The Freecycle Network

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The Freecycle Network (often abbreviated TFN or just known as Freecycle) is a non-profit organization registered in the state of Arizona, USA, and separately registered as a UK charity, that organizes a worldwide network of "gifting" groups, aiming to divert reusable goods from landfills. It provides a worldwide online registry, and coordinates the creation of local groups and forums for individuals and non-profits to offer and receive free items for reuse or recycling, promoting gift economy as a motivating cultural outlook. "Changing the world one gift at a time" is The Freecycle Network's official tagline.

Background

The organization originated as a project of RISE Inc., a nonprofit corporation, to promote waste reduction in Tucson, Arizona. RISE subsequently handed it over to the project leader, Deron Beal. Beal set up the first Freecycle e-mail group for the citizens of Tucson. The concept has since spread to over 85 countries, with thousands of local groups and millions of members.

Each local group currently exists either as a Yahoo! Groups mailing list or on the TFN's own MyFreecycle software run by volunteer moderators. TFN encourages the formation of new groups, subject to approval by regional New Group Approvers (NGAs). Groups approved by TFN are listed at the official website, can use the name and logo, and are subject to rules enforced by a structure of global and regional GOAs (Group Outreach Assistance). TFN originally planned to move a custom designed, centralized site in 2004, but the project moved slowly, largely because of a shortage of skilled volunteer labor. In 2008, Freecycle went live with a beta version of a centralized, custom site. As of March 2009, all new groups must be started on www.Freecycle.org's new group system, giving TFN even more control over the individual groups. Moderators of existing Yahoogroups have the choice (at this time) of remaining on Yahoogroups or moving their groups to the freecycle.org site.

Successes

TFN has grown rapidly into a global organization of over four thousand local chapters, and passed the 2 million member mark in February 2006.

As of May 2011, the membership stands at 8,406,190 across 4,940 communities.

The original idea has since been copied and varied by hundreds of similar groups around the world.

Controversies

Corporate support

In February 2005, Deron Beal accepted TFN's first corporate support of $130,000 from Waste Management, Inc. (WMI)

Trademark issues

  • A formal trademark opposition was filed in federal court by FreecycleSunnyvale against The Freecycle Network in January 2006. An injunction was granted against Mr. Oey in May 2006 for allegedly disparaging the TFN trademark. This injunction was stayed in July 2006 and was eventually dissolved by the Ninth Circuit in September 2007.
  • During 2006, in order to defend their trademark TFN also pursued other free recycling groups who either mentioned the term "freecycle" or allegedly had "confusingly similar derivations thereof".
  • Free speech advocates, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and 38 law professors filed an Amicus brief to oppose a trademark infringement lawsuit TFN filed against Tim Oey. The basis for the opposition is that the lawsuit violates First Amendment rights. Separately Jimmy Wales, and some law professors, including Lawrence Lessig, filed a second amicus brief also supporting Tim Oey.
  • On November 24, 2010, TFN lost its trademark claim to "Freecycle" and to its logo in United States federal court. In her opinion Judge Callahan stated unequivocally that "Beal did not coin the word “freecycle” and TFN is not the first organization to promote freecycling" and that "even ... viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to TFN ... [they] engaged in naked licensing and consequently abandoned the trademarks.

UK breakaway

Over the course of 2009, there was repeated conflict between the UK's Independent Association of Freecycle Moderators and the US-based founders of the company, regarding the lack of freedom for UK-based Freecycle groups to develop new localized initiatives and features, and their treatment of volunteer group owners and moderators. This culminated in the UK Director Neil Morris and at least 20 local group owners and moderators being dismissed and replaced with US-based counterparts. In response the leaders of Brighton’s Freecycle broke away from their US parent organisation and formed a rival site, GreenCycleSussex and other UK-based Freecycle groups formed a new independent association called Freegle.

As of March 2010, Freecycle UK claimed 494 groups with 1,722,575 members.

See also

Official sites

News and media

Web globe.png This article contains text from the Wikipedia article on The Freecycle Network.