Believe it or not, according to FSC Australia, if you use the letters ‘FSC’ or ‘Forest Stewardship Council’, you need to seek approval, in order to allow FSC to “check the accuracy of the text”. At least that’s what Timber + Design International was told when they contacted FSC Australia last year.
FSC’s website explains that FSC owns three registered trademarks:
- the initials “FSC®”;
- the name “Forest Stewardship Council®”;
- the “checkmark-and-tree” logo
And FSC takes protecting its trademarks “very seriously”:
FSC trademarks may only be used by organizations or individuals that have obtained authorization, and use must be in compliance with FSC’s trademark standards and guidelines.
The FSC trademarks are the intellectual property of the FSC and we take their protection and enforcement very seriously.
Obviously, FSC doesn’t really mean to prevent journalists from writing about FSC. Or does it? The point of the trademarks is surely to prevent companies from misusing FSC to promote their products. Or is it? FSC lists six categories that may want to use FSC trademarks. Media is covered in two categories: Non-Certificate Holders; and Media.
FSC’s website on non-certificate holders explains that,
Non-certificate holders include commercial and non-commercial organizations, educational and research institutions, the media, and FSC accredited certification bodies and their partners. [emphasis added]
In order to use the FSC trademarks for general or product promotion, the individual or organization needs to sign an FSC trademark license agreement; representatives of the media, educational institutions or research organizations must sign an acknowledgement of receipt of the logo files.
Meanwhile, FSC’s website on media explains that,
Members of the media who want to use the FSC trademarks in publications, in order to inform the public about FSC certification and who do not make commercial claims related to FSC, do not need any form of certification.
The FSC National Office in your country can work directly with you to provide advice and logo files. If you wish to use the FSC trademarks you need to sign an acknowledgement of receipt of logo files.
Confusing isn’t it? Here’s Timber + Design International’s article on the subject:
WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T MENTION THE FSC
According to Wikipedia, ‘censorship’ is the suppression of speech or other public communication, which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.
And a recent experience suggests that is what the Australian branch of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is trying to impose.
When we invited FSC Australia to answer a series of questions in response to the contention that forest certification is a huge success – but it is in the wrong neck of the woods? chief executive Natalie Reynolds pulled out the big stick.
Apart from declining to participate because the “fundamental title of the article [never a title, just a point of reference] is negative”, she warned that “anything you write about FSC, if you use the trademarks which are the letters ‘FSC’, words ‘Forest Stewardship Council’ and the checkmark and tree logo … you must seek approval so we can check accuracy of the text in accordance with the process described here [reference to a website]”.
Do the people at FSC seriously believe they can manipulate free speech and stifle public comment in that way? Imagine if Qantas, McDonalds or the Catholic Church tried to pull the same stroke! Surely the intention of the policy is to curtail unauthorised use of the FSC brand in a marketing sense. If not, it is arrogant and unacceptable in the modern age.
Contrast that with the reaction to the same questions (and ‘title’) from the more media-savvy and altogether friendlier people at PEFC International – the world’s biggest forest certification organisation. Their communications boss Thorsten Arndt responded in full and placed no conditions on how we used the information. (PEFC endorses the Australian Forestry Standard, which certifies the sustainability of some 10 million ha of the country’s hardwood and planted forest. By contrast, FSC certifies less than 1000 ha in Australia.)
Censorship attempts notwithstanding, we take a closer look at the cost/benefits of forest certification and chain-of-custody in the September issue.
By Tony Neilson – editor