The past week has been quite the ride for anyone interested in sub/urban or rural homesteading. The previous two posts here sum up quite a bit of it, and one of the side effects of this brouhaha has been to get people interested in the Dervaes’ own history (and in particular, that of Jules). It got me interested, anyway, and I’m doing some research to put something together.
Another side effect has been to bring people together, as evidenced by the outpouring of solidarity posts Monday, with people weighing in on what it means to them to be able to call themselves urban homesteaders engaged in urban homesteading, no trademark or service marks required – and why should there be? The movement has been around far longer than Jules Dervaes’ massive ego and will continue to exist long after all of us are gone. This is as it should be: a movement like this belongs to no one person, but collectively to the people who choose to spend their time doing the things that need to be done to keep their little piece of the world out of the hands of giant corporations, keep themselves free of GMO/GE seed and livestock, and keep themselves in good, healthy food.
In my travels collecting posts for the big blog roundup, I found several instances of people saying their interactions with the Dervaes have been, shall we say, less than friendly – people who went to the Dervaes’ house to be met with attitudes less than friendly, people who have indicated the Dervaes were loathe to be included in media where other urban homesteaders would also be included, and people who saw the “You’re Cut Off” show on VH1 where the Dervaes were part of the setup and who were not particularly impressed. I also found a couple of people who said they were happy this debacle came falling down on the family’s head, simply because of the attitude they presented.
This last bit is one that creates a puzzler: is it wrong to actively cheer for a company – and have no doubt here, the Dervaes are a company – to fail or sink in stature? If this were, say, Monsanto, I doubt anyone other than shareholders in the stock of the company would be bothered by the Schadenfreude exhibited by some people. In this case, I’ve found very few supporters of the Dervaes after the actions they’ve taken, although I have found some rather baffling items from people simply reposting one of the Dervaes’ blog posts saying the cease and desist letters are a hoax and not from them (when they clearly are, and when the Dervaes have reposted the latter on their own site) and that they are “waiting to hear both sides of the story”. What side is not presented here? The Dervaes family managed to get a trademark on two common, generic phrases, and flat out lied on the application, claiming that they, and they alone, had used the terms so exclusively that they deserved to be awarded control of them. Hogwash. They then proceeded to send out cease and desist letters to various people, and when the furor began, claimed to be doing so because the recipients of those letters were “direct rivals” of theirs. Also hogwash: a blogger who received one of those letters is apparently engaged in no business activities relating to urban homesteading at all.
Let’s review that letter, shall we? The Dervaes sent a DMCA takedown notice to Google over a search return that linked to an Amazon listing of a book published two years before the Dervaes were awarded their mark. The Dervaes, in their attempts to justify this, posted a lengthy post on their blog regarding plagiarism, as if there is some rampant wholesale use of their material on sites all over the internet – something that is very hard to confirm, as it simply does not seem to be the case, and that still has no bearing on their constant defending their trademarks on these two generic terms. For those unaware, a DMCA complaint is something to be used for copyright infringement complaints, not trademark complaints. Sending one to Google over a search result is not only ridiculous, it is a misuse of the DMCA process – something that can (and should) result in penalties against the Dervaes for that misuse, although it probably will not.
There is currently a petition at change.org to revert the granted trademark, and the EFF has taken up the fight in response to the Dervaes’ insane posturing against the authors of the book linked above, as if they can somehow backdate their mark grant. The EFF gave the Dervaes until Friday, February 25, to respond. We’ll see what happens on that front.
In the meantime, people have been weighing in on the “what now?” part of this episode. For us, based on something someone posted to the Facebook protest page, that meant hastily putting up some forums, divided into regions, to enable people to find one another more easily, and beginning work on a collection of links, also divided into regions, so people would know who their neighbors are. It meant explaining some concepts of the DMCA and how some providers choose to deal with those notices. It meant other people doing their own aftermath posts about the whole issue:
It meant the Dervaes going to complete silence on the issue itself, going silent on their blog and Twitter account for days, and then, when finally posting on their blog once more, acting as if nothing had ever happened. A curious note on the latter activity: when they began to post once more (one with a sanctimonious quote from Desiderata, to lead, no less, as if they were victims rather than instigators), the first post was open to comments, yet no comments appeared. I mentioned to people that they very likely had their comments under heavy moderation. Comments on the post after that one were immediately closed – I suspect the moderated queue on the first rapidly filled with comments that were not as supportive as they would have liked.
As for the people who decided to not support any of the Dervaes’ activities in a financial sense once this fiasco occurred: that seems to be working. In the course of research, I’ve had to return to their site from time to time, and on the ever-present donation block, which constantly lists their money goal ($25K at the moment), their total collected since this dam broke has not changed from the $525 mark.