Q & A regarding recent changes

These were all posted in Gifting With Integrity, but with those posts gone we’re choosing to share this information publicly.

Q1: So, I’ve decided to change the name of my group.  What do I tell my members?  I feel because I ask them for transparency, I should also be transparent about what’s happening.

A1:  You should lay out the facts, your reasons, and most of all, assure them that nothing is changing about how your group runs.  In just about every way, this is nothing more than a cosmetic change as far as the members are concerned.  An announcement is located in our Steps to Make Your Group Independent file that you are welcome to share in your group if you’d like https://bit.ly/Independent-Doc

Q2: What happens if we never “update” the group as BNP is demanding? Pretend we didn’t see messages or anything like that?

A2: Buy Nothing Project has stated that the changes to the About/Description and Rules are mandatory, and that any group who does not update will be “out of compliance”.  Additionally, they have said any use of their banner that has been altered in any way is copyright infringement, which is also being out of compliance.  Being out of compliance means your group would be at risk of BNP filing a trademark infringement complaint or copyright infringement complaint with FB at any time, just like they did with the Gifting With Integrity Support group at the end of December, which is what has sparked all this.  The Buy Nothing Project has posted under their Group Update page: “Once you update your group with the text and links on this page, you’ll never have to worry about future updates and you’ll never accidentally be in violation of copyright law (which could lead Facebook to delete your group without notice).”.   

Facebook doesn’t act regarding someone else’s trademark/copyright issues without someone reporting to them.  So, although they are placing blame on Facebook, if your group is removed,  it’s 100% due to them reporting it to Facebook.  They may only go after some groups and not others.  They may delay going after out of compliance groups.  They may give a group notice before reporting.   But, because they clearly state that not updating makes a group out of compliance, and the potential consequence for this is having your group “deleted without notice”,  we would be negligent if we endorsed doing nothing.

Q3 (statement really): I sure don’t like the idea of branching off and then potentially someone else swooping in and creating an “official” BN group and essentially stealing our spirit after years of work and volunteering

A3: We know what you mean.  Some of us have been an admin for 5 to 10 years now and poured in thousands of hours volunteering not only for our local group, but also for the Buy Nothing Project structural teams. Unfortunately, here we are.  We (GWI) simply don’t agree to endorse them due to the fact that their actions seem mostly focused on money and controlling volunteers that don’t agree with them. It doesn’t feel right to us to continue to use the Buy Nothing name and linking our documents back to their website/app as advertisement.

We don’t feel like they can steal your spirit.  You have an awesome group, right?  And remember, since 2019, they have allowed overlapping groups.  Which means, any disgruntled member could have contacted the BNP and been declared “official”, overlapping your group.  This has already been allowed for years now and continues to be their policy.   So the potential for someone else creating an “official” BN group over yours was already here, and that potential doesn’t disappear just because you continue to use their name, banner, or description. Your actual spirit rests between you, and the relationships you’ve built with your neighbors, with the trust they have vested in you to lead them. No one can take that away from you.

Q4: Our group is currently hidden, so they can’t see if we’ve updated or not.  Doesn’t that mean we don’t need to change anything?

A4:  Being a hidden group isn’t a perfect shield.  Just because you are hidden, doesn’t mean a group can’t be reported.   In order for a report to be filed, they simply need to have your group’s URL.

Private groups mean only members can see who is in the group and what they post. Non-members will be able to search the group, see the banner, group description, rules and who the admins for the group are. As well as click join and see the 3 questions.

Hidden groups cannot be viewed, but that doesnt mean BNP doesn’t already have a URL for your group.  They had a form for Reporting Unofficial groups. They also have a team dedicated to keeping the Find your Group website up to date, which means continually checking the status of groups published to their website. Also, their map has been utilizing a “Capped/Hidden” tab on the map. If your group is listed there, they know it isn’t dead.  This also means that even if a group is hidden, a disgruntled member can just as easily report your group to them as being “out of compliance.”

Q5: We changed our name to BN or something similar to Buy Nothing and didn’t realize that it could be problematic.  What do we do now?

A5: You have to wait 28 days from the day you changed your group name to change it again.  In the meantime, please participate in the polls to help us decide on what name to use!

Q6: Has your admin team decided on what you are naming your personal groups?  Will you be sharing with us so we can join in?

