Wednesday, June 20, 2012

You Go Down There...

     One of my favorite westerns is a 1970s comedy starring Dustin Hoffman entitled Little Big Man. It's the life story of Jack Crabb, the only survivor of Custer's Last Stand. One of the best lines in the movie is when Custer (played by Martin Mull), questions Jack (played by Dustin Hoffman) about the possibility of the 7th Cavalry being attacked if they ride down into the valley of the Little Big Horn. Jack explains that it's an ambush, then tells Custer, "You go down there, if you've got the nerve." It's a line my friends and I have repeated to one another when we are struck by both the absurdity and futility of a course of action.
     The United States Olympic Committee (USOC), the non-profit group authorized by Congress to oversee the United States' participation in the quadrennial sports festival known as the Olympic Games, has decided that they do not like a bunch of people, overwhelmingly women, organizing to hold a good-natured "competition" for knitting, crocheting, and other fiber arts. Brett Hirsch, a wet-behind-the-ears law clerk doing a summer internship with the USOC, sent a letter to Casey Forbes, the "code monkey" and part owner of the fiber arts social media website Ravelry (the other owner is his wife, Jess) to "cease and desist" all activity, specifically the Ravelympics:

Dear Mr. Forbes, 
In March 14, 2011, my colleague, Carol Gross, corresponded with your attorney, Craig Selmach [sic], in regard to a pin listed as the “2010 Ravelympic Badge of Glory.”  At that time, she explained that the use of RAVELYMPIC infringed upon the USOC’s intellectual property rights, and you kindly removed the pin from the website.  I was hoping to close our file on this matter, but upon further review of your website, I found more infringing content. 
By way of review, the USOC is a non-profit corporation chartered by Congress to coordinate, promote and govern all international amateur athletic activities in the United States.  The USOC therefore is responsible for training, entering and underwriting U.S. Teams in the Olympic Games.  Unlike the National Olympic Committees of many other countries, the USOC does not rely on federal funding to support all of its efforts.  Therefore, in order to fulfill our responsibilities without the need for federal funding, Congress granted the USOC the exclusive right to use and control the commercial use of the word OLYMPIC a and any simulation or combination thereof in the United States, as well as the OLYMPIC SYMBOL.  See the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. §220501 et seq. (the “Act”).  (A copy of the relevant portion of the Act is enclosed for your convenience.)  The Act prohibits the unauthorized use of the Olympic Symbol or the mark OLYMPIC and derivations thereof for any commercial purpose or for any competition, such as the one organized through your website.  See 36 U.S.C. §220506(c).  The USOC primarily relies on legitimate sponsorship fees and licensing revenues to support U.S. Olympic athletes and finance this country’s participation in the Olympic Games.  Other companies, like Nike and Ralph Lauren, have paid substantial sums for the right to use Olympic-related marks, and through their sponsorships support the U.S. Olympic Team.  Therefore, it is important that we restrict the use of Olympic marks and protect the rights of companies who financially support Team USA. (italics mine)
In addition to the protections of the Act discussed above, the USOC also owns numerous trademark registration that include the mark OLYMPIC. These marks therefore are protected under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051 et seq. Thus,’s unauthorized use of the mark OLYMPIC or derivations thereof, such as RAVELYMPICS, may constitute trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of our famous trademarks. 
The USOC would like to settle this matter on an amicable basis. However, we must request the following actions be taken. 
1.  Changing the name of the event, the “Ravelympics.”;  The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them.  For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career.  Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes.  The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony. 
The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States.  Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect.  We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work. (again, italics mine)
It looks as if this is the third time that the Ravelympics have been organized, each coinciding with an Olympic year (2008, 2010, and 2012).  The name Ravelympics is clearly derived from the terms “Ravelry” (the name of your website) and OLYMPICS, making RAVELYMPICS a simulation of the mark OLYMPIC tending to falsely suggest a connection to the Olympic Movement.  Thus, the use of RAVELYMPICS is prohibited by the Act.  Knowing this, we are sure that you can appreciate the need for you to re-name the event, to something like the Ravelry Games. 
1.  Removal of Olympic Symbols in patterns, projects, etc.   As stated before, the USOC receives no funding from the government to support this country’s Olympic athletes.  The USOC relies upon official licensing and sponsorship fees to raise the funds necessary to fulfill its mission. Therefore, the USOC reserves use of Olympic terminology and trademarks to our official sponsors, suppliers and licensees.  The patterns and projects featuring the Olympic Symbol on’s website are not licensed and therefore unauthorized.  The USOC respectfully asks that all such patterns and projects be removed from your site.
For your convenience, we have listed some of the patterns featuring Olympic trademarks.  However, this list should be viewed as illustrative rather than exhaustive.  The USOC requests that all patterns involving Olympic trademarks be removed from the website.  We further request that  you rename various patterns that may not feature Olympic trademarks in the design but improperly use Olympic in the pattern name.\ 
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.  We would appreciate a written reply to this letter by no later than June 19, 2012.  If you would like to discuss this matter directly, please feel free to contact me at the number above, or you may reach my colleague, Carol Gross. 
Kindest Regards, 
Brett Hirsch
Law Clerk
Office of the General Counsel
United States Olympic Committee
1 Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
     So, it seems that a bunch of women knitting and crocheting is interfering with the money-making proclivities of a bunch of big multi-national corporations like BP, Dow Chemical, VISA, Coca-Cola, and McDonalds. Really? I had no idea that my buying wool upset the oil and chemical industries so much. I'm actually rather pleased and proud if I am, but for some reason, I don't think they're even aware I exist.
     I'm particularly incensed over Mr. Hirsch's assertion that we of the fiber arts community are in some way denigrating the nature of the Olympic Games, and are disrespectful to US athletes. I would like to point out several things to the very grand Mr. Hirsch (who is younger than some of my stash):

