Moving to Freedom, .Org

Oh, the Pettiness… It Hurtses Us

I think I first learned about the web site Zen Habits when my sister sent me a link to this post: Open Source Blogging: Feel Free to Steal My Content, in which the blog’s author, Leo Babauta, places all of his writing from the site and from his ebook “Zen to Done” into the public domain.

It was music to my ears, coming from someone enjoying success (financial and otherwise) with their blog and their writing, and it really showed that he “gets” Free Culture. Since then I’ve subscribed to Leo’s blog and have found many things to inspire me there.

Given Leo’s generous and enlightened attitude about his own work and the importance of sharing freely, it made his post from yesterday even more disappointing. In “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (or, the Privatization of the English Language),” Leo starts:

Today I received an email from the lawyers of author Susan Jeffers, PhD., notifying me that I’d infringed on her trademark by inadvertently using the phrase “feel the fear and do it anyway”? in my post last week, A Guide to Beating the Fears That Hold You Back.

The phrase, apparently, is the title of one of her books … a book I’d never heard of. I wasn’t referring to her book. I’m not using the phrase as a title of a book or product or to sell anything. I was just referring to something a friend said on Twitter.

Her lawyers asked me to insert the (R) symbol after the phrase, in my post, and add this sentence: “This is the registered trademark of Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. and is used with her permission.”?

Yeah. I’m not gonna do that.

I find it unbelievable that a common phrase (that was used way before it was the title of any book) can be trademarked. We’re not talking about the names of products … we’re talking about the English language. You know, the words many of us use for such things as … talking, and writing, and general communication? Perhaps I’m a little behind the times, but is it really possible to claim whole chunks of the language, and force people to get permission to use the language, just in everyday speech?

Pretty much the same kind of idiocy that you read about every day on Techdirt, I guess, but it still has the power to irritate me. What a load of crap. I’m happy to see Leo dismiss the threat. I hope he doesn’t face any more harassment or intimidation over this.

I’m not going to give this woman’s book the time of day to find out what it’s about, but I imagine she’s trying to empower her readers to work through their fears. I wonder how she might counsel me and my fear of the crippling effects of an ever expanding “intellectual property” regime? What of my fear that free expression and creativity will be stifled by the threat of lawsuits and legal fees?

Perhaps she would say: “Feel the fear and cave in to my petty bullying.”

The Power of Less

On the subject of Zen Habits, take a look at Leo’s new book, The Power of Less. I don’t see where this one is freely available in digital format yet, but I imagine it will be, eventually. I may have to buy a copy to support The Power of Free.