Oh, and Ed? Pull your head out. I already told you I’m doing everything I can about the email service, but they haven’t responded to my email.

The administrative tools that I have allow this: “You can change “servicename => ServiceName”, but you can not change the name.”
There is also no provision for deleting the service (which I wouldn’t want to do anyway, and just leave people suddenly and permanently without access to their email.)

O p a l C a t

That. . . sucks.

– Sylence

And now, for my next trick, I will talk in spooky half-references.

Right. I think that covers it, pretty words and vaguenesses aside. Legally speaking, after receiving this, Opal did the only thing she could. Sorry, Ed, I don’t see anything broad or open to interpretation about that statement.

Ed, et al,

Opal has provided you, in your commercial incarnation as the Straight Dope® website, valuable ancillary support - i.e., I give you credit for being a sentient-enough being to realize that we’re not all here to tout Cecil’s latest commercial effort and we have no objections to Cecil making a buck off of his grand efforts.

It is extremely short-sighted on the part of your prig law staff to fail to recognize the (overhead free) value added potential of Opal’s website. Now, I know you’ve been subject to many gripes about moderated boards, favoritism, etc.

But it is a simple matter for y’all to enter into agreement w/Opal as to claims and disclaimers that allow her site to continue to function as is without some fantasized liability on your part.

It’s only a matter of how long you can piss in your own nest.



Hey Opal (and interested parties),

How about the notation that you see at the bottom of all kinds of ads that says XXX is the trademark of such-and-such and we just used it w/o their express permission?

beatle: that option has never been open to me. FWIW, when I first started the page, it was called “The Straight Dope Teeming Millions Homepage” and I was contacted to remove “The Straight Dope” from the title line, which I did. The whole thing really is so tiresome at this point… I have a really hard time getting up the motivation to work on the thing. That is why I was calling for volunteers… (and yes, I will get back to that, but other things came up which took up my time; namely some more paying webdesign business.)

O p a l C a t

Saturday AM BOING! for this thing…


Obviously, the only reasonable reading of the letter sent to Opalcath was that the words “The Straight Dope” were not to be used in any way on her estimable site, and there is little if any question that this was the intent of the person(s) who wrote the letter. For my part, I will assume that this is simply the result of a miscommunication between TSD, the Chicago Reader, and their respective attorneys, and I trust that reason will prevail.

After all, WWCD?

I just found out about this, Opal. As much as I enjoy your site, I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to take a break from it for a while.

I hope you keep posting with us.

You have a real talent for web designs, Opal. This was a major screw up/miscommunication. I hope it gets resolved.

You say “cheesy” like that’s a BAD thing.

WWCD? Probably the very same thing, since “Cecil” hasn’t been amusing for years. I think he lost his sense of humor when he started making real money from The – oops – The Duly Registered Trademark of The Chicago Reader, which if it’s anything like the magazine which carries That Column in my town, derives its primary revenue from advertising prostitutes and strip clubs. Whoever wrote “Cecil’s” columns about ten years ago: please come back. We miss you.

Christ, what an imagination I’ve got…

Normally, I try to stay out of these disputes but in this case I’m going to jump in and say “this sucks”. OpalCat you have done so much for the Str**ght Dp that for them to treat you this way is unforgivable. Your site, after all, predates this one by several years and apparently they’ve never had any infringment issues arise in all this time. And for Ed Zotti to post here claiming that he was unaware of this pending action is hypocritical.

I am going to make myself very unpopular around here, but I think Chicago Reader, Cecil et al. may have had no other realistic choice if they want to protect their trademark.

Back in the late 1950s or early 1960s, National Comics sued Mad Magazine over a Superman parody, alleging trademark infringement. I believe the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that National had to sue anyone who was infringing the trademark – including the little fanzines that were started in honor of Superman and other National superheroes – not just Mad Magazine. I think the court’s ruling was a publisher has to go after everybody infringing on a trademark, not just those people it wants to get and/or those making money off the infringement.

IIRC, back in the late 1970s, Marvel Comics aroused ire in comic fandom by suing some fanzines over unauthorized use of Marvel characters. Again, the intent was not to make money – most of the fanzine publishers had little to get – or piss off Marvel fans, but to protect the company’s trademarks.

