The Death of a Duck

WADL {The Witches Anti Discrimination League )  died a painful death on the eve of Y2K.  Steve Foster, President of WADL National announced that as of January 1, 2000 WADL National would henceforth be known as AREN, the Alternative Religious Education Network.  After more than 30 years as the premier voice for Pagan and Wiccan culture, WADL was no more.  A very sad day indeed.

Sadder still is how our faithful little anti-discrimination duck met its demise.  The ADL (Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith) killed it.  Yup, our poor little duck was shot down by another Religious Rights organization.  It seems that the ADL (Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith) claims that the name WADL {The Witches Anti Discrimination League ) infringes on their trademark rights. WADL was informed that they were trespassing on the ADL's intellectual property and that WADL could face legal action if they didn't vacate.  We asked the ADL for their side of this sorry story and we have posted their response in its entirety HERE{click}.  Read it and weep.  As would be expected, the forced name change and associated issues have caused severe internal conflicts within the organization losing its identity (see related story "Why WADL like a duck, when you can fly like AREN?".

This is not a new problem for WADL.  About 10 years ago, the ADL required WADL to change its name from the "Witches Anti-Defamation League" to the "Witches Anti-Discrimination  Lobby".  Somewhere along the line the "Witches Anti-Discrimination Lobby"  National became known as "Witches Anti-Discrimination League".  Not all WADL groups changed and some Regional chapters retained the "Witches Anti-Discrimination Lobby".

There is no question that the ADL has exclusive use of the phrase "Anti-Defamation".  They have provided case numbers and ample examples of where they have squashed other organizations using those words.  Can they now claim sole ownership of the phrase "anti-discrimination", as well as the letters "ADL" too?  It appears that they can, and not because right is on their side either, but because they have so much money that no one can afford to fight them for it.

As is so often the case these days, the folks with the most money get whatever they want and the folks without money get screwed. The ADL has pockets so deep that their change bangs against their ankles when they walk.  They chose to use this awesome power to bully a small, all volunteer, Religious Rights organization into giving up what little name recognition it had. 

As this is being written, supporters of WADL New England are frantically searching for an organization with the resources and willingness to help defend the "intellectual property" rights of citizens who don't have millions of dollars.  Surely there must be someone out there with bucks who believes that one lone group is only entitled to exclusive use of so much of the English language? {on a side note: If you are a supremacists or hate group, and you want to "help", don't even bother knocking. Neither WADL New England, The WitchTower, nor any Pagan we know wants "help" that badly... go away!}.

What is needed here is for someone with the money to stand up and say that there is a limit to how much virtual real estate these multi million dollar mega groups can lay claim to.  When did we as a people decide that a few well healed, privileged elite should be allowed to wall off large portions of the English language for themselves?  While it is certainly fair that companies be allowed to protect their actual names and trademarks from misuse, this "it's too similar" stuff is getting ridiculous. There are only 15,600 3 letter combinations possible in the English alphabet (much thanks to the folks in alt.math for this figure : )  Does this mean that the other 1/2 million or so companies can not have acronyms? 

A quick web search turned up evidence of six activists groups with names or acronyms similar to the ADL.

The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination League  (AAADL)
The Gay & Lesbian Anti-Discrimination League (GLADL)
The Women's Anti-Discrimination League (WADL)
The Anti Discrimination Lobby (ADL)
The Animal Defense League (ADL)
The African American Defense League (AADL)

We asked the ADL if they planned on threatening these organizations too, or was it just the Witches that they object to.  In their RESPONSE they indicated that they had already "taken action against several of the organizations referenced", and that they (the ADL) have "plans to look into the remaining organizations of which it was unaware".  To us, this says that either the ADL is only targeting groups that are actually getting media coverage, or that they don't have anyone working for them who knows how to use a search engine.  Either way, we wonder if this is really how the folks who contributed their hard earned money to the ADL intended for it to be spent. 

You can contact the ADL's Public Relations Department at:

For more information about challenging "intellectual property" rights visit:

Against Intellectual Property 
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Intellectual Property Issues
Librarians Against Intellectual Property