Maybe it’s me being petty but I get frustrated when someone cuts me off on the highway and then flips me the bird as if it was my fault. It’s equally annoying when you decline the offer of a telemarketer who interrupted your dinner hour and then calls you back three times – just to be irritating.
Robbie Curtis is one of those annoyances. He illegally used our trademarked corporate name and now he is blaming us. In fact, according to the email he sent us this week, he is going to kill some Sandhill cranes as his revenge.
When searching for our videos on YouTube a few year ago, I noticed that interspersed with clips of us flying with whooping cranes were duck hunting videos also titled “Operation Migration.” The producer, Mr. Robbie Curtis is an avid hunter with lots of followers.
Operation Migration is a 501 c 3 non-profit in the United States and a registered Charity in Canada. Both organizations are federally recognized corporations and have been for many years. One of our responsibilities is to make reasonable efforts to protect our corporate name when it is misused by others. In the eyes of the law, claims of ownership of a trademark sound hollow if you don’t at least attempt to protect it from infringements.
To fulfill that obligation, I followed the links on the YouTube site to report an infraction of their policies. However, my complaint went completely unanswered so I tried again. Eventually I had to assume that with millions of hours of video uploaded to YouTube every day, they didn’t have the resources to keep up with all the complaints, so I took another route.
I wrote a letter (below) to Mr. Robbie Curtis and explained that we were not opposed to hunting and that hunter organizations like Ducks Unlimited have saved critical habitat for many species. I mentioned how hunting licence fees and taxes on ammunition pay for conservation work and how Operation Migration works to bridge the gap between the conservationists who wants to hunt wildlife and the ones who don’t. My response was a short denial that simply read, “You got the wrong guy.”
Next, I consulted with one of our Directors who is a high-level Government attorney. He also tried to have the videos removed or renamed through the YouTube process – and he hit the same dead end.
This is one of those nagging thoughts that worms its way back into my brain periodically and this spring it resurfaced. Searching for our YouTube channel to check on the nesting pair, I kept seeing Mr. Curtis’s posts and knew that others were following the same route. We are always promoting our site hoping people will get engaged. I can imagine their look of confusion when they searched for Operation Migration and came up with Mr. Curtis’s hunting videos.
Since Google purchased YouTube, they have made many improvements, not the least of which are far better reporting channels. Heather red flagged twenty or so postings all showing duck hunter scenes and displaying the title Operation Migration. We sent copies of our trademark registration to back up our claim and surprisingly, the response was immediate. We are not sure if the videos were removed but the next day when we checked, they were back up or renamed. They are now titled Operation Northwest Migration.
If you are a conservationist who likes to hunt, check out his videos. As I said, we are not opposed to hunting or the posting of the videos, just the illegal use of our name.
Still, Mr. Curtis or Buckshot Robbie as his email address proclaims, was not pleased. He sent us a message the next day titled “Anti-hunter.” He obviously assumed that if we wanted his videos removed we must be a group of tree-hugging, liberals and rather than obey the rules of YouTube and fair business, he fired back with what he thought would be our worst nightmare.
It is true, Operation Migration is opposed to hunting Sandhill cranes – at least for now. But if their numbers continue to increase, there may be a need for hunting eventually. Canada geese are hated by many golfers, homeowners and park visitors only because there are so many of them. If Sandhills ever reach those numbers, the majority of people with hate them too. Regulated hunting can help restore the balance. Conservationists of all types need to work together so that species like Sandhills and Whooping cranes can recover without the added pressure of hunting. But once that process is complete, hunting can keep their numbers in check. Unfortunately, ole Buckshot is still living in the world of us and them.