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Resources for the Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) student, with a particular focus on the ars gladiatoris of Paulus Hector Mair.

Friday, April 17, 2009

ARMA Director Codifies "the Problem"

In direct response to the mass exodus of senior members from ARMA over the past three months, the Director has, for the first time since the organization was founded in 1998, finally codified "the rules" in the form of a new Credo and Membership Agreement. These new documents relieve ex-members of the burden of proving that they were not "the problem," because both documents spell out, in plain and concise language, precisely why ARMA has become a failed model for a Renaissance martial arts association.

Let us look at the Agreement published online as of April 17, 2009 (emphases added):

The ARMA Membership Agreement

The ARMA is a private subscription-service club functioning as an online virtual school of individuals with shared values collectively working in the same craft from shared materials under a mutual study approach with a common motive, method, and objective. No member is required to follow the training and
testing program offered, but everyone has to abide by our credo and the standards of appropriate decorum. Our curriculum is optional. Our code of conduct is not. Everyone is expected to uphold the spirit of camaraderie and ethics of respect and loyalty the old Masters prized.

Acceptance of ARMA Membership constitutes: recognition of our code of conduct (Credo), pledge to maintain confidentiality of club resources, neither reveal nor share ARMA curricula or materials with ex or non-members, nor permit their attendance at practices and training sessions without approval from the
Members also acknowledge that the ARMA Director has sole authority on all administrative matters and policies concerning membership, and further understand that violation of the membership agreement or code of conduct is grounds for immediate dismissal.
Members also consent to inform the Director if they are preparing or developing separate material or curriculum on European martial arts / historical fencing for either publication or public instruction.
Compliance with the above Membership Agreement is a condition of membership.

First, the Agreement clearly states that "the ARMA Director has sole authority on all administrative matters" as well as "policies concerning membership, and ... violation of the membership agreement or code of conduct is grounds for immediate dismissal."

The biggest problem here (and there are many) is that both the Credo and Agreement demand "loyalty." While at first glance this ethical requirement seems completely reasonable, one must remember that "loyalty" is an abstract principle. Loyalty cannot be neatly defined. What one man may interpret as respectful disagreement, another may interpret as treason. In a fair and balanced justice system, reasonable minds will differ. But in ARMA, by the terms of the Agreement, the Director––and only the Director––is the one who decides whether a member's actions are disloyal.

This is particularly troublesome because, by the terms of the Agreement, disloyalty warrants dismissal, and dismissal is immediate. There is no right to defend yourself. There is no jury. There is no appeals process. No matter how unjust or unethical the Director's decision may be, there is quite literally no way to challenge it. If John Clements questions your "loyalty," you are out. Anyone who tries to save you risks a similar fate.

Disturbingly, this absolute power over membership is now coupled with complete control over the intellectual property of every ARMA member. The Agreement requires members "to inform the Director if they are preparing or developing separate material or curriculum on European martial arts / historical fencing for either publication or public instruction." The requirement to inform clearly implies that the Director must, in turn, give the notifier permission to publish or instruct (otherwise, this clause would have no purpose).

That is deeply troubling for several reasons. First, it gives John Clements effective control over members' common law copyrights and the right to license or publish their own intellectual property. Second, it allows John to censor research and interpretations that directly contradict his own research, thereby protecting his own financial interests while culling the spirit of intellectual curiosity that is absolutely necessary in this field. Third, it raises the question of whether the publication of a thesis contrary to John's interpretations would be considered an act of disloyalty (which, recall, is grounds for immediate dismissal). Fourth, it casts a broad net over what the Director believes is ARMA's intellectual property.

In fact, the Agreement as a whole reflects a gross misunderstanding of intellectual property law. Under the Agreement, members must "maintain confidentiality of club resources" and "neither reveal nor share ARMA curricula or materials with ex or non-members," suggesting that there are actual intellectual property rights at stake. There are not.

First, Renaissance martial arts cannot be claimed as intellectual property. Let me repeat that: Renaissance martial arts cannot be claimed as intellectual property.

Trademark protection only applies to logos, slogans and the like. Copyright protection does not exist because one must publish author an original work [edited 7/21/12 for clarity] in order to have copyright, and copyright only protects the actual text, not the idea; in other words, even if an ARMA member publishes a book on, say, longsword fencing, none of the techniques described in that book are protected. Because these arts are not the invention of any ARMA member (ARMA merely interprets them), the actual techniques also cannot be patented or protected as trade secrets. The law works this way for a very practical reason: the fechtbucher have been in the public domain for centuries, and the Masters' instructions are generally very clear, so multiple people working independently can, and will, arrive at the same interpretations.

