Fitzroyalty

Hyperlocal news about Melbourne's first suburb: Fitzroy 3065

on the use of the term ‘Fitzroyalty’

| 12 Comments

When I arrived in Melbourne and began living in North Fitzroy, I encountered the verbal colloquialism ‘Fitzroyalty’. As an example of street slang, the term had no obvious origins or legal status.

At the time, web search results for the term were few: only a few scattered uses of the word in forums where people were advertising share houses.

Fitzroyalty seemed the perfect name for my blog so I started to use it and, as I made the most use of the term online, my site eventually came to dominate search results for the term. As a unique identifier that is not a commonly written word, it works far better than a name using generic words like Fitzroy and Melbourne.

social issues media intellectual property fitzroyalty

Search results for the term Fitzroyalty on 28 May 2010

I later learned that there had been a print zine called Fitzroyalty that had been published for some time prior to my arrival; I have never seen a copy or found out who made it.

As I got more serious about my site, I looked into the legality of the name and whether it could be registered as a business name so I could use it with more surety that no one else could use it.

However, Fitzroyalty was already in use as a company name registered with ASIC since c2000, and this meant I could not register it as a business name or trademark in Victoria.

I was not worried about this as the copyright of the term appears clear: it is in the public domain because it is in common colloquial use. Anyone could use it, and no one could prevent others from using it.

Therefore, as I was using it in a context that was clearly different from the existing business, which did not seem to use it for any marketing or promotion purposes, it would pose no problem for anyone.

Over time, the use of the term Fitzroyalty has become more common in written form, and has been used in the name of various events. For example, in the past year it has been the title of a comedy show performed at the 2009 Fringe festival and 2010 Comedy festival, and this caused some confusion. I had to keep explaining to people that I was not performing the show and, in fact, having seen it did not want to be associated with it in any way.

Also in 2009 a site called Fitzroyalty was published at WordPress.com. It described itself as the ‘anti-Fitzroyalty blog‘. In using the name in the title and URL of the site it appeared to suggest that it was associated with my site. This created confusion for readers. I asked the creators of the site to change the name of the site to indicate clearly that it was not associated with my site or published by me. They refused.

I also contacted WordPress.com as the use of the name was, in my opinion, deliberately misleading, and this was a breach of the WordPress.com terms of service. After some persuation, WordPress acknowledged this and forced the anti site to include a clarification in their header.

Now Fitzroyalty is being used as the name for the Fitzroy Learning Network‘s 2010 Fitzroy ball (poster 4.7mb PDF). I am getting people in the real world and online asking me if I am having a party for myself or running the event. No! It’s nothing to do with me. I did agree to help advertise it but I am rethinking that as I don’t want to perpetuate the confusion.

It concerns me that the Fitzroy Learning Network may have unwittingly made a bad decision in marketing their ball as ‘Fitzroyalty’. They are a great local NGO who do many worthwhile things. Unfortunately, their marketing is rather amateur. The strategic importance of constructing a clear and attractive message is sometimes not well understood by community organisations.

Whatever your opinion of the term or my site, there is a problem here. Whether you like it or not, the term Fitzroyalty is now more commonly associated with my site than with other things.

I use the term ironically, tongue in cheek, roll of eyes, but of course you cannot see that in writing. My site and I get taken all too seriously. If someone does not like my site, then they are likely to have negative reactions to any use of the term.

I suggest to event organisers to think about the consequences of confusing their message or product with something as apparently divisive as my site. Some people love it and some hate it. You really don’t want a share of the hate.

Some people don’t like the term in general: one commenter made reference to sewage and said ‘the term “Fitzroyalty” unfortunately gives me sudden-onset projectile vomiting.’ I have no idea if this is a response to the proliferation of the use of the term in general, or a reference to my site.

I have no wish to control use of the term Fitzroyalty. But I cannot ignore the consequences of my use of it. Choosing to associate with the term is a deliberate act, albeit one with possibly unintended consequences. Whereas the comedy show possibly tried to ride on the search strength of an unusual word like Fitzroyalty, the Fitzroy Learning Network is probably just trying to attract more attendees to their fundraising ball. If you like the sound of ball and want to support the Fitzroy Learning Network, please book a ticket.

12 comments

  1. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for coming to see the first showing preview of my debut comedy show Fitzroyalty “A know your Brunswick St tour”. Quite chuffed you have now mentioned it on your website. Cheers!

    Would just like your readers to know that I had named my show a long time before even knowing your website existed. It was only after talking to the owner of Fitzroyalty (Incidentally the owner of the venue my show was performed in) that your website and how popular the use of the term Fitzroyalty (other than on the street), was made aware to me.

