Any semi regular followers of Urban Neighbourhood, or anyone who pays attention to the date ranges on posts will have no doubt noticed the drastic slow down / reduction in posts here at Urban Neighbourhood over the past year. I would like to take the opportunity to explain why this outage occurred as Dan starts to gets his Blog back, (Anyone over the age of 25 should get the film reference). I started this post a couple months back but held off as I was concerned about the implications of ‘poking the dragon’ after my case was closed. However now that the court is considering sending US Marshals to drag Mr & Ms Righthaven’s asses into court so that they can start liquidating their assets I’m not so worried, seeing as they would be arrested if they showed up to file another suit against me. That said it should be noted that all my references to the personalities or person hood of the referenced parties are alleged and should not be taken as fact. So if I suggest that the people associated with Righthaven are soulless trolls who deserve to trip and fall into a tire fire, I am only alleging that they are soulless trolls. The tire fire part however, is totally true.
Anyone paying attention to the blogosphere and the legal wrangling that has been going on for the past 4 years regarding fair use and digital rights will be familiar with the copyright troll better known as Righthaven(1). Starting last fall, Righthaven began suing bloggers who quoted articles from a paper with the initials LVRJ(2) for copyright infringement. Even in cases where the quotes were properly sourced and hyper-linked the firm struck. www.urbanneighbourhood.com was the victim (3) of one of these Troll attacks last year, right before Christmas. Just to be clear I don’t make any money of this blog, and in fact it costs me about 30$ bucks a year so any claims that I am making money off the efforts of others are ridonculous.
Now I don’t know if you have ever been sued before but it is not a nice feeling, and getting sued right before Christmas feels even worse. But it shouldn’t really surprise anyone that trolls + Christmas doesn’t work. I spent the next couple of weeks freaking out and badgering many lawyers and other people that knew stuff about lawyering for legal advice. This advice ranged from; ‘you’re screwed even if your innocent, try to settle for around a grand’, ‘ummm copyright law isn’t really my thing’, to ‘lay low and don’t sign for any packages and use the back door so they can’t serve you’ (4). I spent those weeks searching all over the internet where I found a few different websites that were great, Righthaven Victims, and the Electronic Freedom Foundation along with a bunch of others, but I lost the list when my hard drive died this fall. For those of you that would like to read a full overview of the rise and ultimate crash and burn of Righthaven, please do check out Righthaven Victims.
Unfortunately none of the Pro Bono firms wanted to take me on as a client, I have a feeling that they already had their hands full and my out of country status wouldn’t have helped either. Feeling overwhelmed I was ready to settle and so I called the Trolls to offer a pile of my gold, (5) but the Troll’s assistant was busy on another call and asked if he could call back in an hour for my gold. I meekly said ‘OK fine’ and continued to surf the internet for the next hour or so. It was at this point I came upon a goldmine.(6) The Internet was coming to my rescue as because the Trolls had sued about 300 bloggers by this point, and a good portion of them had posted their legal arguments, counter suits, motions, and judgments online, and I realized that by using the appropriate legal citations from those documents I could write my own damn counter suit without having access to a legal library. The only problem was that I was on the last day of my window to respond, so the troll people could motion for summary judgment.(1) allegedly they became actual trolls after someone thought it was a good idea to sue a Wicca blog. (2) I categorically refuse to do anything that could send traffic to that paper’s website. Including typing it’s name. (3) Depending on who you ask of course, the Trolls basically claimed I was stealing the food from their poor troll babies mouths. (4) That gem came from my mother who was a legal secretary for 20 years. (5) Well the bank’s gold since I was a broke student. (6) Figuratively.
