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United States Government Politics

Library of Congress Threatens Washington Watch Wiki 125

Posted by kdawson
from the trademark-madness dept.
BackRow writes "Washington Watch, a site devoted to tracking the cost of federal legislation, has raised the hackles of the Library of Congress with a new wiki that makes an unfavorable comparison to the LOC's THOMAS legislative search engine. After Jim Harper, Washington Watch's creator and the director of information policy at the Cato Institute, announced the wiki, he received a nastygram from the LOC." Quoting: "After the announcement, he was contacted by Matt Raymond, the Director of Communications at the Library (and the author of the Library of Congress' blog). Raymond said that he possessed 'statutory and regulatory authority governing unauthorized use of the Library's name and logo and those of Library subunits and programs,' and he asked that Harper stop using the names 'Library of Congress' and 'THOMAS' in his marketing materials."
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Library of Congress Threatens Washington Watch Wiki

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  • by Qzukk (229616) on Monday May 07, 2007 @07:12PM (#19029059) Journal
    Call it the Library of Progress, and refer to JEFFERSON.
    • by Lithdren (605362)
      Library of !=(Pro) + gress

      That would make a great T-shirt! (tm)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by philpalm (952191)
      Quote from article:
      "I contacted Raymond about the issue, and he tells Ars that he was acting under Library of Congress Regulation 112, which says that "the use of the Library's name, explicitly or implicitly to endorse a product or service, or materials in any publication is prohibited, except as provided for in this Regulation." For Raymond, the issue here is that Harper was critical of the Library's own work in a way which endorsed his own; as Raymond puts it, "the use of THOMAS in the Washington Watch pr
      • Now if Washington Watch is a non-profit organization then I guess there would be no marketing scheme....
        Not quite. Nonprofit is just a tax status - they play by the same rules as business on just about everything else.
    • In my opinion... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Monday May 07, 2007 @08:22PM (#19029793) Journal
      Whoever originally coined the word Con-gress ... should be modded the most insightful and prescient individual in history.
  • by metrometro (1092237) on Monday May 07, 2007 @07:18PM (#19029097)
    "Director of information policy at the Cato Institute..." Oh, I'm sorry, am I supposed to continue giving a shit after that?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by qbzzt (11136)
      "Director of information policy at the Cato Institute..." Oh, I'm sorry, am I supposed to continue giving a shit after that?

      Not if you believe that rights only belong to people who happen to agree with you.
      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by WilliamSChips (793741)
        A "free market in the field of government" rarely lasts, and only once that I can think of(maybe twice) has it lead to the second government not being a thousand times worse than the previous.
        • by qbzzt (11136)
          "A free market in the field of government" means that if a government is bad you have the option to abandon it, and the country it runs, and find a better place to live.
    • "Director of information policy at the Cato Institute..." Oh, I'm sorry, am I supposed to continue giving a shit after that?

      Of course. Why else did you bring that Cato report to the restroom if you weren't going to take a nice dump and wipe your ass with it?

    • Cato Publications (Score:5, Informative)

      by binarybits (11068) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @09:07AM (#19035157) Homepage
      I'm a longtime Slashdot reader and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. I'm not sure why you're so hostile to the Cato Institute, but you might want to check out a few of our recent publications:



      Obviously, you're not going to agree with everything we publish, but you'd be hard-pressed to find another think tank that's done as much work on the issues near and dear to the hearts of Slashdotters.

    • by dircha (893383)
      ""Director of information policy at the Cato Institute..." Oh, I'm sorry, am I supposed to continue giving a shit after that?"

      Well we don't want the government silencing someone even if we don't agree with them.

      That said, the implementation of this website is deeply flawed and simply dishonest.

