Georgia State Court Issues Censorship Order Blocking Free Speech On Anti-Copyright Troll Message Board

from the overbroad dept

The EFF has a blog post about a very troubling ruling in a Georgia state court that effectively orders the censoring of an anti-copyright trolling blog including user comments. The blog in question, ExtortionLetterInfo.com, is run by a guy named Matt Chan. He recently took up the cause of people who have been hit by copyright infringement demands from Linda Ellis, a poet who is somewhat infamous for going after lots of people, demanding payments after they posted her sappy poem "the Dash." She apparently threatens people (ridiculously) with the statutory maximum awards of $150,000 per infringement, but will "settle" for a mere $7,500 -- often going after non-profits, charities and churches who want to share the "positive message" of the poem. Yes, she demands $7,500 for posting her poem to a website.

Her actions have been written about and talked about in a wide variety of places online, and when ELI took up the issue, some of the comments got nasty. And apparently, some of the comments made on the ELI site did get pretty aggressive, which is unfortunate. As much as people dislike trolling behavior, there's simply no reason to ever go that far. However, even if the posts went too far, the judge went much further in ordering Chan to remove all mention of Ellis from his site, whether by him or any user.
Respondent is hereby ORDERED to remove all posts relating to Ms. Ellis. Respondent is hereby enjoined and restrained from doing or attempting to do, or threatening to do any act constituting a violation of O.C.G.A- §§ 16-5-90 et seq. and of harassing, interfering, or intimidating the Petitioner or Petitioner's immediate family. Any future acts committed by the Respondent towards the Petitioner which are in violation of this statute and this Protective Order can amount to AGGRAVATED STALKING, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-91, which is a felony. A person convicted of Aggravated Stalking shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years and by a fine of not more than $10,000.00
As the EFF points out, this order goes way, way too far by violating a variety of existing laws and the First Amendment.
Removing "all posts relating to Ms. Ellis" is neither narrowly tailored nor the least restrictive means of addressing any true threats. It fails the First Amendment test because of the collateral damage: it will take down constitutionally-protected criticism of the copyright troll and her demands for money. For example, Ellis complained that "there were vile posts of blasphemy." While blasphemy is doubtless offensive to Ellis, it remains protected speech.

The Georgia Court's overreaching order against Chan also contradicts federal law because it holds a service provider to account for users' posts. Section 230 protects websites that host content posted by users, providing immunity for a website from state law claims (including criminal law) based on the publication of "information provided by another information content provider."
The court, incorrectly, insists that because Chan has the ability to remove posts, he is obligated to do so.
As the owner and operator of the site, Respondent has the ability to remove posts in his capacity as the moderator. However, Respondent chose not to remove posts that were personally directed at Ms. Ellis and would cause a reasonable person to fear for her safety. Because the Respondent's course of conduct was directed at Ms. Ellis through the posted messages and information relating to Ms. EIlis, and the conduct was intended (and in fact did) create fear and intimidation in the Petitioner.
Except, as the EFF reminds us, under section 230, there is no duty to remove content and no liability for failing to remove that content even if you can. In the famous Zeran case, the court clearly held:
[L]awsuits seeking to hold a service liable for its exercise of a publisher's traditional editorial functions – such as deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone or alter content – are barred. The purpose of this statutory immunity is not difficult to discern. Congress recognized the threat that tort-based lawsuits pose to freedom of speech in the new and burgeoning Internet medium.
As the EFF post notes, this does not mean that those who said illegal things are not liable, but "the responsibility lies with the speaker." Having the court issue such a broad order barring speech and pinning the blame on the site for statements of users goes beyond what the law allows.


Reader Comments (rss)

 

