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Open again?


First of all, thanks to everybody who has offered opinions here (preferred) or on hugin-ptx. Keep them coming. They are all useful.

Let’s put the legal thing aside…

I did not expect much legal advice, but it showed up and took center stage. I know the applicable laws and the usual disclaimers apply. If I wanted to escalate legally, I would have talked to a lawyer. What I needed from you was some sound common sense. Thank you all for sharing your sound common sense with me.

Some interesting comments on the legal situation have been made. I will comment on them in another post. I think we can all agree that the “legal option” is just not worth the hassle. I know I am within my rights here, and I could stay where I am.

… and think of the right thing to do.

As Seb commented, the existence of panospace.com has been pointed out two days after I launched this blog. Back then, I did not feel it was a problem. I still don’t think it is one. Plenty of (competing?) panorama photographers co-exist on a quite narrow namespace, and this blog is not even competing with panospace.com. No pictures are sold on this blog. Anyway, just check how crowded the word panoramas is:

And they are all legal and acceptable uses (with the exception of one, guess which?). If each and every one of them would claim exclusive worldwide rights to the word “panoramas”, where would this lead?

Confusion

The confusion is one of etymology. Antoine claims he invented the word panospace. I claim it is a generic combination of two common words, the prefix pano, from the Greek “pan-” which stands for “all” and is found in many current words such as panacea, panoply, panorama); and the common noun space.

We also make different usage of it: I use it to describe the broad topics covered by this blog. It’s a big space full of all things, hence an “all-space”, or panospace. He uses the term in an attempt to make his pictures seem unique. Without denying their uniqueness or beauty, there is nothing of an invention there. Thousands of photographers use the same or related techniques to produce equally unique and beautiful artwork. That artwork is called panoramas and it is showcased on plenty of books and websites.

It is sad that some photographers see themselves in competition with the rest of the world and feel the need to establish exclusivity the negative way, rather than relying on the positive attraction of their creations. They fail to realize that by collaborating they stand to gain much more. What competition is a panorama photographer in Berlin to a panorama photographer in New York?

Practical solutions

Thanks to everybody who put forward practical solutions. Summarizing they are variations on the following themes.

Giving it up

The clearest message to give it up came on hugin-ptx from Edward Harp, photographer in California. You will excuse me, Ed, if I am picking a little bit on your post – it just lend itself so well. Ed says: “I would give up the name regardless of legal matters simply because he used it first.”

Incidentally there is another Edward Harp, photographer, in Iowa. I don’t know who of the two used the name Ed Harp first, but if he was older than you (and thus used it first), would you give up your name, Ed?

The whole point of namespaces is to make place for more use of the same name – within the respect of the law and socially accepted norms. Check out photo.com and photo.net.

If somebody think I should give up panospace.wordpress.com, I encourage them to express their view here. All views expressed in compliance with this blog’s comments policy are published. So far only one comment to this topic has not been published because filed from an anonymous spambox. Another one has been moderated for offensive language.

Changing URL

It has been suggested that I could change this blog’s URL, leave the old posts in place until Google indexes the new blog and then delete them. Technically, I’m not concerned at all about Google finding/indexing/ranking relevant content very quickly.

Unless directed to do so by WordPress.com or by a valid court order, I am not inclined to move domain. Moving to a new “domain neighborhood” will likely bring the same issues with other neighbors. Owners of registered domain names are like owners in a condominium: they have to put up with their neighbors unless the neighbor infringes on the laws and bylaws. And at issue is the name, not the URL.

Changing Name

It has also been suggested that I change the name / tag line. I am not particularly attached to “This week in panospace”. It could also be “This week in panorama space”, or “This week in pano space”. Will it make a difference? Will it appease what seems to be an absolute and greedy claim for exclusive ownership?

Ignore

A number of comments noted that the claims are groundless and could be ignored. I don’t think it is nice to ignore a neighbor knocking at the door – even if it is not the most graceful knocking (language issues might be at work) and the first thing he puts forward is a threatening copyright claim. Hence I decided to hold this discussion openly, and I am waiting for him to comment.

Co-Exist

I think this is the best solution suggested. What kind of co-existence, though? a footnote? cross-linking? or even, like suggested by Tom, an actual embrace and promotion of panospace.com’s business?

Well, it depends on the overlap, and on the kind of relationship. In my opinion, the overlap between panospace.com and panospace.wordpress.com is tiny. We don’t share much in common. And starting a relationship with a copyright threat is not a good start.

So far I have neglected my blogroll. I don’t really feel like starting a collection of links. There are better and more comprehensive resources that link to all panorama things, and a link may be interpreted as endorsement. I know dozens if not hundreds of professional panorama photographers that sell their pictures and services. And I have ongoing relationships with them, and even personal friendships in some cases. It would be unfair if I’d link to an assertive neighbor and not to panorama photographers I have an ongoing relationship with.

