wanky wank wank wank

So. Template Contest Guy the Third (who so far does not display the levels of jerkiness and incompetence of his predecessors, for which the gods of theming be thanked) decides it’s time he got the word out about the new competition, so that at least some of those who participated in the last couple of disasters may be tempted to have another go. Obvious thing to do here is ask the devs to mention it. Donncha obliges. Matt says ‘great! more themes! thanks for taking this on’ and rushes to make a post on his blog tells him he needs to change his domain name, so that the competition URL ends up changing for the second time.

Jesus, that’s petty.

I must have missed the dead blog post about that. How did I manage that? I’m pretty good at keeping up with the dead blog, because a) it’s like, dead, so there’s not that much to keep up with and b) it’s in my frickin’ dashboard. So I must be slipping. Because there’s no way you could reproach someone for not reading a page on wordpress.org that’s never been publicised, and for all we know might have been thrown up in thirty seconds as a response to that email. It would be like blaming them for not reading the notorious spam articles.

If you can’t put ‘wordpress’ in the domain name of the wordpress theme competition, where is this lunacy going to end? What about all those people with ‘wordpress’ subdomains? What about me? Am I going to have to rename this site ‘wanky wank wank wank’, or would ‘wordpress™ wank’ be acceptable?

Seriously, though. Does this mean that nobody can register a domain including the letter combination ‘w-o-r-d-p-r-e-s-s’? Not even the developers? And the owners of the trademark can’t approve any applications to use it? Surely, if you own something, it’s yours to dispose of as you see fit?

I’m really struggling to see how a site dedicated to a wordpress theme competition — affiliated with the administrator of themes.wordpress.net, not to mention the almighty Podz — is compromising or diluting the trademark in any way. It links to the official site. It’s not squatting. It’s not making a profit. It’s perfectly clear about its remit.

Talk about lawyers all you like. Talk about the mysterious ‘wordpress foundation’, or ‘wordpress inc’ or whatever pseudo-organisation officially owns the trademark, if you must. It still looks petty. It looks like another case of Matt pulling rank because somebody tried to do something he wasn’t in charge of.

(Anyway, don’t the lawyers have better things to worry about than volunteer projects taking the name of the software in vain? Don’t they have a wordpress.com terms of service to be writing?)

38 Comments »

  1. CountZero said

    well, it’s the same Matt who’s barking at the ppl who inform others about the serious security vulnerabilities that wre present in WP up to 2.0.1., telling “this is all nonsense” and such – if it were all nonsense, why then there have been wordpress hacks in the past weeks, and why then there was the need to dish out a security release so fast?

    Looks sort of weird and selfish in my eyes.

  2. wank said

    They will tell you that the vulnerabilities that were made public didn’t exist, and the security release fixed completely different holes which they found all by themselves. I ain’t saying nothing.

    To be fair, security is a hard thing to deal with, publicity-wise. If you confirm to people that there’s a security hole which hasn’t been fixed, you’re also confirming the fact for potential crackers, who can then go around exploiting it. But on the other hand, aren’t people entitled to know that their current installations are insecure? And will the script kiddies really be hanging around for you to confirm that vulnerabilties exist before they go looking for them?

  3. From the psot: Anyway, don’t the lawyers have better things to worry about than volunteer projects taking the name of the software in vain?

    One word: Microsoft… ;)

  4. wank said

    WordPress = Microsoft? Well, they do have Scoble in common…

    Like lawyers ever have better things to do than threaten to sue people. That was a silly thing for me to say.

  5. Vc said

    Love the trademark in the header, wank. Very well done!

  6. wank said

    Well, you have to play safe once they start invoking the lawyers…

  7. Vc said

    Heh. Yeah…. scary. Life in these united (or not….) states….

  8. FedEx takes out advertising spots in trade magazines asking people not to use “FedEx” as a verb. i.e. don’t say “Why don’t you FedEx the package?” but instead say “Why don’t you send the package via FedEx?”

    Seems equally ridiculous, but if you don’t take efforts to protect your trademark, it can become “genericized.” For instance, “Escalator” was a trademark of the Otis Elevator Company. They were lax, and didn’t take steps to protect their trademark, it fell into colloquial use, and they lost the trademark.

    Here’s a Wikipedia article on Genericized Trademarks.

  9. wank said

    If the generic term ‘blog’ wasn’t already well-established, I could see your point. And if they were Blogger I could see your point, because their brand name is so close to the generic term that slippage can take place. But the chances of WordPress losing their trademark in this way are vanishingly small. They just didn’t arrive on the scene early enough.

    Anyway, Google doesn’t seem to mind…

  10. Google should probably be worried about their trademark. People say “Google it” all the time… it’s very quickly becoming synonymous with a web search.

    I don’t think “WordPress” is in any danger of being genericized, but trademark holders really can’t afford to be that cavalier. If domains with “wordpress” are allowed to go unchallenged, there may come a day where someone is infringing maliciously, and when a suit is brought, the defendant will say “but look, you let all these other sites use the ‘wordpress’ name!”

