Yesterday was a long day, full of good people and awkward words.
First, I hope I'm never one of the thousands of people you encounter in your life who don't think you'll do right with the ideas, rights, abilities, beliefs and other things that you alone have. I won't start doing that now by telling anyone what I think they should or shouldn't be upset with. Your opinions are important things: don't change them on a whim or after a long day. You, my few friends, are brilliant and think things, make things, and do things that break my heart with a weight of great gratitude to have known you another day. That's rather mushy, now that I think about it. But, if I were truly mushy, I would tell you that you are all special and made of the warm atoms of shining stars. As for me, I haven't thought that was true about me for a long, long time. Therefore, please consider the following as the opinion of a humble artist with a few dreams who works hard to find something stellar like you, somewhere in myself, sometime, someday, again.
For what it is worth, it's my opinion that it is not productive to boycott a product because use of the familiar, common Columbus soccer-supporter motto “Columbus 'Til I Die” has been trademarked by a private enterprise with the approval of the honorable and trusted leadership of Crew Supporters Union. I don't agree that Homage or their shirt design should be boycotted. The money generated by the design will go to an excellent cause: the Crew Supporters Union, and the efforts that they undertake to support soccer and soccer culture in the city of Columbus as they deem worthy. It was never my intention to prompt a boycott by merely making it known that such a trademark existed.
It's been explained that the intention of the idea to trademark “Columbus 'Til I Die” was to protect it from possible future unknown outsiders with bad intentions. I believe them who have explained this to me. I believe them because I consider them my friends and I'm sorry that I didn't go to them before I shared the existence of the Homage trademark on here. I wish that I had. I apologize to them that I didn't.
This trademark raised legitimate questions in my mind when I learned about it, and my interest in the trademarking of “Columbus 'Til I Die” was sincere, as several friends and myself have had the privilege of being asked at times in our efforts as amateur and professional designers to be creative with that motto. In the new creative circumstance that this trademark has brought about, my thoughts went to their and my previous designs with questions as basic as “What does this mean regarding what we've done in the past?” and “What does this mean for what we can do now?” Those are practical, rational questions.
I disagree that disclosing the existence of the trademark in the way that I did was inappropriate because of what others may have chosen to do or say about this trademark in other online spaces. I posted the information about the Homage trademark here because I wanted the input of friends who I believed should know and who I expected would have insight and opinions on what this matter meant before I started the next day to work on a particular project that included “Columbus 'Til I Die.” I said that I thought this decision to give Homage a trademark was interesting. I said that the motive behind it and the way it was handled was confusing. I commented that I didn't expect Homage to use this privilege granted to them in an aggressive way, but I also said that they certainly had it within their power to do something aggressive if their business changed or if they believed they were protecting their partners, namely Crew Supporters Union. That's a new world that we're walking in, even with our good intentions walking into it, and, until yesterday, it was widely unknown that we'd been walked into it. I would like to know that I am using someone else's property, whether they are okay with my use of it, or not. I prefer that the choice whether or not to go ahead with a project be an informed one. To find out that Homage applied for this trademark in the spring of last year was a big surprise. This needed to be disclosed, if not before the decision was made to apply for it, then surely when it was granted.
As for the parody shirt designs that resulted, I commented in several places that I thought it was funny that a motto that had been so clearly and patently (pardon the term) not been the property of any one particular entity—and is regarded by a large community to be, well, communal—is now the property of a private company, if even on a temporary basis. I suppose it also struck me as particularly funny considering last week's SOPA/PIPA debate that occupied many of our thoughts with regard to intellectual property claims. The irony I see in this inspired the parody that I created and shared in an effort to make the discussion more light-hearted. (I've parodied more than enough soccer-based subjects here and elsewhere that I assumed it was more or less expected from MCFFC and that it would be taken as such. I expected that even the owner of Homage and “Columbus 'Til I Die”—whom I do not know—would have understood it as such.)
