[UPDATED] Adam Parfrey of Feral House Fame and the Electronic Frontier Foundation Prepare to Challenge Dervaeses Over 'Urban Homestead' Trademark

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Now in its second printing--get a copy!
UPDATE, FEB. 21, 11:04 A.M.: As promised, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has thrown down the legal gauntlet. "The Dervaes Institute should recognize that this is one community that will not be intimidated, cease its heavy-handed tactics, and take steps to repair the damage it has caused," writes EFF intellectual-property director Corynne McSherry. Her legal letter to the Dervaeses minces no words, calling their campaign misguided and giving them until this Friday to demonstrate to the EFF that they have taken steps to right the wrongs they specifically committed against The Urban Homestead and Process Media.

"In addition," McSherry writes in the letter, "I strongly urge you to take similar steps with regard to the myriad other organizations and persons who have also been the targets of this misguided campaign. Please be aware that while we are hopeful that this issue can be resolved promptly and amicably, we reserve the right to pursue all legal remedies as necessary."

Oh, happy day!

ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 19, 7 A.M.: I have long admired Adam Parfrey--as a nerd and fortean, how could I not? His Feral House publishing company has long put out bizarre tomes ranging from a bio on Ed Wood to the writings of Ted Kaczynski and virtually everything in between. So imagine my surprise when Parfrey sent me an e-mail noting he, too, had been punked by the Dervaes clan, the dingbats who created a national storm when they trademarked the terms "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading" and began sending threatening letters to organizations blogs, and individuals who use the term.

Turns out Parfrey also publishes books via Process Media, a joint venture with Jodi Wille in which they put out more mainstream reads, including the manual at left: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutsen. It was released June 2008, three months before the Dervaes family filed paperwork to have "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading" trademarked as their property and two years before they received it. So imagine Parfrey's surprise when he received the Dervaeses' infamous cease-and-desist letter on Feb. 14 informing him that they owned the copyright to what his book's title stated.

And then Parfrey noticed that any mentions of the book on Process Media's Facebook page were disappearing.

Parfrey knew of the Dervaeses, knew "they're one of the primary urban farmers  in LA, but there were others around the country," he said in an interview. But he didn't know what to make of their letter. "We didn't transgress any trademark. Does that mean everything done with those words is now illegal?"

He contacted Facebook about the issue regarding his book; they replied they were keeping the Process Media links down until the Dervaeses agreed to allow the restoration of the links. On Wednesday, Parfrey sent an e-mail addressed to family patriarch Jules Dervaes, demanding he restore his links and those of others who had suffered from their ridiculous trademark war.

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Parfrey: "I've dealt with cultists before, and [Jules Dervaes] seems like it"
"Your Facebook actions against us (and others) are particularly harmful," Parfrey wrote in an e-mail he provided to the Weekly. "We request that you contact 'The Facebook Team' . . . to inform them that Process Media did not transgress your rights. If you fail to do that, we consider your actions as malicious and without legal basis. If this is not amicably resolved, we'd be forced to engage in a legal battle that could be costly for all parties."

The legal battle begins Monday--Boing Boing reported yesterday that the Electronic Frontier Foundation will represent Parfrey in a yet-undisclosed legal strategy. "They have plans to deal with the situation" was all Parfrey would say on Friday.

Although Parfrey is specifically fighting for his property, he's also more than happy to take up the battle for the others affected by the Dervaeses' actions. "How any malicious person anywhere can go and distrupt hundreds and thousands of people at once by saying their rights have been transgressed by some post is disturbing," Parfrey says. He did remember one previous run-in with Jules and his clan: In 2009, Pasadena Weekly ran a feature on The Urban Homestead book and asked the Dervaeses for a comment. From the story:

The family declined to be interviewed for this story. Spokeswoman Janice Bakke said, "They are the original urban homesteaders" and didn't want to participate in a story that included the authors of The Urban Homestead, with whom they have a dispute. She said the Dervaeses claim ownership of the term "urban homestead" and believe Coyne and Knutzen have infringed upon it. Knutzen and Coyne say neither the family nor its representatives have been in contact with them.

"We couldn't figure it out then, but now it all makes sense," Parfrey says. "[Jules Dervaes] has a feeling of grandiosity that has no relation to reality, and I'm concerned about that. Because it has a David Koresh aspect to me. I've dealt with cultists before, and he seems like it."

"We should be friends in some way," Parfrey adds with a laugh. "I published a book with Ted Kaczynski, and Jules once published this great rant against technology."

That rant--and much more--on Monday. Stay tuned. . . .


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