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”.
I know this is a cheap phrase, but what really annoys me is that like a lot of proverbs it often has more than a sense of truth. Goings and comings around is the theme of Tim Oey’s latest blog posting. And he should know. He has been at the forefront about freecycling for years before my time. This puts Tim’s thoughts on a pedestal. Add to that the stance he took in fighting for the rights of the common person who just wanted to freecycle without let or hindrance and all I can say is Tim, you’re the man.
Also I have no doubt that Deron Beal is a big enough person to say sorry, publicly. Not sorry for the goals he went for, but sorry for the consequences of not getting it right. When I think of Deron I really want to think of him in the same breath as some other Internet greats.
The ultimate is that father of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee. Of late the creator of Linux, Linus Torvald whose (not updated) home page has the title “The homepage of a WWW-illiterate”. I could glow on about people them them happily for hours. Fortunately rather more erudite people can say these things in a much more entertaining and illuminating way. And if you do not know about them and their like get reading now, and don’t come back until you have.
I will limit myself to my own small thanks to Tim Berners-Lee and Linus. I will also add thanks to Tim Oey, who cannot say anything due to legal restrictions. I would also like to hold, when the history is written, the creator of freecycling in the same breath as other Internet greats. Freecycling marries the reality of damningly poor landfill policy and a sense of loss of community with all the best that the Internet can offer: virtuality meets reality.
The crossroads are approaching.
One gift at a time. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waukeganfreecycle/ delisted.
At altruists.org they promote what the call the give away project. Cynically what “inspires” most people is the receiving rather than the giving, especially in the first instance, which is why many websites and businesses “give” you something like 1 hour free, or 10 credits. They all know that in fact many people, once they get used to a concept actually do give more than they receive.
The point is that it does not matter what gets us up and running with freecycling, just that whatever the trigger is, whether it is being purely altruistic, whether it is around climate change issues, even if it is a practical need that drives us, whatever it is it is all valid. After all know one really understands freecycling until they have tried it. This is a bit like no one can understand the Internet in all its glory (and gory) until they have experienced it.
This is one reason why I do not recommend groups to put a stricture in place that people must offer first. To me that is a nonsense. If someone asks and asks and asks then that is abuse. But asking once or twice, well that is just beginning to understand what freecycling is. We all need to learn and we all need to start somewhere. We cannot all be altruists from day one.
You would think after all the research I have done that there would be no more web pages out there that had anything new to say. Well I was wrong. The Internet Patrol website has a page (even if a bit dated) on the subject a different freecycle controversy than we normal refer to on this blog. This one is the pure frustration of someone actually trying to use the movement for its intended purposes, that of offering or wanting items. Isn’t life wonderful.