This is one of those situations where I kind of go, "Hm, interesting" from the sidelines.This is one of the cases where I can kind of see both sides, though I will admit that one side went about things kind of heavy-handedly.
(UPDATE: an "official apology" has been issued. I don't know enough about cease and desist letters to know if the one sent to Casey Forbes was truly 'standard issue' though some knitters are crying foul, that it wasn't, it was more insulting. As I said, I don't know, so I'm going to withhold judgement. I think my main reaction to this is a giant "Whatever." I'm still not interested in the Games and still won't be watching. And I don't use the products of many of the sponsors, and it's not like I'm going to start because of this.
Heh: they do say "We'd welcome any handmade items you'd care to send to us." Yeah, suuuuuuure. As someone said on ravelry: I'll get right on that. Feh. Maybe what people need to do is knit a hat or mittens or something and donate them to one of the many fine charities that exist, instead)
Some of you might now that on Ravelry, the past couple Olympics-games years, they ran the "Ravelympics." The idea was, as I understood it, you knit or crocheted (or spun, or wove) while watching the Olympics. The idea being, if you finished your project, you got a (virtual) medal.
I never took part. One reason is I'm hecka busy in the summers and wouldn't have time, another reason I will allude to later.
Well, apparently someone working for/on behalf of the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) sent a cease and desist letter to the founder of Ravelry. And not merely a "Hey, you're using our trademarked name without approval," but a "we believe linking a knitting contest to the Olympics harms the athletes, because it "dilutes" what the Olympics stands for.
This has lead to quite an explosion of commentary on Ravelry and on Twitter. As I said, I'm mostly watching from the sidelines, as I tend not to be a joiner in these kinds of things and I don't have time to plop down and watch hours of coverage over a couple weeks while I try to finish a shawl or something.
I will observe, without getting too political or pointy, that I've had questions about how the IOC (International Olympic Committee) does business for years. There do seem to be some questionable things. (That is the second reason I alluded to, and yes, I get that the athletes are not the IOC but there also have some cases of some people being "questionably" amateurs)
I don't know. I guess I'm more dismayed than outraged by this. I know this is something that thousands of knitters were looking forward to. And now either it will not happen or (more likely) the name will change. And that so many people are upset. And that I cannot see this going anywhere good.
I have to admit that were I in charge of the situation, I'd just shrug and change the name of it, and deal with the other incidentals (people selling patterns that may be Olympic tie-ins: which would be a demonstrable trademark no-no). Maybe call it the Ravelry Games, provided the Hunger Games people didn't come after me for it. And award virtual trophies rather than medals. I don't really have any problems with the Olympics wanting to keep their name "pristine" (though I will observe: I wonder how Greece feels about this, seeing as they originated them. And also some questions about the fact that apparently McDonalds is one of their major sponsors...)
I'm not sure they can prove harm (to the Olympics), because as far as I can determine, Ravelry makes zero profit off of this. (The reason the NFL protects the Super Bowl name so heavily is that some businesses who are not "official" supporters tend to try to cash in on it. But I don't think they would go chasing after someone who did the "Super Bowl of Donating" or something like that....for years at church we had Soup-er Bowl Sunday, where we were encouraged to bring soup or other canned goods for the local food bank). It's not the same as someone selling fake Coach bags or something. Or copying a pattern of a designer and selling it as their own.
The sad thing is, if it were parody, it could possibly be argued to be protected speech under the First Amendment, but the Ravelympics was actually sort of a tribute.
The "dilution" question is a harder case, and I can kind of sort of see how some athletes might be concerned. I do not think the "medaling" system was in any way designed to mock or denigrate actual medals...it was more a reward for achieving something. And you would have to be kind of foolish, I think, to confuse the Ravelympics with the Olympics. And I think the insinuation that "you're insulting the athletes with your stupid yarn games" (which is how a lot of knitters heard the "dilution" comment, regardless of whether it was intended that way) is the one that is really rankling people.
Again, a "trophy" system could be used instead of medals.
I was trying to think of some comparison for the "dilution." I suppose the Super Bowl thing is applicable, but I don't know of any instances where someone tried to have a similar-named event that then got shut down by the NFL.
In my personal life, I can see the difference between "earned" and "honorary" degrees. I have an earned Ph.D. I got it by devoting five and a half years of my life to research, working mostly year-round (with a couple weeks off at Christmas and one in the summer if I had meetings to go to), Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. It took an enormous amount of effort. And I earned it. So, do I feel my degree is "diluted" when my graduate alma mater confers an honorary degree? (I can't even remember any of the people who had...) I don't really. I'd probably be offended if someone got a job I was turned down for, and there degree was merely honorary, but that doesn't happen in the real world...I might be offended if a recipient was a state sponsor of terror or something like that, but honestly, I don't think my graduate alma mater is that stupid or that political, and at any rate, my offense would be for different reasons.
I don't know. As I said before, my main feeling about this is dismay: that we've become this litigious that a big group can send a C and D letter to a smaller group and try to bully them into doing something even though what they were doing was really supportive in intent. That there wasn't apparently any kind of a "hey, here's a heads-up, we might have a problem" first. (Though I suppose that's not how the law works)I know it's soured some people on the Olympics (I was already - not exactly soured, but I had some concerns). And it's just irritated a lot of good people. Cynical-me wants to say "Maybe the law clerk in question thought Ravelry had a big pot of money they'd throw his way to make the problem disappear." Or maybe this will turn out to be some loose cannon acting rogue, and it can all be cleared up.
I know there's been a push to get various celebrities involved to say something. I will admit my one concern is that someone will look at it as, and treat it as, "These silly women have their undergarments in a bunch over this" and will be dismissive...there was already a Gawker article on it, and while the article was generally positive...there's still a wee bit of a snarky tone (though that may just be Gawker, I don't normally read them). I REALLY don't want to see this become "look at how easy it is to upset the stupid knitters" because that kind of thing annoys me.
(And yeah....don't read the comments on Gawker. There are some supportive comments but there are also an awful lot of people who need a looooooong time-out (on the moon) to learn how to love and tolerate)
And yeah, I get that the Olympics has a right to protect their trademark. But to shut down what was basically a tribute to it, and a way of encouraging people to watch? And coming across all official and threatening at first, without trying to work stuff out beforehand?
I don't know. (I will note that I'm really glad Hasbro does not do the same with their My Little Pony line...)
At any rate: the probability I will watch any of the Olympics dropped even lower because of this. Not that I was planning on it before (but it can be kind of hard to escape: every NBC owned station, that includes the Weather Channel and (IIRC) USA Network will be having stuff)
Perhaps a more productive outcome? (because I always look for the productive outcome): for knitters to throw (even more) support behind the Special Olympics. For a while, Red Heart has sponsored a program where people can knit or crochet scarves in the official Special Olympics colors...and then those scarves are presented to the people participating. And it's my understanding that they're greatly appreciated, both by the athletes and by the people in charge of the games. (And at any rate: an Olympic athlete, if he or she places well, may wind up with sponsorships and advertising deals....whereas every Special Olympian I have known, after the Special Olympics, would go back to their day-to-day lives and job....) (Except that: apparently Red Heart is discontinuing the program, because they were overwhelmed with scarves, had more than they had athletes to give them to. Well, poop.)