After weeks of declarations of innocence from the Dervaes clan the evidence is finally presenting itself, or as some would say, the compost is hitting the fan. Rebecca Kaplan, one of the authors of Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills For Sustainable Living, had just announced that the book was being released to the public when Jules Dervaes' lawyer fired off a threatening letter to the publishers. Here is an excerpt from the letter:
Unless we receive written confirmation by the close of business on April 1, 2011 that [publishing company] will comply immediately with each of the demands detailed in my letter of 2/16/11, (and a subsequent more formal agreement detailing those terms,) Dervaes intends to seek an injunction, along with any damages and attorneys fees, against [publishing company]."
The demands detailed in the 2/16 letter were basically that Kaplan and Blume were not allowed to use the words "urban homestead" or "urban homesteading." They were graciously "allowed" to use the terms homestead and homesteading however.
For weeks the Dervaes have claimed up and down that they were not suing anyone, which for the time being was true, but it was obvious by their actions that they were headed down law suit lane. They denied sending out cease and desist letters, accused bloggers of spreading "misinformation", and have continued with the same party line for weeks now. I never bought it, never for a minute. It was obvious by their tone and actions that they would take whatever actions necessary to own the words that define a movement. I have seen a serious lack of integrity on the part of the Dervaes in the past few months.
I started the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) facebook page as a protest to the Dervaes trademarking the terms 'urban homestead" and "urban homesteading." I have been amazed at the incredible support and community which has formed in such a short amount of time through this page. We have banned together to support one another, and with true grit and determination I believe we will get back the words that define who we are. I believe that we have waged this battle so far with integrity and purpose, while the other party has not. Here is a little summary of some of the things we have been up against:
The Dervaes' accusations that the blogging community has put out "misinformation." From the Dervaes Blog: "These last few weeks, the blogosphere and certain media outlets have been full of unfounded and false reports that have led to a smear campaign against members of our family." This is absolutely not true. Any of the urban homesteading blogs or media I have seen are representing the facts correctly, and have gleaned their facts directly from the Dervaes' websites, blogs, etc. Not long after this declaration came from their website "media outlets" such as Boing Boing, Blog Her, and the SF Chronicle, and Grist reported much of the same information, interesting isn't it though?
We didn't send out cease and desist letters. When you send out letters to 16 organizations, libraries, publishers, etc. that tell publishers, authors, and web pages not to use certain generic terms in print, that is a legal cease and desist letter, so yeah, you did send out cease and desist letters.
Go ahead and use the terms in your blog. Sometime after the initial cease and desist letters, and the hundreds of blogs posted in the blogosphere about the issue, the Dervaes suddenly said it was ok to use the trademarked terms in blogs! They had already told Rebecca Kaplan who has a blog associated with her book Urban Homesteading, not to use the words anywhere in print. So what are we supposed to believe? This kind of inconsistent speech is not helpful, or honest in my opinion.
Plagiarism. The Dervaes put out a post about plagiarism, then it was discovered that they themselves had plagiarized information for Freedom Gardens.org from Michael Nolan's blog "My Earth Garden", as well as the fact that the information on the plagiarism blog had not been cited correctly for the internet. They did admit they had not cited the information from the Freedom Gardens site, and apologized, but the fact remains that they were accusing others of something that they themselves were guilty of doing. They only corrected the error when they were caught red handed.
Steaming Pile of Compost. "We will not [nor it is our intention to] squelch the use of Urban Homestead or Urban Homesteading nor will we go about hindering this movement by those who are living the lifestyle. We are Urban Homesteaders and appreciate those who are lending their actions and words of support. We are extremely grateful and we encourage others to spread this lifestyle with pride." Really, you don't want to squelch the use of urban homestead or urban homesteading? I don't think I need to say much more...this one is a no brainer.
Friending people from the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) Page. The Dervaes decided it would be smart to come over to our page and friend up with people. For all of their declarations of innocence this was the last straw. It was a desperate move on their part to try to win back favor from a group that they have alienated.
So what can you do to help fight against this injustice? Go buy the Urban Homesteading book, join the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) page, and spread the word about our cause!
There are other publishers being represented by the EFF now, and we raised funds for the Denver Urban Homesteading to petition to have the trademark removed from "urban homesteading." We also have helped get over 2000 signatures for an on line petition to the Dervaes to remove the TMs. Not that it will change their minds, but it is good proof that the urban homesteading community is not in support of what they have done.