The manual that must not be named

The American Psychiatric Association have used legal threats to force a critical blog to change its title because they didn’t like it being called ‘DSM Watch’.

The ‘DSM Watch’ website, now called ‘Dx Revision Watch‘, is one of the better websites keeping track and critiquing the upcoming changes to psychiatry’s diagnostic manual, the DSM-5.

On January 3rd the website owner reported receiving two cease and desist letters from the APA ordering the removal of all reference to the ‘DSM5 trademark’ from the site’s domain

You might be wandering why the APA registered DSM-5 as trademark – which is a legal device to protect against other people making profit from your good name – and why they are using it to bully critics.

Firstly, DSM Watch was a non-commercial site and so was in no danger of profiting from referencing DSM-5 in its domain name, and secondly no-one for a moment would look at the site and think it was an official APA site – in part, because despite the great content, it does not have, shall we say, the most corporate of looks.

If the APA still didn’t think the distinction was clear enough a simple request to add a message saying ‘not an official DSM5 website’ (or maybe they’d prefer ‘product’, who knows?) would suffice.

Apparently though, we can now distinguish between official and non-official DSM websites because the non-official ones are those engaged in healthy and appropriate criticism of the manual that must not be named.

However, I do hope they’re going to clamp down on the punk band DSM-5 so no-one mistakenly buys a copy of the diagnostic manual when they actually wanted a ticket to a sweaty hardcore gig.

Imagine the disappointment.

Link to post on APA legal threats.

13 thoughts on “The manual that must not be named”

  1. Geez, first they wanna eliminate “Narcissism” from the DSM (WTF?!), despite tremendous criticism from the professional community, and now all this “hyper-controlling” nonsense (‘cuz they’re “entitled” and “special”)!

    Sounds like more than a few folks of the “NPD” persuasion have crept into the DSM board these days…?!!

  2. Generally they can only do this if, at least in trademark terms, (a) there’s a risk that the site can be confused with an official site for the trademark and (b) they make some financial gains from the site, neither of which seem to apply here.

    I have a website – – which deconstructs the pseudoscientific drivel used by Dannon to peddle their yoghurts (it’s called Bifidus Actiregularis in the UK, Bifidus Activo in Spain, Bifidus Essensis in Germany, well, you get the idea).

    They sent me a cease and desist letter (which basically asked to me to agree to never say anything about Dannon products ever again) when I had the site at (it was called Bifidus Digestivum in the UK originally). Because there’s legal precedent for domain names that are just a trademark I gave it to them, but moved to the current domain, said there’s no risk of confusion and I wasn’t making any money from the site, and I never heard from them again.

    If they slander DSM or make libellous comments, that’s another matter, but it doesn’t sounds like that’s the case, so I hope they stick to their guns.

  3. It’s all about the IP (Intellectual Property).

    I work with an open source framework, and I recently hit upon an idea to man an Android app to browse the docs. I decided to announce it at a conference, but, fortunately, thought to talk to the framework’s lawyer first.

    Over coffee, we had a fascinating discussion regarding IP. IP is about protecting a brand, since it costs a lot of money, time, and luck to build a brand with a positive image. Even though our project is open source, they were active in defending the brand the project had gained. They didn’t want just any chump writing a book about it, nor did they want someone else to put up a framework with the same name.

    I was allowed to do the app, but under conditions that they agreed upon (no charging, no ads, and I couldn’t use their logo, since they paid for that font, and had to give money to the original holder whenever it was used officially).

  4. “If the APA still didn’t think the distinction was clear enough a simple request to add a message saying ‘not an official DSM5 website’ (or maybe they’d prefer ‘product’, who knows?) would suffice.”

    Or the Licensing and Permissions department could simply have clicked on the “Disclaimer” tab which states:

    “This site has no connection with and is not endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), American Psychiatric Publishing Inc., World Health Organisation (WHO) or any other organisation, institution, corporation or company.

    “This site has no affiliations with any commercial or not-for-profit organisation. The site operates independently of any patient or advocacy organisation or group.

    “This site does not accept advertising, sponsorship, funding or donations and has no commercial links with any organisation, institution, corporation, company or individual…”

    The second letter received demanded I “cease and desist” immediately the unauthorised use of the “DSM 5 mark” from three additional sites – a website and two social media platforms.

