Library 2.0 – Like it or hate it, it’s public domain (an echo post)

Michael Casey posted this at LibraryCrunch last night. As one of those who suggested this to him, I’ll quote the whole thing as a way of reinforcing the claim against future foolishness:

O’Reilly has taken steps to consolidate use of the term “Web 2.0”, claiming it as a service mark. This has caused several worried library folk to contact me regarding “Library 2.0” and its usage.

I first published the term “Library 2.0” in September of 2005. I have always considered the term “Library 2.0”, used alone or in combinations such as “Library 2.0 Conference”, to be in the public domain, usable by anyone, and not subject to trademark or service mark registration. I would hate to see this changed by anyone attempting to turn the term itself into a commercial venture.

It appears well-established that “Library 2.0” is Michael Casey’s coinage. I believe his post should be strong evidence opposing any attempt by a company to register the term as a servicemark or trademark, by itself or in any generic combination such as “Library 2.0 conference.” Casey’s done the right thing here, which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s dealt with him.

This may also be a good point to remind those who believe that Walt Crawford is the foremost “anti-Library 2.0” person around there: I’m not an anti-Library 2.0 person at all, as a reasonably careful reading of the special Cites & Insights should clarify.

I think I’ll adopt the same usage here that Peter Suber tagged me with as regards open access: I’m an independent. (Which really means largely in favor of the concepts, but choosing to continue thinking and writing about difficulties and refinements.)

6 Responses to “Library 2.0 – Like it or hate it, it’s public domain (an echo post)”

  1. Jon Gorman says:

    I’ve never been a huge fan of the term Web 2.0 anyhow. But to clarify some issues, O’Reilly (the company, not the person) released a statement a few days ago, see What they’re seeking to trademark is the term “Web 2.0” since that’s the name of the conference that O’Reilly runs.

    Tim O’Reilly’s out on vacation and the company is doing an incredibly bone-headed job of PR work in his absence.

    I think his VP is badly mishandling the situation. Actual apologizes and not “we had to do it” would help a lot. Worse case, they should have said we need to wait for Tim to get back. But at this point the damage is done and there are a great deal of people over-reacting.

    I’m still not sure in the worse-case scenario if the term Web 2.0 couldn’t be used if it would have any impact. No one has ever managed to convince me that there is a thing such as Web 2.0.

  2. Barbara says:

    There’s a very good post over at Boing Boing on this claim-the-name issue. I couldn’t help thinking, as I read the explanation of trademark as a way for a company to protect the public from fraudlent imitations, of OCLC’s insistence that the Library Hotel get permission to label its rooms with make-believe Dewey numbers. (OCLC “owns” Dewey.) It seemed silly to me at the time, and now I know why.

    “The downside of creating amazing, industry-shaking ideas is that they become embedded in the popular consciousness… If you’re going to name the next direction the world will take, you have to be prepared for the world to take that direction. Industry shifts become public property…”

    Though “industry” is an odd word in the library context, the Dewey Decimel system has entered the culture in a way that spills beyond exlusive control, as has the concept of “Web 2.0.” And that’s a good thing, not a liability.

    This is somewhat analogous to the open source debate. Which is more important – retaining exclusive control of your ideas or ensuring they’re widely shared? At some point, when an idea is really successful, it slips its owner’s leash and runs free.

  3. walt says:

    Jon: The attempt is to claim a service mark, not a trademark — since Web 2.0 isn’t a category of products, it can’t be a trademark. (But a Web 2.0 conference is a service, thus…) And since Michael said “O’Reilly,” not specifying person, I think his message is entirely consistent with the facts.

    Not to put words in Michael Casey’s mouth, but I’d suggest he’s perfectly comfortable with the ideas behind Library 2.0 being “public property,” and for that matter the term itself. Which is why explicitly dedicating the term to the public domain was appropriate and timely. Casey’s not trying to retain any sort of control over the term or the ideas; he’s acting to prevent someone else from doing so.

  4. Brad K. says:

    There are several legal approaches to copyrights, trademarks, etc. It turns out that you have to claim the copyright/service mark, then publish how it is to be used.

    See, Joe Schmuck (a fictitious name, today) could write an application for a web site, call it Library 2.0, and trademark and copyright it. Then go back and sue everyone that has used it. Or sell his company to a lawyer group that will sue everyone, for the profit of suing. Or it could be a book title, or conference series, or database server, or whatever. Look at Apple Records from the 1960’s, no longer able to defend their trademark from Apple Computer. Stuff happens — check out the ‘some rights reserved’ and ‘copyleft’ legal approaches to reduce the risk of getting hijacked.

  5. Jon Gorman says:

    Hiya Walt,

    Yup, I said trademark when I meant service mark. My comments more reflected some of the confusion I’ve heard from other people on the topic and nothing in particular to Michael’s points. If I had wanted to do that, I’d commented on his blog, not the blog commenting on the blog. It’s all a little confusing.

    To add to the mix on the issue: 1) it’s not clear O’Reilly’ s business partners even have the service mark yet and 2) they only have it for the US, not Ireland. The O’Reilly responses make the picture a bit clearer.

    Tim O’Reilly not being involved in this whole mess might turn out to be important as he seems to still control quite a bit internally of his own company. Michael doesn’t seem to be confused on the issue, but a lot of people out there in cyberspace seem to take anything involving O’Reilly the same as the founder and head of the company.

    And I’m really not too concerned about someone trying to do something similar with Library 2.0. It’s just not that popular to attract the types of people who would do this. I’ll worry about it when it happens.

  6. walt says:

    Jon, I think that summarizes the chaotic situation fairly well. I’m also guessing O’Reilly (person and company) will come to regret the action as much as Apple, with any luck, will come to regret its attempt to bully bloggers. Some people do remember these things…