In closing, it must be noted that there is not a single justice system in the Western world where the police officer is also the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the witnesses. And our civilization has never advanced by quashing free speech, free association and intellectual curiosity. Yet that is precisely how ARMA now operates. And no matter how talented its leadership is (nobody disputes that John Clements is a talented swordsman), no matter how well-meaning its members are (I have great respect for my friends still in the organization), no matter how martially sound its training methodology has proven to be, the way ARMA now operates is utterly, indisputably, irredeemably wrong.


Krupp said...

Again with the Brilliant dissection of facts, you have illuminated some interesting vascillations by JC. His mention of chivalry and Christianity seems to be new? I have Emails from him highlighting HIS version of Honor. His ideals and definitions of Code and Chivalry, are written by a seething madman, lucid one moment, then completely irrational the next. this is yet another attempt by him to salvage what little credibility he has left. (If you could call it that). As an author, researcher, practicioner, he is adequate, as the Leader of an International Western Martial Arts Organization, he is a total failure. Tragic for such a talented group of people to have to suffer the indignities they do. To be limited by one man's narrow and constantly changing vision, will not assist you in learning these Arts. Thanks to David Knight for having the fortitude to post what we are all seeing. While I'm sure it's no great satisfaction to him, it is necessary and appreciated.

Kevin Maurer
Meyer Freifechter

Will Adamson said...

It was the citing of "Warrior Ethics" that finally did it for me. There was a line in the Credo article about honoring vets as people who had lived the warrior ethos. How can one honestly claim, not just to live by such an ethos, but to head an organization dedicated to such and to basically force out the person who likely had the most time in combat zone than any other member? I already felt sick by the treatment of Jake, Stew, and Brian, but this particular line in this article sent me through the roof. Having only four months of sitting on an airfield in Iraq, I can't hold a candle to Jake, but I still felt personally offended by such a blatant act of hypocrisy.

Will Adamson
Abingdon, VA

Lessons on the English Longsword said...

Well said, David. I may link these two posts to my blog (if that's OK with you).

You have hit the nail on the head. I myself left the ARMA in 2003. One of the things that did it for me was seeing how John boycotted Christian Darce's business over yet another personal quarrel. I had no real beef with citing some of Christian poor quality standards for his wasters (his stuff was hit and miss for awhile. It's gotten much, much better since). The problem I had was the boycott itself, "ARMA members aren't allowed to buy Purpleheart Armoury products, period." Paraphrasing there, but that was the gist of it. A draconian edict handed down on the entire membership. I also saw some other changes taking place that I was not comfortable with. So, I never renewed my membership.

This is just pathetic.

-Brandon Heslop

Mike Cartier said...

well dissected David/
Brandon is correct that this problem has gone on for along time. The treatment of Purple heart was unsettling, the treatment of former deputy director jeff Basham was disturbing. I feel guilt to this day for not stepping up and saying something in defense of Jeff.

In my resignation letter i talked about John Clements complete lack of understanding of the knightly virtues and his total lack of application of the virtues.
Its laughable after how he has treated Jake to claim respect for the knightly rules. We all know Jake and how he was treated has upset me more than anything else i had the displeasure to see in ARMA.
Respect is a two way street.

Lessons on the English Longsword said...

Thanks David. I think it's extremely important that all ARMA members read your post. Many may read the new stipulations without actually being aware of these very important implications. The newly defined credo/memberhsip stipulations speak volumes about their author.

I'm one of many veterans (101st abn infantry, 9 yrs mil.) he's forced out in one way or another, and though just prior to these stipulations, he's still trying to retroactively attack our publication.

-Casper Bradak

Lessons on the English Longsword said...

There is indeed a long (and extremely well-documented) history of John kicking people out and slandering them mercilessly over personal quarrels. There is no doubt that he is in an extremely precarious position for throwing stones.


Anonymous said...