When the assistant troll called back, I emailed the him and apologized for not picking up and informed him that it was because I had had a family emergency,(7) and then asked for an extension of the window to respond till the following Monday, which assistant troll then gave to me in writing via a return email. (8) I then proceeded to lock myself into my office at home and at work and spend more time writing that legal paper then I have any other 22 page paper in my life. On Friday I dropped the completed paper off with FedEx and then spent the next couple of days obsessively checking the tracking website to watch the progress of the first copy travel priority overnight to the Court Clerk’s Office, and the second travel by 3 day shipping to Righthaven’s cave under the bridge (9). On Monday afternoon when my reply and counter suite landed in the cave I got an irate email from the head troll claiming that I had violated fair practice or some shit by offering to settle and then not doing so, to which I responded with a copy of the email granting me the extension and a ‘we’ll see what happens in court.’ (10)
The Trolls then responded with a counter argument that once again argued that I was starving their poor troll babies and that I was going to bring about the end of civilization if I were permitted to quote and reference articles (11). In many ways this counter argument was a bonus for me because it allowed me to submit my own reply to this counter argument and actually spend three weeks writing it, thus making it even better and full of even more relevant case law as to why the trolls had their heads up their own rear ends.
Meanwhile the news in the courts was not so good… for the Trolls. The Judges that were hearing the cases that had already gone to court were finding Righthaven’s arguments that they were losing gold problematic (12) since the only way that they got gold was by suing people and that the court was also failing to see how quoting and hyper-linking to a website was damaging. (13)(7)Emergency = I desperately needed time to write a counter argument and motion to dismiss so my family didn’t lose a whole bunch of gold. (8) The lawyers reading this understand the importance of getting stuff like this in writing. (9) Most likely a strip mall in real life, but I am sure the inside was done up like a cave. (10) I was also giving my computer the finger. (11) Based on this I assumed that these trolls loved Fox news because the liberal elites who go to university do this all the time and we know how people who watch Fox news feel about us beer swilling liberal elites. (12) The basic gist was that by creating a website that talked about a news item reported by their troll masters, they were somehow not getting food for their troll babies because presumably their troll masters wouldn’t feed them until their work suing people was done. (13) Because as any person who understand the internet can tell you, having hyperlinks that direct traffic to your website is a good thing, and is why so many people get paid to spam the internet and comment boards with hyperlinks.
A couple months later I got an email from the assistant troll telling me that I had to respond within two weeks to their request for a discovery meeting or else! So I responded with an email stating that I would be more then happy to do a discovery teleconference with them on one of four dates (14). I then got an email from senior troll telling me that this was not good enough, and I must come to the troll cave in person. In a bit of a bluff I calmly replied that since their toll enforcer (15) had served me in Canada they could hire a Canadian Lawyer or fly up here themselves if they wanted a face to face discovery meeting. Either because I was right, or because they didn’t know the law well enough, they didn’t send any more threats for discovery. This could have also been due to the fact that things were going worse and worse for them in the courts.
Then came June 22nd. See it turns out that in one of the other cases in front of the court, the judge had ordered that the contract agreement between Stevens Media and Righthaven be unsealed where upon it turned out that Righthaven didn’t actually own the copy right to anything as the contract stated that they had only been licensed the right to sue. While this may have seemed smart in terms of keeping Steven’s Media the ultimate owner of the IP, and shielded from counter suits and liability, it was also completely wrong. See any good lawyer will tell you that you can’t sue over the patent for something unless you actually own it. Wham Bam good by lawsuit! Since the Judge found that the Trolls had no right to sue, (and apparently needed to go back to law school), my and all the other pending lawsuits were dismissed! Good bye legal nightmare!
So now I like to check Righthaven Victims, to follow the saga every couple of weeks because Judges do not like it when you lie to them and waste the Court’s valuable time with over 400 groundless lawsuits and have in the last couple of months reduced them from a set of scary trolls to a set of fugitives on the run to try to keep from being liquidated, and that my friends is how I survived a Troll Attack. Ironically the Judges have been so pissed off that most people involved in copyright law would agree that the resulting judgements have weakened copyright protections for media creators/owners.(14) a month later. (15) a process server they had hired here in Montreal.