I was forwarded the very fine first edition of the PCV newsletter out of Colombia. New PCVs arrived there a couple months ago. It is called ¿¡Oíste?! In it is a short article I thought was worth reprinting for all of you. It was written by Chance Dorland (great name) about posting a PodCast using the secret name “Peace Corps.” Here’s what Chance Dorland had to say.
The message: Beware of using the “Peace Corps” name for online media, even if you get permission in advance.
As a write this, I’m still brain-storming ways to inform people my website has changed.
“PeaceCorpsPodCast.com” was easy to remember and straight to the point: it’s a web-site about a podcast I record while in the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, as one staff member told me, “your website is a victim of its own success.”
This all is an example of the power Peace Corps has on hand to enforce its rules. As every Volunteer here knows, I’ve promoted my 3rd goal project since the moment we landed. I followed protocol by informing George about not only my podcast name but the EXACT website I would use to post photos, videos and podcasts. I told him I would also use the podcast to communicate with Iowa students through the World Wise Schools program.
With a false sense of security gained by following the rules, I was blown away after getting pulled aside in January and told I needed, in fact was MANDATED by law, to stop using “PeaceCorpsPodCast.com.” I was being given the “standard” language reserved for instances when someone hadn’t followed the rules, “Bylaw, the Peace Corps name and logo may be used only to designate programs authorized under the Peace Corps Act,” and it was obvious someone hadn’t taken the time properly view my web page, with its clear disclaimer displayed in multiple places and media formats.
The fact that I had used the name for three months, had even interviewed Peace Corps Chief of Staff Stacy Rhodes without incident, corresponded with the acting Director of PC’s Communications Office, or that multiple websites used the name the same way I did (PeaceCorpsJournals.com, Peace-CorpsConnect.org, and Peace-CorpsWiki.org, to name just a few), didn’t seem to matter.
In the end, I was fearful of where a refusal might lead, and probably made the smartest decision by saying goodbye to my journalistic integrity, something I had made of fun of people in college for having, and changed my website to “ChanceDorland.com.”
However, during the week or so I had between my first and final speaking to about the matter, I emailed with a few lawyers and employees of large film and television companies.
Everyone seemed to agree my website was legal, but more or less encouraged me to either save myself trouble by folding my hand or getting a lawyer and try to make a fuss large enough to gain the attention of national news. I wonder how it would have turned out. — Chance Dorland