When students entered their residence halls this fall, many expected to see familiar themes inspired by screen characters, board games, and pop culture. This year, copyright restrictions have prevented themes to have that pop culture aspect that is easy to identify with.
Last spring, the Resident Hall Association and Student Life jointly made the decision that hall themes could no longer include copyrighted material. In previous years, residence halls enjoyed themes such as children’s book based ‘Dr. Stuess’ for Stuen, board game inspired ‘Hongopoly’ for Hong, and super hero focused ‘Justice Pfluege’ for Pflueger. Themes used in the past now violate newly enforced copyright restrictions. Students now must follow particular guidelines when it comes to the halls’ theme.
Emily Meltzer, junior and residence assistant for Pflueger, said she misses the themes from previous years but "the hall themes are still a really fun tradition at PLU."
Meltzer has experienced the previous themes and SoundOff events for the past three years. Meltzer’s opinion was positive though as she pointed out, "I am actually really happy with how it turned out this year, and I think it does show more integrity as a university that we are not using copyrighted material."
Sophomore Alex Devine, Pflueger hall activities director, has been involved with the planning of this year’s theme, ‘Pfancy Pfluege Presents: The Roarin’ Twenties’ and various hall events. The change was thrown Devine’s way last spring, but before any serious planning took place. "It was just a curve ball. You have to adapt to it," Devine said.
With previous themes, such as ‘Justice Pfluege,’ the images of comic book characters were used as decoration throughout the residence hall building. Also the ‘Justice League’ symbol was used on hall T-shirts. For ‘Pfancy Pfluege Presents: The Roarin’ Twenties’ theme this year, paintings and cut outs of dancing silhouettes and outlines of black and silver dangling chandeliers can be seen on the windows of the building and in Pflueger’s lobby as well. A tuxedo design was used for the hall T-shirts.
"It’s not so much the name you use, it’s how you decorate, what your shirts look like, that is someone else’s intellectual property," Devine said.
The issue of copyright is not new to Jeff Olsen Krengel, director of residential programs. In fact, in the past when RAs or RHC members would request to host movie nights in the halls or any other place on campus, the rights to those movies must be bought.
The Federal Copy Rights Act states that when movies are rented or purchased, the rights to show those movies publicly, aside from home viewings, does not come with the movie itself. Purchasing the movie, and purchasing the copyrights for public viewings are separate from one another and must be purchased separately as well.
To match the guidelines set when showing movies on campus, themes, apparel and signage inherited similar restrictions as well.
"To make sure consistency was across the board, we made the change," Olsen Krengel said.
Printing companies that print the shirts could also be liable. They assume the school has the right to use submitted designs, "and rightfully so," Olsen Krengel said.
Although theme policies are becoming stricter, residence halls were still able to carry on the tradition of parodied songs at SoundOff during orientation weekend.
"Most of the halls are hardly using even a percentage of the original lyrics. We felt much more comfortable saying ‘Well, since you’re basically changing it, you’re only using melody as opposed to lyrics, let’s be okay with that,’" Olsen Krengel said.
Themes this year include "Hinderlore" for Hinderlie hall with an enchanted twist of folk lore and fairy tails. Also "Reach for the Starstad" for Harstad, had an inspirational star and space theme.
Hall directors have found even with the new policy guidelines, students are still able to keep the traditions of resident hall themes alive. "This is absolutely probably the best year I have seen in terms of creativity, originality, and just excitement," Olsen Krengel said.