So, that didn't really work. Nice going, Justin. Regardless, I've been told by dozens of people that they understood it and liked it and that they hope we use it—someday soon—to raise money for the same cause that the design it parodies is expected to benefit. I hope so, too.
Finally, even with what I know now, I don't know if I feel entirely comfortable using the phrase “Columbus 'Til I Die” in a design context anymore. I'm certainly not going to use it on my own. And I'm feeling less and less comfortable using other themes that have been previously considered to be “ours” as a group. I hate to see us start unilaterally carving out territory and property, defining what is “ours” and what is “theirs.” I've created a number of things that have been picked up and used by others in this community. That's the reason why I do what I do, so individual supporters and the supporters groups can use them. I do it cheaply, I don't demand acknowledgement, I don't trademark or concern myself with exclusivity or property rights, lawyers or threats that may or may not live over the horizon. Now, we have an entity that's done exactly that with something that's by all rights—except legal rights, of course—all of ours. Now, in order to protect myself, my friends, and what I've created, I wonder if I need to stop seeing my unique methods of supporting soccer culture in Columbus as fun and for the common good, start thinking corporately again, or quit. All of those choices, between you and me, suck. And, between you and me, for most of last night I've been about 90% settled on the last choice.
I know that discouraging use of “Columbus 'Til I Die” was not the intention of the people who made the decision to allow the motto to be the property of Homage. My curiosity into this question came about because I was asked late last week to produce a design for one of the other supporters groups. The discussion of that project brought up the possibility of using “Columbus 'Til I Die” in some manner in the design. Talking about it in the subsequent days resulted in my discovery of the trademark. I don't particularly care to do something that has as an unfriendly phone call with Homage or their lawyers as a consequence. That doesn't sound fun to me. And like a smart friend of mine told me at lunch yesterday about why we all do this, “This is supposed to be fun.” When the trademark is in the hands of CSU, where it has been promised by Homage to be at a future date, maybe it'll feel fun again. I have no reason to doubt that the man who is the present owner of “Columbus 'Til I Die” is, as Mark Antony described Brutus, an honorable man and so, I'm sure, are his lawyers, all honorable men. But ambition is a characteristic of business, and fickleness is a consequence of property, and I've learned that they crop up at surprising moments. “Columbus 'Til I Die” is, literally, someone's, now. And, really, that's okay. More impermanent and consequential things will come and go soon enough. They always do.
Such as this. I want to see a more unified Nordecke. I believe strongly that the Nordecke Organizers and the process that was begun in the recent weeks is the best way that we can do the big things that we've talked about doing for a long time. We can do better things than are happening in Seattle, Portland, Chicago, and so on. We all want this city to be a catalyst for the way soccer support is done, again. It's our heritage, more so than any slogan or motto could ever describe. These things will not happen, however, with fragmentation, mistrust, hurt feelings, and no communication. We have to be open and we have to talk. The soccer team needs a culture that can keep up with what's going on elsewhere or it will go elsewhere, but the team can't develop the culture. It has to be us, and I feel strongly that the time to do it is now.
Again, I want to be clear. I hope that 10,000 Homage “Columbus 'Til I Die” shirts are sold. The cause is noble and I hope we'll all do good things with the money that Crew Supporters Union raises through Homage's sales. Boycotting their efforts in this project is not productive. And I hope that soon, at some future date, the genuine and sincere aim of the parody designs that were created are regarded with the same respect, and we can use those to make money for the same causes. Columbus needs more sources of creativity for promoting the culture of our city's soccer, in my humble opinion, not less.
It's all okay, even on the long days. And I want to say, Columbus 'Til I Cease To Live and I Fade Into Etertnal Nothingness.
(Thanks for talking yesterday, Suzi, Clem, Kev, Blake, Brian, Zach, Sam, Jenny, and especially Ben Hoelzel. If anyone wants to tag anyone else, or share this with others, knock yourselves out.)