The 53rd Girl Scout National Convention is just a week away!! One of the highlights is always the super shop, with hundreds (thousands?) of Girl Scout goodies.

Of course, any mention of official Girl Scout products inevitably leads to complaints that the handbooks, badges, etc. cost too much. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I have no problem paying for Girl Scout books.

As a writer and editor, words are literally my income. I know that every book has an author, and I know that writing is hard work. Authors deserve to be paid. That is why it really bothers me to see leaders sharing photocopies of badge inserts or websites advertising free downloads of scanned journey books.  (While I don’t get paid to write this blog, it is an opportunity for potential clients to get to know me better.)

, Girl Scout History Project
Junior Technology, the first online badge, was introduced in 1997. Today’s Girl Scout can’t find any requirements online without breaking the law.

Let’s be honest and fair and admit that distributing bootleg scans of journey books and badge requirements constitutes theft. It is taking a person’s hard work without paying for it. Go ahead, argue “sharing” and “sisterhood” all you want, but if thieves share stolen goods among themselves, it does not make the theft acceptable. Would you walk into a Girl Scout shop, pocket a handful of badges, and walk out without paying? This is no different.

Let’s resolve to respect authority, including copyright law. The bootleggers know they are breaking the law, which explains why they try to shout down anyone who calls them out with nasty comments and name calling. Do we really have to put labels on every page, photo, design, etc. saying “Not yours. Don’t steal”?

I agree that the current program materials are a bit pricey, but I also realize that buyers are shouldering the cost of sales lost to illegal download sites.  I don’t think the Girl Scout way is to sneak around and try to subvert the system.

Instead, let’s ask GSUSA to make program publications available digitally for legal, inexpensive downloading. The Boy Scouts already make many of their badge guides available through Amazon Kindle. Would you pay $1.00 for a PDF of a badge insert? Perhaps $5 for a digital journey book? Sign me up.

Tell GSUSA that you’d like to legally download publications for your troop. I’ve started a Facebook page for people who like this idea: Girl Scout Publication PDFs Please.

, Girl Scout History Project
Nation’s Capital has a copy of the Trefoil Patent application.

I think our founder would approve of this proposal.  Juliette Gordon Low understood the importance of intellectual property rights and secured a patent for the trefoil symbol.  She applied for the patent on November 23, 1913, and received it on February 10, 1914.

When Low decided to step down from the day-to-day operations of Girl Scouting in 1921, GSUSA asked that she surrender the patent to the organization.  She agreed, but on her own terms.

Stacy Cordery, Low’s recent biographer, recounts how Daisy shrewdly agreed to assign the patent to GSUSA in exchange for keeping her name on the organization’s Constitution, stationery, and membership cards in perpetuity.

, Girl Scout History Project
Juliette Gordon Low had two patents of her own. (Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

Daisy actually had two patents. The other is for the “Pluto Bag,” a stand-up trash bin for liquids. It reminds me of an origami project that got way out of control.

Want to learn more about intellectual property? The Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital has a their own intellectual property patch program for all age levels.

See you in Salt Lake City!

© 2014 by Ann Robertson



11 responses to “Let’s Make Downloading Badges Legal”

  1. To be honest, I never really saw sharing the requirements in the way you have written about. I know that when I purchase an older council’s own badge and I finally find someone who gives me the requirements to it, I feel compelled to share them with some other person in the same boat. I agree that scanning a journey book is essentially stealing. My friend and I recently purchased some retired IPs for our girls to do and someone did offer to scan a badge book for us. My friend felt uneasy about it and ordered the badge book from Amazon for the girls to use. I love the idea of being able to purchase badge pdf files and digital journey books!! I hope those ideas come to fruition!

  2. fully agree!
    I have all the books, however somedays I wish there was a legal way to access the badge requirements on the go. I don’t carry the book with me everywhere, but everyonce in awhile a creative idea pops in my head that I want to be able to check immediately if it fits with a badge requirement.

  3. Thank you Ann, I hope I can meet you SLC! If we all can get on the same page about this topic, it would result in everyone truly living the Girl Scout Promise and Law!

  4. Keena, Katherine Avatar
    Keena, Katherine

    Hi Ann. See you next week. You used this quotation, Right is right even if no one else does it which I have never been to verify as authentic Do you have a source for it? It began showing up on the internet, but I have no source at all


    [Description: Description: GSUSA_servicemark_Email]

    Katherine Knapp Keena
    Interim Director
    Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace
    Girl Scouts of the USA
    10 East Oglethorpe Avenue
    Savannah, GA 31401
    O 912-233-4501
    M 912-655-8351


    Invest in Girls.
    Change the World.

    1. Hi Katherine, Isn’t that ironic? It is everywhere on the web, including in many graphics that appear “official.” I’ll remove the quote. Thank you for letting me know and see you soon!

      1. Saint Augustine of Hippo? Didn’t expect that! I wonder how the quote became attributed to JGL. Was it a quote that she liked to repeat?

  5. Ann, are you attending the History Conference? I thought this might be a good idea to present to Pamela or she could share with the Marketing Department. I will not be at the History Conference because I am a Council delegate, and our delegation is arriving Thursday. I hope to meet you some time during the Conference, however. Gayle

  6. They should just bring back old style badgebooks, and most of the badges they dumped along with them. But yes, I see no reason not to have a way to download badge requirements. I am just so upset that they decimated the badge program. A few needed to be updated, but what happened was ridiculous.

  7. […] dump the Journeys and emphasize learning by doing with a rich range of badges. Put them all in ONE handbook, available in print and online. As Miss Frizzle always says in the Magic School Bus, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” […]

  8. I know this post is old but the only time I’ve been tempted to scan and share badge requirements is when I’ve been working with a third party to set up a badge day for us. It seems unfair to ask me to buy it again or to ask someone helping Girl Scouts to buy a copy of the requirements. We also need to find a way to legally get these requirements to groups who want to offer programming to our girls

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