'Attribution' Troll On Press Inc. Now 50% Less 'Troll-like!' Also: NOT Yelling At People Sells More Books!

from the two-steps-forward,-one-step-back dept

Late last week, we brought to you the epic (if in length only) story of an "attribution" troll going by the name of On Press Inc., which patrolled Twitter, hounding people into properly attributing a Shaun Shane poem using inhuman persistence and a grab bag of legal terminology.

As could be expected, once the secret troll-summoning words were revealed, many people rushed to their Twitter accounts to try their luck. They were not disappointed. Over at Boing Boing, Rob Beschizza tweeted an unattributed "Tongues Made of Glass," and was quicky hit with the expected blast of canned tweets.

On Press must have realized something was up, what with the sudden (and huge) increase in non-attributed poem quoting. For a little while, the On Press accounts fell nearly silent. In a few hours, however, its responses suddenly became a whole lot friendlier.

It would appear that On Press Inc. has realized (thanks to a very public airing of dirty laundry) that its previous tactics weren't earning it any friends, customers or respect. This new approach is bound to be more successful on all counts, if for no other reason than the old way did nothing more than paint both Shaun Shane and On Press Inc. as overbearing thugs, hardly the sort of people anybody wants to comply with, much less support. All in all, I imagine it was a very long and hectic day for whoever's running the On Press Twitter horde. This tweet (my new favorite!) pretty much sums it all up.


So, On Press is to be applauded for turning this whole experience around and using the additional exposure to generate some sales and additional Shaun Shane fans. In fact, someone claiming to be On Press added this comment to the original post late Saturday afternoon.

We'd like to thank you

This is On Press. We actually have to thank you Mr.Cushing. While at first we dimissed your post as simpleminded reactionism, you have brought quite abit of attention to Shane's work. So much so, that we have sold 3219 (as to this hour)of Shane's book in the last two days( more than we do in a month) and have recieved thousands of emails stating how much people like his work. So, by all means keep going. Your the best advertisment we have. Most people seem to not accept your position that using someone's work without credit is acceptable. With much thanks, On Press Inc.
Now, I'm not going to comment publicly on the veracity of those sales figures* because that's beside the point. I have to believe there has been an increase in sales for two reasons: 1. additional exposure and 2. a more pleasant "On Press experience" on Twitter. I'm also not going to comment on the penultimate sentence... yet.

* ಠ_ಠ

While there's a new On Press leaf being turned over on Twitter, it appears that it's the same old On Press (only grudgier) away from that platform. I was first clued in to this by Kendra Albert, who tweeted me a link to her blog post dealing with her On Press experience. She tweeted the poem, along with a link to our story, and received this in response. (The following image is Kendra's.)

All well and good, except that several hours later, a comment from someone claiming to be On Press appeared on a two-week-old post of hers to leave a comment/rant about copyright, infringement, giving proper attribution, etc. Another comment followed (credited to "onpress17"), but this one was a bit nastier.

Here let us speak for ourselves, This is On Press Inc. Tim Cushing (Techdirt) posted Shane's Poem on his Twitter account without credit to Shane. He was told to remove the post. Which is our legal right to demand. He then responded in what can only be characterized as juvenile ranting.He has selectively posted what he wants on his bizarre rambling on his webpage.But we have screenshots of all his conversation. You cannot post Author's work without credit to them. Not only is it illegal but unethical. If you published something and someone put it on the internet without credit to you and you contacted them and they refused to credit you and then post your work on the internet without your credit and then encouraged their friends to post the work without credit to you,w e wonder how you would feel. As we do. Shane should credit for his work. And that is all that was asked of Cushing to do
Finally, onpress17 appeared again to add a comment to her current post.
You post was not for commentary or reporting it was to incite. Which is not Fair Use. We understand that some people have a limited and overly simplistic understanding of Copyright Law, which to be expected of amateurs. But, let us put Mr.Cushings efforts in perspective. Of all the issues we deal with daily, he is quite minor and is hardly the first of his kind that we or other publishers have had to deal with . And we have quite abit of experince with resolving these types of issues. Though they take a little time. Secondly, Mr. Cushing has committed quite a few criminal and civil infractions that we are in the process of bringing to bare against him. But as we stated, legal proceedings take time. We have, and are sure that we will have too in the future, deal with sorts like Mr.Cushings as we have in the past. But, that is the nature of Publishing in this era and this issue will be resolved in our favor. However, we would suggest for you that you become better acquainted with the limitations of Fair Use.
So, it appears that On Press (or people pretending to be On Press) is playing nice on Twitter, but is still just as brutish (and confused) everywhere else. Someone claiming to be On Press also visited Boing Boing's writeup on this story to add the following:
We would really like to see if you'll come out from hiding behind this cowardly shield of words, on some poorly excuted blog that list no way of getting a hold of you and give us some real world contact information. For surely, if you presume you are right then there can be no harm in having us settle this in court. Or perhaps your just a wanna be revolutionary that does nothing more than talk hiding behind some silly childish ranting on a webpage. Or are you really up " to putting your money where your mouth is " as they say. So give us some contact information and stop being so cowardly.
All of this coming from the very anonymous On Press Inc., which has yet to supply anyone with a URL, email address, contact name or anything else. Someone claiming to be On Press also visited Michael Geist's blog to set the record straight on a "misquote," using the name "Tammy." (h/t to Eric Lorenzo). And there's plenty being said in the reviews section of On Press' solo book offering over at Amazon. "Michael Bradshaw" has waded into every opposing review to deliver gems such as these:
"...he (Cushing) acted like some idiotic kid and wrote this fake review. Notice he has not bought the book... And anybody who would go to these lengths rather than first credit an Artist is seriously deranged... Anyone who support this type of unethical childish behavior is as emotionally disturbed as Cushing is ."

