Back-story: The United States Olympic Committee sent Ravelry (an online community for knitters, crocheters and other yarn-crafters) a cease and desist letter stating that their Ravelympics is a trademark violation. In the letter, they say that the Ravelympics and their events "denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games" and it's "disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes." After catching a bunch of flak for that, the USOC issued their first apology. The last sentence is "To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games." And that doesn't sit well with members of the yarn-crafting community either. Yarn-crafters can't do the Ravelympics but they can send free stuff to the USOC. Then the USOC issued a second apology in which they state "we sincerely regret the use of insensitive terms in relation to the actions of a group that was clearly not intending to denigrate or disrespect the Olympic Movement."
So now... here's my thoughts.
- I get that it's a copyright violation/trademark infringement and that they have the legal right to ask Ravelry to stop. But the language goes beyond legalese and into bullying. You can read the whole letter here after registering. Or try googling it. I'm sure that someone has c&p'ed it.
- So it's totally cool for the world-famous Olympian Michael Phelps to smoke a bong. Also cool for Olympian Amanda Beard to discuss using cocaine, ecstasy and acid. That's not disrespectful of the other athletes and does not denigrate the nature of the Olympics at all, but for people to handcraft items in participation of a challenge that promotes friendship and healthy rivalry is denigrating? EVERYTHING that is written about an Olympic athlete reflects on the Olympics more than the Ravelympics do. What's the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the name Michael Phelps? Olympics. And when was the last time you read or heard anything about Amanda Beard, Shawn Johnson, Shaun White, Bruce Jenner, Florence Griffith-Joyner that it was NOT mentioned that they were an Olympian or Olympic athlete? The USOC needs to clean their own house before they clean someone else's. Trust me, Keeping Up With The Kardashians does more to denigrate and disrespect the Olympics and athletes than any sweater a yarn-crafter could make.
- Since the USOC apparently owns the word Olympic and all its variations, am I in violation of trademark since I've used them in this post? When is it okay to use them and when is it not? Does the dictionary publisher have to pay to put the word in the dictionary? What about the camera brand Olympus? Are they in violation? What about when swimming pools when they're described as being Olympic-sized?
- And the USOC owns the images associated with the Olympics. So the rings. But is that all rings or just rings in the interlocking 3 & 2 formation? There's a Christmas carol that has a lyric about five rings. They're golden but five Olympic rings, five golden rings. Totally confusable. And is it just the ring itself or does that extend to the word? So it is no longer engagement rings or earrings, it needs to be engagement finger adornments and ear decorations. Well shit, that just extends to all sorts of horrible problems. What is "Ring Around the Rosie" going to become? And you'll have to say that someone has circular shapes around their eyes. Do bells ring anymore? I really hope we get a lawsuit-free and C&D letter-free adjustment period to make these changes. This is going to be really hard to remember.
- What about the American flag? The Olympians enter the opening ceremony behind it. The spectator waves it. It gets raised if an American wins a metal. So it's linked to the Olympics. Do we need to have another flag for the rest of the year and an non-Olympic years? Same goes for the national anthem.
- The USOC notes that the Ravelympics coincide with Olympic years. So does Leap Day. Just something to think about.
- And you can't use the words Olympic (and variations) or rings. But you can TOTALLY buy the products the USOC and it's sponsors sell. Oh. And send them your handcrafts. They can call you disrespectful and denigrating but they want the stuff you made! For free.
- And last but not least, am I the only person who finds the second apology just as as insulting as the C&D letter and first apology? When I say "My dog didn't intend to shit in your yard," what do you think of right after that? "But she did." Read this sentence again: "we sincerely regret the use of insensitive terms in relation to the actions of a group that was clearly not intending to denigrate or disrespect the Olympic Movement." I hear a silent "but they did" at the end. I can't be the only person who feels that way. You can read the full text of both apologies here.
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