Sunday, February 10, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

If you are googling The Richomond Democrat, you will find some interesting results. The first link is this and the second site is this.

Two very different sites. And they are supporting two different candidates. The first link is the real Richmond Democrat. He's JC Wilmore and he was blogging even before I started up AIAW. I think he was among the first blogs to link to me (others were Raisking Kaine and Not Larry Sabato).

Lately, JC and I have had our very spirited differences. But the truth is that despite those disagreements, I can tell you nobody has done more for the blogosphere and has been more helpful to fellow progessive bloggers than JC. He doesn't deserve to have his on-line identity stolen. No blogger does.

The bogus Richmond Democrat is very clever. He has put in his logo banner "The Real Richmond Democrat" which he hopes would be sufficient to shield him from legal prosecution. The thinking is probably that that one word in the title makes it just different enough that he would be able to claim in a court case that it's not the same title and so is not an infringement on another blogger's brand name.

But it's theft and it's dishonest nonetheless. And it may also be a deliberate dirty political trick.

The fake Richmond Democrat (despite the claim that he is ther real one) also has in his logo "Virginia Blogs for Hillary." Unfortunately, he also seems to be the only blogger in that group. He has no blogroll and no name listed. Each post is labeled Peter's blog. And the Virginia Blogs for Hillary links to a different website, Virginians for Hillary. Beyond this, there is no indication on the site as to whose it is or who Peter might be.

I certainly hope that nobody in the Clinton campaign has authorized this. However, I suspect that JC will get to the bottom of it and we'll be hearing more about it including who is behind it.

Meanwhile, the authentic Richmond Democrat is hosted by Blogger and has Blogspot in his address and the screen on his site is blue. The bogus Richmond Democrat has an orange logo and a white screen.

And the biggest difference is the real Richmond Democrat is supporting Barack Obama and always has.


Anonymous said...

Hmmmm....I am thinking that the noted Hillary activist, IT professional, and Richmonder, Peter Feddo is probably behind this misrepresentation.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

You're probably right. Absent evidence, I wasn't going to say it but I've since been reading elsewhere about this.

Not AIAW said...

Oh Karen,

If "Real Richmond Democrat" is not acceptable, then "Not Larry Sabato" should also be offensive and non-permissible because of Professor Larry Sabato.

Also, please forbid "Not Gretchen Bulova" and "Not Jack Herrity" (may the real Jack rest in peace.

You write well and speak often of union fairness........ But, your writings all too often belie a crass politial and issue bias.

Stop trying to have it both ways. Just be like Lowell.......he doesn't even pretend to be fair.......

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Nope, you're argument fails the logic test.

Not Jack Herrity, NLS and even Not AIAW all show plainly that the person is not whomever they are naming. They create no confusion and don't mislead. And they are making fun of the person who they claim not to be (often just gentle fun of them).

Indeed, if the fake RD had done it as a parody to make fun of JC, it would be fair game. If his blog was Not Richmond Democrat and he had set it up to look like the original as an obvious spoof, there would be no problem other than perhaps JC's possible sensitivities but then I'd be urging him to get a sense of humor.

In this case, the blogger used the titled The Richmond Democrat, not the Real Richmond Democrat. And when you google the name, both blogs pop up as the first sites on Google.

That makes it misleading.

I'm not sure if it's illegal but it does confuse readers. And whether JC lives in Richmond any more is beside the point. It's his brand and lots of people know who he is. If they accidentally click on this other site, they may simply think he switched servers and changed his logo.

Again, I wouldn't want somebody doing that to my blog. But anybody can call themselves Not AIAW. I think that's funny!

Silence Dogood said...

I normally agree with you, AIAW, but I think you're wrong on this one for a few reasons, which I hope you'll politely allow me to share with you:

1. I think you give readers far too little credit. The masthead is substantially different, the color scheme is different (and that wouldn't matter anyway because nobody owns the colors blue and white). The content of the writing is likewise sufficiently different that I think anyone should be able to determine that these are the points of view of a different person if they're at all familiar with JC Wilmore's blog. Therefore, the only people who would be confused are people not familiar with JC Wilmore's blog, and if they're not familiar with JC Wilmore, there isn't a possibility that they might misconstrue this other blogger's opinions as belonging to the him.

2. Blogging is supposed to be a medium for a free, low budget, high (potential) volume for the exchange of ideas. In light of that, I think it's completely valid for someone who disagrees with JC Wilmore's opinions to offer another perspective to illustrate that other Richmond Democrats may not feel the same way. I am, in fact, all in favor for a plurality of opinions and perspectives from Democrats who purport to be from the city of Richmond, VA. And cities named Richmond in other states, for that matter.

3. The Richmond Democrat is too generic a name for any one person to think he can claim it as an identity. I used to live in Richmond; therefore, I was also once a Richmond Democrat. By contrast, I was never named (for instance) Vivian Paige. There's a fine but distinct line between an identity and a description.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thank you SD for your polite disagreement. You are always welcome to come here with a differing point of view.

You raise some good points. Here's where I disagree though.

Although the readers may indeed not be fooled, I think there was some intent to confuse them. And some new readers might indeed be confused by the two Richmond Democrats.

But the biggest problem is not when you get to the two sites but the fact that when you google them, they both come up for the same key words: Richmond Democrat.

The solution would have been simple. If Peter Feddo had titled his blog The Real Richmond Democrat (the "Real" is on the masthead but not in the proper title) I wouldn't see a problem. That one word would distinguish his blog from JC's as far as Google goes.

There are any number of permutations that another Richmond blogger could take to avoid using the name Richmond Democrat.

The truth is that if another New York newspaper wanted to call itself "The New York Times," I bet they could be stopped in court from doing so. Even though New York Times could be generic, one newspaper already has that name. It's a brand name now.

