Chicago Public Media asks ‘This American Whore’ podcast to change name

SF Weekly
The host of “This American Whore,” a podcast about sex work, tells Chris Hall she’s received emails from lawyers for Chicago Public Media demanding she change the show’s name.

It’s hardly surprising that a brand like “This American Life” would aim to protect its trademark. But Hall notes that Siouxsie Q’s podcast is not alone in playing on the name of the Ira Glass-hosted show:

Other podcasts with similar titles include This American Life Total, for fans of Magic the Gathering and other trading card games; This American Wife, which has over 60 episodes and directly parodies Ira Glass; and This American Horror Story, for fans of the television show. In addition, PBS airs a weekly series about the environment called This American Land. It’s hard to argue that CPM and Glass have been diligent in asserting exclusive rights to use of “This American _________” in media productions.

“It’s less about the name,” Siouxsie Q tells Hall, “and more about the narrative of people with power telling people without power how they should get their voices out there.” She says her listeners have given her a “resounding response that This American Whore is worth fighting for.”

Ira Glass responded to Poynter’s question by email via Director of Operations Seth Lind:

It’s recently been reported in the press that we’re asking the podcast This American Whore to change their name. There’s been a suggestion that we’re singling them out because of their content. We’re not!

I’ve listened to This American Whore. I find them charming. It’s an interesting podcast and a window into a world that’s very different from my daily life, for sure. I’m glad they’re out there making these and hope they continue.

But the way trademark law works is that we or any business with a trademarked name has to protect that name. If you don’t take action when you hear about people knocking off your name, and get them to stop, you can lose your trademark rights.

Whenever we find out about any podcasts with names similar to ours, our lawyers review what action would be appropriate. Some names and shows are parodies, which are a protected class under the law. Some have audiences that are so negligible that they pose no trademark threat.

Last year, we had an issue with a podcast called This American Startup, and they eventually agreed to modify their name. In the past we’ve taken similar actions which didn’t get press attention. There are some other shows and podcasts out there still with names similar to ours that our lawyers are planning to approach. This American Whore is not being singled out.

I wish them the best. Make more podcasts! I’ll keep listening! If I lose this job and become a sex worker, I hope you’ll have me on as a guest. Just change your name.

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