I remember around 20 years ago, or more, coming out of a meeting and “discussing” with a colleague whether the number that was agreed on was 5 or 7. This was no more than five minutes later than the debate took place. We could not agree and needed to ask another attendee to confirm the exact number. Fortunately for my ego I was right in that instance. I am sure that if my ego let it I could find many more instances when I was in the wrong, but that is not the point. Continue reading
***Note: The information contained in this message and any attachments is privileged and confidential and protected from disclosure. Any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited.
The above rider is sent out by The Freecycle Network along with its Cease and Desist emails and is worthy of some discussion. The main thing to understand is that this is an out and out bullying tactic that has absolutely no relevance to law, in any country, in any universe. It is an embarrassing and bad joke that is aimed at putting pressure on people that TFN has an issue with. It is the tool of a bully.
The ONLY way anything can be held as private and confidential is if BOTH parties agree IN ADVANCE. So if Mr Beal had sent a previous email along the lines, “Hello, I am about to send you something confidential, before I send it I must have your assent that you will hold it private and confidential.” To which you might reply, “ok”. Then in that instance is there a kind of confidentiality contract.
With that process you as recipient have the opportunity to not see the information that is deemed precious, or to redefine or clarify the terms of confidentiality.
As an employee one might have signed a confidentiality clause, and that clause might extend, say for a year beyond contract termination. Again as an employee you do not have to sign a contract of employment or you could ask for clauses to be added, taken out or otherwise modified.
For one party to announce single-handed that what is sent is confidential is not worth the paper it is written on. It is a pure tactic used by a bully and anyone who associates with such a practice, in my mind needs their head examined. If you do work with this organisation, as an employee or as a volunteer, just ask yourself – are you happy being associated with such an organisation. Does this reflect well on you?
I am not sure you are doing your job properly. There are 1000’s of places showing groups, individuals and organisation are flagrantly abusing your trademark claim. If you want to outsource this work I can send out Cease and Desist letters for you. If you do this I can assure you that everyone who abuses your trademark will be challenged properly. If necessary I will allocate a team of people to send these out. This service will cost you nothing. You will receive a full list of places where Cease and Desist letters and emails are sent. Of course if either party are not happy with the service they can terminate it at any stage.
Benefits to TFN include:
- full challenging of any abuse of trademark
- no cost
- no volunteer effort required
- full monitoring of service
- independently audited
- immediate termination by either party
Can I say fairer than that! If you wish to take up this offer please do within the coming week from posting at which point I will close the offer. This is intended to demonstrate that this blog is acting as independently as humanly possible.
Already The Freecycle Network closed down a yahoo group that was into music and nothing to do with free recycling, simply because it has the word freecycle in the name. If they win their court case then without any constraints I wonder where their Cease and Desist letters might end up. If you put “freecycles” into google then you end up some interesting links.
One is a yahoo group of people who paint themselves. These are the “Painted Cyclists in the Fremont” who turn out each year for their Solstice Parade each year, and always with no clothes on. Interestingly their yahoo group started on May 30th, 2003. If Deron wins his legal battle, I wonder if he will cycle there and deliver his Cease and Desist letter by hand 🙂 If he does I will be ready with my camera.
Another is a bike shop in Missouri offering bikes at no cost as a good deed to the community as part of a sustainable transport initiative. I am not sure their Cease and Desist letter will go down well with environmentalists anywhere. Interestingly I would argue this group had a greater claim to use the name since “free+cycles” = “freecycles”. They didn’t even have to leave out the “RE”.
To trademark something you need to be the sole user of that word or logo. As far as the word freecycle goes it would be nice to think that TFN actually created the word freecycle. However it is patently untrue.
Yes, Deron created The Freecycle Network, and yes Deron registered the freecycle.org domain name. However both of these events only happened in 2003. If you check the whois records for other variants of freecycle you can see that:
- freecycle.com was created as a domain name on 29th March, 2000
- freecycle.net was created as a domain name on the 2nd February, 2000
These claims to the word freecycle are both over three years prior to TFN reusing the word freecycle. These websites are still running. They are still running as bona-fide businesses and still trading under the name of freecycle.
Besides these are several other “freecycle” websites that are nothing to do with TFN activities, such as freecycle.co.uk. These however, as domain names were created after TFN’s creation in 2003.
If you look into the records for the variants of “freecycling”, again you will find them as in use by various businesses although none of these pre-date TFN.
Have any of these organisations and websites have had trademarking Cease and Desist letters aimed at them? If so, have any of these organisations acted to such letters? The answer is patently no, and therefore here is yet another very serious nail in the coffin of Deron’s trademarking claims.