This is, of course, exactly why JC has taken the position that he has concerning Christian and our business for all these years. Christian did not show an appropriate level of "loyalty." If JC had had his way, we would have gone along and trashed anyone he asked us to, greatly limiting our sales (ie. CSG), and sorry, that's not how to start a business. We always appreciated JC's help in getting our business off the ground, but the things he asked Christian to do were completely unethical for us and could not happen. Then when we invited another teacher to come in and hold a seminar, you would have thought that Christian personally put a knife in JC's back, even though JC had given his permission (which Christian asked for as one of his senior scholars).
These facts have been around for years, and I'm sure it's old news to many, but to see JC's paranoia manifest itself so much as to have the "loyalty oath" in writing for all to see is just the light needed to shine on this dark corner of what it means to really be in ARMA.

Churches said...

Thank you David.

The public smearings were the final straw for me - I've heard that my name has now joined the ranks of the ungrateful power hungry incompetents. My good friends do not tell me with whom I may or may not associate -so why would I allow someone I pay to manage and administer an organization to do what my friends and family may not?

Christine Churches
Las Vegas, NV

Charlotte said...

Hello! I'm not a practitioner of western martial arts, but I have been reading some of the historical texts recently & in following up on critiques of John Clements' first two books, I discovered this blog & your recent posts here. While I have no personal knowledge of nor acquaintance with Clements, ARMA, nor any of its members, I do have good amount of experience in copyright matters & copyright law. You'd written:

"Copyright protection does not exist because one must publish in order to have copyright, and copyright only protects the actual text, not the idea; in other words, even if an ARMA member publishes a book on, say, longsword fencing, none of the techniques described in that book are protected."

Actually, one does not need to "publish" a creative work in order for copyright to subsist in it. Under § 102 of the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act, as amended, copyright attaches automatically when a creative work of authorship is "fixed in any tangible medium of expression," which is defined under § 101:

"A work is “fixed” in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author, is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration. A work consisting of sounds, images, or both, that are being transmitted, is “fixed” for purposes of this title if a fixation of the work is being made simultaneously with its transmission."

A creative work's publication status is relevant principally to its copyright term (as elaborated in this chart of Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States) & the extent to which any unlicensed use of a work still subject to copyright will be deemed "fair."

Of more relevance & concern here should be whether Clements may be attempting to assert, pursuant to § 201 (a)-(c) of the Copyright Act, that ARMA members' research constitutes (a) a "joint work" of which he becomes a co-owner pursuant to the credo, (b) "works made for hire" by members as "independent contractors" of which he should be considered the legal owner pursuant to the Copyright Act, or (c) "contributions to collective works," over which each member contractually yields independent control over their own work to him by agreeing to the credo. The definitions under § 101 should therefore be reviewed very carefully in light of the ambiguous intentions & wording of the credo.

A very important case in this area for putative independent contractors & joint authors is Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid, 490 U.S. 730 (1989).It's not clear from the language of the ARMA credo whether Clements is attempting to claim legal authorship itself in ARMA members' works, or instead to obtain control over their copyrights through a de facto "license agreement." The wording is probably inadequate to render members' contributions works-made-for-hire, especially if neither ARMA nor Clements is paying members to do research, nor incurring any legal detriment, in which case there wouldn't appear to be any legal consideration supporting the enforceability of a work-made-for-hire claim, but sufficient consideration might arguably be found to support one of joint authorship if Clements also contributes research (which
would then mean that Clements was effectively stripping ARMA members of their legal rights of co-ownership by simulataneously depriving them of any independent or joint control of the subject works, as well as any right to create derivative works).

The U.S. Copyright Office's flyer, Copyright Basics, is a good place for most laymen & non-specialists to start, & in this case it might also be worthwhile to consult the Works Made for Hire Under the 1978 Copyright Act flyer, too, but if there is any actual or potential dispute, a person should consult a lawyer specializing in copyright law.

You also wrote:

"In fact, the Agreement as a whole reflects a gross misunderstanding of intellectual property law. Under the Agreement, members must "maintain confidentiality of club resources" and "neither reveal nor share ARMA curricula or materials with ex or non-members," suggesting that there are actual intellectual property rights at stake. There are not."

Clements may be attempting with these provisions to couch a claim of "trade secrets." You may therefore wish to look at the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which codifies the basic principles of common law trade secret protection, especially the Commissioners' comments on what constitutes a "trade secret." Clements may also be attempting to impose contractual non-disclosure obligations, which often extend beyond classic intellectual property per se. This article on Understanding Confidentiality Agreements may help.

It looks to me as though this guy Clements is trying to screw ARMA's members six ways to Sunday, which is why I took the time to comment here, particularly after I read the treatment he's apparently given to several members of the military (I have several Devil Dogs in mine, one just home from Afghanistan. Semper fi!). HTH.