TL;DR is available at the END of this statement
IMPORTANT NOTE : We intend to read questions and compile them for FAQ over the next day and answer them ASAP. You can expect to get our responses in the next few days.
BIG (and Long) ANNOUNCEMENT for :
We formed the Gifting With Integrity – OG Buy Nothing Support Group in December of 2020 after the Buy Nothing Project (BNP) decided to make some pretty radical changes to the Buy Nothing movement. Suddenly BNP founders were advocating for removing group boundaries, letting people join as many groups as they wanted, adding tip jars to “pay” admins, and of course, trying to drive people to their book and their app.
Leaders of this group (GWI) and many other groups that were originally associated with The Buy Nothing Project saw that 100% of their support would now go to the BNP website, marketing and app, all while the founders removed mentors and volunteers and the majority of advice documents [which had been written by volunteers] from Facebook (FB). They got rid of official BNP admin support groups. They got rid of regional admins and told folks that there would no longer be any “higher-up” support from BNP on FB. They got rid of the FB training groups for new admins. The BNP Global Team then admonished those admins who wanted to continue following the original mission/principles, and removed those admins from the Admin Hub for disagreeing with the new direction. The only focus of the BNP was their app. That was their decision to make; however, we didn’t have to agree or follow. And with them declaring that “every local admin owned their own group”, we figured they could do their own thing, we would do ours, and things would be okay. And things largely were okay…right up until they decided to come after folks who didn’t agree with them and use the resources we all helped create.
When BNP secured trademarks on the phrases “Buy Nothing Project” and “Buy Nothing” in August/September 2022, we frankly didn’t think it concerned us. Trademarks are about commerce. They are the way businesses protect their goods and services. (Here’s how the US government defines trademarks: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/what-trademark) And that doesn’t have anything to do with us, right? We aren’t a business, nor do we want to be. We aren’t selling books or apps or anything else. And we don’t want to be. (Let’s say that louder : And we don’t want to be.) We were just providing support to admins who wanted to continue focusing on hyperlocal gifting, no business involved.
Then came December 2022, when BNP filed a trademark infringement complaint against us with FB, because we had “Buy Nothing” in our support group name. No warning, no chance for us to remove it, just a blindside complaint that resulted in FB’s auto-response taking down the group. Taking it down, even though we were not in violation of FB’s own trademark infringement rules: https://www.facebook.com/help/440684869305015 Then, they filed trademark infringement complaints on another group that focused on making hundreds of helpful admin graphics, free of charge, over all these years. Again, no warning, just a blindside. For completely non-business, non-commerce support groups “violating” their business trademark.
They also filed a trademark violation with WordPress against GWI for our website. WordPress, however, isn’t run by algorithms and scripts, and they denied BNP’s complaint because, you guessed it, we weren’t – and aren’t – violating their trademark.
After years of being focused totally on their app, BNP decided to come back into the world of the FB groups with a swiftness in early January 2023. They posted in the Admin Hub that there were **mandatory** updates that are **required** to be made to the About/Description and Rules sections for any group associated with Buy Nothing to “be in compliance”. They removed boundaries from the About section. They removed the Creative Commons license in those sections, and replaced them with a straight Copyright attribution, which means no variation is allowed. And it means they will now have the power to file copyright infringement complaints against any group that makes any changes to those sections. They changed what the standard admission questions are, removing any mention of only being in one group or of boundaries, and adding a “question” telling the person asking to join about the app. The following link goes to BNP Admin Hub, so if you have been blocked you won’t be able to view it (https://www.facebook.com/groups/316803649097539/posts/1332129487564945)
At this point, we feel our support group has been backed into a corner. Our options are: 1. surrender, change everything to be “in compliance” and become an advertising platform for a business entity whose actions and goals we don’t believe in, or 2. say “Enough is enough!” and completely make a break.
At this point, it has become clear to the GWI Admin Team (and we think many of you) that our values no longer align with the values of the Buy Nothing Project. Their mission statement, in part, claimed “…The true wealth is the web of connections formed by people who are your real-life neighbors.” Their actions do not reflect this. We still want to be a home for admins of groups that believe in hyperlocal giving. Admins of groups who want to focus on the communities created when you give where you live. Where neighbors meet neighbors directly, where money is NEVER a focus, and where admins volunteer their time because of their love for their groups and their community, not because they expect to be paid. We want to be a home that provides confidence and solutions for admins, and clear foundations and structure for new admins.
