Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ravelry and Olympics

I am so behind on this issue, but I just read about the Olympics and Ravelry controversy. I truly wish I'd have millions of dollars because I would so hire a crew of lawyers and fight this idiocy.

The story: During the televised Olympic games, a group of folks on Ravelry hold their own challenges which they called Ravelympics when they began several years ago. Apparently the Olympic powers-that-be learned of this and in their infinite wisdom, or lack thereof, sent a cease and desist letter to the group. (You can read the announcement if you are a Ravelry member here. ) In this letter they insulted knitters and crocheters, indicating that by holding the Ravelympics these crafters were denigrating the athletes and the official event. Come on, people! Is that nuts or what?

You can read the entire cease and desist letter here. Here is part of it:
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.
The letter also gives a list of patterns they deem relating to the Olympics that were to be removed. Firstly, you can't really stop people from naming their pattern "Olympic scarf" "Olympic hat" "Olympic mittens". Secondly, if you wanted to, it would be a full time job and not one I would want.

This high handed actions brought down the wrath of the entire knit and crochet community. From what I understand this is millions strong. They let their wrath be known on Twitter, Facebook and wherever Olympic officials gathered. While this did not change the legal issues because Ravelry is a volunteer organization with not enough financial backing to battle the Olympic organization, it did force a little backpedaling in two apologies, such as they were.

The apologies themselves, by Patrick Sandusky, left something to be desired.

The first one:
“Thanks to all of you who have posted, tweeted, emailed and called regarding the letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics.

Like you, we are extremely passionate about what we do. And, as  you may know, the United States Olympic Committee is a non-profit entity, and our Olympic team receives no government funding. We are totally dependent on our sponsors, who pay for the right to associate with the Olympic Movement, as well as our generous donors to bring Team USA to the Games.

The letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics was a standard-form cease and desist letter that explained why we need to protect our trademarks in legal terms. Rest assured, as an organization that has many passionate knitters, we never intended to make this a personal attack on the knitting community or to suggest that knitters are not supportive of Team USA.

We apologize for any insult and appreciate your support. We embrace hand-crafted American goods as we currently have the Annin Flagmakers of New Jersey stitching a custom-made American flag to accompany our team to the Olympic Games in London. 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.”
The second one:
"As a follow-up to our previous statement on this subject, we would again like to apologize to the members of the Ravelry community. While we stand by our obligation to protect the marks and terms associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements in the United States, 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. We hope you’ll accept this apology and continue to support the Olympic Games."
I also notice that the letter sent was signed, not be a lawyer, but by a law clerk,  writing on behalf of an attorney. This is probably common practice. I don't know. But it irked me all the same. You don't even have the decency to send your own insulting letters but let the wrath fall on the poor clerk.

I have always appreciated the time and energy that is involved in working towards the Olympic events. However, this has sure put a bad taste in my mouth about the committee and events, though not the athletes. It is not their fault the organization that rules these challenges are idiots.

I never was a real follower of the Olympics and don't spend a lot of time watching the official events. I do support and donate to the SPECIAL Olympics every year.  I don't really know if they're affiliated or not but I would imagine so otherwise they would have gotten a cease and desist as well for using the name.

In closing, first Ravelry changed the name of it's Olympics. They are now the Ravellenics group I believe. I sincerely hope they don't make anything to send to the USOC.

Secondly, here are some articles you can read if you need to catch up, as I did, when I learned of the dispute.

Crochet Liberation Front (an EXCELLENT letter which expresses exactly what I feel)
Journal Gazette
Gawker (and a followup post here)
Washington Post
HotAir (even if they did call knitter old ladies)
Daily Mail
Outside the Beltway
Yahoo Sports
Denver Post
USA Today
Planet Handmade
Daily Dot
The Atlantic

Business Week
Oregon Live

And lastly, a note that KNITTING was once an Olympic sport in and of itself.

I'm sorry to be late to this party, but at least I've caught up on it now.

Happy crocheting!

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