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An Open Letter to Kristen Bell and Monica Padman

We seem to have gotten off to a rocky start. We’d like to introduce ourselves in a more personal manner than a Cease and Desist can facilitate. We’d like to tell you our story in our voices, amplified by the many creators who share our experience. Our greatest hope is that you’ll listen.

Creators deserve to own their brand and protect their work.

In 2017, motivated by election outcomes and political climate, Marita Garrett, Monica Hershberger, and I, Jessica Kaminsky, started a podcast to interview women in leadership to voice their winding career paths and challenges. As a diverse group of women, we set out to focus on the assets women bring to communities, businesses, and homes, and their respective impact. We went on to make three seasons of episodes, interviewing a spectrum of inspirational trailblazers.

We paused in early 2020 when Monica welcomed her first child. There was a lot of change happening in our lives, and we think (hope?) we speak for all feminists when we say that women deserve some parental leave. We left the pause purposefully open-ended because we wanted the opportunity to return to it when things settled a bit for each of us. Then, there was a global pandemic.

In June, we saw our own podcast name, Shattered Glass, all over the internet. It was heralded as a new and exciting audio experience; only it wasn’t ours - we weren’t back in production - it was yours. The very topics we had covered for three years, while not entirely novel in its concept, were being broadcast with our name by someone with far greater resources, fame, and clout. At a time when the world was opening back up, we felt years of personal work completely shut down.

Many of our fans, and yours, pointed out on social media and in comments that our podcast was already in existence. Further, they noted that using our name without permission or even advance communication was not only deflating, but it ran afoul of the very concept of empowering women, which is the central thesis of both of our programs. However, most followers and fans didn’t mention that podcasts are protectable under U.S. trademark law, and we have used our name since 2017.

We tried to reach out to you in the only way we knew how, through social media messages to you and your teams (both public and direct messages), but never received a response.

Our disappointment was only exacerbated when, in episode 2 of your podcast, you acknowledged our existence, admitted you knew about us, and then proceeded to encourage others also to start a podcast in our name. Not only was a beloved celebrity taking our name, she was rallying her followers to further dilute the brand we worked for years to build. This is what prompted our cease-and-desist letter - not the desire to make enemies, not for revenge or pettiness, but the need to protect our hard work. In order to honor our work, to stand up for the years of research and marketing, booking and broadcasting, creation and labor, we needed to protect Shattered Glass, and try to keep that brand as our own.

Creators deserve to own their brand and protect their work.

This behavior is rampant today. Celebrities and corporations have enormous platforms, and smaller creators cannot compete with their resources. Large retail clothing stores are regularly accused of stealing art from individuals for massive profit without acknowledgment. Recently, Black creators on TikTok launched the #BlackTikTokStrike to hit back at influencers with millions of followers stealing their dances, skits, words, and ideas without so much as a mention of the original artists’ names. If capitalism in the viral age has taught us anything, it’s that in an open market, likes, clicks, and shares matter because they become followers, listeners, and subscribers, all of which translate directly to dollars.

We see this as an opportunity to uplift and inform, to help creators understand and utilize their rights, and to promote the universal message of women shattering glass.

We recognize that you take these matters seriously, not only based on your own personal brand but on the intention and mission of your podcast. Last week, you changed the name of your podcast. Thank you. We of course believe it was the right thing to do, and a step in the right direction. Malala Yousafzai, who was recently on your show, famously said, “I raise up my voice—not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” We created our podcast to give a voice to women who wouldn’t typically have a platform to discuss their impact, and now we are the ones who need to be louder. We do not wish to create an adversary, but to build an alliance. We see this as the opportunity to uplift and inform, to help creators understand and utilize their rights, and to promote the universal message of women shattering glass. It’s time to walk the walk.

Therefore, we are calling you in and asking that you take the following steps to use your resources and reach to support millions of creators in similar situations to us:

1. That you dedicate advertising space on “We are supported by…” to already established organizations that work in the mission of advancing women but also in protecting their intellectual property, especially for women of color.

2. That you consider making a financial investment in the following organizations for the following reasons:

  • Lawyers for the Creative Arts – This is a Chicago-based group that provides legal services for creatives. They provide the types of services and resources needed by creatives to protect their legal rights.

  • Invest in Her – This is a Pittsburgh-based organization that supports women-owned businesses. We began our podcast with a grant and so it feels incredibly important to reinvest in other women entrepreneurs.

  • Black Tech Nation - Another Pittsburgh organization, they are a multi-faceted tech organization for Black creators, entrepreneurs, coders, and innovators. They recently launched Black Tech Nation Ventures, which aims to both fund Black entrepreneurs and recruit Black venture capitalists

3. That you advance the conversation, about women creators and women owning their work, using the creativity, connections, experience, and platforms to which you have access.

You have the platform to educate others about the rights of creators, artists, and entrepreneurs alike. We believe this is fully in line with the mission of supporting women while speaking on the same topic.

While we wish we were meeting and addressing you both in a different capacity, we choose to believe there is a larger opportunity here of greater value for the greater good.

What we have stumbled upon is the real-time parallel story to what we both intended to shed light on - women empowering women and breaking down barriers.

We can think of no truer outcome honoring the mission of both podcasts.

Creators deserve to own their brand and protect their work.

Onward and upward,

Marita, Monica, and Jessica


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