A legal battle between a Reddit forum and a gay blogger has resulted in a trademark claim on the word “gaymer” being abandoned.
Blogger Chris Vizzini founded the website gaymer.org to represent LGBT individuals in the video game community and trademarked the word “gaymer” in 2008. Vizzini later sent a cease-and-desist letter to Reddit over its forum called “r/gaymers,” claiming the it violated his trademark.
With the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Perkins Coie, the Reddit gamers filed a petition to cancel the trademark in January. Vizzini filed a motion to dismiss the petition, but his motion was rejected. Vizzini gave up the fight in July, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark office officially revoked the trademark on Wednesday.
“Gaymer is a term that everyone can use – including Vizzini – and we’re pleased that there is no legal question about that now,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “But the real tragedy is that this term was ever registered for a trademark in the first place. You shouldn’t have to go through a big legal battle to use a word you’ve used for years. The PTO must get more vigilant about the trademarks it allows to be registered in order to protect everyone’s free speech rights.”
In a statement on gaymer.org, Vizzini said he surrendered the trademark because he didn’t have the financial means to fight against the petition. He has also shut down his website.
“I had a couple of goals in mind when I began the site. One was to make change – make change for the word gaymer and gay gamers themselves. I wanted to give them someplace safe to come when they were called names. I wanted them to feel not so alone in the gaming world and feel unconditionally accepted. Another goal was to help people meet each other. They did. They became friends, boyfriends and, in one case, two people got married. I’m extremely proud of that.”
“Here it is 10 years later. The word gaymer has changed so much that people are willing to fight for it. I couldn’t ask for more if I’m going to lose the trademark. It wasn’t for nothing.”
“I come from the school of thought that, if create something and you put in the hours, the work, the money and your heart in it, that it belongs to you. I thought that’s part of what being an American was about. Especially if you played by the book and took all the right legal channels. What I found out in the end that it doesn’t matter what you do, if a big law firm powerful enough comes along and wants to take it, they will and there’s not much you can do about it.”
[Male gamer via Shutterstock]
Wednesday night on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert turned his attention to the Internet blackouts protesting the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act, which would grant the government sweeping new powers to shut down websites for violation of copyright laws.
Websites like Reddit, BoingBoing, Wikipedia, and even The Raw Story shut down on Wednesday in protest of the bills — a situation that Colbert hoped to remedy with some content online suggestions of his own. For people who missed Reddit yesterday, he provided a picture of a cat playing X-Box against a Yoda-eared Richard Dawkins.
“Up vote!” he said, “Karma points, please!”
For BoingBoing fans, there was a Domino’s “Cheesy-bread” commercial set to the Imperial march from “Star Wars.” For iPad users: a no-doubt familiar message about a certain missing plug-in.
Watch the video, embedded via Comedy Central, below:
One of the most popular websites in the world, the heavily-trafficked social media forum Reddit.com, has announced that it will go dark on January 18 to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
Reddit’s plans are hardly unique, but they are the first to confirm that their service will go offline for a day. Instead of their usual hodgepodge of user-submitted content, the site’s front page will be dedicated to a message about how SOPA and its sister bill in the Senate, the PROTECT IP Act, threaten basic Internet freedoms.
The site will also feature a live video showing congressional testimony from a number of tech luminaries, including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
While the actual bills will not be discussed on the 18th, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has assigned his committee to investigate the potential downsides of DNS and search engine blockades. Both are being employed by repressive regimes like Iran and China to censor the information accessed by citizens, and both are techniques recommended by the pending legislation before Congress.
Issa, a staunch opponent of SOPA and PROTECT IP, said he scheduled the hearing because “the public deserves a full discussion about the consequences of changing the way Americans access information and communicate on the Internet today.”
Other companies considering staging blackout protests include Wikipedia, Facebook, Google, Twitter and even Amazon, which face major disruption to their business operations if the U.S. Congress decides to fundamentally alter the structure of the Internet by breaking the domain naming system and blacklisting sites that link to any domain that carries infringing content.