"Cushing never read Shane's book he's just an immature idiot who knows how to nothing more than respond like a child when confronted with his immturity."

"Tim Cushing and the other guy have posted fake reviews when Cushing posted Shane's poem without credit and was asked to credit him instead of being a decent human being decide to write a fake review in immature retaliation. Only a moron does stuff like that"
In addition, on the day of the original post, this email was sent to Techdirt's Facebook account. [Interjections in brackets are my comments.]
Ah, Mr. Cushing we are quite amused by your efforts. Your investigation techniques need some work, but they are interesting to review nonetheless. As, for some of the misinformed opinions you've stated in your post ( quite bizarre in it's length) let us correct you. Shaun Shane is dead and died of cancer in 2010 and is buried in Connecticut. [Link to an obituary, perhaps?] He willed all his work and ownership of his copyright to On Press Inc. [Documentation?]

As for Tim Roth, who attempted to verify that you were employed and Techdirt , he is in New York.

[There don't appear to be any Tim Roths registered to practice law in New York. There's a "Timothy Rothwell" in New Jersey. And as for it being "Tim Roth" who called, the voice on the phone (which sounded quite similar to the voice in Shaun Shane's videos) clearly said "James Roth" and the call itself was made using a Texas phone number (the same number belonging to one of the names that has been going around supporting Shaun Shane online, Anne Murphy). It's possible that there is another Tim Roth out there not listed in the official listings for NY lawyers, but who is a lawyer. It would help to see some proof though. For now, it's a misdemeanor to impersonate an attorney in New York. If any impersonation is being done in Texas (where the calls originated), it's a third-degree felony. There may not be any impersonation going on, but we pass along this info as a courtesy to On Press.]

But most importantly after being contacted to remove your post of Shane's poem ,which you used illegally and not in compliance with any copyright law. ( Your use of it on Twitter does not meet Fair Use protection Guidelines; and despite your protest to the contrary, you cannot use copyrighted work - and it is copyrighted - without permission from the publisher) you showed willful intent to incur further infringement of our property and encouraged other to do (quite illegal Mr.Cushing)

[You'll have to point out where exactly I "encouraged others to do" so. I believe your tactics, once exposed, had more to do with any uptick in uncredited poem tweets than anything I said in my post. And, once again, I'd like to see some proof of your claim that On Press holds this copyright. So far, all I've seen is one phrase in the opening pages of a print-on-demand book composed of someone else's poems.

And as for your claim I showed "willful intent to incur further infringement," please take some time to point out exactly where that occurred.]

Additionally, we have just been in contact with Amazon concerning your fake review of Shane's book and have forwarded them the complete conversation with you ( we take screenshots of all conversations involving copyright infringement.) we had on Tweeter and your Twitter post stating that you had just made a review on Amazon in retaliation for being legally contacted to credit Shane or remove the post. Additionally, Twitter can, and does terminate accounts for copyright infringement.

[Good thing you made screenshots because all of your accounts are suspended. In fact, as of the evening of Feb. 18th, I can't find a single one up and running.]