Had Chicago Reader et all not taken the action they did, it is entirely possible someone unscrupulous, i.e. The Peyote Coyote, could start a rival publication or column entitled The Straight Dope and get away with it, claiming in court that Opal Cat’s use of the phrase means Chicago Reader is not interested in protecting its trademark, and, therefore, it can be used by someone else. It is unfortunate Opal Cat got caught in the gears of the letal system.

BigIron, jodih, and the other lawyers on this board, is this a fair summary of the situation?

Armed, dangerous…
and off my medication.

I understand the need to vigorously protect a trademark. The disturbing part of this latest chapter in the board’s evolving relationship with it’s members is the general ham-handedness with which business is conducted.

I, too, would like to hear from some of our resident lawyers.

And, just for fun, Microsoft, General Motors, McDonald’s and Spiderman.

Read Frankd6’s very intelligent response in the related thread in the BBQ pit: Chicago Reader vs. Opalcat

Once again, I’m shocked by the stupidity and ham-handednes of the powers that be. You can bet I won’t be buying any more books or anything promoted by the Chicago Reader as long as they persist in treating friends as enemies. Take that, Chi Reader legal department!

I’m hesitant to express an opinion here, because (okay, I’m paranoid) it seems that if I do then it will be automatically discarded. For this reason I did not post on this thread yesterday, when it was brand new.

However, Frankd6 has now posted in the thread linked to in the above post which strikes me – as a sheer hypothetical, without knowing all the facts – as a good compromise. Coyote is correct that if a trademark holder does not vigorously protect its trademark it loses the right to do so. However, that could be dealt with by way of a licensing agreement which could provide for yearly review, termination upon contingencies, a non-transferability clause, and payment of a nominal fee by Opalcat. Frank suggested $1.00; on the AOL SDMB2 board I suggest $100.00, and offered to kick in $10 – I suspect others would too.

That should at least deal with the use of the Straight Dope name; admittedly it does not address the question of spam coming in apparently with the blessing of TSD, and I’m sure we can all appreciate that they don’t want to be associated with THAT. Don’t know how much of a problem that has been, and it may be that the solution here is to change the email but allow use elsewhere, which is what it sounds like Ed is talking about in his post here.


“I’ll never argue with a lawyer again.” – The Devil Himself.

The ultimate irony!!
Posting an explanation on the SDMB about the beating Straight Dope/Chicago Reader gave you for having references to their “priceless name” at your web site.

Are they also going to take someone to task for the newsgroup, or am I allowed to keep at least one enjoyable thing to do?

(and they wonder why I don’t venture into this site much!)

IANAL, but I have two questions:

First, since the phrase “the straight dope” long predates this trademark, does that mean one can trademark any common phrase and prevent other people from using it? Say, could I trademark the phrase “Fighting Ignorance”, and prevent anyone I want from using it?

And second, what are the circumstances in which the owner of a trademark can stop somebody from using it? Some things would seem to be protected by free speach - i.e, can McD’s stop me from saying, “Boycott McD’s”? Somehow it seems like there must be some legal right to use a trademark without the owner’s consent.

peas on earth

I can understand The Chicago Reader’s need to protect it’s copyright. My only question is why now?
The TMHP has been in production for years and carried a blessing quote from CA. It would seem to have been better for all sides to cease and desist it 400 pages ago.
Or enter into an agreement now.
Folks who run web pages and moderate boards and print weekly papers are in the business of communication. It looks like some of that could be used right now.




“Think of it as Evolution in action.”

Hey, Opal. I hope this is as it seems, and that the letter you received isn’t really what Cecil et al. wanted & that Cecil prevails over ignorance once again.

I also hope this whole sorry episode hasn’t irrevocably soured the Straight Dope experience for you, and that once the misunderstanding is cleared up, you still want to keep your site.

I personally think the Reader should ditch it’s lawyers & hire a PR staff (prevention is so much cheaper than settlements or awards).

Good luck!

Sue from El Paso

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.