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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of May 13, 2000

NOT an NHRA logo This is not going to start with the update that I'd planned. Yesterday afternoon, while perusing the newsgroups, I stumbled across (yeah, I do a lot of that; you can decide which one I do more of: perusing or stumbling) a very disturbing message from one of the members of the Internet Drag Racing Association. They had just received an absolutely shattering letter from the NHRA "intellectual property litigation" attorney(s). And the implications of this letter may reach far beyond the original target. For the complete transcript of the letter, check out the Backfire! page.

If you don't want to wade through the entire letter, or your eyes have glazed over with all the legal b.s., here's the basic intent of NHRA's action: They don't want the IDRA using any of NHRA's trademarked logos, photos, or anything else that is the property of NHRA. Apparently, those "nasty" folks at IDRA have even appropriated the "We Have Ignition" animation for their use. The depths of their depravity know no bounds, eh?

The IDRA gang(sters?) have even had the audacity to use NHRA's meta tags (used by search engines and embedded in the HTML code used to construct a web page) and have even set up hyperlinks to the NHRA website. Oh my god! So how has NHRA chosen to deal with all this brazen lawlessness on the part of the IDRA? In my opinion, they've basically taken a very large sledgehammer to kill a very small fly.

In the letter from their legal firm, NHRA has reminded the perpetrators of these illegal actions that they are liable for punitive damages of up to one million dollars, PLUS, any and all profits and legal costs. Pretty harsh consequences for what was intended to be a free-use website run by a group of friends, for their own personal use.

The implications of this move by NHRA are not lost on Northern Thunder, either. Obviously, by this point, the folks in Glendora are well aware of who I am, where I live and could, if they wish, literally pull the plug on me at any time they wish. It would probably take their lawyers most of the next month just to catalogue all the violations, as outlined in their letter to the IDRA, that exist on this website. Imagine the costs involved. Imagine the difficulty in trying to collect any damages from me.

When the only tangible assets I own in North America are a leaky condo that's worth less than the mortgage on it and a truck that's worth less than the cost of towing it away, what is the point of trying to enforce a judgement? Back to the topic, eh? The longterm ramifications of NHRA's move to shut down the IDRA and its website, should be of great concern to anyone who has a drag racing website.

I could go through the 1200 or so websites currently on my Hot Links pages and find at least one NHRA logo and/or trademark on virtually every one of those sites. And just how many of those sites have obtained express written permission of the legal owners (NHRA) of those marks for their use? Yeah, I figured you wouldn't wear out even your index finger counting them all.

Something not mentioned yet is the right to use the results of NHRA events. Yes, the results. While the NHRA has not chosen to enforce, or attempt to enforce their ownership of those statistics, yet, there has recently been a precedent set in that area down in Australia. Apparently, the posting of some results of the V8 Supercar Series by unauthorized parties has been clamped down on, and rather harshly.

So where does this leave me? In a bit of a quandary to be sure. Do I spend the rest of the month (at least) removing every single image that is the exclusive intellectual property of NHRA? Do I remove every link to NHRA, or every meta tag that refers to the association from this website? Do I take the safe route and simply pull the plug on NT before the baliffs appear at the door?

Not a bleeding chance, mates! To sum up my position statement on this matter: Everytime I display an NHRA logo or link or meta tag on my website, I am in essence promoting them. I am providing them with FREE advertising, FREE marketing services, and most of all, FREE publicity for them, their races, their racers and their products and services. As for profits gained by using their property: as if . . . .

If this crackdown on the IDRA is expanded to include other, not-for-profit websites, then the backlash and bad feelings created against NHRA will be far more damaging than any gains they may feel are available to them. Now, in fairness to NHRA, there are probably some more issues at work than those explicitly mentioned in their letter to the IDRA.

The new owners of the simulated racing game, Moto1.net (coincidentally [?] the sponsors of a recent NHRA national event) may have instigated this action to protect their marketing rights to the game. Since the NHRA would like to see the Moto1.net company continue as an event sponsor for more than one year, they may have been asked or invited to initiate the legal action. And they may feel that their licensing/royalty revenues are at risk if the IDRA continues to run their simulated races.

On the other hand, is there a chance that these simulated races might actually be helpful in marketing the game? It sounds like the IDRA has nothing but praise for the game, despite the admitted glitches, and if Moto1.net brings out an improved version, wouldn't the IDRA gang do their utmost to promote it to their followers? Best of all is the cost of all this marketing support: FREE

The IDRA folks may have pushed the envelope of trademark theft to the point where the NHRA felt it was forced to respond, to send a message to all the other "bad" guys out in cyberspace. The NHRA may have decided to simply make an example of the IDRA folks and save a lot of trouble and expense of suing everyone using their trademarks.

Who knows where this will all lead? There might even be an express letter in my mailbox on Monday morning, or a collect phone call from their lawyers, or a seriously nasty email from our leaders in California. There's a first time for everything, isn't there? For the record: I've been "asked" to cease and desist some of my actions (on this website) by several companies already, but I'm still waiting to hear word one from the NHRA. Maybe this update will be the match that lights the fuse? Stay tuned .....

LATE UPDATE: Apparently, the NHRA is willing to strike a compromise with the IDRA on the trademark/copyright infringement issue. They spent quite a bit of time on the phone yesterday and it appears that something will be worked out -- to the satisfaction of both parties. Damn, looks like I jumped the gun again. Another great story line up in smoke. Oh well, the warning still is valid for anyone out there who hasn't got an official agreement with the NHRA. Let today's update serve as a warning/wake-up call. You could be next.....

So, that's where today's agenda went: spent it all on an issue that didn't even exist twenty-four hours ago. So, let's just call it a major oildown, shut down the lanes for another day and leave the Brad Hadman, Jim Grant and Top Fuel Dragsters at Mission stories for tomorrow. After all, isn't that one of the first rules of this business? Always leave the folks a reason to come back. So that's a wrap for today, but be sure to come back tomorrow for the latest news from the wide, wild, weird world of drag racing.

PS: We may, weather permitting, have some news and pictures of a top-secret test session occuring somewhere in Division Six today. Don't hold your breath on this one; but come back tomorrow and maybe you'll see something about it. We might even have some details on the proposed Pro Nitro show at Mission Raceway in August.

Black Bar
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