And in terms of internet, if somebody drops a name, users have the reflex to look first at the dot-com, not at other top level domains or at sub domains like the one for this blog – so if traffic is going the wrong way, it is people who are looking for this blog who ends up on the dot-com, rather than the other way around.

Quo Vadis?

So what’s next? My intention is to try co-existence. I think the majority of those who have expressed opinions here and on hugin-ptx will agree. I don’t think that this blog infringes on any legal or moral rights of Antoine. I’ll continue blogging business as usual.

To make sure he has a fair chance to make his representations, I’ve updated my full contact details in the about section. I’ll let you know if I hear from him or from his lawyer. I would appreciate to read his opinion and answers here, but it is of course his choice when, where, how, and if he wants to talk.

Thank you all for your show of support, and keep the opinons coming!

9 Responses

  1. The difference between the word ‘panorama’ and the term ‘panospace’ is that the later is a contrived term. I find it ironic that you claim to have the right to use patented methods (SIFT) for your own profit, use terms first coined by others (panospace), yet if someone uses a panorama you made, you deem them evildoers and you threaten to sue.

  2. @Ray: You better research your arguments before exposing your ignorance. Each and every single word you are using was first coined by others. And where do you see profit? AFAIK SIFT is patented in the U.S. (Patent 6,711,293) only. I’m not in the U.S. This blog is hosted in the U.S. and I am careful in my dealings to respect all the relevant laws. I host the files outside of the U.S., like many projects deemed illegal there do. If U.S. citizens download the code from its location, they effectively go abroad and come back home with the goods. It’s their responsibility, not mine. I am donating my time to build the software for free, and to give it away for free, to those who can use it. It is the user’s responsibility to make sure he has all the necessary permissions from his government.

  3. panospace -> potential trade mark, unregistered in most jurisdictions
    SIFT algorithm -> unpatentable in most jurisdictions
    a panorama you made -> copyright under Berne convention

    Ray, you obviously don’t understand US intellectual property law, let alone the rest of the planet.

  4. Hi Yuv,

    Since you’re soliciting opinions, and since I was the one who pointed out the existence of http://www.panospace.com when you started your blog, here’s my 2 cents.

    Like you, I’m less interested in the legal issues relating to your case than the ethical ones. With respect to doing the right thing, may I humbly suggest that:

    (1) The right thing to do *would* have been to contact M. Cuvelier when you first became aware of the potential confusion between your blog and his business. I suspect that had you done so, the matter could have been quickly and easily resolved to your mutual satisfaction, since you’re not direct competitors. Do I think you behaved unethically in failing to contact him? No — that’s too strong. But I think that as a matter of common courtesy you should have contacted him then and tried to resolve the matter.
    (Think of it from his perspective. Suppose you had coined a clever name for something, registered a domain with that name, and used it for 6+ years as a tradename in selling your products. If some other clever person thought of the name 6 years later and wanted to use it for a different purpose, wouldn’t you want to be consulted about ways to avoid potential confusion between your use of the name and his? I certainly would. And wouldn’t you think it discourteous if you found out the other person in fact knew about the potential confusion, and didn’t bother to contact you about it? I would.)

    (2) The right thing to do now is for *you* to contact M. Cuvelier at your earliest convenience and try to resolve the matter to your mutual satisfaction, rather than “waiting for him to comment”. He’s already sent you a very polite and perfectly reasonable request to stop using a name that he had been using in his business for several years before you started using it. Heck, he’s even offered to give you some ideas for a new name. If you don’t want to stop using the panospace name, then contact him, explain why, and try to work out a compromise.
    And for heaven’s sake, stop trying to demonize him! Unless you’ve had some correspondence with him that hasn’t been shared with your readers, I can’t see any grounds for suggesting that M. Cuvelier is attempting to assert “an absolute and greedy claim for exclusive ownership”, nor for the ad hominem “It is sad that some photographers see themselves in competition…”, or for saying that “the first thing he puts forward is a threatening copyright claim”.
    In fact, the *first* thing he puts forward is an expression of gratitude for the work you’re doing!! I’ve read his post through several times, and I’m unable to detect a hint of a threat in it — it’s just a very polite request to stop using the panospace name, along with an explanation of why he’s concerned, and a brief appeal at the end to your own moral scruples.

