on speaking with one voice, too legit to quit

I’ve mentioned the “speaking with one voice” idea quite a lot. When you work with ALA in any capacity for long you’ll hear about it. Councilors were encouraged to all support the dues increase so that we could speak with one voice for ALA. The Social Responsibilities Round Table was discouraged from sending out copies of their own resolutions using their name (and by extention, ALA’s name) because of the supposed value of a “speaking with one voice” approach. When I worked at a reference desk, I tried hard to balance my own opinions on library policies with the binding nature of the policies, and the assumption that we were allowed to be flexible within the rules, to a degree, a degree I was never sure of (“Yes, I think the fines are a little high. No you should still pay them.”).

This just leads up to an anecdote. Last week the READ Poster I added to the Flickr group I mentioned a few weeks ago was selected to illustrate a little blurb about the Flickr group in AL Direct. AL Direct is an e-newsletter distributed by ALA. It’s distributed to all ALA members, except ones like me who have unsubscribed. I was a little surprised by the (unattributed) inclusion of my image both because it’s a bit icky and because it’s a direct rip-off of an ALA trademark. As I recall, when Audible came out with their Don’t Read campaign, ALA sent them a strongly worded letter.

I was a little surprised to see this post on LISNews about how to make your own legit READ posters. Apparently the gal from ALA called Blake about this item. I didn’t get specifics but it’s clear from the wording that

  • ALA would certainly prefer that you paid $134 for a set of templates. You can then import these into your own editing software and are subsequently licensed to use what you create, though you can’t sell anything you make with it.
  • The people at ALA Graphics are not “speaking with one voice” with the people from AL Direct. I am not suprised at this, since it’s a huge organization, and American Libraries is technically editorially independent, but it’s a little jarring nonetheless. From a business perspective, ALA has a legal responsibility to “defend” its trademark which in this case is the word READ, as indicated by the license agreement [text below] which has a whole bunch of other interesting points (one computer at a time, no “redistribution” of the image etc)

The word READ is a registered trademark of the American Library Association (ALA). With the purchase of this disc, ALA grants the purchaser a license to use the trademark, but only within the context of the images on the disc subject to the conditions below. ALA grants you a personal, non-transferable, non-exclusive right to transfer the images on the accompanying CD-ROM disc to one computer at a time and to use the images on that computer with one user, subject to the following terms and conditions. The images and layouts are for use only by registered non-profit purchasers only to enhance reading programs and to promote them. The images may not be incorporated in products offered for sale. An image(s) may not be incorporated in a product for the purpose of redistributing the image(s), and the images themselves may not be sold or rented, or downloaded or transferred electronically such as on an electronic network or bulletin board. Pornographic or defamatory use of the images is prohibited. You may not copy the disc in its entirety.

From my perspective, this is a “no harm, no foul” situation with the homemade READ Posters. However, the sudden presence of someone acting like a referee, essentially an agent from an advocacy organization tut-tutting a bunch of librarians for taking their good idea and running with it, makes me feel just a little bit shamed.

7 thoughts on “on speaking with one voice, too legit to quit

  1. Me too.

    What an incredible opportunity to turn this around as another way ALA could embrace a site like Flickr to get the word out…. an this is a site that many of the librarians who ask “Why is ALA even relevant?” are using.

    So did my READ (and DREAM) Poster violate something?

  2. So you can’t READ, and you can’t DON’T READ… what CAN you do?

    I’m with Michael on this one – a wasted opportunity to take advantage of the creative talents of the community and help keep a great meme going. Heck, they could have sponsored a contest, done a poll of user favorites, helped with new templates, displayed them on the ALA website, mashed them into ALA content, done an article about them in American Libraries, or oh-so-much-more. Even if they’d just let the community run with the idea and asked for a link back to ALA….


  3. hey does this mean i need to get permission every time i use the word “read?” or is that only when it’s all caps? and is this trademarked only when I write the word, or when I speak it as well? and finally what sort of royalties are the ALA charging for use of the word, and where can I send my check?

  4. Fascinating – people are grousing about Marvel (or is it DC?) tradmarking “superhero” – and ALA trademarked “read”???

    I thought it was embarrassing when OCLC went after the Library Hotel for putting Dewey numbers on its rooms. I remember some defending them, saying if you aren’t vigilant then you lose your property. (I figured losing property was better than losing your sense of humor.)

    Isn’t it odd to fret about property when the whole point is to give people the gift of reading? How can you spread the word AND own it?

  5. I’ve been behind in reading my blog aggregator and looking at Flickr, because (ironically) I was in Chicago at the ALA Executive Board meeting where we talked about the Audible campaign, and about ALA’s trademark.

    Jessamyn is absolutely correct about the issues related to the complexity of ALA as an organization, and this is yet another example.

    Remember that one of the issues here is (as Jessamyn says) the trademark, and trademark law is different than copyright. Making your own “Read” posters, especailly if you are not selling them, will not get you in trouble from ALA (generally). The issue over Audible is that they used the same typeface as the ALA trademark, and are sending a message which is inimicable to the ALA message.

  6. To paraphrase something said of beauty, professional autonomy is best defined as what we are, and not our organizational affiliation nor what the organization claims ownership, or else the concept itself is our enemy. Self governance is not an ALA sanctioned privilege.

  7. I’m sure this is old – but according to copyright law, you can’t copyright “words and short phrases such as names, titles, and slogans.” Is a trademark somehow different? (Source: Copyright Condensed. Heartland AEA. 2003)

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