      They estimate the cost of spending to the "average family" or "family of 3" basically working from the premise that a flat (non-progressive) tax is the only legitimate tax. Not only do they not argue for this assumpti
  • Ironic, no? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JohnnyBGod (1088549) on Monday May 07, 2007 @07:18PM (#19029111)
    Does anyone else find it ironic that a library, of all organizations, is (supposedly) exercising its IP rights?
    • by Romancer (19668)
      Especially the library of congress!!

      Now talking about the repository of information for the United States is forbidden?!?!!
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No. A supportable reason for the existence of trademarks is to let consumers know the true source of a good. In this case, the good is information. Cato should not be trying to mislead the public about what search engine they are using by misappropriating the IP of the United States Library of Congress. Yes, the THOMAS legislative search engine sucks (or it did last time I used it). But that does not mean some private company should be able to come along and mislead the public into thinking their searc
      • Re:Ironic, no? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday May 07, 2007 @07:47PM (#19029439) Journal
        The offending bit was.
        "WashingtonWatch.com provides a more user-friendly and interactive way for the public to learn about legislation than the Library of Congress' THOMAS site. It's all about government transparency."

        Sorry, but its still legal to say that Nike provides a better running experience than Reebok (assuming its true).

        The Library has no trademark ground to stand on, BUT they have extra Federal Statute protecting their name. When did it stop becoming a government "of the people"??
      • by belmolis (702863)

        The WashingtonWatch site does not purport to be "official". It refers to the Library of Congress site only by way of comparison. Here's a hint: when you compare A with B, that implies that A and B are different. Such comparison is not a "use of the trademark for endorsement". They don't even need a court ruling on this. This is well settled law. So long as there are no false claims of fact, Toyota is free to advertise that their vehicles are better than Ford's. Mentioning the competitor's trademark in this

        • by belmolis (702863)

          Matt Raymond, the LOC Communications Director who made the complaint, is not a lawyer and therefore probably has no understanding of trademark law. According tot the bio [loc.gov] on his blog, he has a background in journalism, with most of his career in "communication"/public relations.

    • by darjen (879890)

      Does anyone else find it ironic that a library, of all organizations, is (supposedly) exercising its IP rights?


      I don't find it at all ironic that a government institution is striving to control any possible information that it can about itself. Especially that it will threaten the use of force in order to do so.
  • The LOC is wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HaeMaker (221642) on Monday May 07, 2007 @07:20PM (#19029131) Homepage
    The LOC is wrong. Making a comparative in an endorsement is protected speech, and goes beyond trademark protection.

    If he had said, "The LOC, and their THOMAS service, fully back the use of Washington Watch." that is misuse of trademark in the context of an endorsement.

    To say a service is like another service only better, fully protected.

    IANAL/JM2c.
    • by fatduck (961824) *
      Mod parent up. This isn't about stealing copyrighted material as all the other knee-jerk responses would have you believe - it's about using a trademark in an advertisement. Owning a trademark doesn't mean you control every utterance of a word.

      "Trademark dilution" lets owner of a "famous" mark stop any use that blurs or tarnishes its distinctiveness -- even if there is no chance that consumers will be confused. Because the concept of dilution has such potentially broad reach, there are specific defenses in the federal Lanham Act that are applicable to claims of dilution. "All forms of news reporting and news commentary" are exempted, as are comparative advertising, and "noncommercial use".

    • by LordMyren (15499)
      any use of a LOC logotype or emblem however would not be protected, as they can qualify as trademarks.

      the more you know?
      • by Kadin2048 (468275) *
        any use of a LOC logotype or emblem however would not be protected, as they can qualify as trademarks.

        Possibly, although I think the Lanham Act would still let you get away with it in the context of comparative advertising; even if you can't, it's not germane to this conflict anyway -- Cato wasn't using the LoC logo or emblem, they were just using the names in otherwise-generic text.

        I think this guy at the LoC is in over his head; he should have called Legal before he hauled off and started sending out nast
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Brickwall (985910)
          since it just fits into their image of the USG as a bunch of corrupt, wasteful, generally inept bureaucrats.

