The APA, some might know, is completing the DSM-5. It’s been extremely controversial, and many scientists and others have been highly critical of the process. (Here, for example, is an open letter and petition with more than 10,000 signatures, stating in part:
Though we admire various efforts of the DSM-5 Task Force, especially efforts to update the manual according to new empirical research, we have substantial reservations about a number of the proposed changes that are presented on www.dsm5.org. As we will detail below, we are concerned about the lowering of diagnostic thresholds for multiple disorder categories, about the introduction of disorders that may lead to inappropriate medical treatment of vulnerable populations, and about specific proposals that appear to lack empirical grounding. In addition, we question proposed changes to the definition(s) of mental disorder that deemphasize sociocultural variation while placing more emphasis on biological theory. In light of the growing empirical evidence that neurobiology does not fully account for the emergence of mental distress, as well as new longitudinal studies revealing long-term hazards of standard neurobiological (psychotropic) treatment, we believe that these changes pose substantial risks to patients/clients, practitioners, and the mental health professions in general.and calling for an independent scientific review of controversial portions:
As you know, it is common practice for scientists and scholars to submit their work to others for independent review. We believe it is time for an independent group of scientists and scholars, who have no vested interest in the outcome, to do an external, independent review of the controversial portions of the DSM-5. We consider this especially important in light of the unprecedented criticism of the proposed DSM-5 by thousands of mental health professionals, as well as mental health organizations, in the United States and Europe.One site providing information and critical analysis of DSM-5 development has been Suzy Chapman’s. In December, Chapman received two cease-and-desist letters from the American Psychiatric Association demanding that she remove “DSM 5” from her domain name or face legal action for trademark infringement:
Will you submit the controversial proposals in DSM-5 to an independent group of scientists and scholars with no ties to the DSM-5 Task Force or the American Psychiatric Association for an independent, external review?)
Name: RedactedThis is simple intimidation. Everyone is familiar with “____ Watch” groups and sites, and this is widely viewed as fair use. As Chapman argues:
December 22, 2011
RE: DSM 5 Trademark Violation
Dear Ms. Chapman:
It has come to our attention that the website http://dsm5watch.wordpress.com/ is infringing upon the American Psychiatric Association’s trademark DSM 5 (serial number 85161695) and is in violation of federal law by using it as a domain name.
According to our records, the American Psychiatric Association has not authorized this use of the DSM 5 trademark. Consequently, this use of the DSM 5 mark is improper and is in violation of United States Trademark Law. Your unauthorized actions may subject you to contributory infringement liability including increased damages for willful infringement. We request that you immediately cease and desist any and all use of the DSM 5 mark. Furthermore, we request that the DSM 5 mark is removed from the domain name http://dsm5watch.wordpress.com/ .
The American Psychiatric Association has a good-faith belief that the above-identified website’s use of the DSM 5 name and marks is not authorized by the American Psychiatric Association, its agents, or the law. I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct and that I am authorized to act on behalf of the American Psychiatric Association.
Please confirm, within the next ten (10) days of the date of this letter, that you will stop using our trademark in http://dsm5watch.wordpress.com/ , and provide documentation confirming that you have. Any further use will be considered an infringement.
Thank you for your prompt cooperation in resolving this issue.
Very truly yours,
Licensing and Permissions Manager
American Psychiatric Publishing, A Division of American Psychiatric Association
1000 Wilson Boulevard Suite 1825
Arlington, VA 22209
This experience has taught me that the APA trademark claims were not only misguided, but probably legally indefensible. ‘Nominative fair use’ is permitted those who are publishing criticism within texts if use of the trademark is relevant to the subject of discussion or necessary to identify the product, service, or company. Courts have found that non-misleading use of trademarks in the domain names of critical websites (like walmartsucks.com) is to be considered ‘fair use’ by non-commercial users – so long as there is no intent to misrepresent or confuse visitors to the site and when it is clear that the site owner is not claiming endorsement by, or affiliation to, the holder of the mark.Changing the name of her blog naturally led to a substantial reduction in traffic. Fortunately, the professional and internet community came swiftly to her defense, and this episode has likely garnered her site much more attention than if the APA had left her alone. But this should never have happened.
Everything I have read suggests that my clearly non-commercial use of my previous subdomain name (dsm5watch.wordpress.com) – with its prominent disclaimer and no intent to mislead – falls well within the concept of ‘fair use’. This then raises the obvious question – what grounds did APA have for serving me with demands and threats of possible legal action? Several people have independently sent me materials on ‘SLAPP’ lawsuits (strategic lawsuit against public participation). These are threats of legal action intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense – so that they will abandon their criticism or opposition.
I think what we may be witnessing with the broad challenges to the DSM-5 is the beginning of the end for this psychiatric model. Its flaws, failures, and cooptation by corporate interests are becoming more widely known, and it’s unraveling. Efforts at evasion and intimidation like these merely dramatize the process.