Tim O’Reilly Sends a Cease and Desist to a Non Profit Over the Use of the Term “Web 2.0,” What a Load of Crap

Tim O'Reilly
Original photo by x180 borrowed and derived under the beautiful Creative Commons attribution free to make derivative works license. Thank you James and hah! Good luck suing me now Tim!

Update: Please see this post for an apology from me as well as my current thinking on this situation.

Update: I probably shouldn’t have called Tim O’Reilly an asshole and have given this matter more thought and have blogged my thoughts here.

This is unbelievable to me. Some guy named brady over at O’Reilly Media is out this morning actually trying to justify sending a cease and desist letter to someone else for using the term Web 2.0. Well not actually Brady, per se, but he throws some person named Sara Winge under the bus apparently at King Tim O’Reilly’s request. What kind of crazy world are we living in?

I suppose Mike Arrington’s probably next on the hit list (Web 2.0 Seattle party? What were you thinking buddy? Doh!) and it looks like I’ll need to go scrub my blog to change all the references from Web 2.0 to Web 2.1. In fact, right now I hereby claim all rights to not only Web 2.1 but Web 2.2, Web 2.3, Web 2.4, Web 2.5, Web 3.0, Web 4.0, Web 5.0, and well when I get around to it I’ll do some more claiming. Oh and “Hot Donkey” that one too, that one belongs to me. Don’t you dare try to put on the “Hot Donkey” Conference or I will come after your ass big time. And any derivation of “Hot Donkey” also is mine. “Hot Ass” “Warm Donkey” don’t even think about them, they’re all mine.

Oh by the way, it’s not Tim himself who’s defending this act of stupidity this morning in the blogosphere it’s some guy named Brady. According to Brady’s post, Tim’s “off the grid” and on “vacation.” And before you try and get too smart I wouldn’t be using the terms “off the grid” or even “vacation” anymore either unless you want Brady and Tim to sue your ass.

So until Tim O’Reilly apologizes for this asinine move I’m going to start using the term Web 2.1 whenever I mean Web 2.0. It will be a (wink, wink) code word just between you and me to mean some kind of web services thing that’s all ajaxy like. And not that Thomas Hawk would ever be asked to speak at an O’Reilly conference but it might be kind of nice if when asked in the future the Web 2.1 big wigs declined O’Reilly’s request with a reason like, “uh, you know Tim, I’d, uh, really like to participate and all, but, uh, well, uh, I’m afraid you might try to sue me for using my own name after the fact, sorry buddy.”

Hey, nice asshole move by the way O’Reilly going after a non-profit. IT@Cork, my advice to you is to just ignore this piece of stupidity and when O’Reilly’s lawyers finally call just answer back into the phone, “what! I can’t hear you, talk louder!” Keep saying this over and over again until they hang up.

You can check out this amazing piece of legal literature on Flickr here.

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13 Comments

  1. Danny says:

    So Web 2.1 would be a Web 2.0 where Creative Commons licenses actually exist, then?

    As opposed, of course, to Web 2.0, which is clearly All Rights Reserved.

  2. Dave Zatz says:

    I heard Al Gore invented the Internet.

  3. So you think that a company – non-profit or otherwise – trading on the good reputation established by another company in the same field by naming their product identically is acceptable?

    Because that’s what this case is about. Ignore the hippy-dippy bullshit that surrounds this whole Web 2.0 stuff, and that’s all you get.

    O’Reilly/CMP have long organised the Web 2.0 Conference. Someone else decided to make a conference and call it “Web 2.0 Half Day Conference”. That’s exactly the same as me deciding to organise a “Macworld Half Day Conference” and being surprised when IDG came after my ass.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Ian, you don’t wait two weeks before a non profit is putting on a conference to threaten to sue them when you knew about it much earlier. If O’Reilly objected then he should have been vocal about it much earlier. Even at worst he should have said we’ll let this one go, but the next guy that tries this… I seriously doubt O’Reilly would have been damaged to any significant degree to have let this conference go on.

    Secondly, if Tim O’Reilly was going to assert ownership over the term Web 2.0, he should have done it a long time ago. Instead he waited until a whole host of people adopted it, embraced it, celebrated it and added to the public lexicon, before asserting his right to possess it.

    It would be like if four years into the Vietnam war protests someone said, oh, you know what? Back four years ago I licensed the peace sign so guess what, you all can’t use it anymore.

    It’s too late at this point. Web 2.0 has become something much larger and much more culturally significant than O’Reilly’s conference. He lost his ability to control this term when he allowed it to run free as long as it did in the wild.

    To assert ownership now is disingenious and contrary to the spirit of what we all should be about.

  5. Thomas, no one is trying “assert ownership over” the phrase “Web 2.0”. You can call a web site a Web 2.0 site. I could launch a magazine called “Web 2.0”. Someone could print “Web 2.0 sucks ass” on a bunch of t shirts – and none of this would infringe on any service mark of O’Reilly/CMP’s.

    What you can’t do, and I can’t do, and IT@Cork should have known it couldn’t do, is create a conference called “Web 2.0 Conference”.

    It’s nothing to do with controlling the term, and everything to do with protecting the reputation of a conference than O’Reilly and CMP have worked hard to establish.

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    Ian, it’s ridiculous to try and assert ownership over the phrase Web 2.0 Conference two weeks before the conference. They knew about this much earlier and to wait until the last minute is super bad form.

    Whether associated with a conference or not, Web 2.0 has become something much greater than a conference and to now try to restrict it’s use in any capacity falls under the too little too late category. O’Reilly should have been more vocal about their intention to own the term “Web 2.0” with regards to conferences back in 2003.

  7. Thomas Hawk says:

    Part of the reason why Web 2.0 exploded as it did is because it was popularized by a whole host of people in a spirit of openness. Had O’Reilly made known his plans to try and contain the phrase Web 2.0 Conference back in 2003 I suspect that many people would not have embraced the term as we have.

    I know I wouldn’t have.

    This popularization has benefited O’Reilly tremendously. It has been this super positive feeling associated with Web 2.0 and fueled by a whole host of people in the tech community that allowed it to grow like it had.

  8. This is no different then Forgent trying to assert patent rights on the .jpg after sitting silent for years and allowing the .jpg to become the standard for digital photos. Now all of a sudden they seem to feel that they are losing massive amounts of money because of infringement. It’s nothing more then a legal way to try and extort money. Web 2.0 is not a brand, it’s a cultural movement. Whether it applies to T-Shirts or Conferences, O’Reilly shouldn’t have the right to trademark this term anymore then Tom has the right to try and trademark the term blogosphere.

  9. Dave Zatz says:

    Too late, Blogosphere belongs to me! As does Usenet, pr0n, and AJAX. Oh wait, I think Colgate-Palmolive registered it first. Just like Hormel swiped Spam from Al Gore’s Internet. By the way, there is a publishing company using my name – I wonder if I can sue them since I was using Zatz first. 😉

  10. El Cogote says:

    Thomas,

    Inspired by your post on Web 2.0, I did a quick Factiva search and discovered that, although O’Reilly Media may have been the first to register a service mark for “Web 2.0”, it was by no means the first to “coin” the term, as Sarah Winge is claiming.

    In the July 1999 issue of Print magazine, Darcy DiNucci wrote a piece titled “Fragmented Future” about Web 2.0 vs. Web 1.0. I managed to track down a copy on the Web that you can find here:

    http://www.allbusiness.com/periodicals/article/383501-1.html

    Reading it, you can’t help but see some similarities between her vision for Web 2.0 and the way the term is used today.

    A year earlier, in the summer of 1998, a company called Conversa released a new version of their Conversa Web software – a voice-powered browser – and called it “Web 2.0”. The software is no longer for sale, but Conversa may still hold the trademark on it.

    O’Reilly Media is free to make asses of themselves by suing a free conference using the term “Web 2.0.” I suppose they are also free to claim they coined the term too. But they’re only making asses out of themselves again.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m still trying to figure out just exactly what Web 2.0 means! Does anyone know??