    (3) If you’re not able to resolve the matter to your mutual satisfaction, then I agree with Edward Harp — I think the right thing to do is give up the name.
    A number of people here and on hugin-ptx have stated that words/names aren’t copyrightable. But as I noted above, I’m less interested in the legal issues than the moral ones. In any case, regardless of whether individual words are copyrightable, *combinations* of words certainly are. And that’s exactly what ‘panospace’ is on your own account, Yuv — “a generic combination of two common words”. (I’m not sure what you mean by “generic” here; presumably not “common”, since the combination doesn’t seem to have been used prior to M. Cuvelier.)
    Combinations of words are copyrightable because putting words together in novel ways is the sort of creative act which we think ought to be encouraged through legal protections. When the combinations are too simple, we don’t deem them legally protectable because it would be totally impracticable to do so. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that even very simple combinations of words may comprise creative acts of the sort that ought to be encouraged and protected, morally if not legally speaking.
    M. Cuvelier’s coining of ‘panospace’ was just such a creative act. Your rediscovery of the combination was no less clever and creative, Yuv. But unfortunately for you, when it comes to protecting creative works, all of the moral as well as legal rights accrue to the original creator. So I think that if M. Cuvelier insists that you give up ‘panospace’, and you’re serious about protecting intellectual property and encouraging creative expression, you have a moral obligation to give up the name — regardless of whether he’s in a position to legally force you to.

    Cheers,
    BBB

  5. Yuval, it is laughable how you twist your logic. Gee, every word one uses is coined by someone else and therefore can be freely used by anyone? To take your logic to its twisted conclusion, every panorama posted on the web simply consists of recycled electrons and therefore can be used by anyone else. Article 1709(10) of NAFTA generally requires a user of technology covered by a valid patent to make a reasonable effort to obtain authorization prior to use of the patented technology. Since you are based in Canada, you need to respect the University of British Columbia’s USA SIFT patent.

    Regarding your ‘donating your time for free’ claim. Is it not true that Google pays mentors? Regardless, your statement is oxymoronic as one does not ‘donate their time for money’.

    As for the need for Ed Harp to change his name for the sole reason that someone else has the same name, that only serves to confirm that you twist logic to serve your own agenda.

  6. why not simply use one of …
    panospacetime
    panohyperspace
    panowebspace
    panospacenet

    panofield
    panonotes


    panobugs
    panobots
    free_hugs’in

  7. @Ray, you are mixing cats and dogs. Copyright, patent and trademark are completely different animals.
    * Copyright is automatic, and for creative expression
    * Patent is difficult to get, and is for invention
    * Trademark is paid for, and is a name or logo used for a particular topic in a particular place.

    The main argument I see *against* Yuval is that this name is being used for more or less the same kind of “topic” in other places. So far, we know about France and Australia. It may also be in use elsewhere, but we just don’t know about the usage. ANYone who can prove dated usage in the past has at least some ability to claim “rights” if they really want to.

    Since the name is already trademarked in Australia, M Cuvelier will never obtain worldwide rights without a battle.

    Yuv, you own panospace.org, and rightfully so (you are using the panospace name yourself, so having an associated domain makes lots of sense).

    My bottom line is a bit different from some others:

    Yuv, it would be best for M Cuvelier and the Aussies to both work out an amicable agreement with you. *Friends* often link to one anothers’ sites, and it is in all of your interests to be friendly to one another. Your use of the word is FAR more popular than his — after all, you are a “do gooder” which tends to be popular. The commercial interests would both benefit greatly if you were to provide a link to them (it’s a friendly gesture whenever there’s evidence of confusing similarity among domain names.)

    If you can’t be friends, at least be very civil. No reason to offend others (with or without cause).

    Worst case, the community may have to spend some funds to trademark the name in some nation. To some extent, it does not even matter where.

    Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. I do have some experience in this, going back to one of the oldest domain names in existence.

  8. @Bob: Thank you for expressing your opinion. I respect it and I think we can respectfully disagree on some points.

    (1) You are right: newcomers to a neighborhood should contact the new neighbors on arrival or even before. How many people do that consistently? I’ve lived in six different cultures on three continents. Neighborhood relationships develop over time, not over night. First arrive, then start talking.

    (2) I’ll consider your suggestion to contact Mr. Cuvelier. That said, I don’t expect much from such a contact. He demanded I stop using panospace all together. The rest is sugar coating. The assertion that “panospace is registered / copyrighted” is IMO a greedy claim. “panospace” is more than just “panospace.com“. Initially I felt threatened by that assertion. How would you feel if Coca-Cola came to you saying that “coke is registered / copyrighted” and you should not use it? The only difference is that Coca-Cola’s statement would be true, while Mr. Cuvelier’s statement is not.

    (3) we’re in full disagreement on this one, but thank you for voicing your opinion.

  9. Why not do something like the redirect on http://www.paint.net?

    Seems to be working nice there & it’s between a commercial entity and an open source programmer.

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