A6: We have created a poll allowing everyone to have a voice when it comes to a new name moving forward. The first poll ends 1/10. Vote here if you haven’t already! ****note : removed url that was here because we have went through polling process and here in the announcement from that https://www.facebook.com/groups/1177408692958759/posts/1189390995093862/ 

Q7: Are you still waiting for the result of your appeal against the FB Trademark fiasco?  Let’s say they come back in your favor.  Would we then be able to go back to calling our groups Buy Nothing _____?

A7: We would love to win the appeal and get our old group back.  However, we’re not waiting on anything or holding our breath.

The reality is, that Buy Nothing Project has their trademarks and even though they aren’t supposed to be able to use it for non-commerce things (like a Facebook support group, per US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Facebook Terms of Service (TOS)), FB has shown they are auto-approving complaints, even despite their own trademark infringement policy saying otherwise.  We’ve all seen examples of FB bots auto-approving complaints, and appeals never being reviewed by an actual human.   Because of this, we are not willing to risk our groups and cannot recommend you risk yours either. When the Facebook bots are deleting first, and ask questions later, the damage will already be done by the time an actual human reviews the appeal…if that even ever happens.

Q8: Can we admin an independent gifting group, AND an official BNP group? Will this protect us from overlapping groups?

A8: Nothing protects you from overlapping groups, because since 2019, BNP has specifically allowed overlapping groups.   BNP actually no longer endorses using a boundary model at all, so your location is irrelevant. There is no way to prevent overlaps.

Q9: Do they actually have the name Buy Nothing registered?

A9: Yes! They have a trademark for “Buy Nothing” as well as “Buy Nothing Project” Here:https://tinyurl.com/9x2k7j95 And Here:https://tinyurl.com/2p93bn5r

Q10: Should we choose to rewrite our documents and rename ourselves, how far removed from the original should they be?

A10: We are not in the business of legal advice, however I would search for a plagiarism checker on Google and compare your documents and entirely avoid using the name Buy Nothing EXCEPT to express that you are not affiliated with them.

Gifting With Integrity team is already working on rewriting these docs to continue helping support admins moving forward.  If you’re interested in using these documents, stay tuned.  It will take some time to rewrite, but we are working as quickly as possible. We are also happy to have any volunteers who want to help! Please pm a modmin or comment to volunteer!

Q11: Has the BNP expressed that these changes are mandatory?

A11: Their announcement is visible in their Admin Hub. To paraphrase, the message is basically “In order to make sure you are compliant with our copyright, we recommend updating your documents so you don’t have to ‘worry’ about things like violating trademark or copyright. Facebook has ‘taken action’ against groups violating it.” They are insinuating a threat to take action, while at the same time saying “No Buy Nothing groups will be removed” So basically, they’re saying if you’re not using their documents with linked attribution back to BNP .Org – you already aren’t a Buy Nothing group. And if you aren’t a Buy Nothing group, you’re violating their copyright/trademark.

The short of this is, if you have documents that say “Buy Nothing” but dont have attribution linked back to their website, as owners of “Buy Nothing” as an entity, they can take action against you in some form or fashion. You must use the documents they provide, or you need to change your name and remove Buy Nothing banner and docs from the group..

Q12: How long before BNP chooses to take further action against our local (Home) groups?

A12: We don’t know. They could choose to reach out to each admin team directly to address their trademark concerns, or they could, as they have already done, report with no notice.  We have no way to predict if or when, or against which groups, they will decide to take action.

Each group is going to have to decide for themselves how much risk they are willing to accept in how long they decide to wait before making changes (either going into complete compliance or cutting ties.)  After what BNP have already demonstrated they are willing to do, we are not gambling, and we cannot in good conscience recommend anyone else to gamble their group,  which is why we are doing everything necessary behind the scenes to provide organizational documents for those who choose not to continue to be Buy Nothing groups.

Q13: Aren’t the documents issued under an irrevocable Creative Commons license? Why should we give them up, if we are using them lawfully?

A13: They absolutely are irrevocable.  However, what they are saying now is: You have to use their new documents, which are under straight copyright, or we will say you are not in compliance with BNP, and thus, not an official group as recognized by BNP, and can be reported.   And, unfortunately, the fact that the original documents were issued under an irrevocable Creative Commons license doesn’t protect anyone from FB auto-approving their complaints.  We feel the risk is too great to continue using these documents. There is no way to have a conversation with Facebook TOS.   We have not received more than an automated “Appeal Received” response from Facebook since 12/27. For this reason, we will simply pivot to our own version of the documents with a similar message.

