Ravelympics and the Streisand effect

I’ve been a way for a few days during the week so am just catching up now with this. Transpires the US Olympic Committee took a bit of exception to the existence of something called the Ravelympics.

If you read my other site, thingsthatstrikeme, you might know that I occasionally wield a crochet hook or a pair of knitting needles and linked to that, of course I am a member of Ravelry. I’ve never gotten involved in the Ravelympics though because of course, I haven’t really had time (look, the last major work I finished took three years; we have a top that’s running on a year at the moment so…). But I’ve known about it. Basically the deal is you sign up to do something a bit harder than you’re used to, and start it with the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games and finish it with the closing ceremony. That’s the deal. What people do tends to be up to them, they may decide to clear a bunch of works in progress, they may decide to do their very first sweater, lace shawl, you name it. The options are fairly limitless. And typically, they do all this while watching the Olympics and supporting the athletes from their country. Ravelry has a 2 million strong user base, and the site itself, while based in the US, has a worldwide reach. It is an extraordinary example of the use of social media to promote a particular interest and beats off competition from any other specialist site I know including all the photography ones in terms of its reach and success in its target community. It is funded by advertising and the advertising is fully targeted towards its user base which is a bad thing for me, actually because look at all that lovely yarn they have in the Yarn Room. I digress.

Anyway, the USOC sent a cease and desist to Ravelry over the Ravelympics because they own Olympics in the US and it’s fair to say, the C&D wasn’t all that well received. Not so much about the accusations of trademark infringement but the attitude towards the knitting and crochet community. Money quote is this one:

“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,” the USOC wrote in the letter. “It is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”

From here.

All told, I’m not sure I agree with the USOC on this, frankly. I’m also not sure that their understanding of the true nature of the Olympic Games matches mine.

Ravelry seem to be looking into a rename of the Olympic driven knit-along. I don’t blame them. They’re a small site and they don’t have limitless funds. However, it’s clear to me that the USOC aren’t all that clear on the hard work that goes into creating handmade items on a large scale. LIke I said, I’ve this intricate lace skirt that took three years. Three years for one item.

From the same article:

The USOC, for its part, has released two written apologies on its website, but it has not backtracked on its requests. “That [cease-and-desist] letter was sent from our law department and was written by a summer law clerk,” explains Sandusky. “The ‘denigration’ statement was made in error. The letter was probably a bit strongly worded and we regret that and apologize to the community. But we don’t apologize for trying to protect our right to the term ‘Olympics.’”

I just have an issue with the idea that C&Ds are sent out by summer law clerks. Additionally, I do question knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing when it comes to the right to the term “Olympics”.

I suspect their issue relates to slippery slopes. I feel sorry for them.