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.
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.