Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Feel the fear - do it - and wait for the lawyer's letter

Eclectic indignant

Sometime in the 1980's Mark Lawson the well known UK writer, journalist and critic used to write a regular parliamentary sketch for either the Times or the Independent. This morning, I'm reminded of one of his classic lines - when he described a long since forgotten backbench MP, as a "truly eclectic indignant' And yep - it totally apples to me sometimes - especially this morning.

Feel the fear ....
The story that has provoked a full scale Captain Grumpy makeover comes from David Cain, and his excellent, who tells the tale of how, last Sunday, "the writer , well-known and well-liked blogger Leo Babauta of ZenHabits received an email from the lawyers of author Susan Jeffers, claiming that he had infringed on her trademark in one of his posts by using the phrase “feel the fear and do it anyway” — the title of Jeffers’ book"

The kernel of the story is that Jeffers has trademarked the phrase - 'feel the fear and do it anyway' and so now, if you want to use it, you have to acknowledge this by inserting a TM symbol.

Rapitute makes a far more elegant case than I as to why this practice, especially when it refers to a book title, can lead to madness. See here, for this.

Nonsense on stilts
I in turn can't quite believe I am reading such nonsense on stilts. Searching for even a fig leaf of logic the best I can say to Ms Jeffers and her possie of legal petulance, is to ask them 'how can an author who makes a living out of advocating personal empowerment think that insisting on this petty acknowledgment does anything to advance these intentions?'

As for the more general point - how can there be any logic in a book title becoming a trademark and so subject to restrictions on how it can be quoted, or cited? It's a book title !

Time to be afraid of your bookshelf ?
Does this mean that everybody who bought this book has to acknowledge the trademark when they write/blog/talk about it?

Will all these people at Library Thing be getting a note from Ms Jeffers loon factory? Does every public library who stocks the book have to change their record? Do they know?

World Cat
Try this new widget from Worldcat and search your local library and find out:

Tweet - blog - facebook
On the bigger picture, as David Cain says - time to expose this - tweet - facebook - blog - whatever it takes - just feel the fear and do it .... !


David Cain said...

Hi Paul,

I'm glad to see such a great response to my article, it really seems to have resonated with a lot of people. After all, it serves as a reminder of the risk we writers all take, using a language that, evidently, is not entirely free to the public.

Obviously trademark laws are always going to exist, but there's no need be so discourteous with them.

Thanks for your shout-out, I hope you continue to enjoy Raptitude. I'll be back here too, and seeing as how I'm coming to invade New Zealand on a WHV this fall, I should probably start familiarizing myself with NZ social media.

Thanks again.


Paul Reynolds said...

Great to see you here - and welcome to NZ when you get here.
Look me up!

The social media space here is interesting.


What is a WHV ?

Paul Reynolds said...

oops - that should be

David Cain said...

WHV stands for Working Holiday Visa. It'll give me twelve months to wander New Zealand and work while I'm there.

I definitely intend to make some contacts before I arrive in October.

I'll check out


If Jeffers can be so nitpicky, imagine how much capital Sebastian Junger should be able to make from the title of his book, The Perfect Storm. Never has a phrase been used so much by so many as during the various perfect storms we have recently lived through. Though I have yet to see it used re swine flu. It can only be a matter of time.

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