Hot news in the X Factor camp this afternoon; self-styled ‘wild-child’ Frankie Cocozza has been booted off of the UK’s prime-time darling of a TV show. The news was so unexpected, it sent media outlets into a frenzy – when The Sun broke the story it actually resulted in Twitter going over capacity – big news story of the day, or so one would think.
Previous to this announcement, the X Factor were gifted with another breaking news announcement, although it appears they don’t stand by the age-old theory that ‘any publicity is good publicity’. The public shafting of an 18 year old man, obviously blinded by the promise of fame and indulging in the type of vices to make your grandmother blush, is much more preferable to that of reasoning with the general public as to why they’re still sneaking around behind a music charity’s back.
It was reported at the end of October that Rhythmix, an organisation providing access to music for young people in the South East of England, had succeeded in their battle to get the producers of the television show to change the name of one of the hotly tipped girl groups in the competition who had adopted the same moniker – 12 years after the initial trademark registration by the charity.
This coup, this apparent feel-good story of David beating Goliath was widely reported, hitting regional, national and online media outlets as soon as the story broke. The girls of Rhythmix, now Little Mix, had taken it upon themselves to change the name, resulting in good PR all around.
Despite this, the legal wrangling isn’t quite over. The dispute between both parties was not one devised in order to publicise either Rhythmix, it was in fact a move to save a charitable organisation that has helped over 40,000 young people get involved in music in situations where the opportunity may have slipped them by. The issue was not primarily with the actual name of the X Factor group, but the parent company of X Factor, Simco’s application to register the name as a licensed trademark throughout the UK and EU that would have resulted in the charity being legally unable to continue it’s work under the same guise and thus invest any surplus funds that was earmarked for young people into a rebranding campaign.
Here’s the kicker for all you advocates of charity out there; Simco haven’t yet withdrawn their trademark application for the name Rhythmix. In an open letter published on social networking site Facebook, the charity’s director, Mark Davyd, states the severity of the continuing battle to save their name. Regardless of the public announcement and positive PR generated for both parties, it has been divulged that Simco’s pursuit of trademarking the Rhythmix name still stands. Although Davyd states that his organisation has contacted Simco’s legal representatives numerous times to resolve this issue, the charity had received no response at the time of writing. Davyd goes on to state:
“…Simco and your legal representatives are choosing not to respond to any of the formal letters sent to them. This is despite the legal problems between your company and the Charity being caused entirely by the actions of Simco, despite the thousands of pounds in legal fees that are the responsibility of Simco, and despite the failure to conclude the matter properly. Why won’t they respond? Because the legal advice is that the Charity cannot afford to pursue Simco through the courts, so the best way to “win” this matter is to not deal with it and wait for the Charity’s money to run out.”
The scenario set out above is a very realistic one. With legal costs now inflated into the thousands of pounds, the charity’s existence is very much under threat once again. One could argue that a charity should not be resorting to social media in order to try and settle a legal dispute, but with a useful (and free) distribution tool at their fingertips, who can blame them? Without any response from legal executives who are doing what is asked of them and financial reserves drying up, one can argue that they had no option.
Is it now the duty of the users of social networks to lobby change in multi-national corporations? Unfortunately this now seems to be the case. The notion of corporate social responsibility of large companies in this instance can be seen to be unworkable; surely the executives at Simco must feel an iota of responsibility in aiding a charity, no matter how big or small, continue to deliver its services to the cross-section of the public that value them so much?
As Davyd summarises in the letter mentioned above: “You can choose to take an interest in this matter or you can choose not to.” With shares and comments on Rhythmix’s open letter now in the hundreds, just how long will it be before the executives and legal team take notice?