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Harlan Ellison's Misguided Claims Against AOL

from the let's-step-back-and-think-for-a-second dept

Famed writer Harlan Ellison is doing everything he possibly can to blame AOL for something it has nothing to do with, and doesn’t seem to want to listen to anyone who might tell him he’s got the story wrong. He’s driving himself into the poorhouse, and doesn’t seem to care. He even says, that in order to continue the case he would “hawk my house. I would sell my children into bondage.” So, let’s look at the details. A few years back, a friend pointed out to him that someone had posted one of his stories to Usenet. For some reason, Ellison decided it was AOL’s fault – because he could access Usenet via AOL (not realizing, I guess, that you can access Usenet from any internet service provider). When AOL didn’t respond within 1 week, he sued them. AOL later did block access to those Usenet groups. Now, as has been discussed multiple times here, service providers are not liable for things that their users do. Saying that they are would basically kill the internet. It would mean that someone from AOL (and every other ISP) would need to review every piece of content before it could go online. In this case, it’s even more ridiculous, because it wasn’t even on AOL, but on Usenet (and that’s not even mentioning the self-imposed 1-week deadline). This is the equivalent of someone suing an airline for flying over their house at 30,000 feet, allowing a passenger to snap a photograph. I’ve never read any of Ellison’s works, and he’s just convinced me that I never will.

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Comments on “Harlan Ellison's Misguided Claims Against AOL”

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Brian Shock (profile) says:

Re: Luddite

I have read much of Mr. Ellison’s work and have listened to him speak publicly a few times. I remember him frequently complaining about internet users in the most unpleasant terms. I also remember him proudly stating that he still writes on an IBM Selectric typewriter.
Mr. Ellison is famous (aside from his writing) for his lawsuits. Among these was his successful suit against James Cameron for appropriating the plot for “Terminator” from one of Mr. Ellison’s stories.
I believe Mr. Ellison prefers to call himself a “speculative fiction” author, finding “science fiction” too narrow a term.

Bob Jonkman (profile) says:

Read Harlan Ellison's fiction anyway

I didn’t realize that Harlan Ellison was such a self-proclaimed Luddite. Still, please don’t deny yourself from reading his stories — they’re really quite good. Ellison was largely responsible for turning SF from Space Opera into Literature. And yes, the Terminator does resemble one of his stories (of course, there are only five different kinds of stories anyway — I read that on the Internet so it must be true 🙂

Mike (profile) says:

Re: hmmmmmmm

If AOL didn’t “control” the usenet group in question … how could it block access to that group. In essence, it proved by blocking access to those groups that it has control over the content in those groups.

No, AOL just blocked AOL users from accessing the group. It’s the same thing as if AOL decided to block Techdirt. They could, and their users would no longer see it, but it would keep on publishing, and anyone outside the AOL universe could still see it.

Philip Shropshire (user link) says:

I wrote the definitive Harlan's Wrong Piece for Lo

This is actually old news. We’ve been waiting for the appeals court decision for awhile now. I wrote what I thought was the definitive argument as to why this case was a loser. One of my arguments is that USB devices will be just as powerful as file trading services in the years to come.
Anyway, here’s the link:
Philip Shropshire

Susan Nahmee says:

Anti-Ellison Sentiment

Apparently AOL themselves saw some merit in Ellison’s “retarded litigious effort,” since they’ve agreed to settle the case with him. He wrote the stories, and expects, like any artist, to be paid for his work. What arrogance! Further, he’s hardly a Luddite, and some of his objections to the Internet are legitimate. Sounds like most of you are talking out your asses, concerning something of which you know nothing—which, surprise, is exactly what Ellison doesn’t like about the Internet. At any rate, there is no need to defend a man who is fully able to do it himself, in spades. If you really care to have informed opinions, rather than the unqualified kind, why not look: http://harlanellison.com/interview.htm

Chris Mankey says:

Apparently AOL themselves saw some merit in Ellison’s “retarded litigious effort,” since they’ve agreed to settle the case with him. He wrote the stories, and expects, like any artist, to be paid for his work. What arrogance!

But aol isn’t responsible for the usenet. Maybe you’re to stupid to realize this. Come back when your head is dislodged from your ass!

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