According to Yahoo Terms and Conditions you must behave correctly when using trademarks, and TFN keeps their copyright team busy ensuring this clause is managed. On the 7th of this August month one group received the following notice from Yahoo:
Freecycle has notified Yahoo! Inc. (“Yahoo!”) that one or more trademarks proprietary to Freecycle are used in connection with the Yahoo! Group FreecycleXXX. Freecycle has further notified Yahoo! that the Freecycleolympia group is not authorized to use the “Freecycle” mark(s) in question at:
Group Name (URL)
Yahoo! respects the rights of both its users and the owners and rights holders of intellectual property. Accordingly, Yahoo! intends to
expeditiously remove or disable access to the mark(s) in question.
PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT UNLESS THE MARK(S) IN QUESTION ARE REMOVED FROM THE GROUP NAME, TITLE AND/OR DESCRIPTION, OR ACCESS TO THE MARK(S) IN THE GROUP NAME, TITLE AND/OR DESCRIPTION ARE DISABLED WITHIN FORTY-EIGHT (48) HOURS, YAHOO! WILL DISABLE ACCESS TO YOUR GROUP.
In order to change your Yahoo! Group name, title and/or description, please follow the instructions below:
1. In the control panel on the left navigation bar of the Group, click on the Management link.
2. Under the Group Settings, click the Description & Appearance link.
3. Under the Web Address heading, click edit to update the Group name (URL).
4. Click the Save Changes button when you are done.
5. Under the Description heading, click edit to update the title or description
6. Click the Save Changes button when you are done.
Through your participation in Yahoo! Groups, you agree to abide by the Yahoo! Terms of Service, as well as any additional Terms of Service applicable to you. The current Yahoo! Terms of Service may be reviewed at: http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms. Pursuant to Section 6 of the Terms of Service, Member Conduct, the use of Yahoo! services to “upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any Content that infringes any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights (“Rights”) of any party” is prohibited.
As you know, Yahoo! may terminate any and/or all services and accounts without notice. This notice is provided to you as a courtesy. Without waiving or limiting any rights or remedies Yahoo! has or may have, as the listed owner of the group, you are hereby advised that our receipt of another notification of infringement alleging the infringement of another party’s intellectual property in connection with this group may result in not only the suspension of the group, but the termination of all of your Yahoo! services as well as the deactivation of your Yahoo! ID.
If you believe that the Freecycleolympia group was designated by Freecycle by mistake or misidentification, or if you believe that the group has not infringed upon Freecycle’s trademark rights, you may contact Freecycle directly at:
Copyright Agent, Yahoo! Inc.
Note that Yahoo’s goal here is NOT to delete your group – so simply disassociate yourself with an organisation that does not deserve your or your members’ support and you are good to go. Oh, and by the way, look out for that AstroTurf group that probably already exists and warn your members that you do not advocate them to be associated with same. Ask them if they want to exist in the world of Big Brother that Deron seems to perpetrate, or do they want freedom.
According to The Freecycle Network you cannot freecycle. It is simply not allowed. To freecycle would mean actually removing items from landfill of course and that is surely what we are about. But that is not what The Freecycle Network is about. For them freecycling is and anyone who freecycles is banned.
Yes, it is official, according to their trademark compliance page, anyone that freecycles is simply not trademark compliant. According to that page the ONLY way to use freecycle is either as a noun referring to the company OR as an adjective. That is it.
So, for example, anyone who uses it as a verb is not trademark compliant. And you can be sure of receiving a Cease and Desist email or letter within the next 24 hours. So, owners and moderators I would strongly advise you to admonish your members to stop freecycling now. And tell them that if they freecycle then they will be excommunicated.
You will note that even Deron Beal’s home group in Tuzon, AZ has a problem with this. At the beginning of his second paragraph he really wants to use the word freecycle, but cannot so has to use the incorrect word “recycle”. (We are not about recycling. Freecycling is something totally different, and Deron you really ought to know that by now!)
So if you are into freecycling and actually freecycle something then STOP IT NOW, otherwise you will be taken to the court. Anyone for a game of tennis?
Some groups have told me they are getting positive help from their GOA regarding trademark compliance. It is always good to get support, and I am glad to hear about. Of course it would help more if GOAs actually spent more time asking groups how they can help them rather than acting like a policeman.
Apparently there is a point at which this “help” stops. That is when you are sent a Cease and Desist email or letter. From that moment on your GOA is forbidden to talk to you on any subject whatsoever, and it is downhill skiing all the way.
So if you have not been sent a Cease and Desist then you should be okay for now and any purge will not affect you.
(Of course, there has been a problem of email communication from TFN. When they want to approve a new member of OIDG or a modsquad they seem to have problems getting a response. This was the case when I applied, and I know of many others who have had problems being approved. The main excuse is that it is owner’s fault for not responding… Well if they have problems communicating when trying to do something positive like modsquad or OIDG approvals, then I guess similar issues may face them when sending out Cease and Desist.)
I have direct evidence of at least three freecycle groups on Yahoo that are under attack by TFN with Cease and Desist letters. I suspect that a widespread purge of any group related to freecycling is in progress. Remember just because your group is officially listed on the freecycle organisation’s website counts for nothing. If you or your group is approached what should you do?
