Saturday, January 26, 2008

One more freecycling free reason

freecycle being free is a major benefit for both The Freecycle Network (TFN) and non-TFN groups. For TFN it removes the taint of being a trademark bully (aren't they supposed to be charitable?), allows members and moderators to do what comes naturally, and makes the whole freecycle arena much bigger with TFN already owning some of the choicest domain names in that space. For non-TFN groups, it removes the cloud over the word so they can breath easy and just use what is the most natural word to use. It helps re-unite the freecycling grass roots movement again so we all can focus on making the world a better place rather than beating each other up.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

freecycle, let me count the ways...

Why should freecycle be free? Let me count the ways...

1) freecycle is a great new word that accurately describes a popular activity (to reuse/recycle by giving trash away to someone who actually wants it and can use it rather than putting it in a landfill)
2) freecycle is either a compound word combining "free" and "cycle" or it is a portmanteau combining "free" and "recycle"
3) no other word accurately describes the act of freecycling and words by their very nature must be free for all to use
4) giving, is just giving and has no connotation of environmentalism or recycling, freecycling is a specialized form of giving
5) recycling is recycling -- reusing materials, freecycling is a variation on recycling
6) reusing is reusing -- and does not necessarily mean giving away for reuse
7) gifting is usually associated with purchasing and giving something valuable to someone special, it has no connotations regarding recycling or environmentalism or that you have trash you will dump if no one wants it
8) regiving is not a regular "official" word and also implies giving again -- when you have purchased something you could then freecycle it but regiving makes less sense
9) regifting is a popular well known activity -- after you've received a gift you don't need or don't like -- but this does not capture what freecycling is really about
10) freesharing, freeusing, etc are all new constructs that do not have the same ring or popularity as freecycling and also do not as naturally capture the nature and spirit of freecycling
11) freecycle was freely given away hundreds of thousands of times by the people who created it and popularized it and when you give something away, you should be generous and allow people to keep the gift, right?
12) the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, San Jose Mercury News, Grist, and many other news organizations have all used "freecycle" as a word and if they can, why not everyone else?
13) Goodwill Industries feels no need to corner the market on goodwill, so why should The Freecycle Network be the only group that can engage in freecycling?
14) the very nature of freecycling encourages the word to be freely freecycled too, right? does it hurt if there are as many freecyclers in the world as possible? isn't that the whole point of the freecycling grassroots movement?

(A word to the wise: If you want to trademark something, don't invent a new word and expect to control it. Rather invent a new word and let it be free. Then pick a separate mark that can be protected by being a trademark. This is why drug companies ALWAYS have a generic name in addition to a brand name for their medications. Otherwise your "mark" will just go the way of yo-yo, escalator, etc)

How many ways are there to freecycle stuff? Let me count the ways...

1) leave stuff on the curb with/or without a "free" sign -- this is a classic method.
2) give stuff away to neighbors or relatives (although you usually don't give them the really trashy stuff)
3) freecycle with a free post on Craigslist
4) freecycle with a free post in the local freetrader (paper or electronic)
5) freecycle by dropping stuff off at Goodwill or Salvation Army and not bother with a tax receipt
6) freecycle by dropping off at your favorite local charity who can use it
7) freecycle by leaving something in the freecycle zone at a dump
8) freecycle by posting to a neighborhood or city email list
9) freecycle through the groups or services listed at
10) and
11) and
12) and
13) and
14) and
15) and
16) and
17) and
18) and
19) and
20) and
21) and
22) and
23) and
24) and
25) and
26) and
27) and
28) and
29) and
30) and
31) and
32) and
33) and
34) and

Wow! There sure are a lot of ways, aren't there?


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

And protecting free speech is important too...

Freecycling is a great and easy thing to do.

Unfortunately The Freecycle Network (TFN) sometimes does not follow the true spirit of freecycling itself.

Freecycling started as a free and open grassroots movement -- giving the new word "freecycle" freely to all. Then TFN was formed and later TFN decided to take back what had been given away earlier. Since then, TFN has caused Yahoo to shut down hundreds if not thousands of grass roots freecycle groups in the past few years because they were, well, freecycling -- including the original FreecycleSunnyvale group. FreecycleSunnyvale had to create a new freecycling group in Sunnyvale at after the original was shut down.

Think of this like Goodwill Industries deciding that it owns the word "goodwill" and no one else can use it.

FreecycleSunnyvale continues to work to restore its original group. For documents on this ongoing case see:

Separately, TFN also sued me personally in Arizona for encouraging others to freecycle freely, but TFN lost (badly). See:
The Ninth Circuit Opinion
And google "freecycle 9th circuit" for lots more.

The TFN suit against me was a classic SLAPP suit -- trying to suppress free speech by applying overbearing legal muscle. Although the Arizona District judge was misguided and misinformed, fortunately the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was not. The resulting published opinion from the 9th Circuit established several good precedents to protect others from such abuse in the future.

