Hate the Name: "This American Life" vs. "This American Whore"

Last week in our Exhibitionist blog, writer Chris Hall told the story of S.F. sex worker and activist Siouxsie Q, who late last year began producing a podcast in her apartment called This American Whore. This January, she started to get e-mails from lawyers representing Chicago Public Media and Ira Glass, host of This American Life, demanding that she change the name of her podcast or face legal action.

"They're concerned that it is too similar to This American Life," Q explains. "And they're concerned about dilution of their trademark or people confusing This American Whore and This American Life, thinking that This American Life is somehow sponsoring my podcast, or something like that, and so in order to protect their trademark, they've requested me to change the name."

Hall points out that it's not surprising that Chicago Public Media would try to protect its brand, but that there are other podcasts out there riffing on the name too, including This American Life Total, for fans of Magic the Gathering and other trading card games; This American Wife, which has over 60 episodes and directly parodies Ira Glass; and This American Horror Story, for fans of the television show.

Siouxsie Q and others assumed her podcast was being targeted because of the title and subject matter. She tweeted a message to her followers: Should we fight for the name? "We've definitely gotten the resounding response that This American Whore is worth fighting for," she says.

"We're trying to get our voices out there, and then for all the people [at Chicago Public Media] who have all the power ... to say 'No, no, no, you need to do what we say, and do it in this capacity,' that's what I think has gotten people fired up."

When the post ran on Feb. 5, it also got readers fired up. Such that the following day, TAL Director of Operations Seth Lind sent us an e-mail with a response from Glass:

"It's recently been reported in the press that we're asking the podcast This American Whore to change their name. There's been a suggestion that we're singling them out because of their content. We're not!" he writes. "I've listened to This American Whore. I find them charming. It's an interesting podcast and a window into a world that's very different from my daily life, for sure. I'm glad they're out there making these and hope they continue."

Glass goes on to say that they're just protecting their trademark. "If you don't take action when you hear about people knocking off your name, and get them to stop, you can lose your trademark rights." Some name-cribbing shows are too small to bother with, some are parodies and protected as such, but all the others can expect to get a letter sometime soon. As for This American Whore, it's nothing personal.

"I wish them the best. Make more podcasts! I'll keep listening!" Glass writes. "If I lose this job and become a sex worker, I hope you'll have me on as a guest. Just change your name."

Visit sfweekly.com/exhibitionist to read the full story.

 
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