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In Which I Partially Eat My Hat (Crunch, Crunch)

BY Micah L. Sifry | Sunday, December 23 2007

OK, so I've now heard from a bunch of friends, including several wiser and cooler heads with many years of experience in the trenches, and they've convinced me that I overstated things in my previous post attacking TechCrunch.

I am not looking to score legal points against TechCrunch for referring to its primary as a "Tech President Primary" and its coming endorsement as a "Tech President Endorsement." Clearly, even though we have established a brand in the TechPresident name, and won a bunch of accolades for our work, lots of people can use the generic phrase "tech president" as in a president who cares about or "gets" technology issues. And frankly, it's a good thing if there's some more competition stirred up to earn that moniker. Thank you unnamed experts for schooling me better on the nuances of copyright and trademark law.

That said, the basic issue for us is our concern that TechCrunch may be inadvertently stirring up confusion as to whether our nonpartisan blog, TechPresident.com, is holding a primary or endorsing a candidate. To be clear, the purpose of my first email to Michael Arrington was to politely, I thought, ask him to make a clarification to this end. When we didn't hear anything back, and saw an additional subsequent post, we decided that we had no choice but to make our concerns public.

If by using the phrase "identity theft" I insulted TechCrunch or Michael Arrington, I apologize. I meant the phrase as a metaphor, not a formal legal accusation. It's how it feels when you see someone else seemingly using your name and encroaching on your beat--without attribution or acknowledgment.

As for whether there is a copyright or trademark violation, I am honestly not interested in the legal interpretation so much as I'm interested in seeing people do the right thing. Several experts have convinced me that the legal argument is murky at best over whether or not TechPresident is a copyrightable term, or a meaningful trademark. Fine, I withdraw my complaints against TechCrunch violating copyright or trademark.

What I still am concerned with is plain old public confusion. The simple and decent thing for TechCrunch to do is to post some kind of disclaimer, in the relevant places, making clear that its Tech President Primary and Endorsement are not connected to this blog. Then we can both go back to doing what is far more important, which is getting the political system to pay more attention to our common issues.

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