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Slash Getting Us in BIG Trouble?

posted by Krow on 07:03 AM June 5th, 2001   Printer-friendly   Email story
fmartini writes "Similar to the demise of the Univesity of Utah related slash-site, my former slashsite at ReadingRecovery.com cost me $16,000 in legal fees to defend myself against a lawsuit brought against me by The Ohio State University. Although the suit was focused on alleged cyberpiracy for using their trademark in a domain name, they didn't mind the site before it became an open discussion of their reading program. I'm wondering how many other slashers have been bitten by this freedom of speech fad. It's one thing to have the $$$ and clout to fend off threats from Microsoft. It's quite another to be one of the first little guy's on your block with a printing press.
Oh, and before I forget, OSU sucks!"
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  • It's all about Trademarks. Companies have the right to defend something that they've taken the time and expense to trademark. That's the jist of it.

    Does it make them forcing you to take your site down ok, or minimally ($16k ouch!) defend yourself. I don't know, and I don't know the extent to what exactly happened.

    You always here about "the big corp going after the little guy". It's a bitch ain't it? The thing is, if you had started up a corporation, and trademarked that name, and OSU was trying to use it, you'd probably be pissed off. (I would be)

    The hard part is that us little guys hardly ever have the resources to defend ourselves against someone huge like that, even if we're right.

    But what this has to do with Slash, I don't know either. You could have got yourself into the same mess using any other web backend software.
    Hell, we all can :)

    --
    lottadot [lottadot.com]
  • Believe it or not, the issue _was_ settled out of court. The $16K is what it cost to negotiate out of it without paying $100K in damages. A cease and desist would have been a much better move for all parties. But, thanks for the legal insight. I'm glad to know now that URLs are protected by trademarks. There's a lot of evidence out there that they aren't, but I couldn't afford to even try to prove that point.
  • Specifically, us little guys now have the power to do what a corporation would traditionally do.

    Say that this was 1950 instead of 2000. I'm at the University of Utah, and I pull together plans to promote free speech in a forum. How could I do it? I'd have to get capital and somehow cover fairly enourmous operating expenses just to provide a student newspaper type forum devoted to free speech on campus. It would take a staff of at least 20, mostly paid.. plus expensive equipment and a costly distribution system. This would assume that I could even get any interest together, as well as many other things.

    Now, there I was, in 2000 instead of 1950. I have the same goals and ideals. What do I do? I have been planning since the fall of 1997, I would have written my own if slashcode had not matured during this time period. All I had to do was download and build free software, after getting a server at the drop of a hat. At a University, a Dell Poweredge comes at about $1k and bandwidth is free. That was it though, one man could create a forum .. hundreds and even thousands of people would view it .. and it gets clout overnight. That scares people, and the censors come flocking.

    So slash is involved in some sense.. it's a rope, and lots of it. All you need is the opportunity to hang yourself. Maybe slashcode needs a warning attached, if you're some idealistic college kid, unix bigot, perl monkey, whatever .. don't get caught up in that free speech fad. American universities today do not promote any sort of diversity of thought at all .. diversity means something completely different .. having preset levels of token people of race and culture in order to get federal $$$.



    Anyway, it's not trademark, it's not all about big bad corporations picking on the little guy. I don't think anyone gets it; and I don't even know if I get it.

    --
    One future, two choices. Oppose them or let them destroy us.
  • The site was up for months in a pre-slash form. The URL was registered for almost a year. Sixty-days after it became a slash-site, the lawsuit [ustrademarklawyer.com] (80 pages+) was in my hands. The site went from being a brochure to a mature, powerful sounding board in less than a week. That's when the trouble started. I think they got scared. (They still suck, though.)
  • I think fmartini is wrong and should have settled straight away out of court - thus saving most of 16000 dollars in legal fees.

    If the institution did have a trademark on Reading Recovery as was claimed then they were perfectly right to stop someone else using it.

    Your issue seems to be one of timing - why didn't they complain earlier. As far as I see it they probably thought you were too unimportant before to bother with. But when you started to damage their trademark by using it on a "popular" site that was when they brought the lawsuit.

    This is too unrelated to Slash. I don't know why am responding to this thread.

    --
    http://news.DiverseBooks.com/ SF and Computing Book News
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Slash is extremely POWERFUL software. So powerful that it has spawned a new term in the English Language, i.e., to be "SlashDot'ed". I think the real problem is that it greatly increased the visibility of martini's site. It's probable that OSU's Lawyers then became concerned that they were in danger of being "Formica-ed".
  • A few years back Purdue University [purdue.edu] threatened my Slash site, http://www.purdueonline.com/ [purdueonline.com] for a trademark violation among other things. Slashdot ran a story on my situation, What to do when your Domain is Threatened? [slashdot.org]. This has become an increasing problem for students who enjoy promoting their University through websites. On another note, after switching servers, I plan to upgrade to the latest code this summer since MySQL 3.23.36 doesnt play nice with the user tables (auto_increment and -1 uid). Hopefully bender fixes this??