A coordinated strike by the largest websites online would put immense pressure on Congress, as literally tens of millions of people find out they cannot search for that hot new viral video, communicate with friends and family, share links to breaking news or read from the world’s largest encyclopedia — leaving them with just a phone number and a note, urging them to call their representative.
Such a move would not be without repercussions — a single day’s worth of Internet traffic on these sites is worth tens of thousands of dollars, or more — but that’s nothing compared to the disruption posed by the legislation before Congress.
For Reddit, it’s more than just lost revenue: the site’s very existence is threatened by SOPA and PROTECT IP, simply because it is still a small business with a shoestring staff. The legislation would require their staff police all incoming user-submitted content for potential copyright violations — but with such a massive volume of content to inspect, they’ll not be able to do anything else.
For one of the top 100 websites in the U.S., that’s quite literally an impossible task, which is why Ohanian told Bloomberg News recently that Congress may actually “obliterate an entire tech industry” by passing these particular anti-piracy bills.
“We’re not taking this action lightly,” Reddit administrators explained. “We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t believe this legislation and the forces behind it were a serious threat to reddit and the Internet as we know it. Blacking out reddit is a hard choice, but we feel focusing on a day of action is the best way we can amplify the voice of the community.”
In a segment broadcast Friday night, Current TV’s “The Young Turks” hosts took a look at social media forum Reddit, which has recently become a flashpoint for resistance to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which critics warn will break the structure of the Internet if it becomes law.
For Reddit, that threat is very real: one of the site’s managers recent commented that independent analysts have told them that if SOPA passes, Reddit is essentially doomed. Such a small staff cannot possibly police such a massive volume of user-submitted content for links to websites potentially engaged in copyright infringement of any type, they explained, pleading with users to push back against the bill.
The users of Reddit have already managed to force Internet domain registrar GoDaddy to reverse their support of SOPA, which only happened after the online activists convinced domain owners to pull tens of thousands of registries away from the company. Now users of the popular site are targeting Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) with a campaign they’ve named “Pull Ryan,” forcing him to disavow rumors that he supports the bill.
“I love it,” host Cenk Uygur said Friday night. “They even got Paul Ryan backpedaling!” he said moments later. “He said, ‘What, me? SOPA? I didn’t sponsor it. Don’t touch me, dog!’ That’s really effective. I’m really, pleasantly surprised by that.”
“It’s incredible, and a lot of people are getting involved,” co-host Ana Kasparian added. “For instance, this post about attacking the politicians has already recieved over 1,000 comments. So, look, this is the online world. People don’t want to have their rights online violated. They want the freedom of the Internet. I love this. They’re fighting for something really important.”
This video is from Current TV’s “The Young Turks,” broadcast Friday, Dec. 30, 2011.
Erik Martin, general manager of Reddit, one of the Internet’s most popular community-driven media websites, said in a recent post that independent experts have told the site that if the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) passes Congress, the laws as written would be Reddit’s death sentence.
Reddit, owned by publishing company Condé Nast, functions by allowing users to submit links to articles, videos and pictures, then promotes or demotes various content depending upon community reaction. Users are allowed to up- or down-vote submitted items, and the top links appear on the site’s front page.
“If SOPA passes in anything like it’s current form, it would almost certainly mean the end of reddit,” Martin explained in a post on Monday. “It may not happen overnight, but we have a very small staff (~11, mostly engineers), and even dealing with DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] stuff is a big burden for us. SOPA would make running reddit near impossible. And we have access to great lawyers through our parent company. I can’t imagine how smaller sites without those kind of resources could even attempt a go at it if SOPA passes.”
In a follow-up, Martin explained that Reddit had consulted independent experts on the matter, and they concluded that provisions in the legislation that criminalize linking to improperly distributed copyrighted materials threatens the site’s ability to function.
Even though a recent amendment to SOPA clarifies that its main targets are websites outside of the U.S., “It doesn’t matter what they say the bill is for, the language is far too vague and far too easy for various parties to use it beyond the stated goals,” Martin said. “Given our experience with DMCA, it’s a safe assumption that various rights holders will use SOPA in such a way that US companies like reddit are impacted.”