But another newspaper could call itself The New York Sun-Times or some other variation and avoid a problem. Or they could call themselves the New York Obsersver, the New York Post.

The new Richmond Democrat should have done something similar. Even calling himself The New Richmond Democrat or Another Richmond Democrat and billing himself as the alternate voice would have been sufficient.

Silence Dogood said...

The New York Times analogy raises an interesting point: is a blog a personal journal? Or is it journalism?

I once interviewed to write for a newspaper in the Illinois-side burbs of St. Louis called the Belleview News-Democrat. It was a small circulation daily with an editor, an accounting department, and a parent company that owned the name as a registered trademark, paying payroll and corporate taxes on it as their financial holding. And it had a distribution model. It was sold on street corners and delivered to doorsteps. We didn't sit and hope that the reader would come to us, we actively pursued our readership.

What's more, we were at least *supposed* to be objective, and to that end had editorial oversight. We weren't propagandists for any single political point of view--"Democrat" was in that instance just one of those words that gets put in a masthead to distinguish one newspaper from another. Like "Chronicle" or "Times" or "Picayune," except no one knows what Picayune means.

By contrast, no one can accuse JC Wilmore (OR Feddo) of being a corporate entity, of having an editorial board, of having a business plan and a distrubition model, or of being objective. The Richmond Democrat is not journalistic outlet, but a personal journal for one man's opinions. Nor is it a business or a registered trade mark, so this shouldn't be compared to a situation involving legitimate corporate entities with recognized financial holdings.

I don't think people should take themselves so seriously that they start thinking that having an opinion entitles them to some sort of proprietary right. Too quote one of my cruder colleagues, "opinions are like asses; everybody's got one."

(while I may disagree with you on this topic, by the way, I appreciate you bringing it up because it's forcing me to consider this medium in a new way)

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I think we are all thinking about this still very new medium in various ways.

The most interesting question you raise is this one: Is a blog a personal diary or is it journalism?

It depends. Some weblogs are very personal and the writer mostly keeps an on-line diary for his or her friends and family. Others have a more philosphical bent and explore more universal themes.

For some, a blog is a soap box from which to present his or her political views. That's certainly the case for me, NLS, RK and RD. But still, we are all mostly amateurs not professional columnists.

On the other hand, there are some blogs or websites out there that are clearly on-line newspapers. They offer opinions, original research, and news stories where the writer also does the leg work of a professional reporter, including interviews, and covering events. Those people are true news reporters working in an electronic medium.

In any case, the key issue here is this, does a blogger have a right to keep his or her unique name?

As you pointed out, words in the titles of various newspapers are often just there to distinguish one paper from others with similar names, such as the Times-Picayune, which distinguishes it from the Times of London or the New York Times.

Also, if a newbie blogger took the name Richmond Democrat without being aware that somebody already was using that moniker, I'd probably be tolerant of it as being an honest error.

But even then, if the newer blogger found out that he had taken a name already in use, he should, out of courtesy, alter his title slightly and do it quickly before he built up his own readership.

But it looks like Feddo did know somebody else was already using the name. That's why he put up the slogan "The Real Richmond Democrat."

And if he had kept that "Real" as part of the actual, proper name, again, I'd have no problem with it.

My reason for objecting to Feddo's actions is that a reader googling Richmond Democrat will come up with two sites with exactly the same name but run by two very different people and expressing very different opinions. That's the main reason I disapprove of what Feddo did.

I think bloggers do have a right to their name if they got it first. And it's really not too hard to throw one extra word in to distinguish the two, especially for research purposes.

Silence Dogood said...

That strikes me as awfully similar to the argument George Costanza used on Seinfeld to justify him being the only person who should be allowed to name his hypotethetical child 'Seven.' "I thought of it first!" Except you can't really expect to have proprietary rights to a name. A domain, URL, trademark or a copyrighted manuscript is another matter entirely, but as far as the actual words go, you can't own words.

Like, for instance, the words "Silence Dogood." I freely admit that someone thought of this first--Benjamin Franklin. And I'm also not the first person to recycle it as a hat-tip to the great American thinker. I'm certainly not purporting myself to be Benjamin Franklin (necessarily--but maybe I am! What if I am the ghost of Benjamin Franklin? SpoooOOOoooky...).

Immitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so they say.

*Hah! I just typed in the URL richmonddemocrat because I couldn't remember if anyone owned the domain. Well played Feddo! I understand a little bit better why JC's upset, but he has to realize that putting some text between the appropriate HTML brackets to title a page does not somehow give you legal "squaters rights" to a corresponding unregistered domain.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Well, actually not true. There was even the strange case where McDonald's sued another restaurant for using their name. The other restaurant was owned by somebody whose last name was McDonald. What tipped the decision in favor of the owner of the small restaurant was that his family owned business had been in existence before the large corporation. It was a mom and pop operation passed from parent to child.

I'm not sure what the legal decision would have been had some poor schnook with the same last name as the large company hadn't been first with the restaurant. Apparently having a legal name almost wasn't enough.

Again, the precise issue here is the googling and domain names. If JC had a blog that he just called "Wilmore" and another Wilmore came along and used the same name, it would be dicier.

As for your nick name, it's apples and oranges. You picked it as a tribute to a dead historical figure as a tribute. You didn't do it to pass yourself off as Ben Franklin.

Finally, Leftyblogs, apparently, had some problems with this and kicked Feddo's blog off their list for the name similarity.

Again, what would be so difficult to put in the one word "Real" or some other word in the title to distinguish one Richmond Democrat from the other? It would have been courteous to readers.

Feddo did it to confuse and make fun of somebody else. That's just plain wrong!