We want to be a home that provides training for new admins, helps new and seasoned admins get answers to their questions when faced with a challenge, and celebrates all of your wins. We want to help you grow both your group and your own leadership. We value the time, patience, and effort that you ALL put into running the gifting economies in your home communities.
What Does This Mean for GWI?
So what does this mean? Well, most significantly, we will need to rebrand and rebuild this group. We will collectively come up with a new name, new banner, and new resources. We will work towards creating new resources, developing new files and albums, and introducing new activities. This will take us some time, but we will work as hard and as fast as possible. We will not shut down this group, however posts asking questions about trademarks or our relations with groups other than this one will not be approved. We are shifting our focus to content creation for the time being, but fear not, we will still approve posts that get you support for running your groups on a daily basis and/or reach out via private message where appropriate. We won’t look exactly like how we looked a few weeks ago, but we hope to come back stronger and better than ever.
To be VERY clear, we are not trying to compete with the business that is BNP. We frankly, don’t want anything to do with them at this point. We are not going to trademark Gifting With Integrity or GWI or anything else. Why? Because trademarks are about business, and we don’t want any part of that. We are here to support hyperlocal gifting communities, not yet-another-version of Craigslist. We aren’t a business, we don’t want to be a business, and we will never be a business.
(And if someone tells you we are planning something or we’ve claimed something, please ask for proof. When **we** make statements about what we know and what’s been done, we bring links, we bring screenshots, we bring receipts. And if they can’t, that should tell you all you need to know.)
What Does This Mean for Your Local Group?
If your group wants to continue with the original core values of hyperlocal giving, giving where you live, making a community focused on our shared abundance, we suggest protecting your group by scrubbing “Buy Nothing” from your group name and changing your banner, description and rules. These are all publicly viewable sections. We do not recommend changing to “BN” or “Buying Nothing” or any variation of that.
There is a concept called “trademark dilution” where a name is “significantly similar enough to a trademarked name” to “cause confusion in the marketplace” and even though you have NOTHING TO DO WITH COMMERCE, frankly, we don’t want you to have to fight those battles with FB’s auto-approving complaint system.)
If you are using the BNP banner and have written on it to personalize, that is copyright infringement and there is the real possibility BNP can file a complaint against your group. If you are using the GWI banner with “Buy Nothing” or “Buy Nothing Project” written on it, that is trademark infringement, and there is a real possibility BNP can file a complaint against your group. And when the “infringement” is in the name of the group itself, that means the whole group disappears. If you’ve made your own banner, look for a post in the next few days where you can share it with everyone here to see what you’ve done.
Just to be clear, while we are making changes and adjustments in THIS group, GWI is not requiring anyone to make changes in their own local group that they don’t want to make. Want to keep your group name and rules affiliated with a different organization? That’s ok. Want to follow derivative rules? No problem! All are welcome here to learn! We are only here to teach and share some of the original (pre-2020) rules and practices in this group. What you choose to do with this information in your own group is always up to you.
We advise taking care of getting your group set up FIRST. We advise taking time to choose which direction you want your group to take. Because, no matter what, they are YOUR groups. Then, we welcome you back here to help us rebuild. We will be publishing polls for you to help vote on a new name for the group. In addition to these polls, we will be creating posts for you to participate in helping us rebuild. Above all else, know that we appreciate your support and we value YOU and whatever choices YOU make for YOUR group.
‘Cause forcing people into directions they don’t want to go is not who we are. Enough is enough.
Too Long, Didn’t Read Version :
- The GWI group was shut down without warning for supposed trademark infringement (even though that has to do with commerce, which we aren’t)
- Using “Buy Nothing” in your group name is now only allowed if you follow the *exact* formula on the BNP website. Anything else could get your group shut down for trademark infringement.
- If you no longer wish to be associated with the BNP, you will have to scrub all things BN from your name, rules, banner, and about section (basically anything that is publicly viewable.
- We are working to reform and rebrand what is GWI – not as competition to BNP – but as a way to stay connected to what drew all of us to this movement in the first place.
- All are welcome here, no matter your affiliation! We will stay focused on offering support to gifting groups using pre-2020 rules and best practices, and how you choose to use that information in your groups will be up to you.
We are polling for new hyper-local group names now. To vote for a new name join here https://www.facebook.com/groups/1177408692958759
-Your GWI Admin Team