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Reddit's LGBT 'gaymers' nix legal battle over their name

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This week marks the resolution of a legal battle between two factions of the LGBT gaming community: Reddit forum r/gaymers and gaymer.org, founded by Chris Vizzini.

Both communities had been using the self-identifying term “gaymers” for years—gaymer.org has existed since 2006, according to a release from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represented Reddit gaymers along with law firm Perkins Coie, which took the case pro bono. But it was Vizzini who, registered a trademark on “gaymer” for his site in 2007.

His claim to a widely used term did not, in itself, provoke an active response from the subreddit. Instead, it was his choice to send a cease-and-desist notice requesting they change the name of the forum that ignited all-out war. Vizzini, who insists that he rehabilitated the word “gaymer,” originally a pejorative term, in a final gaymer.org post explained why he woke a sleeping giant:

"Last year I emailed reddit several times asking they change their subreddits with gaymer in the name to something else if they pertained to video games. I got no responses so I sent them a cease and desist letter. An employee at Reddit that goes by Spladug leaked the wrong information. He said I was trying to shut them all down. That was not true. It was for a name change. That started some pretty ugly remarks from the members at /r/gaymers."    

Vizzini goes on to write that he worked out a deal with Reddit whereby a disclaimer would be added to r/gaymers that denied affiliation with gaymer.org, with a “prominent and positive” link to his site, but this was followed up by a letter saying r/gaymers had filed a petition to cancel the trademark. He filed a motion to dismiss this motion, but the trademark board denied it.

In light of all that, Vizzini threw in the towel. “I’m letting go,” he said. “I’d just be outspent if I pushed the case forward.” But why shut down his beloved site? After all, r/gaymers was only too happy to share the term; their victory guarantees that anyone can use it.

“Closing the site might seem like a case of sour grapes but it’s really not,” Vizzini wrote. “The reason I’m closing the site is because the goals were accomplished but also because I feel disconnected from gay gamers having seen their ugly side though all of this. I know it’s not all gay gamers from the members of my site but its was enough of them saying hurtful things so loudly that it has put me off. What was once a source of passion has now become a source of pain and it’s time to walk away and say goodbye.”

Redditors at r/gaymers met the news with cheer but were nonetheless disappointed that the “thermonuclear option” had ever been triggered at all. Without the cease-and-desist letter, the subreddit and gaymer.org could have coexisted. Some users argued that to have applied for a trademark in the first place was more misguided than the initial legal salvo.

One especially optimistic and conciliatory thread popped up: “Attention Gaymer.org Refugees,” it read. “It's sad that we have to meet under these circumstances. We fought our battle to keep from losing our internet home, and here you are, victims of that very circumstance... and that's terrible. You're our brothers and sisters, and we hate that this happened to the place you enjoyed. If any of you have indeed made it over here looking for a new start, welcome. Seriously, we're glad to have you if you'll have us back. It's going to take some adjusting, but I think you'll end up liking it here as much as we already do.”

So, will this be an era of renewed connections among gaymers? It will at least be the end of some unfortunate acrimony. It’s been a landmark month for this community—this month saw the inauguration of GaymerX, the first convention devoted to queer geekery, and some dudes even got engaged there. All in all, it’s looking like a bright new dawn.

Photo by Creartive Shop/Flickr