Legal comment on all of the above

I am the legal adviser to the extortionletterinfo.com site (ELI). Thanks for the many comments. I will try to address some of the questions raised. Matt was overconfident perhaps that the First Amendment and the CDA would protect his right to post public information about Ms. Ellis and that he could not be responsible for the comments of others; he also did not foresee that he would be the first person held in violation of this stalking statute who never met, talked to, emailed, wrote, contacted or followed the alleged victim - so he went Pro Se. He will be filing a Notice of Appeal this week and I will be representing him (pro bono)on the appeal. However, he still needs to retain local Georgia counsel as well as pay an estimated several thousands of dollars for the transcript and about $600 in court costs. He has established a legal defense fund on ELI so any assistance is appreciated by Matt. The judge's decision was very overbroad. ELI had to take down every single post about Ms. Ellis even though she only complained of about 5 out of 1,900. (she never asked Matt to take the posts down prior to filing for the order by the way). Also the Order of Protection is for Matt's lifetime even though he was only personally responsible for two posts. I don't believe the two posts violate the Stalking Law but I won't debate that here - they were rude and somewhat insulting and for that he has apologized as the post mentions. But regardless of what anyone feels about the content, the order went far beyond what was called for and what the law allows. I'll keep my eye on this post if there any new issues folks want to know about or please feel free to contact me at omichelen@cuomollc.com. Thanks again.
—Oscar Michelen

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Ninja (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 6:10am

    Appeals. If EFF sets a fund to help this guy I'll donate. Free speech must be protected and this 3rd party liability is going too far, good precedents need to be set.

     

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      rw (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 7:10am

      Re:

      I'll donate.

       

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      tomxp411 (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 12:16pm

      Re:

      Why not donate to something worthwhile, rather than supporting someone who is (apparently) threatening and intimidating people?

      I do agree that satire is a legitimate form of free expression, but I don't think that threats and intimidation are or should be protected speech.

      For example, If I called you a pompous jerk, and created a series of scathing posts about why I think so, I'm protected. But the instant I start talking about how I'm going to track you down and defile you in numerous, humiliating ways... that enters the realm of threats and intimidation, which are no longer free speech.

      I'm obviously speaking from a position of ignorance here, since I haven't seen this guy's forum, and I have no intention of going there... but this case sounds like bad news no matter which way the appeals court rules.

       

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        Ninja (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 1:54pm

        Re: Re:

        He has got his punishment for it and it is this ordeal. Regardless of how much of a jerk he may have been the cause is worth a donation.

         

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        Reality Check (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 4:25pm

        Re: Re:

        Personally, I think that Freedom of Speech is worthwhile.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 5:12pm

        Re: Re:

        Except that he didn't say these things. The gist of the article is that he is being punished for not stopping other people from saying things, not for saying them, himself.

         

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        art guerrilla (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 4:38am

        Re: Re:

        in spite of others schooling you on this, i can't resist:
        why not donate to something worthwhile, rather than supporting something which is (definitely) threatening and murdering people ? ? ?

        um, you still payin' taxes, sparky ? ? ?
        'cause you (and i, and all of US) are supporting a psychopathic institution we call the USG...

        it is MURDERING (on our behalf) (mostly) poor, (mostly) brown, (mostly) mooselimbish nekkid apes the world over; it is working 24/7/365 AGAINST the interests of its 99%, and FOR the interests of the 1%...

        unless you are in the 1%, sucks to be an amerikan citizen with morals, (hint: you are the enemy of the pschopathic state)...

        art guerrilla
        aka ann archy
        eof

         

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      anonymouse, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 4:08pm

      Re:

      WARNING!!!!! seriously guys i have been commenting here for awhile and while i support a lot of what is said on thsi site please dont let use be used in a way that we will regret.

      I just finished reading the letter this lady wrote on her site and yes she is a confirmed copyright troll but from what she was saying this character actually did stalk her or insinuate that he knew where she lived and was driving around the area and knows people that wante her in the ground. No noramally i could never see myself supporting a troll ever, and i would insult them as much as i could, in fact i have insulted this lady from the word go until i read her letter about the case. Please go and read it yourself, if Chan has done what is most likely in writing somewhere in the court files i think she is more than justified getting a restraining order, to some she may be very pretty and it sounds like chan became obsessive.
      Now i know there are always two sides of the story and yes the fact the court took down all the comments was overreaching in my opinion as most on here, but if he said the thing she says he said and i have no doubt about it then we should not be supporting him in this, i am leaving it as is and only going to say if i could delete my previous posts i would.I will not become party to a mob lynching, even if it is only a persons character that is being lynched.

      As i said i detest her as a troll and think she possible deserves some of what has come her way, but to support it, no thank, i am not going to support this type of behavior nor in any way pay anything towards the defendant getting this charge against him reversed.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 4:34pm

        Re: Re:

        Heretic. You shall be banned from Techdirt!!!!!!!

