April 28, 2009

You Can't Control What People Are Saying

We live in very different times. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook...has changed everything. Now, everything you write or post or tweet will likely be seen by your potential (or current) employer, your fiance's parents, your pastor...everyone!

Seth Godin also points to the dangers of what gets online. He states, "Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you're on Candid Camera, because you are."

In the past, if there was a disagreement between people they would argue, fuss, and maybe fight.

If they were literary or academic types they would take their battle to the typeset page. Fights of this nature were decided by who had the biggest audience. The larger companies could hide the bad stuff because they had more money, more power, and more influence. The person holding the megaphone was the one who got to make the rules.

Things have changed.

Now, one simple blog post...one small e-mail...one idle threat...can make the rounds on the internet.

Leo Babauta writes a great blog called Zen Habits. Last week he wrote a post about overcoming fear titled, A Guide to Beating the Fears that Are Holding You Back. In the article he used the phrase "feel the fear and do it anyway." This week he received a letter from Susan Jeffer's lawyers saying that the phrase is trademarked by Susan...and requesting some changes. Leo was obviously irate at the thought that the English language, especially a phrase that was in use long before her book and in a situation where his use had nothing to do with her book, could be trademarked. He wrote a response here.

This post has little to do with the disagreement between these two...I want to focus on the response. Check out the Amazon Reviews for her book now that her lawyers have played the heavy hand. The backlash is astounding to me. Within hours...her reviews have been filled with a negative backlash. I am sure she thought he would cower to the threat of litigation or comply with the demands. She probably never imagined this amount of backlash...and it certainly is hard to recover from something like this because Google never forgets.

Gone are the days when people, organizations, and even churches can play the heavy hand and not get exposed and hide their bad behavior. Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook have changed who is holding the megaphone.

What do you think?

image compliments of Nati


  1. And this would be my area of expertise. :)

    First, having a trademark on a commonly used phrase is pretty shaky. I talked to our trademark attorney and he's surprised that she got the trademarks in the first place.

    Here's a listing of her trademarks:

    So I showed him the goods (you have to list what your trademark is on, and I don't think "blog" is listed) and he really surprised that there were so many goods listed. Basically if someone can prove that her trademark is NOT on any one of those items listed, she can be sued for fraud.

    Yup, it's a dangerous thing to send out a Cease & Desist letter. Yes, she's trying to protect the name of her books and tapes, but she's now drawn attention to a whole lot more. If she doesn't have a trademark on every single item listed, she risks losing it all. (We send out very few Cease & Desist letters because we have very good attorneys who negotiate before the letters go out.) ;)

  2. Thanks Cyndi...that was way more insight than I could have offered on the legal side! Have you posted this info on Leo's blog?

  3. Done. Cleaned it up a bit. Still can't get a working link to post though. Annoying.