A corporate media group has apparently genuinely trade-marked the phrase “radical media”. The oh-so-radical media group has forced Peace news, New Internationalist, Red Pepper and others organising a conference to change the name of their conference (now: rebelliousmedia, London, 8-9 October 2011).
What is “radical media” and should there be restrictions on who is allowed to use that term? It seems fantastical that those actively involved in radical media, from UK indymedia to North African revolutionaries might be prevented from using an adjective to describe what they do, but this is exactly what a global media group is trying to do.
In September 2010 I was approached by the editors of Peace News with a proposal to mark the 75th anniversary of the newspaper with a conference. Anyone who works in print-media, no matter how main-stream the publication or how large its circulation, is exercised over what the future may hold. The rise of free, online news outlets challenges the public’s willingness to pay for a newspaper and as ever more people get their news stories from blogs, and social networking sites, newspapers have been left behind the curve, struggling to devise ways to turn a profit, or even cover their costs in the online world. This new media landscape is a challenge for Peace News as it is for Australian media barons. The conference, which will take place in London on the weekend of 8-9th October 2011 will be a chance to address these challenges and bring together a fragmented radical media community to learn from one another. It seems common sense that any media which reports on radical politics – setting out to serve that constituency – might naturally be referred to as “radical media” so, back in the autumn a small band of volunteers began working to assemble “The Radical media Conference”.
It wasn’t until six months in that the conference organising group received a threatening legal letter from the media corporation @Radical Media LLC, objecting to unlicensed use of the term “Radical Media”.
Our collective jaws dropped, how could anyone own an adjective? Yet in the closed-source world where intellectual property is hard currency, it appears that virtually anything may be trade-marked. We didn’t know whether to rant or cry. Our instincts told us that anyone with a radical bone in their body should fight this corporate usurpation of language, but the prospect of facing legal costs in line with house prices tempered this instinct. Even if we won such a battle we could only expect to recover 75 percent of these costs, leaving us tens of thousands of pounds down, money which – even if we had it – should be spent on more useful, more radical things than legal fees.
As a result, organisers of the newly renamed “rebellious media Conference” are calling for support to retain the URL www.radicalmediaconference.org and we would love to see anyone who supports our fight not only attend the conference but also get involved in truly radical media by blogging, tweeting, forwarding and linking to this story. Please tweet the hashtag #radicalmediafail, follow us on twitter and Join the Facebook group. We need to tell @Radical Media LLC that we are taking back “Radical Media” for free use by us all, why not email the CEO or corporate president? Groups working in open-source, non-hierarchical and other genuinely radical media projects must have the right to use the term “radical media” to describe what they do. See @Radical Media’s own website for more board members who you might like to get in touch with.