    I do not own or have any responsibility for any of these three additional platforms.

    Licensing and Permissions, or whoever authorized the issuing of these letters, failed to establish the rightful owners of these three sites before issuing threats of legal action.

    We have a saying here in the UK – I wouldn’t trust this bunch to manage a whelk stall.

    Thanks for the write-up.

    Suzy Chapman
    Dx Revision Watch

  5. I hope this doesn’t drag on like music copyright suits and Bible arguments… but glad you posted it… always shining a light on what would otherwise be battles that we only hear about when a crime worthy of media coverage has been committed… words, words, and more words… and symbols and stuff… it’s a wonder we are allowed to communicate at all with all the red-tape and monies involved… and the secret societies and the conspiracies… anyways, i waffle a lot, so let me get on with replying to my emails… thanks for a great site…

  6. I was recently reading an interview that David Healy did to Herman Van Praag almost 18 years ago(The Psychopharmacologists vol. I. Chapman & Hall, 1996. p: 366)and Van Praag says at one point:

    “It was an expression of a state of affairs in the States, in which the DSM, as a system, as a diagnostic philosophy, is the new holy cow. It is the successor of psychoanalysis. You cannot and should not question its fundamentals…”

    It is sad and ironic that Van Praag’s words were so prophetic.

    NB: although the book was published in 1996, the interview took place in July 1994.

    1. That does sound prophetic. And worse still, “American psychology” and all of it’s assumptions are slowly coming to dominate psychological models worldwide, even in non-western cultures… no doubt abetted by “standardization” and the DSM!

  7. Extract from the EFF site:

    Creative Commons License: Any and all original material on the EFF website may be freely distributed at will under the Creative Commons Attribution License, unless otherwise noted.


    Questions About Trademark

    I want to complain about a company. Can I use their name and logo?

    Yes. While trademark law prevents you from using someone else’s trademark to sell your competing products (you can’t make and sell your own “Rolex” watches or name your blog “Newsweek”), it doesn’t stop you from using the trademark to refer to the trademark owner or its products (offering repair services for Rolex watches or criticizing Newsweek’s editorial decisions).

    That kind of use, known as “nominative fair use,” is permitted if using the trademark is necessary to identify the products, services, or company you’re talking about, and you don’t use the mark to suggest the company endorses you. In general, this means you can use the company name in your review so people know which company or product you’re complaining about. You can even use the trademark in a domain name (like, so long as it’s clear that you’re not claiming to be or speak for the company.

    Since trademark law is designed to protect against consumer confusion, non-commercial uses are even more likely to be fair. Be aware that advertising may give a “commercial” character to your site, and some courts have even gone so far as to say that links to commercial sites makes a site commercial. (See PETA v. Doughney)

    Can I use a trademark in my blog’s name or in the title of a blog post?

    Yes, if it is relevant to the subject of your discussion and does not confuse people into thinking the trademark holder endorses your content. Courts have found that non-misleading use of trademarks in URLs and domain names of critical websites is fair. (Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. v. Faber, URL; Bosley Medical Institute v. Kremer, domain name

    Companies can get particularly annoyed about these uses because they may make your post appear in search results relating to the company, but that doesn’t give them a right to stop you.


    PS I agree, “Garland” WP theme isn’t a visually sophisticated template but it has the merit of being full screen width, three columns and a wide, variable width central posting area which better suits the type of content I post, which is often lengthy, includes wide screenshots, images from documents and videos of meeting proceedings. Many of the better looking templates with dropdown tabs have narrow posting areas and aren’t suitable for my purposes.

  8. Follow-up blog from Allen Frances, MD, on January 12, on “DSM5 in Distress”, hosted on Psychology Today:

    DSM 5 Censorship Fails
    Support From Professionals and Patients Saves Free Speech

    “Last week I described the plight of Suzy Chapman, a well respected UK patient advocate forced to change the domain name of her website by the heavy handed tactics of the publishing arm of the American Psychiatric Association. The spurious legal excuse was commercial protection of the ‘DSM 5’ trademark; the probable intent was to stifle one of the internet’s best sources of DSM and ICD information. This bullying could not have come at a worse time – just as final decisions are being made on highly controversial DSM 5 proposals and with the third and final draft due for release this spring. This is precisely when a ragged and reckless DSM 5 can most benefit from the widest and most open discussion…”

    Read on here:

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