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Using the word Permaculture  RSS feed

 
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What qualifications or requirements does one need to use the word Permaculture?

Is Permaculture a protected word like ZipLock or kleenex?  If one uses it, does one get into trouble?  Who would one need to ask for permission to use permaculture?

Or is it a word that is for people with specific criteria?  For example, graduates of a Permaculture Design Course could use the word but lay people like myself could not?

Is it an open and friendly word that many people can use?  Does the permission to use it depend on the context?  

What about the meaning of the word.  It has at least two meanings that I know of (permanent agriculture and permanent culture) and many interpretations on that theme.  





As some of you know, I wrote a book.  It's a book about growing yarn sustainably at home.  I think it's a good match for pemaculture.  Many of the techniques I talk about in that book, I learned from hanging out with permaculture people.

I consider myself permaculture curious.  I read a few books on the topic.  I spend at least an hour a day reading about permaculture related topics.  I use permaculture techniques on my farm and in my daily life.  I'm probably a solid four on the Paul Wheaton Eco-Scale.  I am constantly interacting with permaculture people - on and offline.  Heck, they even let me come on staff here at permies, one of the largest - if not THE largest permaculture forum in the world.

For all this, I feel I only have a moderate understanding of the world of permaculture.  

I like the idea of spreading the word permaculture and talking about it in my book.  Much of my target audience has never heard the word before.  

But I also don't feel qualified.  

So I ask you, the permaculture community - what do I need to be able to talk about permaculture in that context?  


 
pollinator
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Good question I've been wondering about that myself.   I've read that it's a trademarked name, but it's used so frequently to refer to methods of gardening it's hard to know what's legal.    It seems that it's not allowed to use for a legal Name of a business or book or product,  but it's ok to use as an adjective to reference techniques.   So if I had a blog, I can't call it "Permaculture Paradise"   but I could use it in a sentence describing how I set up my "permaculture food forest"    ???
 
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I'm curious about this too, so I spent some time googling the interwebs during lunch just now and I learned that Mollison has in print, on the copyright page of his books, the phrase "The content of this book and the word permaculture are copyright". Does saying that mean it's copyrighted? I don't know as I can't find any information as to the word Permaculture being officially filed with some important copyrighting agency.

I did come across this thread on reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/Permaculture/comments/1uicg2/til_bill_mollison_the_father_of_permaculture_had/ about how Mollison tried to file to trademark the word permaculture, which is different than copyrighting, and according to information in this reddit thread, has apparently been denied trademarking each time he's applied.

It seems to me it would be like copyrighting the word "brewing", with schools teaching brewing worldwide, and people practicing brewing in business. I think it's difficult to copyright an idea, or concept.
 
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I think it doesn't matter.

I think it's great that people want to gather under the permaculture banner, but the word itself, apart from the meanings we give it, doesn't say anything about the concept, except in the vaguest of terms.

Which is why, I think, people shy away from it when describing their projects. Oh, I will use the word generally, as in, "...according to some of the principles of Permaculture...," or, "...designed in the spirit of Permaculture...," but when pressed on what that means, I use words like resilient and sustainable, and then I will describe specific techniques unique to the specific project.

Many people have eschewed the word altogether because of this perceived lack of meaning. As Paul has put it in his podcasts, anyone can put bubblegum on a stick and call it Permaculture if they've taken a PDC, and unless Bill's estate or Geoff Lawton get serious in the legal sense over the issue, they can get away with it.

I think the word is the least important part of the concept and movement, personally. As long as the systems themselves are resilient and lead to more healthy, living soil, what does it matter? I'd rather be precise than risk being misunderstood just to be included under a banner.

-CK
 
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"The word 'permaculture' can be used by anybody adhering to the ethics and principles expressed herein.  The only restriction on use is that of teaching; only graduates of a permaculture Institute can teach 'permaculture', and they adhere to agreed-on curriculae developed by the College of Graduates of the Institutes of Permaculture."  King of Permaculture Bill Mollison, Preface to Permaculture A Designers Manual

As I understand it, teaching by demonstration is not the same as "teaching permaculture" for the Design Certificate.

For specific questions about use, you can ask Geoff Lawton, the Prince of Permaculture, or Paul Wheaton, the Duke of Permaculture.

 
James Freyr
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This has really sparked some interest in me today, so I've been learning about copyrights, and it can get really complicated with things that are actually copyrighted. But, I did see two interesting lines in Wikipedia's definition of copyright. One states, and it's in the first paragraph, "...copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves." The second thing I saw was "Copyright does not cover ideas and information themselves, only the form or manner in which they are expressed", essentially the first quote but reworded.

I mentioned in my reply above that I couldn't find anything about the word permaculture being filed with some official copyrighting agency, and I just learned why this may be. It's called the Berne Convention, and Wikipedia states it's basically an internationally recognized agreement governing copyrighting. Basically, a work is instantly copyrighted the moment it is "fixed" (published, printed, etc.) rather than requiring some sort of official registration or filing.