  11. Matt said

    Very astute, Mark.

    It’s unfortunate that trademark law in the states is such a PITA.

  12. wank said

    I suspect that Google are not worried because having their brand synonymous with internet search is incredibly good for them, and incredibly bad for their rivals. Given a choice between a monopoly and a trademark, they seem to be choosing the monopoly. Bad luck, trademark lawyers ;)

    There is a fundamental difference between letting usage ‘go unchallenged’ and giving permission to bona fide associates to use the name. If trademark owners are really forbidden by US law from authorising use of the mark by third parties, that implies that you don’t actually have control over its usage. Even though you’re the owner.

    That sounds kind of nuts to me; but I’m sure I could make it sound perfectly reasonable if I had a financial incentive for doing so. Maybe I should’ve gone to law school after all…

  13. podz said

    I’ll ask the wife what I am almighty of and get back to you :)

    I’m just a (fairly) regular guy – honest!

  14. There is a fundamental difference between letting usage ‘go unchallenged’ and giving permission to bona fide associates to use the name. If trademark owners are really forbidden by US law from authorising use of the mark by third parties, that implies that you don’t actually have control over its usage. Even though you’re the owner.

    I think that would fall under “trademark licensing.”

    Most jurisdictions provide for the use of trademarks to be licensed to third parties. The licensor (usually the trademark owner) must monitor the quality of the goods being produced by the licensee to avoid the risk of trademark being deemed abandoned by the courts. A trademark license should therefore include appropriate provisions dealing with quality control, whereby the licensee provides warranties as to quality and the licensor has rights to inspection and monitoring.
    Wikipedia

    This may be the factor that is causing the lawyers to be so protective. If you grant a license without specific provisions, the trademark could be tarnished.

  15. wank said

    So it’s because the majority of the themes are inevitably going to be crap and you don’t want to be associated with them. Cool. Why didn’t you just say that to start with?

    (oh… diplomacy. right.)

  16. Christine said

    I know, I’m late to the party. But reading through Mark’s post from Wikipedia… isn’t the fact that it is still referred to in common use by other people as the “WordPress theme contest” just as likely to dilute the trademark? Because no one is licensing the right to refer to it as that, it is just what we call it in everyday use.

    I have issues with the government telling me how I can talk. I’ll “google it” or I’ll “Tivo it” or I’ll “blog it” all I want, thank you very much. And if I want to “WordPress it” (which just sounds silly), then I will. *sigh*

  17. […] Well, ok, sometimes I feel that a couple of dollars here and there would be nice, by way of recompense for the time and effort I spend writing and researching and speculating wildly; and I might be tempted to shift over to proper wordpress were it not for the embargo upon domain names with (whisper it) ‘wordpress’ in the title. I mean, if they won’t tolerate it for community projects they sure as hell won’t allow it for snark. […]

  18. It’s funny, cause Google has started campaigning against people using “google” as a verb. Even funnier is WP trying to do the same thing. I think some developers forgot a long time ago, that WP is an open source project, one that the devs themselves didn’t even start (although they did brand it WordPress). And these kinds of actions are anti-community, which is one of the pillars of open source projects.

    I imagine Matt is just kicking himself that something he’s apart of has grown so big, and he can’t make money from it.

  19. Matt said

    Even funnier is WP trying to do the same thing.

    All we’ve done is put up a page that asks people to not use “wordpress” in their domain name. There have been no legal letters, C&Ds, etc. No use trying to create conflict or controversy where there is none.

    I imagine Matt is just kicking himself that something he’s apart of has grown so big, and he can’t make money from it.

    Not really.

  20. What gives you the idea that Matt’s not making money from it?

  21. @Matt – Legal notices may not have been sent out, but the statement alone is pretty harsh. Believe me, I can understand why a company would want to maintain it’s trademark. But I can’t understand why Automattic is worried about it. If the term “WordPress” falls into general use, who cares?

    As far you not kicking yourself for not being a millionaire, I said that because I would be. :) If I created a product just for fun, and all of the sudden millions of people were using it — including multi-billion dollar companies — I’d be a bit depressed that I didn’t make a dime from it.

    @that girl again – Yeah, but he’s not making the kind of money that comes from millions of people using your product. :)

  22. Matt said

    But I can’t understand why Automattic is worried about it. If the term “WordPress” falls into general use, who cares?

    It’s very different from the general use thing Google is dealing with. Frankly if WP ever became popular enough to be genericized like Xerox or Kleenex I’d be thrilled. People assume that sites that use “wordpress” in their domain are officially affiliated or sanctioned, and in some cases—such as poweryourwordpress,wordpresselite, etc—we don’t want to be associated with them at all.

    If I was in this for the money I would have quit long, long ago. Or I’d still be working at a BigCo.

  23. @Matt – Your argument would carry more weight if you hadn’t asked a site trying to promote a theme competition — and thus, promote WordPress — to change their domain name.