          Er, just exactly how does this image conflict with reality?

      • any use of a LOC logotype or emblem however would not be protected, as they can qualify as trademarks.

        Not unless the LOC can provide evidence of a long history of concerted protection of said 'trademark.' IOW an entity can't just up and say 'it's now a registered trademark' if they haven't protected it in the past.
  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday May 07, 2007 @07:21PM (#19029141)

    "the use of THOMAS in the Washington Watch press release in a negative way is clearly used in the context of endorsement, rather than general criticism."
    Used in a negative way is an endorsement? Maybe Raymond should read a few of those books in his library.
    • by Apraxhren (964852)
      Apparently reading does not mean comprehension so I can't suggest the same to you. The endorsement is not of THOMAS, but of Washington Watch. In that endorsement THOMAS is used in a negative way, but this should all be clear as the part of the sentence you left off says:

      For Raymond, the issue here is that Harper was critical of the Library's own work in a way which endorsed his own; as Raymond puts it, ...[your quote]
      sigh
    • Endorsement of Washington Watch, not the LOC.
  • by panaceaa (205396) on Monday May 07, 2007 @07:21PM (#19029149) Homepage Journal
    Did Matt Raymond sent the nastygram to Washington Watch because the Library of Congress is part of the legislative branch, and Washington Watch can be perceived as critical of the corruption in Congress? Or did someone on the THOMAS team get personally insulted that someone could develop a better system than theirs, and push to punish the creator of the superior system out of jealousy? The latter seems a bit extreme, which leads me to believe Congressmen are scared of people knowing how much the government is actually spending on pork projects that they're even willing to have the Library of Congress send threatening letters to people who share the Library's vision for open information.
  • Marketing Materials:
    • Library of Congress
    • THOMAS


    ...waits for his letter.....

    On a more serious note, I don't think marketing materials are covered under fair use, are they?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Romancer (19668)
      You can say any comparison you want in your marketing materials, just so long as you have the fine print at the bottom saying that their logis if used are the property of their respective owners.
      • by shaitand (626655)
        The library of congress is not a private organization. Anything it owns is public property, including its logo. I'm pretty sure it will be discovered that the only time this guy really has the right to stop a citizen is if that citizen is using the name and/or logo in a fraudulent manner. For instance, a false claim that the LOC endorses his product.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Romancer (19668)
          I'm not sure it works that way. Just because something is not a private organization, doesn't mean that it has no rights to restrict its brand or logo. Public property is sticky that way. Like the ways public land is used is restricted by the operators and can have restrictions like "no motorbikes" and "no 2 stroke engines in watercraft" The use of the public property is limited.

          In this case I think you're right about the way he used it but I don't think it's a blanket law that allows the use of govt resour
          • by shaitand (626655)
            From TFA,

            'I contacted Raymond about the issue, and he tells Ars that he was acting under Library of Congress Regulation 112, which says that "the use of the Library's name, explicitly or implicitly to endorse a product or service, or materials in any publication is prohibited, except as provided for in this Regulation."'

            Reading the rest of the article explains that this guy is claiming that a comparison WAS an endorsement. This regulation is intended to assure that nobody can fraudulently claim the LOC endo
  • Why fight it? Rename it "nook of crooks" and still everyone's gonna know what's meant.
  • I pay may taxes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EaglemanBSA (950534) on Monday May 07, 2007 @07:29PM (#19029239)
    How soon before we're not allowed to make derogatory remarks about Congress itself, or the president? I was under the impression that the government and everything it owns, collectively, belong to the American People, but apparently I'm wrong.
    • by adona1 (1078711)
      I was under the impression that the government and everything it owns, collectively, belong to the American People

