Say My Name

Being A Writer British Internet Culture Jewish Litkicks Memes

I always wondered how I would react if I ever found somebody else using the "Litkicks" name.

I can't see myself ever sending a "cease and desist" letter through a lawyer. That just wouldn't be my style, and it would betray the various vague but passionate stances I have taken as an artistic libertarian and copyright anarchist. Now that I actually find a community organization in London advertising a series of events as "LitKicks", I'm facing my first test of my ideals. How should I react?

The organization is apparently the Jewish Community Center of London, and they're putting on some good events including a reading by Howard Jacobson, who is the kind of writer we like here at Litkicks (he's also a current Booker Prize nominee for his new novel J).

So, how should I react? Should I be offended that these literary folks in London either a) haven't heard of my own Litkicks, despite all the work I've put into it over the years, or b) have heard of Litkicks, and decided to use the name anyway? Do I send a threatening note? Do I have any ability to actually prevent them from using the name in a different country, or in fact in any part of the world? If I were in their position, how would I feel if I were asked to stop using a certain name? (It would probably make me defiant rather than contrite.)

After thinking hard about this, I realized that of course I have to live up to my ideals. I will not be sending the Jewish Community Center of London a threatening letter. But I will use this page (I assume they'll find it eventually) to ask them nicely to please think of another name for their literary series. I hope they will decide to respect the fact that I've been using the name Literary Kicks for a long damn time, and have certainly put in the sweat equity to earn the exclusive right to the name.

I've told the story before of how the words 'Literary Kicks' came to me in a supermarket vision one day twenty years ago, and how the complete idea for this website only revealed itself to me after I thought of the name. Since then, I have seen other websites come and go with names like "Literary Chicks" (yes, they covered chick-lit) and "Literary Clicks" (apparently their Buzzfeed-like strategy didn't sustain them). I didn't pay any attention in those cases because their names were silly and I knew the sites would disappear. The difference with this community center in London is that they might actually be planning to stick around for a long time. In that case, I hope they'll decide to find a new name. There are plenty of choices out there. "Book Kicks" is available, though admittedly it doesn't trip as nicely on the tongue.

What good is it being an artistic libertarian and copyright anarchist if I don't sometimes have to risk something I care about for the sake of these beliefs? So, my own patience and idealism will be tested as I wait to see if and how the Jewish Community Center of London responds to my public request. If they ignore me and go on using the name, well ... I guess we'll coexist, and it probably won't do me or my website any harm.

It will probably do them more harm than me, since, let's be honest, I've got Google locked down. I'm pretty good with SEO, and I think it's safe to say that they're never going to get to the top of the page on Google (or for that matter Google.co.uk) as long as they're going head to head with me on page rank.

If the JW3 doesn't change the name of their series, people will probably start to think that I'm running these events in England (a neat trick for this American). Well, in that case, at least I can take comfort in the fact that the JW3 is presenting serious literary events with good authors like Howard Jacobson.

That's the kind of false credit I can feel real pride for. If they're going to use my name, at least I hope they never let the quality drop.

16 Responses to "Say My Name"

by Lisa Perez on

Look, at some point you have to defend what you worked hard to build. It's not an 'offense' thing: it's an "I pissed here first therefore it's MINE" thing. Where would "Barbie", "Disney" or let's face it, the "WWF" be if they never ceased and desisted and sued? Like the Godfather says, sometimes you gotta "go to the mattresses" so no one steps on your turf. Graffiti artists tag. You sue for copyright infringement. You put in the work. No one else should take the credit but you. Plus, you're amazing. Today it's the Jewish literary community...tomorrow, it's some sneaker company (Get it? See what I did there? Kicks=sneaker in slang?) Anyhoo, start with a pleasant, "Hey you, get off-a my cloud." Then, you know, sue their pants off!!!

by wjwiippa on

I do not know how internet savvy that they are. Ignorance is not an excuse? why not google it before they named it? [wouldn't that be commonsense for naming anything anymore?]

i did think that it might generate more traffic to your site. & i wondered, "Why be so passive?" you have put effort into the site & cliches, such as,"Protect your brand" come to mind.

Somebody was doing a comic with the Starbucks girl. Guess how many issues they got to print. I think the outcome was that the artist even got pulled into court?

to just throw this out there, to be ridiculously absurd: what if someone made a porn film revolving around "Litkicks"?

i like this old cliche about advice: the wise don't advise & fools don't/ won't/ can't listen.

by WIREMAN on

stick by your anarchy.....u got the name locked down forever.....their bad.....you'll still b around when they b only a memory.....anyway why put more money in lawyers pockets, im sure u could put it to better use.....as the previous poster said, they shoulda googled it 1st....bonehead move.....stick to ur anarchy Levi...

by mtmynd on

I'm in agreement with these first (2) replies. Litkicks is, understandably, your 'baby' and you *must* protect it. The least you should do is contact a lawyer who specializes in trademarks and see what they have to say. Maybe that will spurn you on to defend the name you've worked all these years building.

by WIREMAN on

lawyers love this kinda shit and in the end they get all the profits......

by mnaz on

the bastards!

by knip on

send them a note and tell them who litkicks is and what it's about...offer them some cool alternate name suggestions

by Bill_Ectric on

What a coincidence - a similar thing recently happened to me and I hate it. I chose the name "Bill Ectric" because I thought it was so unusual, no one else would ever have an online presence with the same name. My heart sank when I ran across a site called "billectric.org." It's a home improvement site run by someone named Alfred. On his 'about us' page, he says, "My name is Alfred and I have an avid interest in blogging about home improvement news. I’m working as a home renovator in the great state of Texas and like to run my own blog as a hobby on the side." Of course, billectric would be the logical name. Not. I think maybe it's someone hoping I will pay them for the domain. The thing is, I used to own the domain names billectric.org and billectric.net, as well as billectric.com, but I gave up org & net to save money. I sent an email to the site, careful to sound friendly and non-threatening, asking how they happened to use that name, and explaining my situation. No reply. I'm telling myself it's no big deal, don't worry about it, but it still bothers me.

by mtmynd on

A bit off-track, Bill, but it does have something to do with your post and, yes, even with Levi's original post.