Abuse of trademark law in this fashion by corporations is quite common, so hopefully this will educate everyone and help those who are wrongfully suppressed (assuming they are able to retain legal counsel).

Personally, I think the TFN SLAPP suit against me sheds a poor light on Paul J. Andre and Lisa Kobialka, the partners working on this case for TFN, and on the law firm they work for.

To judge for yourself about the competency of Paul J. Andre, please listen to him in action in front of the 9th Circuit:$file/06-16219.wma?openelement
(If this link does not work visit and under "Audio" look for and download the recording of the 8/15/2007 hearing 06-16219)
You'll first hear Donald M. Falk representing me, then you'll hear Paul J. Andre representing TFN. Regarding Paul's performance, it is pretty embarrassing. He seems to get frazzled easily, he gets some basic facts wrong, and he makes citation mistakes (you'd have to know the law cited to catch these latter errors).

Paul's poor performance in the hearing is not the sole reason TFN lost although it is indicative of what happened. TFN and its lawyers simply were wrong on multiple accounts and this is called out in the 9th Circuit opinion.


Tim Oey

Still working to keep the "free" in freecycle

It's been 2 years since FreecycleSunnyvale decided to stop being pushed around by The Freecycle Network and stand up to a bully that was beating up (and shutting down) lots of independent freecycling groups. Below is what I sent out at that time. It's still true.

Additionally you can read the case filings to the California Northern District Court yourself at:

As of 1/16/2008 we are awaiting judge Hon. Claudia Wilken's decision on a Summary Judgement Motion concerning "naked licensing" by TFN. Google "naked licensing" to learn more about it.


Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2006 23:22:47 -0800
From: Tim Oey
Subject: A public statement that you may forward...

Hi all,

Here is a public statement that you may forward to whomever you wish as long as you forward this email in its entirety. It would be great if folks could forward this to the same lists that got Deron's post as it would clear up many misconceptions about what is happening.

Knowledge and education are good things.


Regarding FreecycleSunnyvale vs The Freecycle Network (lawsuit and trademark opposition)

We are not wrecking freecycle -- we are working to keep it free and legal -- that is the goal.

It is very important for everyone to stay true to their own principles and to have principles they can stay true to. It drives me nuts when people do not think through the consequences of the choices they make. It is also my belief that the best leaders lead by example, not by slapping folks. Honey works better than vinegar.

Here is my brief take on what has and is happening with The Freecycle Network (TFN):

1) In the beginning, freecycling was open, free, and a true grassroots movement.

2) Then it started going down a corporate path as The Freecycle Network (TFN). To enforce more goodness on people, TFN wanted more control and wanted to take back what it had given away for free (the word freecycle and its logo). Power and money started corrupting the system in subtle and not so subtle ways.

3) Freecyclers objected and were hurt and kicked out by TFN. A good group like TFN can still do bad things.

4) Then the grassroots movement fought back and filed a lawsuit and trademark opposition with pro bono support against TFN via the FreecycleSunnyvale group (a great group which TFN hurt).

5) While the final outcome of this story remains to be seen, a few important learnings are:

- If you want to lay claim to a trademark, you must use it correctly from the very beginning and pick one that the public is unlikely to use in a generic fashion.

- Don't give away things that don't belong to you. And don't be hypocritical. At the same time that TFN was punishing non-TFN groups with copyright infringement claims for using snippets of material that might have had TFN origins, TFN was itself violating copyrights by re-publishing hundreds of news media articles in their entirety without permission on its (this republishing started in 2003 and finally stopped in December 2005).

- Don't give things away and then expect to pull them back later. This is just wrong.

- If you are going to run a movement, you have to stay true to your roots -- freecycling is about freely giving your own things away, not owning things or taking things back. If you violate your own principles, you'll find the activists who supported you vigorously, will fight back just as vigorously.

6) If TFN learns to make lemonade out of lemons, they could:

- Build a huge amount of positive goodwill by acknowledging that giving things away is one of the core values of freecycling and thus freecycle is free for everyone to use. This would also save them a ton of money and work now and in the future. FreecycleSunnyvale has repeatedly offered to negotiate but TFN has turned a deaf ear.

- Reduce much of the work they are currently doing trying to police people into being good and instead be educators and good role models. This would also make it much easier for them to be recognized as a 501(c)3 -- their current business model of running an online free advertisement system supported by advertising plus sponsorship does not cut it.

- Recognize that while there will inevitably be some misuse of the new word freecycle, it is just a word like recycle. People are not stupid. They quickly understand what freecycling is about and will join groups where it is done well. TFN can easily defend the name "The Freecycle Network" and this can be used as a well recognized trademark.

- Take advantage of the *huge* marketing opportunity that comes from coining a new word -- they can rightly claim that their work made the word hugely popular.

So basically, we're doing this so that freecycling will be really free and legal.


