Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What's Going On

So you may have noticed that my Facebook page is gone.  Some of you correctly guessed that this was a result of HQ finally cracking down on me.  You may have also noticed I was strangely quite on the matter (seriously, when the last time I kept my opinion to myself?).  I was trying to resolve the situation quickly and quietly with HQ so I could keep going about my business, but recently it's become very clear that that's not an option.  This post is gonna be big, so brace yourself.  Before we get started, here's the answer to the question I've gotten most over the past couple weeks.

Here we go:

The first email

A couple weeks ago, I got an email late on a Saturday night (odd time for legal emails, right?) from a member of CrossFit's Legal Department.  As you can see, it's pretty polite, respectful, and seems to genuinely express a desire to work with me.  Whoever wrote it seemed to be accomplishing a simple task: clearly communicate the nature of the issues at hand, offer a solution (albeit one that is works entirely for HQ's benefit), and open up a discussion.

I was surprised, but not by the fact that I got this email (I had been expecting some sort of communication from them for a while now); I was surprised that it seemed so nice.  I mean seriously, did you ever think that an email from HQ to me would include a phone number and the phrase "I'm happy to discuss them all with you"?  I actually kind of expected them to email me with a video of them peeing on a picture of my face captioned with a "Gotcha!"...luckily for me, they proved me right later on.

I didn't know much about trademark law, and I'm not about to trust the opinion of the people who want to shut me down, so I decided I'd do some research before calling or emailing HQ back.  Unluckily for me, the email was really just a distraction while they went about attempting to crush me.

Shutting down my Facebook

Then this happened.  Before I called or emailed HQ back, my Facebook page was shut down.  Dick move, HQ...real dick move.  I don't get the whole "send a nice sounding email encouraging open communication, but also make sure to really fuck with him know, just to make sure he got the point".

Also, Facebook couldn't care less about my side of things.  It took me several emails over the course of a couple days before I got a human being to respond to me, and he basically said "Take it up with whoever reported you.  If they give us the green light to bring your page back up, we'll do that.  Until then, suck a bag of dicks, buddy" (I may have ad-libbed that last part).  

That's particularly frustrating, as the email they sent me to tell me my page is now *poof* gone also leads to this gem of a quote from Facebook: "If you believe that we made a mistake in removing your content, you are not obligated to respond".  What the fuck does that even mean?  That sentence has no meaning in the English language and whoever wrote it should be ashamed that they spent fifteen seconds typing it when they could have spent fifteen seconds killing themselves for the sake of mankind.

So I got a nice email that asked me to call them back, then almost immediately sniped Smokin' Aces style (the song in that video is incredibly lame, btw).

Our conversation, or: "Well, we could sue you"

So I called HQ.  At this point, it'd been maybe 4 days and I had decided to keep this under wraps until I could deal with it.  Remember: I was still under the impression that I was dealing with reasonable human beings willing to find ways to work this out.  More importantly, I was pretty willing to comply with what they wanted me to do.  I'm not interested in stealing anyone's shit, nor am I interested in wasting my time.  If it was in both our best interests to just handle the situation quickly and quietly, I was willing to do that so I could get on with the important things in my life: making fun of all the other stupid shit these idiots do on a regular basis.

I called the woman who emailed me and I must say, she sounded pretty cool.  It was actually kind of refreshing because 1) she didn't know who I was, and 2) SHE DIDN'T KNOW WHO I WAS - As in, "I'm not familiar with what you do, but I have an idea that you're kind of like Drywall?"  Seriously, she actually asked me that question.

This is where things get really interesting.  Remember: she asked me to contact her so she could happily explain all my options.

So we chatted for about 45 minutes about what's going on, why they contacted me, and what my options were.  At the start I made it very clear to her that I'm wiling to get this resolved pretty quickly, but I wanted clarification as to what would be acceptable to them and what would get me in further trouble.  I told her I didn't have a lawyer, that I understood what her position and purpose was (she's not my lawyer, and her job is to make sure the HQ's best interests are served), but she invited me into a discussion about what my options were.

When I asked her what I could do other than stop using "CrossFit" and "XFit as identifiers, she responded with "Well, we could sue you".  Right.  So I figured she was being tough, and went about asking more specific questions:

If I stopped using "CrossFit" and "XFit" as personal identifiers, could I use it in my content?


If I promised to change/remove all uses of "CrossFit" and "XFit" as personal identifiers, could I have my Facebook page back?


Is the main issue here my use of "CrossFit" and "XFit" as personal identifiers while also potentially making money?