Copyright Infringement is a crime and you cannot use anyone's copyrighted work without crediting them, period. There are no exceptions. We have to say that you have provided with us quite a lot of material to begin prosecution against you for copyright infringement. Also, Mr. Cushing we suggest you become more informed about how legal proceedings are conducted. it takes roughly a month to three months to begin the initial stages of prosecution. On Press Inc.

[I've got nothing to add to this -- other than that there is a whole body of law that talks about limitations and exceptions in copyright law, so to say that "there are no exceptions" is simply incorrect. Moreover, I suggest a crash course on the difference between criminal copyright law and civil copyright law.]
I'd also like to address that last sentence of the self-congratulatory comment left here at Techdirt by On Press.
"Most people seem to not accept your position that using someone's work without credit is acceptable."
["Most people" apparently being "Bob."] Reading the entire post would show that my position is very clearly the opposite. Just like every other writer for Techdirt, I properly attribute the work (and words) of others. Every article posted has links to the source material. Quotations from the source are clearly set off by the use of blockquotes and italics. As I stated in my post, I don't have any problem with seeking attribution. I just didn't care for the method On Press was using. "Using someone's work without credit" has never been acceptable, professionally or privately.

Now, bearing in mind that On Press is still considering naming me in a lawsuit for "copyright infringement, defamation of character and making false claims," there's not much I can do about the offending tweet and faux review. I can't delete them or alter them in any way. The last thing I need is accusations that I'm trying to alter or cover up evidence. As long as there's a legal threat dangling above my head, the tweet and review will stay where they are, unaltered.

Finally, even with this turnaround on Twitter, On Press still has some issues of its own. For one, it continues to claim it's a division of Knopf, despite the fact that Knopf itself told us directly that it has no division by that name. In fact, Knopf itself offered to "release the hounds."

Speaking of Twitter profiles, it appears the background photo On Press is using is a Shutterstock offering. This doesn't mean On Press hasn't paid the license fee (only $19!), but if it just grabbed it thoughtlessly from somewhere on the internet (without attribution), that would be a real shame.

Then there's the issue with its claim of ownership of Shane's work. On Press claims it owns it, despite it never having been registered at the Copyright Office. This doesn't necessarily rule out ownership, but it does make one wish for a bit more proof than an uploaded video/flipbook. If Shaun Shane is dead (as On Press has repeatedly stated), who or what is controlling his work?

Shane's only "published" book is a print-on-demand title from a company that doesn't seem to exist outside of tweets and comments. Without any more information to go on, this book (and its attendant copyright) seems about as legitimate as a scraperbot's Amazon offering compiled from eHow articles and Wikipedia pages. Some sort of chain of evidence needs to be presented before anyone can start filing copyright infringement lawsuits. If On Press has any information related to this, I greatly encourage it to clue the rest of us in on its existence.

Now, On Press has made some great strides in its day-to-day attribution work and I'd like to see it continue down that positive path. I'd also like to see it drop its "division of Knopf" wording and be a bit more open about its relationship to Shaun Shane (or his estate), but I'm not expecting any miracles. I'd also like to see it drop the legal threats but, understandably, it's quite angry with me right now and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. On the bright side, I did receive this little note in my Twitmail late last week.

As someone's who's witnessed the awesome power of the Popehat Signal, I'd hate to be the entity whose legal threats have prompted the lighting.

All in all, though, I'd say more good than bad has come out of this. At the very least, unsuspecting teen retweeters aren't being smacked around by baseless threats involving IP addresses, police departments and lawsuits filed against their parents. While there is evidence that On Press is a bit more "aggressive" away from the confines of Twitter, for the most part it looks like a more positive effort is being made. Old habits die hard, but hopefully the newer, friendlier face of On Press will become the new "normal." Perhaps this will lead to enough book sales that On Press/Shaun Shane can set up an actual web site and offer more than one title. As I've said before, I have no problem with giving proper attribution. I have a big problem, however, with using threats, insults and good, old-fashioned trolling to get these results.

Filed Under: attribution, copyright, poem, shaun shane, tongues of glass, trolling
Companies: on press inc.

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  1. identicon
    CharlieBrown, 19 Feb 2013 @ 1:31pm

    What I don't get is how we've ended up with like ten pages of articles, comments and quotes over a two line "poem" that reads more like an expression or phrase. Even this post is longer than the poem.

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