Some facts:

1) On 1/17/2006, The Freecycle Network's (TFN's) proposed trademark registration was published for opposition in the Trademark Official Gazette at:

2) On 1/18/2006, the unincorporated non-profit association FreecycleSunnyvale filed a formal opposition to TFN's trademark registration with the USPTO. You can read it at:

3) On 1/19/2006, FreecycleSunnyvale also filed a lawsuit against The Freecycle Network in federal court (US District Court, Northern California). We will point you to a copy of this filing as soon as we can.

4) Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP (one of the 10 largest law firms in the world) are the attorneys for FreecycleSunnyvale and are providing their services pro bono. None of the members of FreecycleSunnyvale (which includes Tim Oey) are spending any of their own money for the opposition or the lawsuit. You can read more about the law firm at:

5) Anyone else who wishes may now file an opposition to TFN's proposed trademark registration (please note that there is a fee to file such an opposition). If you or your group has been harmed by TFN, you may also file a lawsuit of your own against TFN.

6) Since a lawsuit and an opposition are now underway, the members of FreecycleSunnyvale may be restricted in what they say.

7) If TFN chooses to negotiate, these cases could be settled in a few months. If not, they may take many months.

Redistribution license:

Copyright 2006 Tim Oey

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Tim Oey on behalf of FreecycleSunnyvale

Monday, January 07, 2008

Effective Charitable Giving

You should "spend" your charity dollars wisely so they are used as effectively and efficiently as possible on what you want to support. The following are a few simple tips to maximize the effectiveness of your charitable giving.


What are the best ways to help the world? Who do you want to help most? End world hunger? Promote peace? Educate people? Rescue refugees? Help children?

Write down your giving goals or areas first so you have a plan for where your charitable giving will be invested. Rank or weight each category if you wish as well.


How much do you want to give out in a year? Write down how much you can afford to give or want to give in total. Then divvy it up among your giving areas


What charities do the best job in the areas that you want to support? How effectively and efficiently do they use the money that people give them?

Research your charities to find the ones that best match your objectives, will use your money well, and won't line their own pockets with it. When you have a list, use your budget and goals to determine how much to give to each one.

By far the best charity research sources I've found are: (Better Business Bureau)


Figure out the most efficient way to transfer your money to your charities so the maximum amount possible goes to the programs you want to support and as little as possible goes to middlemen.

Give enough to each charity so your money is not eaten up in administrative expenses. There is an expense for each transaction. Giving at least $100 to a charity is a reasonable minimum amount as of 2008.

If you keep your charity list short, you will minimize return mail asking for more money. Such mail consumes more of what you give.

NEVER give out money to anyone who calls you. They are most likely a contracted firm that takes a significant cut of the money going to a charity. Or worse a scam artist is simply trying to steal your money.

Giving directly to your charity usually cuts out most middlemen. Giving by credit card is convenient but credit card companies typically take a 5%+ cut from donated funds as a transaction charge.

The most efficient and convenient way I've found to donate is through the Network for Good ( using their "TeleCheck" option. The Network For Good tells you exactly how much is going to the transaction processor. TeleCheck charges a simple flat fee -- so the larger the donation the smaller the percent that gets diverted. Plus the Network for Good returns a nice compact summary to you of how much you donated to whom.

Both and have "Donate Now" buttons that link directly from their charity reports to for those charities that can receive funds from the Network for Good. This way you can do your research and donate efficiently all at the same time.

For more information

If you would like more detailed tips, please read the Better Business Bureau's "Tips on Giving" at -- they are quite thorough.

You may send a copy of this to your friends!

Copyright 2008 Tim Oey
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

For families of soldiers at war, endless worry

Hi all,

If you have not already, I encourage you to read "For families of soldiers at war, endless worry" in the Sunday 1/6/2008 SJ Mercury News.

You can also read it online at

Here is the letter I sent to regarding the editorial and the other letters so far:

I am outraged when others tell me that I can only support our troops if I support the war. That is FALSE. It's falsity is proven many ways. The outpouring of letters from people supporting the troops but not the war proves it. Almost all taxpaying Americans support the troops but a large majority of them are against the war (as shown in numerous polls). I personally support our troops (through taxes and donations) but do not support the war. I salute Stephen Wright's son for doing his patriotic duty while at the same time I work to end this stupid war.

The waste of lives and resources due to the Iraq war is atrocious. 9/11 resulted in 2,752 people dead. The Iraq war has killed nearly 4,000 American troops, wounded 40,000 American troops, killed over 400,000 Iraqi civilians, and cost over 483 billion US dollars so far.

Furthermore, President Bush lied to fool the rest of us -- there were no weapons of mass destruction and Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

Democracy is based on people choosing for themselves. Forcing democracy on others is so undemocratic and hypocritical it almost leaves me speechless. I want my country to be a noble role model for others, not a big bully.

Tim Oey
Sunnyvale, CA