      Where do you think you are, Soviet Russia? :)
    • by YodaYid (1049908)
      I felt the same way when New York's MTA copyrighted the subway map [isubwaymaps.com] (Here's Jeff Jarvis [buzzmachine.com] on the issue).
      • by belg4mit (152620)
        Trademark and copyright are hardly the same thing. You could go and make your own
        conception of an MTA map and you would be well within your rights. Now, whether or
        not state and municipal agencies *ought* to restrict access and reuse of goods
        produced in the public interest is another matter.
        • by YodaYid (1049908)
          I was referring to the *ought* part ;-) Governments ought not be allowed to put any intellectual property restrictions (trademarks, copyright, etc) on publicly-funded work. The only valid restrictions would be fraud-related (e.g. putting up a website that pretends to be the LOC, printing counterfeit money, or impersonating a police officer).
    • as long as your right to criticize the King of Thailand is unfettered, you live in a free country.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by exi1ed0ne (647852)

      I was under the impression that the government and everything it owns, collectively, belong to the American People, but apparently I'm wrong.

      I believe you have that backwards unfortunately. Anything that can be construed as a financial instrument is subject to seizure under the Trading With the Enemy Act and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The laws are already there on the books to take all your stuff, as was done with gold in 1933.

      Or in slash-speak: a beowulf cluster of laws own all

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Quiz: True or False -- On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your middle name?

      False. On a scale of 1 to 10, what is not my middle name.
  • It's hell... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday May 07, 2007 @07:36PM (#19029315)
    ...having to compete.

    And so much easier to send a C&D than to actually compete.
  • Nothing new here folks, remeber the same sort of thing with The Onion [google.com] using the Presidential Seal?
  • The PR flak at the LOC quoted:

    Library of Congress Regulation 112, which says that "the use of the Library's name, explicitly or implicitly to endorse a product or service, or materials in any publication is prohibited, except as provided for in this Regulation."
    This regulation may restrict the use of the term "Library of Commerce", but it doesn't appear to limit the use of such terms as "THOMAS".
  • Is there anyone here that knows when Civil Servants stopped signing their letters that way?
    • by mmdog (34909)
      Just guessing here, but I'd say it has something to do with people not understanding what the word "servant" means. Unfortunately most government employees treat their job as an entitlement, as opposed to an opportunity to 'serve' their country.
  • by AllParadox (979193) on Monday May 07, 2007 @08:15PM (#19029701)
    This is not a situation where some commercial outfit is making money off of using the name of the Library of Congress. If I see some commercial business doing that, I will turn them in myself.

    This is plainly about freedom of political speech, a right enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    Mr. Harper's use of the site, even his comparison of his search engine against THOMAS, is aimed at promoting his personal political agenda, both for his site and including his comparison.

    Congress did not repeal the First Amendment.

    For once, somebody has a beef with some meat on it. This is where you hire the attorney to reply with a nastygram.
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by mvdwege (243851)

      This is not a situation where some commercial outfit is making money off of using the name of the Library of Congress.

      Excuse me?! This is the Cato Institute we're talking about. You know, the think tank for hire, that will act as an 'indepedent source' to criticise any regulation you want as long as you pay enough.

      This is bloody well a commercial outfit drumming up publicity to get more customers, and the teenage libertarians on Slashdot are falling for it in droves.

      Sheesh.

      Mart

  • The last time I checked, the LOC was a government funded operation. Maybe the Matt-ster should look at that generous paycheck he gets from the sweat off of MY hard working brow. But then again, there is that pesky law called the, "First Amendment." But what I think is most significant is the part where a government official has all the time in the world to bring down the full force of the government against a citizen that questions the governments authority; That is something worth investigating.
  • This guy criticised a service of the government's library, and got a nastygram/Cease-and-Desist. Perhaps this is an advance test of the feasibility of using lawyers to squash criticism of the government, much like how corporations often do the same?
  • by witte (681163)
    >... asked that Harper stop using the names 'Library of Congress' ...
    What's next ? Furlongs and gallons ?
  • Does anyone happen to know which wiki engine this is using?

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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