Founded in 1997, the Digital Divas have grown to a membership of 71 women around the world. In addition to championing copyright enforcement, they also provide a free, member-written digital newsletter that provides Web-design help and advice.
In April, Microsoft launched a Web site at Digitaldiva.com that features a woman named Stacy Elliott giving advice to women on how to use the Internet and computer technology. This is all very corporate, and is not the community effort set up by the Digital Divas. For example, Microsoft provides marketing information on their target audience right off of the Digital Diva site.
Dana Whitmire, founder and 'Fearless Leader' of the Digital Divas, is mad as hell. "The whole thing makes me very angry, and it's frustrating. We've worked very hard to build a sound reputation and a good group, and I think we've done a good job. It's extremely infuriating that Microsoft comes along and takes the name with their power, money and PR machine behind them and the possibility that they can just run over us and undo everything we've done."
At first glance, it seems as if the problem could be purely accidental. However, research into the Digital Divas name shows a staggering number of Web sites and resources run by members of the Digital Divas. So, Dana, what are the chances that this could be a simple mistake? "We feel the chances are virtually nil. If anyone searched any search engine, there is no possible way they they could not have found us. We've grown steadily, and this is something that we've done with just elbow grease, pure and simple. It's all been very grassroots. We don't have a big publicity machine behind us. This has been the individual members pouring heart and soul into it."
Microsoft has responded to the cease and desist letter sent by the Digital Divas, informing the Divas that they didn't feel that 'Digital Diva' was a trademarkable term, according to Digital Diva and Attorney Faith Kaminski. "Our response to them has been showing them that we've had continuous use of the name dating from 1997, and it includes printouts from Network Solutions, and E-mails dating back to November of 1997."
Meanwhile, Microsoft is stepping up the appearance schedule of Stacy Elliott, their own Digital Diva. The 'original' Divas are angry not only for the alleged trademark violation, but also because of the way in which Stacy Elliott presents herself, and the name Digital Diva. Stacy Elliot's recent interview at siliconvalley.com got the Divas in an uproar. "She's just continuing her stance that women are such idiots when it comes to computers, that we're so afraid of them," Dana said in an interview yesterday, "It's really, really, condescending. ... The damage that we're suffering is that damage to our reputation. Our reputation is not for being a bunch of women who are idiots about computers. Our reputation is being people who are very computer-savvy, and this woman is trashing that by going around saying 'I'm a Digital Diva, and all women are morons.'"
Remember, it costs nothing to join the Digital Divas. It's a free organization. There's not a lot of money lying around to support a legal fight. Dana Whitmire has a day job. The organization exists because of the goodwill and volunteerism of talented people, not as the fruit of a vast payroll account. The good news is that Friends of Ed, Ltd., a division of Wrox Press, is publishing 'The Digital Divas Design Guide,' a real-world book with Web-design advice. Wrox Press heard about the legal issues that the Divas are involved in, and offered them a $10,000 advance to pay for legal fees. Moses & Singer agreed to match that amount with services, and will be fighting for the Divas all the way up through a preliminary injunction hearing against Microsoft.
Well, what's next? The Digital Divas have written back to Microsoft with a mountain of evidence that they've been around since 1997, and expect to see a response from Microsoft by noon today, Wednesday, May 31st. Thanks to the dynamic nature of the Web, expect to see this story updated with new information about this legal battle.