Well to begin with I would:
- reread the Yahoo terms and conditions
- save your membership list
- read this blog in detail
- visit the many links on the blogroll and then
- decide in your own mind where you want to go.
If you decide that TFN is right in its approach then obviously you could ask them how you could correct the situation. Typically they have not been very good at entering into a positive dialogue that will help you, but perhaps in this purge they will behave better.
If not they could join your group under a known id or under some alias and try to ascertain their own impressions of what your group is about. Elsewhere on this blog I have talked about ErsatzFriend and its issues so I won’t bore you by repeating those warnings.
Whatever you do, do not yield to pressure to allow a TFN person to become either a co-owner or moderator. If you need a co-owner create an alternative email address for yourself (always with a different email provider, eg email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org) and use that. If you need another moderator go though your normal procedures. Be very wary about taking on fresh moderators that you cannot at least verify as living locally. Do not expose your membership list to all members – ensure only moderators can see it.
If TFN takes a dislike to you and/or your group then typically anything you say or do not say, do or not do will not have any positive effects.Be very wary about joining any groups such as Ready2LeaveFC, IFMS, FCNEXT or asking any questions in any formal TFN groups. All this will do is highlight that you and your group are a bigger risk. If you need to do research and an email address is required then do it anonymously under a temporary email address and never reveal what group and country you are from.
Unfortunately while a purge is in progress I would strongly recommend that you do not run a poll of your members. If you do then it will immediately flag up to TFN that you are considering your options and they are likely to make an unilateral strike against your group. This may include
- Create an AstroTurf group
- Populating it with YOUR members list
- Adding their own owners
- Getting new moderators in
- Delisting your group and replacing it with their new group
- Instructing Yahoo to delete your group, without notice.
This will happen. It is happening now. That is a fact.
I am not listing the groups I know about because that in some perverse way may help TFN in its purge. All I can say is be vigilant for AstroTurf groups that have names like yours. You need to search daily on Yahoo Groups. If you find one then act quickly to protect you and your group.
This all sounds very paranoid. I wish I was making this up. Spread the word about this blog to other moderators and owners. You have been warned.
Dear Owner of the Yahoo group “xxxx”, I am writing on behalf of The Freecycle Network(TM) to notify you that your link has been removed from http://www.freecycle.org. This was done at the request of the Group Outreach and Assistance Coordinator for your region because your group is not currently set up in accordance with the basic requirements for all approved Freecycle(TM) groups. We have invested considerable time and resources in insuring that our organization is associated with only appropriately moderated, legal, and totally free services that have a common source of origin from The Freecycle Network(TM). This is why we only allow approved groups to associate with us in each community–to avoid any confusion among the public as who they are dealing with when the Freecycle name is used. Accordingly, please consider this your official notice to stop using the trademark-protected Freecycle name and logo, as well as any and all copyrighted texts, graphics, rules, guidelines, title, or its URL (Yahoo group name). Please understand that our intent is not to stop your or your group from gifting or exchanging unwanted items with fellow users. Should you wish to remain independent of our organization, you are, or course, free to start your own gifting-based site under a name that is not confusingly similar to Freecycle. For those of your members who are looking to join a local Freecycle group, you may simply refer them to http://www.freecycle.org where they can find all approved Freecycle groups. Please let me know when either the group has been deleted or the above-listed Freecycle materials have been completely removed from your group. We appreciate your commitment to furthering the overall mission of promoting the local gift community in your area while keeping good stuff out of landfills. Sincerely,
Freecycle(TM) Trademark Team Coordinator
I reproduce the above with kind permission. While it is fair for any organisation to ensure that it operates effectively I do have a number of issues with it. Firstly there is an implication in the email that somehow a GOA-type person initiated this email. While always possible and likely in some cases it is obvious that when TFN starts doing a purge of groups (as it historically has done) then that can only come from the central team and to try to blame someone else smacks of disingenuity.
Secondly and more importantly one has to question how TFN goes about ensuring its groups are TFN compliant. I hear of so many stories of groups working so very hard to be TFN compliant and getting no help whatsoever that one has to ask about the processes involved.
A third point is this email is not actually trying to solve the compliance problem, it’s approach is “we do not want you”. Surely a healthy process would be to indicate what the actual non-conformance was and to ask that it would be remedied? I ask for ANY group that has had such a Cease and Desist email to provide any communication that lists points of non-compliance. Basically non-compliance in such instances often seems more like a “we don’t like you” attitude rather than any attempt to find a supportive solution.
Finally this email is often entitled as a “1st request”. I repeat this is, in TFN’s words a first request. Often when this kind of email arrives in your inbox it is the first you know of the problem. Wouldn’t it be nice if a “first” step was really a discussion around what any problems were and what kind of solutions might be possible, instead of saying “that’s it, you’re dead.”
I sincerely hope that you, as a group owner of what you think is a TFN compliant group do not get a “1st request.”
PS if you want to see a critique on TFN’s trademark claims then read chilling effects on “1st request”.