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 7:40pm

        Re: Re:

        See, that's the problem with being a copyright troll. At some point, in your dragnet fishing methodology, you're going to hit on someone with a lot less scruples and patience. It's a risk you take when this is the kind of business model you embark on. It's not up to the rest of the world, who's been following the rules and not overstepping the line, to feel sorry and pull back completely when you choose to step on a mine.

         

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        That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 1:47am

        Re: Re:

        Ummm maybe read the actual court documents rather than a post from a woman who handed out her poem to people and then demanded thousands if they used it?

        She might have an issue with being truthful, and being overly dramatic because her business model was threatened.

        See because trolls don't like when you call them bad words, and they like to misquote those statements in legal documents. I can show you 3 lawsuits where what they claimed was said were edited statements designed to change the message and make it look much worse.

         

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    Jeff (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 6:45am

    I'll contribute to an appeals fund.


    It is a sad day when you have to raise money from strangers to protect the first amendment rights of an individual.

     

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      Atkray (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 7:19am

      Re: Sad day

      It is a sad day that you have to raise money from strangers, but it is remarkable that you can raise sufficient money from strangers.

       

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      tomxp411 (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 12:17pm

      Re:

      Why? What did this guy do that's worth defending?

      Intimidating and humiliating a woman who's just demanding her rights? Wow. Let's back that up. That's a great idea.

       

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        anonymouse, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 3:33pm

        Re: Re:

        Did you not read the story, she is a copyright troll, maybe have a quick look on Google i am sure you will understand why.

         

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        madasahatter (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 3:40pm

        Re: Re:

        The real issue is the method she is using against grieving people who truly believe the poem is public domain. Some of the victims attributed the poem to Anonymous.

        If she sent a reasonably polite DMCA takedown notice first it is likely very little fuss would be made. If the notice was ignored, then a sharp demand letter would be justified.

        One legal analysis indicated that the letter recipients may be able assert fair use or if found infringing most likely face only $200 fine. The letter demands $7,500 and implies if the case goes to court the actual fine would be about $30,000 plus court costs. It preys on the victims total ignorance of copyright law.

         

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        That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 1:49am

        Re: Re:

        A woman who made sure her poem ended up in peoples hands so she could have a larger pool to go after?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:12am

    EFF certainly does its case no favor by calling her a "copyright troll". That seems gratuitous, unprofessional and will doubtlessly be seen as a provocation by the court. That said, the court has strayed far off of the reservation. I'd guess the next step would be that the website will be ordered to disclose the names of those people who engaged in threats and "stalking" behavior and they'll be pursued individually. This would put the site owner in an interesting position. Does he comply with the initial order or have it set aside and end up being forced to reveal the identities of those engaged in threats and "stalking".

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:20am

      Re:

      "EFF certainly does its case no favor by calling her a "copyright troll"."

      I agree, anyone favoring copy'right' law should be called what they are, selfish thugs who work together to buy our government, scam artists, and scam the public. Abolish copy'right'.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:33am

        Re: Re:

        Set aside your petulant attitude long enough to consider this sort of remark will be looked at as a responsible, professional thing to say in conjunction with litigation. It is more than likely that this will become a high-profile case with lots of litigation. Most professionals would make it about the law, rather than trying to denigrate or demean a party to the suit. Most judges would be angered by unnecessary and childish insults. EFF knows better.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:33am

          Re: Re: Re:

          will *not* be

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          It's childish and ridiculous for a court to get involved in childish insults. It's really none of the court's business. What, is the court our nanny now? If all this is is about childish insults then the court ought to just tos the case out and penalize the plaintiffs who are suing for childish insults.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:48am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            and since when is a verbal 'provocation' against the law? It should not be. So what if someone is 'provoked' by what you deem to be a 'childish insult'. That's really none of a courts business. They should spend time and resources more constructively.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:15am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              It is the court who will be provoked by the unprofessional conduct of EFF. That doesn't help them if they join the case. Just because you can say something, doesn't mean you should say something.

               

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                JEDIDIAH, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:17am

                More nonsense from the AC troll(s)...

                You're a clueless idiot. You are in no position to lecture anyone about the professional expectations of lawyers and judges.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:40am

                  Re: More nonsense from the AC troll(s)...

