OnTheCommons.org | Annals of Private Property #1: Who Owns the Smiley Face?

If ever there was a cultural icon that emerged from the commons, or at least acquired value through its social circulation via the commons, ol' Smiley is it. It's been around for decades as a shared icon of dubious taste. But now the economic leviathan, Wal-Mart, is claiming that it, and it alone, owns the smiley face image, as a trademark.

The Acid House use of the smiley face definitely came from “Watchmen”. Bomb The Bass used the blood-splashed smiley face from one of Watchmen’s covers, and the image stuck. Tim Simenon (Bomb The Bass) is an accountant now, apparently.
This is of particular interest to me because of my own use of typeographic smileys, which I’ve been thinking of returning to recently.