    The way I see it, your legal right to ask people to not use “wordpress” in their domain name should be a weapon in your arsenal, to be used when the real monsters (spammers) come around, but not something to be used anytime you’re spooked by your own shadow. You reserve the right to use it, but that doesn’t mean you have use it. You seem to see things the other way around.

    Do you think the Mozilla Foundation was asking the original creators of spreadfirefox.com to change domain names? Absolutely not. As an open source project without a real marketing budget, they were more than happy that people were promoting Firefox. The foundation may have asked unsavory folks to stop using Firefox in their domain, but they certainly haven’t stopped the fans from using it. They know a good thing when they see it.

    WordPress is in a similar position. Why you want to stop a fan from spreading the word is beyond me.

  24. 480x.com said

    Speaking of Domain Names

    Kevin Rose must be feeling the heat from the Digg community from forcing digggames.com to change domain names, cause he wrote a blog post about it. It’s not much, but at least we know the whole debacle didn’t go unnoticed.
    Speaking of heav…

  25. Matt said

    Your argument would carry more weight if you hadn’t asked a site trying to promote a theme competition — and thus, promote WordPress — to change their domain name.

    I don’t have time to go around to every site in the world. Generally what happens is people email me, generally asking for something, or they ask permission before launching the site. I’ve never had anyone who changed their domain complain, and I’ve even offered to pay for the new registration before to offset the inconvinence. (If they had already registered a domain.) We’ve also had about a dozen domains donated outright. Also

    Do you think the Mozilla Foundation was asking the original creators of spreadfirefox.com to change domain names?

    No, they just took it over and kicked out the founders. Great example.

    Why you want to stop a fan from spreading the word is beyond me.

    You mean like themes.wordpress.net, or nl.wordpress.net? Wank? Mark on WordPress? Or any of the dozen WP blogs, podcasts, tutorial sites, etc? This whole discussion is academic without participation from someone actually involved. You’re condemning me 6 months later based on third-hand observations from a hostile website with a history of hyperbole, fabrication, and half-truths.

  26. @Matt – There’s no reason to get hostile. Nothing I’ve been saying in *this* thread is being said in a hostile way. It’s purely debate. I’m impressed that you’ve taken the time to respond to each of my replies. :)

    I think if you look around, you’ll find I’m very supportive of WordPress. My site headzoo.com is damn near dedicated to spreading the word of WordPress, and teaching people how to develop on the WP platform. I participate in the hacker’s list when needed, I’ve submitted patches to trac, and I spend hours a day in #wordpress helping people (although I’ve stopped going there).

    Among other things, I believe that makes me “involved”. I’ve got a website I’m going live with in a couple days, and you’ll find out how much more involved I can get — which btw, thanks to finding this blog post, I registered a different domain name for it this morning. :)

    I want you to realize that anything I say against WP is only being said because I give a damn. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t say anything at all. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t bother to find things to bitch about. :)

  27. third-hand observations from a hostile website with a history of hyperbole, fabrication, and half-truths.

    I take offence at that. Hyperbole, yeah. Lots of unfounded speculation, which is invariably labelled as such. But if you can find an example of my lying, point me right at it and it’ll be gone.

    ‘Fabrication and half-truths’ are pretty heavy accusations to be throwing around, and if I didn’t have an entire category devoted to my not being a lawyer I doubt that you’d be throwing them.

  28. Matt said

    Sorry TGA, that came off stronger than I meant it. I’m sticking to hyperbole and frequent inaccurate assumptions, though. ;)

  29. Matt said

    Idea for the site, while we’re on a 6 month old thread, it’d be neat to see a page with the various campaigns you have taken up, like the quest for a TOS, and their status. Would make an entertaining evergreen bit of content.

  30. […] Meanwhile, I am totally claiming credit for the installation of Rounded, although I know perfectly well that these things are decided solely by the whim of Matt, because I want more stuff to add to my forthcoming Page of Things I Have Successfully Predicted and/or Lobbied For. Matt will then be able to claim credit for this new wordpress™ wank feature, even though these things are decided solely by the whim of me. This circularity pleases me. […]

  31. […] Using WordPress in Your Domain Name? Don’t! trumpets Lorelle to whoever may actually be reading the Dashboard. Only seven months late to the story. Impressive. […]

  32. […] This isn’t a new problem, as this long thread on the issue back in March proves […]

  33. christian said

    hey does masturbation make u skinny

  34. I imagine it would, if you did it so much that you didn’t have time to eat properly. Why don’t you come back in six months and tell us the results of your experimentations?

  35. Root said

    All the above treats the internet as though (a) it was situated in the US and (2) it was subject to US law.

  36. This is really not surprising, seeing as how most Americans treat the world as if it were situated in the US and subject to US law.

  37. mssmotorrd said

    It’s the first time I commented here and I must say you share us genuine, and quality information for bloggers! Good job.
    p.s. You have a very good template for your blog. Where did you find it?

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