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”.
TFN works hard to defend its trademarks. My guess is that at least half of its donations to date have gone on that project, what with Deron’s time, registration fees, legal fees etc etc.
One tool that TFN seems ready to use against anyone and everyone is what is called a Cease and Desist letter. In interesting analysis by Chilling Effects entitles Freeycle Rides Again was written in November 2005 showing that actually TFN might do well to increase that budget.