Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ravelry and the Olympics and the Tour de Fleece

Greetings fiber people! Do you have a minute to look at a post without pictures? I decided to share a little bit about the cease and desist letter that spawned a huge explosion of hurt feelings in the fiber community.

Most of you reading this are fiber people, meaning you know all about it already. Most likely you know more about than I do. What excites me is that this is my blog and I get to write my opinions in it freely.

So, there's this worldwide sporting event called the Olympics, perhaps you've heard of it. A few years ago knitters and crocheters wanted to watch the Olympics while challenging themselves to create something during the span of the games. There are several variations on this, but the one I am going to mention is the event that happened on Ravelry, called the Ravelympics.

[unlicensed image of Olympic Rings not available]

Ravelry received a C&D letter. There are trademark issues. There are also judgements, the highlight being this passage: "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."

Okay, I think most people are okay with the idea that trademark infringement is serious and changing the name of Ravelympics isn't really a big deal. The problem lies in saying what we do denigrates the Olympics. Maybe it's because I've been knitting longer than many of the athletes have been alive, or maybe it's because I think fast food and soda companies sponsoring the Olympics is denigrating, but that part of the letter ruffled my feathers.

I know what I do is not the same thing as what they do. It does not follow that what I do denigrates what they do.

It turns out thousands of people feel this way too. The USOC (United States Olympic Committee) was bombarded with tweets, letters, calls, emails, and more. Gawker picked up an the story, as did the Oregonian. It's still expanding and the ripples are headed to who-knows-where.

There has since been an apology, though it hasn't been well-received.

I am talking about this today because I keep getting asked about the Tour de Fleece. I started the Tour de Fleece in 2006 in the spirit of spinning yarn along with the Tour de France. It's a crazy concept and with extremely limited appeal (people who spin their own yarn AND like cycling?)

I have not been contacted by anyone associated with the Tour de France to cease and desist the Tour de Fleece. I will let you know if that changes. So far, we are safe. I don't think anyone would accidentally confuse us with the Tour de France, but to be very clear... the Tour de France and the Tour de Fleece are two different events. One does not denigrate the other, except for performance-enhancing doping, which denigrates us all. Maybe it is I who should send the cease and desist letter?

The Tour de Fleece starts on June 30th. It's not too late to join!

Thanks for reading this. I like you.


Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha! All very well said. And funny. I agree with you wholeheartedly.


Bonnie said...

You are absolutely right. I live so much in the fiber world that it comes as a great shock when I hear someone's opinion that we're all grannies knitting toilet roll covers. I forget that most people still don't understand why we do what we do. Stupid muggles.

Laura said...

Well put and so true. I like you, too.

Unknown said...

Maybe the problem is with the word 'afghan'? It cannot help but conjure up a certain era, aesthetic and, um, demographic. Perhaps we should C & D with this term, rebranding such items with more sex appeal...or possibly soft-drink or fast-food appeal? We could call them bite-sized blankets. Anyone?

Unknown said...

Perhaps the problem lies in terms such as 'afghan', which cannot help but conjure up a certain era, aesthetic and, um, demographic. Maybe we should C & D with these unflattering names and rebrand these items with greater sex appeal...or at least more soft-drink and fast-food appeal? We could call them Bite-Sized Blankets. Anyone?

(I am, of course, joking. Please don't murderize me.)

San Diego Fiber Artist said...

what a feeble "apology" from an organization that relies on the good will (and money) of the supporting public. They could have made their point without being insulting. I guess they don't teach respect and manners at that particular law school. The request for knitted items was a good PR department addition, though.

kathy said...

So well put!
Like you, I've been knitting for ages, and back then, I did get "looks" and comments like: "is that knitting? That's what my great grandma does." These USOC folks must be living under rocks to not be aware of the knitting renaissance of the last 10-15 years. If they were, perhaps they wouldn't have been so quick to decry our art/craft in their C&D.