"Yes and no".  This one's a good one.  Turns out that one of the only uses of their marks (outside of legally protected uses like parody and criticism) that they allow is what they call "Fan-boy sites".  She basically said that as long as you're using their trademarks to say positive things about CrossFit, they're cool with that.

By the end of our conversation, she and I had come to an agreement: I would stop using "CrossFit" or "XFit" and they'd give me my page back.  She said she'd check with her boss and get back to me the next day.

This is where shit got serious.

The second email, or: "Look at me try to intimidate you, bro.  See how cool I am?"

After a couple days of dicking me around and not giving me any answers, I receive this wonderful email:

The first email she sent me was polite.  Our conversation was respectful, perhaps even genial.  It was clear when I spoke with her that she was doing her job, had no real interest in what I did other than to get me in line with their requirements, and was willing to work with me to resolve this with as little headache possible for both parties involved.

I'm convinced this email was written by someone else.  It's full of vitriol, disrespect, and attempts at intimidation.  Who is it?  My guess is Dale Saran.  I don't know shit about Dale.  I've never met him, I've never talked to him, I've never had any interaction with him directly.  However, I've seen him threaten to fight someone who disagreed with him on Facebook, and that's about enough for me to judge him. That's Dale Saran, the General Counsel of CrossFit, Inc.  So considering the polite and helpful conversation I had with a member of CrossFit's legal team (who specifically told me she would have to talk to her boss) was followed up with an email with laughable attempts to strong-arm me, I'm guessing this class act of a lawyer is responsible for it.

Hey, Chief: here's my response:

First, you can't threaten me or intimidate me.  I don't mean this is the legal sense, or that it's a terrible way of dealing with another human being, or it's a tactic employed by small people (not only physically but personally and psychologically small people).  I mean that you literally cannot threaten or intimidate me.  I'm not a fool, I'm not a child, and I'm not scared by someone referring to legal cases or dropping the phrase "federal judge".

Second, since I'm using them legally for parody, criticism, and shit-talking, I don't need you to license my use of "CrossFit", "XFit" or any other variation of your trademarks.  Remember that your team emailed me offering to discuss all of my options in this situation, and that my response, as a grown man and decent human being, was to call and actually have that conversation, and that's exactly what happened: I discussed all my options with a member of your team.

Third, what "untruths" did I publish that prove me to be so ignorant?  Is it that there was a long running charity event known as Fight Gone Bad?  Or maybe that HQ suddenly decided to make their own charity event that was the exact same thing?  Or that they CrossFit isn't actually legally allowed to make a charity event called Fight Gone Bad because Sportsgrants had a trademark on the name and CF had to come up with a new name for their version?  What's really weird is that Dale Saran so happily points out that Sportsgrants went after a Canadian affiliate for making a Fight Gone Bad Charity event even though they don't have a Canadian trademark for it then turns around a few months later and goes after me for using "XFit" even though CrossFit, Inc doesn't have a trademark on XFit, X-Fit, or X Fit.

Fourth, threatening me for "attempting something" at the Games is laughable, mainly because I have no idea what you're even referring to.  What did I do at the SoCal Regionals?  Maybe you're referring to one of your team members willingly providing me with a Media shirt and pass so I could hang out between events with my friends who were competing?  Maybe you're referring to the handful of berries and few cups of water I took from the athlete/media area?!  Oh no Mister!  I'm awfully scared, and I'm definitely screwed when it comes to the Games.

Lastly, sending me a vague email filled with threats as opposed to specific demands, then following up with "do what we say or we'll sue you" is a joke.  What you expect me to do is cave, and cower, and just do whatever it is I think I need to do to make you stop with the meanie words.  Nope dot com, buddy.

Reflecting on what this is all about

Seems to me that this entire thing boils down to CrossFit trying to shut me up.  They're cool with people using their name in a positive light, but not okay with me criticizing them.  But they're forgetting the whole "counter culture" aspect of CrossFit.  They're forgetting that CrossFit became popular because of how loud and outspoken they were against the established norm.  They're forgetting that the original group of people they attracted to their gyms and into their community were uninterested in being told what to do, that CrossFitters thrive on questioning authority and going against the grain.  They even support this aspect of their community openly on their own website: "Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue.  It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made".

If you put the jokes about shirtless d-bags and jumpropes and too much chalk aside, my goal is to improve CrossFit by offering critical opinions about the decisions made by the people who are directing it.  Does that make me a persona non grata?  Knowing CrossFit's history with critics and dissenters, it probably could.

So what's next?

This and this. Nothing changes for now.  Thanks for all your support, peeps.