A Mob of Angry Knitters Has Had It With the Olympics' Trademark Crackdowns

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 22 2012 3:52 PM

Mob of Angry Knitters Takes the Gold in Battle with U.S. Olympic Committee

106945505
People knitting.

Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

A year ago, my colleague Farhad Manjoo wrote about “the best social network you’ve (probably) never heard of,” an online community for knitters called Ravelry. The knitters, though, aren’t purling away in total anonymity. At least one powerful group is watching their every cross-stitch. That group: the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Gawker’s Adrian Chen reports that USOC sent the social network a cease-and-desist letter upon learning of its plans to hold a third annual “Ravelympics,” a festival of knitting games that features events such as “scarf hockey” and “sweater triathlon.” According to the letter, the use of the name “Ravelympics” to describe such frivolous competitions “tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.” In the interest of preserving the real Olympics’ pristine soul, USOC demanded that Ravelry refashion its competition as the “Ravelry Games.”

Advertisement

But the Olympians picked the wrong people to needle. NPR’s news blog The Two-Way reports that outraged Ravelry members pelted the committee with emails, tweets, and comments on the U.S. Olympic Team’s Facebook page, decrying the letter’s insulting tone. They even tracked down the Twitter account of the hapless clerk who sent the cease-and-desist note. The backlash prompted Gawker’s Chen to liken the group to “Anonymous with pointy sticks.

That may be embroidering things a bit, but there’s no question the committee soon grasped the folly of putting itself on Ravelry’s wrong side. To mend relations, it apologized—twice—and NPR says its plans to take legal action have unraveled.

Let’s hope the Olympics’ stuffed shirts, from USOC to IOC to Locog, learn a lesson from this affair. From a doll-making grandma in Downham Market to a butcher in Dorset, the London Games’ overzealous intellectual property crackdowns—especially inappropriate for what’s being billed as “the first social media Olympics”—have become an ugly pattern. If such behavior persists, we’ll keep you in the loop.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

John Oliver Debunks the Miss America Pageant’s Claim That It Gives Out $45 Million in Scholarships

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 1:37 PM Subprime Loans Are Back! And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 2:55 PM Nuptial Expert Sarkozy Worries About Gay Marriage and the Family
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 22 2014 2:12 PM Crusader, Sans Cape The superhero trappings of Gotham are just a clever disguise.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.