The American Psychiatric Association (APA) publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a project that has grown from a slender volume (the first edition, in 1952) to a multi-pound behemoth (the most recent, the fourth). The fifth edition, or DSM5, is in the works -- to a great amount of controversy.
One blogger who has been reporting on the controversy is the well-regarded Suzy Chapman, whose site was until recently titled DSM5Watch.wordpress.com. It is no longer. In response to legal threats from the APA, she was obliged to rename her blog. What's worse is that DSM5Watch.wordpress.com doesn't even redirect to the new blog, dxrevisionwatch.wordpress.com.
On December 22, with just one working day left before offices closed down for the Christmas and New Year holidays, I received two communications from the Licensing and Permissions department of American Psychiatric Publishing, A Division of American Psychiatric Association, informing me that the unauthorized use of the DSM 5 mark in my domain name is improper and in violation of United States Trademark Law.
I was advised that my actions may subject me to contributory infringement liability including increased damages for wilful infringement. I was requested to immediately cease and desist any and all use of the DSM 5 mark, remove the DSM 5 mark from my domain name and provide documentation confirming I had done so, and that any further use would be considered an infringement.
Given the difficulties of liaising from the UK with American Psychiatric Publishing and with my Californian based site hosts, WordPress, over the holiday and mindful of the implied consequences should I delay taking action, I considered I had little option but to change the site’s domain and title.
I am not an attorney or in any way educated in the legal system, but this seems to me to be intimidation, pure and simple. Chapman accepted no advertising nor generated any revenue from the defunct DSM 5 Watch site or the new dx Revision Watch site.
Responses in the blogosphere (as usual, I will be updating
- Chair of the DSM4 task force Alan Francis at (Psychology Today Blog) DSM5 In Distress Is DSM5 A Public Trust or APA's Cash Cow
- "I am surprised and saddened by APA's ill-conceived attempt to restrict Suzy Chapman's free expression on DSM 5. It can only be in the service of the equally unworthy goals of censorship and/or commercialism."
- Daniel Carlat at Carlat Psychiatry Blog APA threatens to sue "DSM 5 Watch" blog
- "In a democratic society, healthy dissent and debate is part of the package. It may be annoying, but that doesn't excuse the bullying tactics that the APA has chosen."
- Bernard Carroll at Health Care Renewal Self-Inflicted Damage
- "The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is in the news again for bad public relations: worse than bad, actually – appalling. Locked in a bunker mentality, they have moved to stifle advance criticism of their flagship initiative, DSM-5"
- Howard Brody at Hooked: Ethics, Medicine and Pharma Egregious Behavior of APA
- "To try to shut down and stifle criticism because one hopes to make money off one's product is commercialism and not professionalism. That the APA appears to be acting in this crassly commercial manner would seem a severe indictment of what sorts of people are allowed to manage so-called "professional" medical societies in these times."
- Giannakali at Beyond Meds APA for DSM5 takes legal action against a website with the URL: http://dsm5watch.wordpress.com/
- "Seems to me the APA is feeling the heat and digging themselves in even deeper."
- 1 Boring Old Man at 1 Boring Old Man DSM5tm
- "now an aggressive attack on a web-site based on a trivial [and probably unenforceable] trademark claim suggest that the Task Force and APA at large believe that the position of the DSM as the definitive last word in Mental Health diagnosis is assured – a position of power that gives them the right to act like an imperious ruling class. That is hardly the case."
- Stephanie at Soulful Sepulcher Allen Frances, MD- " I am surprised and saddened by APA's ill-conceived attempt to restrict Suzy Chapman's free expression on DSM 5"
- "DSM-5 trademark? bully blogger to change site domain? thank you for depicting psychiatry the way many already feel about it!"
- Bob Fiddaman at Seroxat Sufferers, Stand Up and Be Counted APA Use Restraints on Blogger
- "The field of psychiatry is doing itself no favours by using intimidation tactics against people that criticize their opinion, let's face it, the whole premise of psychiatry is based on opinion"
- Life as We Know It at Life as We Know It Suzy Chapman's Blog Has Moved
- Thought Broadcast at Thought Broadcast Two Ways to Get Sued
- "This entire fiasco has the potential to become a huge embarrassment to the field of psychiatry. I guess I can understand why the APA might wish to protect its intellectual property, but the idea of “picking on the little guy”—especially when the “little guy” is simply keeping readers informed about developments in our field of (supposedly) intellectual, scientific endeavor—makes me ashamed to think that these men and women speak for me."
- Paula J. Caplan at Science Isn't Golden (Psychology Today blog) Top Psychiatrists Again Try to Quash Debate
- "What an appalling abuse of power for the lobby group that calls itself the American Psychiatric Association and reaps the millions of dollars in profits from the DSM to try to shut up some woman in the United Kingdom."
- Vaughan Bell at Mindhacks The Manual That Must Not Be Named
- "You might be wondering 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."
- Gary Greenberg at Gary Greenberg Blog Pity the Poor APA -1
- "These efforts took a strange turn, one that shows for once and for all that the APA is a corporation, and like every corporation, will put its interests and those of its stakeholders over the interests of everyone else."
- Gary Greenberg at Gaary Greenberg Blog Pity the Poor APA-2
- "Why the APA would make themselves into a Goliath is not clear to me. The DSM offers Paranoid Personality Disorder, but this episode makes me wish Frances hadn’t shied away from his proposal for a Self-Defeating Personality Disorder. Because it is not clear to me how they win this one. Not that I really care, at least not about the APA’s fortunes, but are they trying to prove Frances right about his recent, somewhat incendiary, claim that the APA no longer deserves the DSM franchise?"
- Jack Carney at Behavioral Healthcare 1984 Revisited: Big Brother on the Run
- "The American Psychiatric Association keeps on undermining its credibility, or more to the point, plays a mean big brother."
- Allen Frances at DSM 5 In Distress (Psychology Today Blog) DSM 5 Censorship Fails
- "All of us owe great thanks to Ms. Chapman and to the Internet community whose ringing endorsement has allowed her not only to maintain, but also to enlarge, her readership. Ms. Chapman will continue to provide the field with the most current and most accurate reporting on DSM 5 during its endgame. I strongly recommend her website as the best clearinghouse for information on DSM 5.
- I join Ms Chapman in hoping that this embarrassing episode will discourage APA from all future efforts at abusive censorship—whether they are related to trademark, copyright, or confidentiality agreements. The field must remain vigilant in its efforts to contain APA commercialism and persistent in trying to penetrate APA's secrecy and inbred decision making. APA must finally come to realize that DSM 5 is an open public trust, not a private business enterprise.
You may want to follow Suzy Chapman at Twitter: @meagenda
For a background history of the growth of the DSM, read: The Dictionary of Disorder How one man revolutionized psychiatry by Alix Spiegel at the New Yorker