  1. The purpose of the Olympic Games is to foster better understanding between nations through the use of amateur sport. It is not a 2 1/2-week infomercial for a bunch of corporations looking to make yet another buck.
  2. I've spent the best part of the past 50 years perfecting my work with needle, hook, wheel, loom, and dyepot. What gives you the right to denigrate what I do as something that is disrespectful to, say, BMX bicycle riders (a sport which, by the way, my younger brothers helped to create).
     My advice to Mr. Hirsch and the USOC: You go down there. There are millions of irate people with pointy sticks who can and will plaster this issue all over the Internet and organize a boycott of your precious sponsors. You go down there, if you have the nerve.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Geek Alert: I Have a New Toy

     I can be a tremendous geek at times. I waste far too much time at the computer, and when I hear about a new widget or gadget, I want to try it out and play with it. The new toy: a widget that announces how much (or how little) I've spun.
     For those wondering what a widget is, it's basically a little bit of HTML code that can be inserted into a web page that links to another page that feeds data back to the first page. The first widget I played with extensively was the KnitMeter, a little widget that announced how much one had knit (or later, crocheted) during a month. I started listing my knitting projects in March 2009 and, for about 14 months, was very good about updating how much I had knit on each project. Then I stopped.
     A couple weeks ago, someone on Ravelry (the source of another widget) mentioned that there was now a version of the KnitMeter for spinners. I checked it out this morning and it's pretty cool! I added the SpinMeter to my profile page on Ravelry, and this evening added it to my blog--it's over there, on the right. I figured out which yarns I had spun so far this year, added them to the SpinMeter, and that number is the number of yards of finished yarn I've produced.
     And that's where the "complication" comes in. That pretty large number is the number of finished yarns--usually 2-ply--that I've spun. The amount of yarn I've actually spun is that amount, plus about 10% (to account for shrinkage that occurs when plying and when wet-finishing), multiplied by the number of plies  (usually 2) plus the plying run itself. The formula works out like this

X = Y x .10 x 3

with Y as the finished length and X as the total number of yards. Using that formula, the 3,811 yards I've spun this year translates to 12,576.3 yards of fiber running through my fingers and onto bobbins on one of my wheels. Just the singles, joined end to end, would stretch more than 4 3/4 miles. That's a lot of spinning, especially as it has all been done in the past three months.
     So the new toy should keep me on my toes, or keep my toes on the treadles. Right now I've finished spinning 4.1 oz. of very pretty Romeldale that needs to be plied, and I filled one bobbin of the silver Bond ram/Cotwold hogget blend this morning at my guild meeting. Tomorrow or Tuesday will be a marathon plying session (I need to empty bobbins prior to leaving for the Black Sheep Gathering), and then the amount on the SpinMeter should jump again.