                  Obviously, you are a coarse, unrefined boor whose comments reflect your own standards for professional conduct and discourse.

                  The courtroom and the practice of law differ somewhat from a tractor pull or Bubba's garage.

                  BTW, say 'hi' to Granny, Jethro and Ellie May for me.

                   

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                    art guerrilla (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 12:13pm

                    Re: Re: More nonsense from the AC troll(s)...

                    you know, when you're right, you're richtig...

                    except the lowest, least-ethical tractor-pull has higher standards than the most-ethical parasite, er, lawyer...

                    i would not trust a lawyer to do ANYTHING he/she was not paid to do; i KNOW bubba and jethro and granny WILL HELP OUT ANY stranger who is in need...

                    FOAD, parasite on society...

                    art guerrilla
                    aka ann archy
                    eof

                     

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                      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 12:21pm

                      Re: Re: Re: More nonsense from the AC troll(s)...

                      Hi Art Gorilla. Always nice to hear from the the most coarse, obnoxious trailer-trash Florida has ever spawned.

                       

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                        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 5:23pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: More nonsense from the AC troll(s)...

                        Pardon me, but one's mode of speech hardly reflects the intellect behind the keyboard. This is a mistake that is only made by the most snobbish of boars, and yes, that would be you. Big words does not make you a better person. They're just big words. In the end, it is the logic and intellect that is important, not the mannerisms.

                         

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                Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:42am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Courts should not worry themselves and be provoked by such petty issues. They should focus their resources and attention elsewhere.

                 

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:08am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            My point is that judges have little patience for unprofessional conduct by so-called professionals. What is the point in engaging in name calling? Particularly since it reflects badly on you by the very people you're trying to sway to your point of view.

             

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              Lowestofthekeys (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:58am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I agree and good point.

              Chan was quoted as saying: "To be honest with you, I made some stupid posts," Chan told us. "It was certainly unprofessional. I'll be the first to admit it" (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/03/i-made-some-stupid-posts-anti-troll-site-gagged-after-th reats-against-poet/), which was certainly big of him to do.

              Though that doesn't change his original comments, Ellis' escalated response was completely unnecessary. She basically used the courts to file a restraining order and have the content taken down.I don't think that is it's intended use.

               

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                art guerrilla (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 12:34pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                well, talking about 'unnecessary': the copyright troll has a banner at the top of her stupid web site which presently says: " Matthew Chan of Columbus, Georgia guilty of stalking"...

                and *he* is the one with no 'class'...
                richtig...

                art guerrilla
                aka ann archy
                eof

                 

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                  anonymouse, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 3:37pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  She actually sounds like the one doing the stalking here, is it too much to call her a stupid bitch , or am i looking for trouble giving my opinion of this person on here.

                   

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:59am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Most professionals would make it about the law, rather than trying to denigrate or demean a party to the suit.


          It's like you've read law books and never met any actual lawyers.

           

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        AWarnock, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:37am

        Re: Re:

        Hold on a second. I'm a bit of an artist and I support the idea that a person has the right to say who can and can't republish their work. The difference here is asking for an unreasonable sum of money in exchange for not getting sued. If someone used my stuff, I'd ask for credit and a link back to my stuff, or if that's too much that they remove the work in question, but I'm not going to sue unless they leave that as my only option.

         

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          madasahatter (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 3:53pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          A little free advertising and if they refuse then the artillery. I have seen others state the same, why not asks for proper attribution and a link rather than money.

           

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      G Thompson (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      Courts themselves have used that terminology ever since the SCO cases. It's also derived from the phrase "patent troll" which is very much nowadays in the legal lexicon.

      The media uses the term, Politicians of all sides use it, and so do lawyers in cases. Therefore the community at large uses it in common and wide speech. Courts are used to it and it is not disrespectful whatsoever in calling someone one that actually fits the common definition of a "copyright troll"

      There is NO provocation nor is it unprofessional. This is not SCOTUS, though even there it would be used too since 'patent troll' has been.

      As for stating it is gratuitous...

