The privatization of language

The provisional Trademarking of the word “Candy” for computer games might seem silly, but it’s actually deadly serious. Buried amidst its claim to exclusive use of the word for recording equipment, computer games and every conceivable type of clothing (an astonishingly exhaustive list), the King Limited trademark also lists this:

“Educational services, namely, conducting classes, seminars, workshops in the field of computers, computer games; Training in the field of computers”

Just as I did in 2010, and Vi Hart did before that, many people have used the iconography of candy in on-line learning experiences that get kids interested in math and computation. If this trademark goes through, free use of such socially positive uses of this word would be prohibited.

But the implications are far larger than one word. Such a trademark would create legal precedent for a lexical land grab. Corporations could trademark equally broad usage of any word — mom, dad, friendship, love — effectively turning these words into private property.

Among the many reasons that’s a bad idea, here’s one: Once the line is crossed to prevent the free use of common positive words for educational purposes, it is the beginning of the end of what people like Vi and I do — helping to make learning more fun and enjoyable. Think about that the next time you play Candy Crush Saga.

Amazingly, the right to use our own language is being taken away from us. And it’s all happening so easily.

Like taking candy from a baby.

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