Q14: Can/should we delete the “Creative Commons” verbiage from our About section, since we’re no longer a part of that?  Assuming that’s not copyrighted?

Also, I realized we should delete “BN” from our membership questions since they’re publicly viewable.

A14: Since they wrote the About/Description, we don’t recommend removing the creative commons. Unless you remove the entire message and write your own. Gifting With Integrity team is already working on rewriting these docs (description, 3 questions, etc) to continue helping support admins moving forward.  If you’re interested in using these documents, stay tuned.

Q15: I understand why GWI needs to remove “Buy Nothing” part from its name but why can’t the group keep going by Gifting with Integrity?

A15: We intend to keep our support group named Gifting With Integrity.  We are doing a poll to rename hyper-local gifting groups from Buy Nothing (Location) to “New Name” (Location).  Our goal is to create uniformity between our groups to help with the one group rule. Which is why we will have a poll to vote on which name as a whole is the best option moving forward. That being said, all groups are owned by their local admins and their community. Meaning admins can choose to use whatever name they feel comfortable with, including Gifting with Integrity.

Q16: Are you going to trademark Gifting With Integrity so this can’t happen again?

A16: Trademarks are for commerce, for businesses.  We don’t ever intend on becoming a business, so trademarking anything isn’t a valid option. 

Is it possible that BNP could try to trademark Gifting With Integrity to spite us?  Yes, that’s a possibility.  We certainly hope that they wouldn’t try to do something so petty, but we acknowledge it is something they could do.  We will be periodically checking the US Patent and Trademark Office’s search tool to see if anyone tries to trademark this name, and will file a protest if they do.  We think the most likely course is that BNP will focus on their own business brand building (and their app) and defending the trademarks they currently have and won’t waste the time and money pursuing trademarks on names they don’t even use.

Q17: I’m receiving push back from my community around making these changes. Can you help?

A17: In response to this, we have published our announcement on our website so your members can see that this is a situation affecting many. https://giftingwithintegrity.org/2023/01/06/organizational-changes-that-affect-gifting-with-integrity-groups/ 

Q18: How will we enforce the “One group rule” once we have renamed our groups?

A18: We will continue to host maps for all groups that continue to be hyper-local giving groups, have a “One group”, give where you live rule in their groups rules description/10 Questions and do not exceed 5000 members. We would recommend continuing to use the map, as well as coordinating with local admins around you, to make sure you’re on the same page about continuing to refer members, and be observing admins in each other’s groups.

Q19: What if we decide we don’t want to rename our group?  Will we still be welcome here?

A19: Yes, all hyper-local gift economies are welcome. Please remember that our goal is to help continue to teach the original rules including strict boundaries, one group only, give where you live, and no advice/referrals.

We welcome all to observe and learn these rules in action, regardless of what you change your group name to. However, because we are here to teach and learn the OG way, if your group has updated/will be updating to the new BNP docs. We may find that we have conflicting opinions about how we operate a gifting economy if you don’t deviate from THEIR current rules. 

Our goal here is to make hyper-local gifting groups, the project has changed many of those fundamental rules with their updates, notably the lack of the one group rule and group boundaries. These are rules we will not lose focus on and intend to re-write the original message of the Fine Print to evolve it to be our rule sets. If you intend to continue to use the BNP Fine Print document, you may find that our advice and teaching conflicts with your own values.

Q20: What do we do about the maps if we become independent from Buy Nothing?
A20 : GWI created maps 2 years ago as part of our initial fundamental structure of this group.  You are welcome to move forward using our maps so long as you are committed to being the same type of hyper-local gifting group, even if your name is different.  You can find our maps here https://bit.ly/GWI-World-Map

Q21: What if we want to keep the “Give where you live” philosophy?  How will we do that if we all have different names?  We won’t know who to join as observing admins if we don’t know what groups we’re looking for.

A21: Great question.  We are trying to be as organized as possible, which is why we have opened a poll to vote on names for those not wanting to stick with Buy Nothing.  We will also continue to host maps for all groups that continue to be hyper-local giving groups, have a “One group”, give where you live rule in their groups description/10 rules and do not exceed 5000 members. We would recommend continuing to use the map, as well as coordinating with local admins around you, to make sure you’re on the same page about continuing to refer members, and be observing admins in each other’s groups.  Also reporting groups that are missing/inaccurate is very helpful to everyone as well.