I originally came up with the name "m.t.mynd" and shortened it to "mtmynd" long before there was an internet. I used it for my art works way back... and then when the internet came around and I began interacting I naturally used "mtmynd" and "m.t.mynd".

Time goes by and one day I googled "mtmynd" and what??? several hits but few of them mine. Damn if there weren't a couple of people who used that same moniker as I was. Surprise, surprise... I began on some sites using "mtmynd1", adding the '1' which reduced the copycats (?)... dramatically.

This is a big, overpopulated world easily connected to each other thru the 'net. It's probable that has largely been responsible for reducing originality rather than the other way around. That old saying, "imitation is the highest form of flattery"..? Cute little saying but when confronted with it, it loses it's cuteness. Don't we all need *some* recognition in our lives to show we are at least not like everyone else in just a small way..?

by sharon on

I think there is a good possibility they came up with the name and didn't do a google check. If this is the case, they aren't going to come across your site real soon either. I like the idea of reaching out in a friendly way to tell them you exist and see what happens. I also agree that it might not matter too much. By the way, I love how you have google locked down. Carry on!

by Bill_Ectric on

I have an idea, but it seems prudent to run it past all you good, level-headed Litkicks associates before I carry out my plan. I'm thinking about going to the latest blog entry at billectric.org and posting one of my short stories in the comment section. Tacky?

by Levi Asher on

Interesting discussion, peeps! Thanks.

I like all of these comments, but the commenter I agree with most here is WIREMAN, because he definitely gets it that I'm trying to test my own ability to stick to my beliefs. Look, I've been writing for years that I believe copyrights should be loosely enforced and that a wide-open content sharing platform can help literature in the same way that a wide-open ("open source") code sharing platform has helped technology. This has always been one of my core beliefs (as it is that of, for instance, David Shields or John Perry Barlow, both of who I tend to agree with).

So ... I can't talk a big game about relaxation of copyright policy and then get in a tizzy the first time somebody violates my own domain of ownership, can I? I am proud to stick to my ideals. And I really hope that after JW3 in London sees this blog post (Sharon, I guarantee that they will see it - it will show up in their referrer traffic and they will also google their own name) they will likewise do the right thing and come up with a distinct name for their reading series. I think that would be a very nice possible outcome and I'd give them big perks for taking this step.

by TKG on

Hi Levi,

I sent JW3 an email via their info account saying:

---

There is a US web site that covers literary matters called LitKicks (Literary Kicks) that has been around for 20 years and is one of the oldest continuously running web sites in existence. 

It seems strange and perhaps unethical for you to refer to your literary events as being presented by Lit Kicks. 

see 

www.litkicks.com

TKG, Los Angeles, long time LitKicks reader. 

by JW3 on

Hello from JW3. We have been following and discussing the conversation going on here and on Twitter about LitKicks and felt we should let you, who write and follow this blog, know our thinking on this.

Firstly, to clarify, we genuinely knew nothing of the existence of this blog when we came up with the name for our event, Lit Kicks. It is a name that was used in Britain previously in the last 5 years or so at least twice and we certainly didn’t, and don’t consider it a unique name that would be expected never to be used by anyone else. In fact given that yours is a blog and ours was a few one-off events held on oneday in a local, London-based Jewish Community Centre, we cannot really see how anyone could legitimately confuse the two or even to think that they were in some way connected. Different "products", different fonts, different logos, different countries, different constituencies, etc etc. We honestly don't think that our event which coincidentally had the same name could possibly either cause damage to your blog or could gain from it.

On another note, some of the comments directed against us on the site and through tweets seem somewhat aggressive and accusatory and, as a local not-for-profit community organisation we really do not appreciate the suggestions that we have stolen or plagiarised this name. There is absolutely no truth in that (our programmer came up with the name herself and had honestly never heard of the blog) and the style of comments really does not seem in keeping with the kind of values that this excellent blog seems to stand for.

All that being said, we can see that there are a group of decent people who are really upset by this usage and want us to stop using the name. So we are sensitive to your feelings would prefer not continue to cause hurt by insisting on our right to keep using it. We'd love to keep the name for future events, but in the spirit of our community values, we won’t. We will happily think of another good name to use instead.

Good luck with your continued blogging and enjoyment of the blog and we wish you lots of luck with it in the future.

by Levi Asher on

Dear JW3: I really appreciate your decision, and I also appreciate you taking the time to explain the thought process that led to it.

In the spirit of community values, as you say, I am glad we kept this encounter friendly and positive and I also wish you the best with your literary events and activities in the future!

by fred ceely on

It's only polite these days, and prudent after all, to do a bit of due-diligence-light about a name chosen for any new enterprise. Google "lit kicks," with some variation, and you come up with some solid hits. Namely, this well established site. The problem, of course, is that fighting back will inevitably have costs. Money isn't the half of it, it's as stressful as HELL ON WHEELS. (Oscar Wilde has a great quote on the subject.) For now I'll just wish you well, good luck, bon chance.

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