    It was not named as you say as an attempt to “ride on the search strength” of your website. I think I would have been performing to about 30 people dresses as empty chairs every night had that been a consideration. It is well known that the majority of people use festival guides to decide what shows they will see. Not sure how many punters would be sitting there Googling “Fitzroyalty” in the hope a comedy show would come up.

    I think you are surrounding yourself in self importance on this issue and very out of touch with the community. You struggle to separate yourself from your website and see them as separate entities. It may serve you and your readers well if you were to do so.

    Use of the term Fitzroyalty, is and should be available to anyone to use as they see fit for whatever marketing, or promotion they want to. Within the law.

    The word Fitzroyalty is instantly recognisable with Fitzroy and as an obvious choice of word to attract people to Fitzroy related projects . The content on your website is not always related to Fitzroy . It could often be the case that someone viewing your website for the first tine would be mislead into thinking that it was a Fitzroy only blog. In fact one would have to first read up to the 3rd paraghraph of your “About Fitzroyalty” section to find out it also included content outside of the Fitzroy realm.

    Rather than chastising others about the way the market themselves, maybe it is you who should look at re marketing your website to be more reflective of its content. You may avoid these unwanted comparisons you speak of! I suspect they are not as unwanted as you make out though.

    Cheers Simon Brodie

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 0

  2. Wow, you really do have a massively over-inflated sense of self-importance. Unsubscribed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  3. I note more than just a little self-contradiction in the above.

    “I have no wish to control use of the term Fitzroyalty”

    “I looked into the legality of the name … so I could use it with more surety that no one else could use it”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

    • You’ve missed the context cues. In c2008 I wanted to register a business name but found I could not because it is already in use. So I gave up on that idea and focused on developing good content. I could have changed the name to something I could secure but chose to continue with the original name even though I cannot secure it. My aim is to avoid confusion and ambiguity as much as I can, hence this post.

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  4. So anytime someone uses a term “in common colloquial use” they should first search the internet in case they offend some blogger with an inflated ego and disproportionate sense of self importance?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

    • You seem incapable of understanding the general point I am making. When acts of communication uses words or phrases without being aware of their cultural context or alternate meanings they encourage ambiguity or confusion and undermine their own clarity and effectiveness.

      Given that the organisation in question already knew of the blog’s existence, and perhaps also of the comedy show’s existence, using the term Fitzroyalty to market their ball was, in my opinion, not a good or effective strategy.

      I had people asking me if I was running the event. This demonstrates that the message that the event was being held by an NGO was not clearly or effectively communicated to the public.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  5. I can’t agree that your assertion regarding use of the “fitzroyalty’ term by another party or entity is a bad marketing decision . In fact I think it could be as appropriate as it was for it’s use for your blog’s title.

    Looking at the screen capture which you provided one can see at a glance that the term ‘fitzroyalty’ has and is being used in various ways. I think that most people are intelligent enough to work everyday uses to contexts of terms and names.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • So why have many people asked me if I am performing a comedy show and hosting a ball? Have those who are responsible for these events lost potential customers because of this? I don’t know the answer but I am suggesting that it’s a risk that is easily avoided.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  6. Sure identities can and do get confused, especially on the internet where domain names are concerned. However, I can’t see how organisers of this particular event have lost customers, as those inquiring by sending messages to you will simply move on and continue their search if they are so determined.

    After all you are not in competition with the comedy show and there is no other issues of ambiguity other than the term ‘fitzroyalty’

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. If I did loose customers I don’t think they would have been in my target market anyway. The more the merrier I say but I marketed my show towards 22-35 year olds who have had a distinct affinity with Fitzroy and in particular Brunswick St. Between 2000 and present. The big majority of my audience were just that, so I think it worked and both of my seasons were profitable and got some great reviews I can use for the future.

    I note that of the 487 people that saw the show only 2 people asked if I had anything to do with the blog, which I think shows that not many people in my target market knew of it’s existence.

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    • The 2 people who asked the question are evidence of the potential confusion I am discussing. It does not mean the other 485 don’t know about this site, but that they were not confused.

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  8. Well I am happy with a less than one half of a percent margin for error. Although I am sure there would have been people there that would have read your Blog the come to my show.

    From what I have experienced with another project I work on called Bogan Bingo trademarking the name would involve selecting which category you wanted to protect Eg clothing and manchester, publishing etc there are literally 10′s of categories. So unless you trademarked the word in every category (Which would cost thousands and you would need a trademark lawyer just to play it safe) it would make no difference to any confusion that occurs any way. Bogan Bingo provides entertainment and was sent a cease and desist letter after we started selling truckie singlets with out trademarked logo on it, because someone has trademarked Bogan Clothing. Very different businesses with only one word in common.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

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