Q22: How will people find my group if we’re not searchable as “Buy Nothing (location)”?

A22: Having the location listed in the group name is a big part of it, but also word of mouth, encouraging your members to invite people they know who live in the group area, and whatever advertising you want to do as a group. (Some groups put up simple flyers at local grocery stores, libraries, community centers, anywhere with a community bulletin board, etc.)  Basically, it’s getting the word out, exactly like BN did at the start.

Q23: There are several groups surrounding ours that might not have heard about what’s going on.  Should I contact them and let them know?
A23: We think it’s good for as many surrounding groups to be on the same page.  Please feel free to let them know and share the group for support and updates if they’d like. Keep in mind, if they have chosen to follow the BNP, their rules will be out of compliance with where we stand (we only allow members to be in one group so they can give where they live and we do not permit any monetary transactions, no tip jars, etc.) so they ultimately will not benefit from this group.
Q24: Are there other groups that have been reported and shut down (other than GWI)?  Specifically any local BN groups?

A24: There has been another support group reported but not shut down. They have had over 200 images reported they must remove to be in compliance.  We believe the only reason why our group was removed versus a general report like theirs, is because we had Buy Nothing written in our image and group name.  Which is unfortunate, because an image is so easy to change.  We have not received reports of any local groups being shut down at this time; however, BNP has recently revised their guidance and has issued strict policies about staying in compliance, so ultimately, we feel that past actions are not indicative of future actions on their part. 

Q25: Since trademarks are registered by Country, does anyone know what countries are covered by BNP Trademarks?

A25: As far as the country of trademark, BNP has secured a Trademark for the words “Buy Nothing” and “Buy Nothing Project” in the United States only; we are not aware if they have sought or been awarded in other countries.

Should that affect our non-commerce groups here on FB? No. (Especially because that’s what FB’s own policies say.) But it IS affecting us, because FB auto-approves complaints and doesn’t seem to do human review, and, as we all know, is very bad about following their own policies. 

Also, Facebook is Headquartered in the United States, so we feel they will enforce this Trademark no matter where a group is located since they are using their platform.

Q26: Are we able to share this post within our BN group?  

A26: Because this group is private, the post itself isn’t sharable.  We did post our announcement on our website for easy sharing for those that are not in this group.  https://giftingwithintegrity.org/2023/01/06/organizational-changes-that-affect-gifting-with-integrity-groups/

Q27: Regarding Q19 – For various reasons, our group is likely to stay a BN group.  Am I allowed to stay in this group as an observing admin? 

A27: This group is for all admins of gift economy groups, with rules similar to the original Buy Nothing rulesets. However, we are pivoting to no longer allow derivative advice. This doesn’t mean you can’t join, but our focus will be geared toward groups with less than 5000 members, following the 1 group only rule, firm boundaries, no “gift of knowledge” or advice, no sales, no trading, giving freely and legally. The new BNP descriptions do not have a defined list of 10 “Rules” that are visible. If our map team cannot see that you at least “give where you live” and follow the 1 group rule, you will be removed from the GWI map.

Q28: My group is listed on the BNP database.  They have us listed with an outdated name and show us capped, even though we’re not.  I’m nervous having our group linked in their database.  Do you have a suggestion of what I can do?  I saw someone else mention that they changed their URL.  What does that mean and how can I do this?  

A28: We realize that many people are anxious about what’s going on.  We are currently working on getting documents changed as quickly as possible.  We don’t feel like Buy Nothing will be enforcing their Trademark by reporting local groups to Facebook the way they did to us without reaching out to admin first.  While we feel it’s important to make necessary changes ASAP, we don’t feel that waiting a week or two will be putting groups in jeopardy.  Regardless, we’re moving as quickly as we can. If BNP has your original URL – and you personalize your group URL, the original URL with group ID number will still take them to your group. 

Q29: If we submit the form on the BNP site to remove our group from their list, are we in danger of having them delete our URL somehow through reporting to FB?

I feel it’s important to delete our entry from their site but want to understand possible consequences, e.g., should we be prepared to have to create a new group.

A29: Removal from their website does not prevent them from reporting your group for Trademark infringement. They have, and we assume, continue to host a form dedicated to keeping track of what they call “rogue” groups. That is to say – groups that use the buy nothing name without being under their ‘umbrella’ of compliance regarding their copyright documents and trademark. You are within your rights to want, or not want your group to be published on their website. However, it does not impact your risk of Trademark infringement claims.

