Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why is Facebook “poking” teachers?

Not so long ago, the world was against Facebook, opposing with a passion, the social site’s adaptation of new, privacy-invading settings, Facebook has decided to lash back at the world and the unfortunate victim is a new teachers’ resource site, Teachbook. Is Facebook justified in insisting that the name Teachbook infringes on their trademark Facebook name and is an attempt by Teachbook to piggy back on their name in order to benefit from free mileage? As much as I am not a legal expert, I do not think it takes a competition law expert from Mars to work out that is much-a-do over nothing. Get over yourselves Facebook.

Greg Shrader, the managing partner of Teachbook could not have said it better when he was quoted as saying, "They’re throwing bombs at a mosquito. They believe we’re going to roll over and in some respect they get to own the term 'book.” Someone needs to remind them that having half a billion users all over the world is a good achievement but not a licence to act as the god of diction. Before Facebook, we already had phonebooks, e-books, yearbooks, cook books, song books and a host of other “books.” Where do Mark Zukerberg and his band of cyber bullies get off monopolising the use of a commonly used suffix? Is the word “book” not synonymous with the word “teach?” Did the founders of Facebook themselves not adopt a name that was already common in the American university student circles?

It really is sad that such a noble and commendable meeting place and resource centre for teachers should kick start on such a bad note. We all know that the teachers of this world are underpaid, overworked and frustrated by thankless students, parents and principals who expect nothing short of miracles from them. Do they really deserve to be frustrated further by the insensitive machinations of an already established social network, which acts like it is under siege, yet Teachbook’s focus is totally different and poses no threat at all? I hardly envisage Facebook’s non-teaching members logging in to view lesson plans and engage in debate on teaching methods. I forsee Teachbook’s members still logging in to Facebook to interact with family and friends at a personal level.

What then is the point of the legal suit? I think it is either a personal vendetta that is being settled or a mere case of “Live and not let live.” It will be interesting to observe how the legal action unfolds. As a teacher, I stand in total solidarity with Teachbook and hope that they do not land up in the same situation as another social network (Placebook) which was forced to change names (to Trip Trace) through similar means.

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