So I went over to Permaculture Magazine's website and I could not find anywhere a statement about using the word Permaculture with permission. On their website here https://permaculturemag.org/2016/02/what-is-permaculture/ what I find very interesting is there is no mention of Mollison or Holmgren. Here's a quote from their website:

Writer Emma Chapman defines it as:

“Permaculture, originally ‘Permanent Agriculture’, is often viewed as a set of gardening techniques, but it has in fact developed into a whole design philosophy, and for some people a philosophy for life. Its central theme is the creation of human systems which provide for human needs, but using many natural elements and drawing inspiration from natural ecosystems. Its goals and priorities coincide with what many people see as the core requirements for sustainability.”

There's not even a nod to the guys that coined the term.

My interpretation of what I've learned today is David Holmgrens and Bill Mollisons books are copyrighted, but the ideas and concepts of Permaculture are not. I also don't believe the word Permaculture is copyrighted and appears it can freely be used in any print or publication.
 
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I recorded a podcast with geoff lawton where i asked him this exact question.  

I had taken a pdc so i could use the word "permaculture" in my bidness stuff.  But geoff said I didn't need to do that.  

So, as things are now, somebody could stick a bit of gum on the end of a stick and call that "permaculture".  

 
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Yup, James researched it out and Geoff is reflecting the legal reality.  Copyright isn't relevant because it applies to "works of authorship", not individual words, ideas, or concepts.  Only if the word "Permaculture" had been successfully trademarked by someone would that person or entity (and nobody else) be able to prevent others from using it in select competitive contexts.  But even so, trademark rights have limits, and it is emphatically not the case that you can't refer to trademarks in non-fiction writing, so even if there were a trademark, that wouldn't necessarily be a problem (depending on what you said).

Since it hasn't been successfully trademarked, Geoff was right and Paul is right.  I'd go a step further.  I could make pants out of pink asbestos and organophosphate paste and market them as "Permaculture Pants".  Of course, I'd have to be a huge howling dick to do that.  My rule of thumb for putting it in a book would be to ask myself "Will invoking the word like this make old Bill Mollison spin in his grave?  Or am I advancing the agenda he stood for?"  If you're not sure, you could always get a couple of readers more steeped in permaculture to check you -- but in this case, I don't feel that's at all likely to be needed!

 
r ranson
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wow, there are a lot of podcasts with Paul and Geoff

That's also scary about gum on a stick.  I hope this won't go the way 'organic' did.

Good that I can legally use the word Permaculture.

How about ways to use it respectfully?  You're a pretty big permaculture guy, Paul.  In your ideal world, what would be a respectful way to use this word?  (I'm off to listen to some podcasts)  
 
Tyler Ludens
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paul wheaton wrote:
So, as things are now, somebody could stick a bit of gum on the end of a stick and call that "permaculture".  



I could call a cat a dog but that wouldn't make it so.  :p

 
Chris Kott
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Yes, but labelling a bunch of stuff "permaculture" that clearly isn't by most permies' understanding  really muddies the water for those trying to learn more about it. If there's a clear example of gum-on-a-stick permaculture for naysayers to point to and laugh at, that's one more nail in the coffin of permaculture's public image.

Ridicule is something serious professionals tend to try and avoid when trying to push their brand; I could see this alone being the reason that some have chosen to distance or differentiate themselves from permaculture.

-CK
 
Tyler Ludens
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Chris Kott wrote: If there's a clear example of gum-on-a-stick permaculture for naysayers to point to and laugh at, that's one more nail in the coffin of permaculture's public image.



That's a reason for those of us trying not to do ludicrous nonsense and calling it "permaculture" to share our examples here and in meat space.  To overwhelm the stupid examples of gum-on-a-stick "permaculture" with real world useful examples of actual permaculture.  If people want to call their permaculture something else that's fine too, but people searching for "permaculture" won't find those things, they may end up finding gum-on-a-stick.  So I am glad that Paul, anyway, is not shying away from the word "permaculture."



 
Chris Kott
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And so am I, and nor would I. But there are more important things than fighting for the word. If the tide of gum-on-a-stick-permaculturalists rises too high, I will head for the hills.

I definitely associate myself with permaculture, and do so for good reason. When people hear the word, I want them to not only recognise it, but also be able to recognise it as a positive direction in which to go with their stewardship of the land and their own lives.

But Resilient Systems Design says much more to me, and probably to the neophyte as well.

I am not saying that any term will eclipse permaculture in the space, but if I could get, say 100,000 people, or 1,000, or even just 100 more people, and people who've made food systems their livelihoods at that, interested in permaculturally-aligned design theory such that they would redesign their systems to be not only sustainable, but resilient and thriving, soil-generating systems, wouldn't that be better for permaculture than trying to drown out the Bubblegum Permies?

What do we call them, anyways? Pink permies?

-CK
 
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