A former South Dakota lawmaker convicted of raping his two foster daughters has sent news organizations what he claims is a copyright notice that seeks to prevent the use of his name without his consent.
A letter and an accompanying document labeled "Common Law Copyright Notice" said former state Rep. Ted Alvin Klaudt is reserving a common-law copyright of a trade name or trademark for his name. It said no one can use his name without his consent, and anyone who does would owe him $500,000.
Klaudt was convicted in 2007 on four counts of second-degree rape for touching his teenage foster daughters' breasts and genitals in phony examinations he said could help them sell their eggs to infertile couples. He was sentenced to 44 years in prison for rape and 10 more years after pleading guilty to two counts of witness tampering.
The notice, received by The Associated Press and several other news organizations Monday, carried a return address that matched that of the state prison in Springfield, where Klaudt is being held.
Klaudt's daughter, Roxy, reached by telephone at the family ranch near Walker, confirmed that her father had sent the copyright notice but would not explain why.
The former lawmaker could not immediately be reached for comment because inmates must be contacted initially by letter and asked to write or call, said Michael Winder, a spokesman for the state Corrections Department.
Laura Malone, associated general counsel for intellectual property at The Associated Press, said names of people, companies and products cannot be protected under copyright law. Names can be protected under trademark law, but only in association with goods or services used in commerce, she said.
"Even if there was a valid trademark, the mere use of the name in a news story is not an infringement of trademark," Malone said Tuesday.
"There is no legal substance to these claims," she added.
The letter and copyright notice Klaudt sent to The Associated Press carried a postmark of Dec. 11 from Mobridge, a city near his ranch. The notice was signed July 13, 2008, and notarized in Bon Homme County, the location of the Springfield prison. It also included a seal indicating it was filed with the register of deeds in Corson County, where the family ranch is located, on July 31, 2008.
The letter said anyone seeking to use Klaudt's name would have to file a written request 20 days in advance. It also said he would pursue charges and other legal action against anyone who violated the notice.
South Dakota's Supreme Court upheld Klaudt's convictions in August for the events that occurred in his Pierre motel suite during the 2005 and 2006 legislative sessions. Klaudt served in the state House from 1999-2006 and left because of term limits. He ran for a state Senate seat in 2006 but lost to the Democratic candidate.
His lawyer had argued in the appeal that while Klaudt's actions were terrible, they did not amount to rape because the girls gave their consent in the belief they could make money by donating eggs to infertile couples.
A state prosecutor countered that Klaudt did rape the girls because he coerced the two into fake medical examinations and they did not consent to what Klaudt was really doing.