As Britain is buried, someone claims the IP for the #uksnow hashtag

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Video: Hold on, go right

The #uksnow mashup map – where people tweet their postcode and mark the snow out of 10 – is well documented. We wrote about it last year when it first appeared and it’s arisen once again as snow hits the UK. Who knows, perhaps it will be around for years?

Developer Ben Marsh was later contracted by Vodafone to build a map which tracked Brits as they tweeted their holidays.

But now a guy is trying to lay ‘intellectual property rights’ to the #uksnow hashtag.

Julian Bray, a blogger (and “broadcaster, convention moderator, speaker, journalist and lecturer”) says the uksnow application was based on the original hashtag #uksnow “devised by @julianbray“. He will “grant Intellectual property” so long as people acknowledge him as creating the tag.

Paul Clarke, photographer and public sector consultant begs to differ.

Clarke says although he didn’t originate the hashtag he did – inspired by a recent barcamp – originate the data format which Ben Marsh went on to create the map with: #uksnow [1st part of postcode] [n/10].

He takes issue with Bray’s claim to ‘ownership’, though he’s not taking it as seriously as Bray.

The lesson for all? It’s probably pretty hard (ok, probably impossible) to claim the IP of something you make immediately public like a twitter hashtag. But let us know your thoughts below.

Meanwhile Bray has decided to re-create his hashtag, originally intended to indicate travel conditions, as #SnowUK.

The problem with that? Ben Marsh has now co-opted that into his UKsnow map.

Update: Mr Bray responds.

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  • Mike Corlett

    Legal ramblings aside, Mr Bray might as well go round to every UK individual who has used this map and poke them in the eye. Can we contribute a fund to him and buy him the “how to make friends and influence people” book off amazon !? He really doesn’t have the right attitude for the twitter-generation does he !?

  • howard Liptzin

    Ridiculous. Unbelievably so, to the point that contributing a comment to this thread is dignifying it waaaay beyond its worth. But I just wanted to point out, in order to lay claim to this ludicrous assertion, shouldn’t the tag be #uksnow[tm] ?? :-D (And, of course, the whole thing is moot as there is no value to an IP claim that is essentially impossible to enforce.)

  • MightyMicro

    Mr Bray appears to be qualified to comment on many subjects (according to him), but intellectual property law doesn’t appear to be one of them. Firstly, you don’t “grant Intellectual property assign” you may either license intellectual property or assign the rights to it. Secondly, merely by using the hashtag on a public medium such as Twitter – without any notice of claim to copyright in it – almost certainly means that it is regarded as being in the public domain. I suspect that only owners of registered trademarks might have a case to prevent the use of their trademark as a hashtag and, even then, are unlikely to be troubled unless the usage was inappropriate or defamatory.

    I suspect Mr Bray’s real beef is that a commecrial organisation – Vodafone, no less – leveraged “his” hashtag for a useful application and he feels that he’s lost out in some way.

    Better get used to it, Mr Bray.

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