I see no reason for you to need to create a new group. Even with a new group, your risks are the same if you choose to use the Buy Nothing trademark.

If you have a question that isn’t addressed here, please feel free to add it in the comments and we’ll add to this or have another round of Q&A, depending on how many additional questions there are.

Q&A Part 2

Q1: What’s going on?  Why are you doing this?

A1: The Founders obtained a trademark to the Project name summer of 2022, which means we are no longer able to use it if we don’t also use their EXACT documents, rules, etc. Since all their links point right back to the app and their book, and many admins no longer wish to advertise those things, a clean break is the only way to avoid trademark infringement.
More info here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1177408692958759/permalink/1178635322836096

Q2: Do I have to change my group name?
A2: Community Gifting is the name selected by the majority of admins to create uniformity. That being said, each admin team has the right to choose any name they wish. Regardless of the name you choose, the only thing we require to continue to be a member here is to have the “one group/hyper-local” and “give where you live” rules written in either your rule set or description.  You can copy the Give Where You Live rule here if you’d like.  You can locate the rule file here https://bit.ly/Independent-Doc 

Q3: Will I still be on the map if I don’t change my name?
A3: Regardless of the name of your group, in order to remain on our maps, your group must have the following two rules (one group/hyper-local and give where you live) written in your rules or description as well as have less than 5,000 members in your group.

Q4: Is there a post we can use to update members?
A4: Yes, there is a sample announcement for groups to inform your members.

Q5: Will there still be training available?
A5: We are diligently working on training documents.  Please bear with us as we make necessary updates.

Q6: Will GWI be changing their name as well?
A6: Gifting With Integrity will not be changing our name. “Community Gifting” is the name chosen by the majority of admins for use in the local gifting groups. We are a support group for admins of many different hyper-local groups with potentially many different names, so we feel it is in the best interest to everyone involved to not embrace one name over another.

Q7: How do I update my group?
A7: Follow the instructions in the “Steps to Make Your Group Independent” document to update your banner, name, description, membership questions and rules. This will need to be done, even if you recently changed your description and rule set to minimize risk of  your group being shut down.

Q8: How are we supposed to enforce the 1 group rule if some groups are they who shall not be named and others are Community Gifting? We also have some groups in our area that have changed to other names besides those 2!

A8: If they enforce these rules, it should be listed in their rules or description, which are publicly available to view.

99% of referrals to other groups are in our direct surrounding groups/cities, so having a relationship with neighboring admins is great too! Asking to be a silent observer in each others group is super helpful for membership.

Also, we have a map team that has worked hard to keep our maps accurate per reports by our members here. I highly suggest using GWI maps because we will host any hyper-local giving group so long as they adhere to 1 group policy and give where you live, as well as being under 5000 members. https://bit.ly/GWI-World-Map

If you find an inaccuracy, we appreciate filling our form out to inform us of a group that’s missing or has sprouted, etc. https://forms.gle/5GqyjRp3PcnAzEHr7
Q9: Do we need to delete previous admin posts like reminders and such in our personal groups that mention “they who shall not be named”?

A9: Personally, we recommend working on things viewable to the public first (banner, description, rules, membership questions) and then work on message templates so you can keep doing membership. After that, I’d work on editing and/or removing my admin reminders.

Q10: Is my group at risk of being removed for trademark/copyright infringement?

A10: If you have not updated your group since December 2022, yes.  A direct quote from the founders of the entity that shall not be named, reads in part that “…Once you update your group with the text and links on this page, you’ll never have to worry about future updates and you’ll never accidentally be in violation of copyright law (which could lead Facebook to delete your group without notice)…” Hence, we are of the opinion that you absolutely run the risk of your group being shut down unless you have followed all guidance provided on their website. 

.If you are choosing to continue following the OG way of doing things: enforcing the one group rule, remaining hyper-local by having firm geographical boundaries, as well as disallowing monetary transactions of any kind (including but not limited to member-to-member and admin tip jars) and do not wish to advertise the entity that shall not be named, their website, or their app; we suggest updating your group with the instructions laid out here in our “Steps for Making Your Gifting Group Independent” document, regardless of the name you choose to use. This is a fairly simple process when following the steps linked above.  Our step by step guide will take you through updating your name, description, banner, membership questions, and rules.

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