The DMCA is an existing legal framework that allows copyright-holders to request that websites remove their protected materials in the event that a user submits them.
Added, Reddit is more than just a social media forum: over the past years it has become something of a political force as well, notably helping to galvanize Comedy Central hosts Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart into their “Rally to Restore Sanity, ” which attracted hundreds of thousands to Washington, D.C. It has also served as a spot for coordinating and promoting activism against SOPA, among other legislation Reddit members have organized to oppose.
Martin’s warning is not unique. In a recent speech, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the bills would essentially “criminalize linking and the fundamental structure of the Internet itself,” adding that SOPA’s goal is “reasonable,” but that its “mechanism is terrible.”
“What they’re essentially doing is whacking away at the [Domain Naming System] system and that’s a mistake,” Schmidt explained. “It’s a bad way to go about solving the problem.”
Lobbyists for the entertainment industry insist that the radical changes to the Internet’s structure are necessary to prevent copyrighted material from being shared between sometimes hundreds of users at a time, which they claim costs movie studios billions of dollars every year.
Even though that claim is not borne out by the facts, it may not matter to Congress. Recent financial filings by members of the key House Judiciary Committee, which is considering a mark-up of the bill, revealed that they accepted four times more in campaign contributions from the TV, movie and music industries than they did from the tech firms currently fighting SOPA.
While SOPA did not clear the mark-up during a recent hearing, an initial report about talks being adjourned until 2012 proved premature after members rescheduled more SOPA talks for later this month. It was not immediately clear whether the next round of hearings would produce a vote to send the bill to the House at-large.
(H/T: Torrent Freak)
Front page image: Painting of Reddit alien by Flickr user ggarlic. Story image: Rapper Xzibit in a Reddit meme, illustration by Stephen C. Webster.
Aaron Swartz, the 24-year-old co-creator of popular Internet community Reddit, has been charged with stealing data from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted.
The charges against Swartz include computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information, wire fraud and recklessly damaging a protected computer.
In a press release first picked up by The New York Times, a U.S. attorney said Swartz entered a restricted computer closet and used his access to steal unspecified information from the university’s archive of academic papers.
“Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars,” the release said.
Swartz also blogs for The Huffington Post as founder the activist group Demand Progress, which promotes Internet policy reforms.
The full indictment was available online (PDF link).
Image credit: Reddit.com.
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Amazon apologized Friday for an outage of its Web-hosting service that knocked a number of companies offline, including such popular websites as Foursquare, Quora and Reddit.
The Seattle, Washington-based Amazon also acknowledged that some customers had lost data as a result of the technical problems that began on April 21, and said it would offer a 10-day credit to customers whose websites were affected.
Amazon is best known as an online retailer but the company is also a major provider of cloud-computing services, renting out space on its powerful servers to customers around the world.
In its nearly 6,000-word statement of Friday, its first detailed public explanation of the outage, Amazon said: “We want to apologize.”
“We know how critical our services are to our customers’ businesses and we will do everything we can to learn from this event and use it to drive improvement across our services,” it added.
The company promised to be more forthcoming in the future.
“In addition to the technical insights and improvements that will result from this event, we also identified improvements that need to be made in our customer communications,” it continued.
“We would like our communications to be more frequent and contain more information,” the company said.
Global technology companies are investing billions of dollars in cloud computing, which involves hosting information on the Web and providing it to customers on demand.
Amazon said “several root causes interacting with one another” were behind the outage but the primary one was a botched attempt to shift traffic while upgrading capacity on a network.
“The traffic shift was executed incorrectly,” Amazon said.
“The trigger for this event was a network configuration change… We will audit our change process and increase the automation to prevent this mistake from happening in the future.”
Amazon’s hosting services were last in the news late last year after the company booted WikiLeaks off its servers, saying the website that leaked tens of thousands of US military documents and diplomatic cables had violated its terms of service.