mentions of the civilians (or, in other words, private entities) in this decision, emphasized in bold below:
Legal and private entities that use the emblem and the name of the City of Sarajevo without the permission to do so by the authority, or the usages of which are not according to this decision, have an obligation to compensate to the City of Sarajevo all the damage caused by such behavior.
For the compensation of the damage caused by the subsection 1 of this article, the issue will be raised in a court and a permission that may have been obtained earlier will be redacted.
A court prosecution will be issued against a legal or a private entity if, after the permission from the previous article has been redacted, the entity continues the usage of the name and the emblem of the City of Sarajevo, in which the city will request the compensation for the damage caused.
Thanks to the fact that private entities were mentioned just these two times in the legally-binding decision, I, as a civilian, am not allowed to use the name Sarajevo without getting a permission to do so from the city’s government.
Regardless of the fact that this goes against the common sense, someone from the city’s government contacted the above-mentioned Facebook page and wrote this:
Note: While the image above was clearly faked (for the purpose of translating it), the screenshot containing this text in Bosnian got published by the above mentioned Facebook page.
I’ve made a contact with the person behind this Facebook page on January 20th (two days after the owner of the Facebook page in question published the message above), with the intention of offering my help against this ridiculous claim from the city’s government. However, that person claims that the problem in question has already been solved. I didn’t get a detailed answer on my question of how this problem got solved:
Since I couldn’t find any other applicable law, my interpretation of the message above is the following: City of Sarajevo allowed the usage of its name to all the owners of Facebook pages. Since this “solution” is not a part of the law, this text is not published on a Facebook page, and since me, as a civilian, am mentioned only twice in a legally-binding decision, that means that I am not allowed to show the word Sarajevo without facing possible legal consequences.
And while in this case, the city attempted to go against the owners of the Facebook pages that contain the word Sarajevo in their names, I have no legal basis to complain if the city’s government decides to prosecute me for mentioning the word Sarajevo.
So, I can’t tell you the name of the city that this article is about. I have unintentionally already broken this decision when I have added my location on my Twitter profile:
I have unintentionally broken the same decision on my GitHub profile in the same way:
In order to avoid that, you saw this in each occurrence where I could not avoid mentioning the name of the city: Sarajevo.
Since this decision defies all logic, and since I have already broken this decision unintentionally a lot of times, I have decided to add a button on the bottom of this article. By clicking on it, this article will no longer be censored, which will make me break the city’s decision exactly 38 times.
Completely aware of the possible legal consequences of me mentioning the word Sarajevo, I encourage you to click that button. After doing so, this article will stop being censured.
Update on 2018-01-22: Prior to this edit, I have accidentally included a photo of a replica of the Statue of Liberty instead of using the photo of the original.