Don’t Use Did
In my last blog, I ranted against the term raising awareness. Clearly a harmless blog. Its not as if that term is copyrighted or trademarked. Right? Actually, that term is part of many copyrights and trademarks, and I could have gotten into real legal trouble. Now, wait a minute. This is a simple blog with four regular readers that only discusses humble book topics. My most significant blog success attracted a whopping 21 views. Copyright and trademark holders clearly do not have the time to waste on me. Perhaps not.
Let’s pretend I ranted against a large corporation or made racial slurs. Understandably, such negative actions would attract censors. Perhaps an automated search would have uncovered my offensive statements and raised flags. The Facebook overseers might have removed the post.
Of course, I go out of my way to avoid negative/controversial topics. However, I could have accidentally written something genuinely awful. Yes, I might upset the entire internet and worldwide legal community by using the word “did.” What is so bad about this humble word? Words can be acronyms, and the word “did” is used by several organizations. Here is a list of groups that might get upset:
Department of International Development (UK government department)
Digital Image Design (Software Company)
Dissociative Identity Disorder (human psychology)
Damsels in Distress (Film)
Department of Irrigation and Drainage (Malaysia government department)
Dansk Ishockey Dommerklub (Denmark ice hockey)
Digitization and Interoperability Division (US Army data standardization office)
Does this mean that if use the blog title “What did I do last week” that the Malaysian Department of Irrigation and Drainage will send out a takedown notice? Of course not. They are a reasonable government organization with a common acronym and would take no action. After all, “did” ranks 107 out of the most used words and is clearly fair use.
Not so fast. It turns out that Dance India Dance (a competition reality show) is often referred to as DID. As part of their copyright protection efforts, they routinely take down titles with the word “did.” That cannot possibly affect my humble efforts. Well…
When the article appeared, “What Did Ada Lovelace's Program Actually Do” in reference to an 1815 computer programmer, it got removed with a DMCA takedown notice. Here is an article about this incident.
I would understand a takedown if the article had something to do with dancing in India, posted their copyrighted script, or contained a video from that program. I would also understand going after a blatant rip-off such as Dance Indiana Dance.
But no, the word did simply asked a question about a long-dead programmer. The first programmer, actually. In this case, an automated search engine generated an automated email to a computerized system that automatically deleted an article. Just like a terminator, the entire chain of events had no human interaction. Hasta la vista, baby. Of course, there is a bit of humor in this action. Deleted by their own invention? Makes me laugh.
What does this mean? Should we stop using the word “did”? Are we now writing through a digital minefield? To answer this question, we must take a step back. Humans pass through waves of change as we evolve. In the 1950s, we sprayed DDT on everything, which dramatically reduced the pests. Yay! Years later, we learned the errors of our ways and stopped using DDT.
Copyrights allow me to (potentially) make money as an author and prevent others from stealing my work. For example, I can't publish a Harry Potter book. I cannot even copy a paragraph out of that book and call it my own. This is why the DMCA exists, and I believe it is a great entity for authors.
In time, the DMCA algorithms will get better, and they have already corrected the “did” takedowns issue. So all is well? Well, no.
Take, for example, the word “predator.” Is a wolf a predator? Of course. So, let's write a book about wolves called “Predator.” It turns out that General Atomic trademarks the word predator. What about the movie Predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger, predator generators and predator ski clothes? They all got permission or were sued. How do I know? I work for General Atomics and read the memo.
This brings us back full circle. When writing, it has always been essential to research to prevent copyright and trademark violations. At times, automated systems will take things a bit too far. That’s modern life, and this issue is going to keep reoccurring. DID you think there would be another way to end this blog?
You’re the best -Bill
April 29, 2020
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