I started this VBT - Writers on the Move Viewpoint topic thinking I would discuss the pros and cons of copywriting. To refresh my memory I went back to the post I was basing my article on and decided to read most of the 673 comments.
What an eye opener! The original post is on the site zenhabits and posted by Leo Babauta, sometime in April 2009.
The article began: “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 […] 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.”
Leo Babauta went on to write about the horrors of infringing on a person’s right to use the English language and stated that he would not comply with the letter’s request. His, obviously, loyal followers quickly jumped on the bandwagon and went so far as to post false reviews on Ms. Jeffers Amazon page. As a direct result, her Amazon ratings dropped.
What’s so bizarre is that most of the commenters had no idea what they were talking about, yet they still took vicious action. One commenter stated that Ms. Jeffers husband is her lawyer, which another commenter explained was not true. It was also brought to light that the letter Mr. Babauta received was not from a lawyer, but was simply a trademark letter. The majority of the commenters accused Ms. Jeffers of being greedy and pledged not to buy any of her books. A couple of commenters asked Mr. Babauta to post the letter for clarification, claiming that he used the phrase and letter as a ploy to drive traffic to his site which is monetized.
Leo Babauta’s site blogs about things similar to Ms. Jeffers books and teachings, such as overcoming fear and self-help, so what was the big deal in giving her credit for the phrase? He states in his article that he was taking a stand against copywriting and trademarks, but did he have to use Susan Jeffers name to make his stand? Mr. Babauta seems to be a savvy blogger; his philosophy of free speech and sharing is a wonderful concept, but there are better ways of promoting it. Only Mr. Babauta knows what his true motives were. Unfortunately, whether this post was simply venting or contrived, Ms. Jeffers paid a price.
A 2009 witch hunt was activated by one post. The power of the internet is actually frightening. It taught me a valuable lesson: pause, think and even research before you write. The internet can be an amazing source of knowledge and help, but it can also be like a tidal wave bringing irreversible damage along with it.
So, my questions are:
1. What are your thoughts on giving credit where it’s due?
2. Are trademarks and copywriting out of control?
Please let me know what you think!
To read the ZenHabits post, go to:
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway