Update: Please see this post for an apology and my current thoughts on this situation.
Ok, so I’ve been thinking a little bit more about this O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 Conference fiasco that’s been going on today and wanted to add a few more of my thoughts.
First off I probably should not be calling Tim O’Reilly an asshole. It’s not a very nice thing to call someone and it’s somewhat juvenile. I tend to overreact on things sometimes and I should probably give him the benefit of the doubt on this and in fairness wait until he can respond before joining in with the rest of the lynch mob. I don’t know the man personally and there may be any number of reasons why this cease and desist letter happened and it is possible in fact that he had no knowledge personally that it even went out. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but he’s not here to defend himself so I should probably be patient and give him the weekend or so to get back “on the grid”TM and come up with an appropriate response to this.
So to Tim O’Reilly, I’m sorry for calling you an asshole. I may still call you an asshole when you get back from your vacation and elaborate on your thinking on this matter but I take it back for now and should not have been so quick to malign you.
I think my and the rest of the blogosphere’s reaction today was so swift and strong on this thing for two reasons. The first is just that it’s boneheaded to send a cease and desist to a non profit. Like I said before that’s like the RIAA deciding to sue grandmothers. Whether or not you have a case legally, ethically, or otherwise, it’s never a good PR move to go after widows, orphans, dogs, grandmothers, or non profits. Even if they wanted to maintain rights they could have let this non profit slide this time and dealt with other non profits earlier the next time around. Had it been the Microsoft Web 2.0 conference and they issued the cease and desist, you probably would have had a very different response from the blogosphere.
The second reason that the response was so strong though has more to do with the idea that many of us in the blogosphere embrace this kind of open technology ethos. Business is business, yes. But, when it comes to blogging and Web 2.0 technologies that have been a big part of blogging we feel like the concept of Web 2.0 belongs to all of us as much as it does to O’Reilly Media. And so because the term “Web 2.0” has become very generic at this point and as the term “conference” has always been very generic. It’s just a feeling, but it feels like no one should really “own” that term.
Were the license for the “O’Reilly Web 2.0 Conference” I’m sure we all would have felt differently. But “Web 2.0 Conference” feels too broad.
But technically O’Reilly is probably entitled to ownership of this term. From what I’ve learned since my last post, I’ve been told that O’Reilly Media and CMP actually had put in for service mark on the term “Web 2.0 Conference” back in November of 2003. I’m not sure why it’s taken the copyright office as long as it has to make a determination on their part, but if they indeed did file back then they probably technically do own the title.
This being said though the question is what should O’Reilly Media do now at this point, now that what’s been done has been done.
1. O’Reilly should change their intended license from “all rights reserved” to Creative Commons Non Commercial. They should say that while they wish to be the only Web 2.0 Conference commercially on the market, that they recognize that non profits and individuals might still use the terms for meetups. If I want to set up the Thomas Hawk Web 2.0 Conference just for me and a bunch of bloggers to get together and chat about Web 2.0 and I make no money then this should be allowed. CC is very much a part of the spirit of Web 2.0 and embracing this licensing would build back some goodwill that O’Reilly lost in this fiasco.
2. O’Reilly should send an apology letter to IT@Cork and say that as a non-profit they can feel free to use the name under the new Creative Commons claim and that they ought to disregard the legal mumbo jumbo paperwork that they wanted them to sign previously agreeing not to use it in the future.
And if he really, really, cared, I’d might even hop on an airplane and actually speak at the conference if I could. (After all, he was invited in the first place). This would make everyone feel better at this point and the whole thing might be chalked up to a good learning experience.
I think if this is done that all can be forgiven. Also, in the spirit of fairness, I’m changing my graphic where I’m calling Tim O’Reilly an asshole to one where Tim has an empty bubble over his head instead. (Isn’t it cool how flickr has this new “Replace Photo” thing). The empty bubble represents Tim O’Reilly’s opportunity to put something positive in there and represents my hope that this whole thing turns out well in the end. Creative Commons licensing represents the best way to handle this situation at this point.