      Well you might want to look at the histrionics of Ms Ellis's litigious actions and the old saying.. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:15am

      Re:

      Did you check the link on the EFF page? There's a pretty narrow definition of "copyright troll" that doesn't seem all that objectionable. Given recent court actions in mass 'john doe' copyright cases and the generally unfavorable way such tactics are viewed by the judges in said cases (see: righthaven, Prenda Law, ect) what makes you think they would balk at the term "copyright troll" other than your own rather obvious bias.

       

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      DOlz, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:40am

      Re:

      Would you prefer "copyright extortionist?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:46am

        Re: Re:

        Would you prefer "copyright extortionist?

        Call them whatever you like. In this cesspool of copyright apologists and professional malcontents, it's perfectly appropriate. But why a group like EFF who will likely be party to the appeal acts in an unprofessional manner, it will potentially bite them and is totally unprofessional and unnecessary.

         

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          G Thompson (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:52am

          Re: Re: Re:

          cesspool... malcontents....

          hmmm obfuscation on your part perhaps?

          as to potentially 'bite' them, I think you have been watching too much Law & Order, or (more the likely scenario) listening to law professors who haven't seen the inside of an actual court for a long time (if ever) and think their theory of how courtrooms are actually run and how judges 'should' act is actually true. They are wrong, as any gopher of a law school graduate normally learns to their astonishment!

           

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          DOlz, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:55am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Three points.

          A) I don;t get payed so I'm an amateur malcontent.

          B) Copyright apologists here? Except for a couple of regular commenters most people here feel the copyright system is broken almost beyond repair.

          C) Anyone truly in favor of free speech must defend (in fact especially) defend the speech of those they disagree with. As a personal example I feel that the world will be a better place when the last member of the WBC shuffles off this mortal coil. Until that time I will defend their right to the vile despicable speech they so enjoy.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 11:04am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            A) agreed

            B) my stupid mistake: mental lag in deciding between copyright hater and piracy apologist leads to a ghastly faux pas

            C) The hypocrites here constantly censor everything OOTB writes no matter what it is. You should talk to your friends about this- though I agree. Personally, I've never reported a single comment on this site or any other.

             

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              DOlz, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 11:14am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              There is a difference in hiding a comment and censoring. You can still see the comments by clicking on the link to see it. Censored material is not available to be seen.

              I do agree with you that too many people hit the report button because they don't like what is being said and that should stop.

               

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 11:43am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Nothing better than a hypocrite lecturing others on hypocrisy. It's like hypocriception.

               

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 12:15pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              The hypocrites here constantly censor everything OOTB writes no matter what it is

              Hiding comments is not censorship. Free speech is only a right to speak, it does not require that anyone listen to you.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 12:24pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                What is the purpose of the report button and hiding comments?

                 

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                  That One Guy (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 1:02pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  It's basically a way for the community to say 'this text is offensive enough and/or idiotic enough that you're better off not having to read it unless you want to'. The physical analogue would be something like a sign placed outside a room, warning people that someone in there is doing their best to offend everyone that they see. You can still go in the room without any real effort, but you've been warned ahead of time.

                  Now, having said that, I have noticed that people do tend to use the report button a little too freely at times, but after having seen the usual 'arguments' from OOTB and others, which in the vast majority of cases involve nothing more than childish name calling, accusing everyone who disagrees with them of being criminals, and so forth, I can understand why people would no longer give such people the benefit of the doubt and might instead just report them based on name alone.

                  Something to keep in mind, as a tool for 'censorship' the report button would be a horrible failure, as in the vast majority of times plenty of people still reply to them, making it quite clear that people are still able, and indeed are, reading the reported comments.

                   

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                    Niall (profile), Mar 28th, 2013 @ 9:06am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    To be fair, there have been a good number of Out_of_the_Ballpark's posts that haven't been flagged - I think he's been taking his meds more often - certainly he's said a few things that actually made sense, even if they weren't agreeable.

                    But lacking an upvote/downvote system, or a "This is complete tosh" button, it's all we have. Take it up with Mike...

                     

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 7:43pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You think long paragraphs of "la la la, article too long so I didn't read, MIKE GOOGLE BLARGHA FLARG" shouldn't be reported? This is the attitude you want to encourage?

               

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            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2013 @ 12:31am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              When ootb makes a salient point he is not reported to pink. It happens once in a great while but not often. Most of the time he needs to be in the pink.

               

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        •  
          identicon
          anonymouse, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 3:40pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          As it is a term used by the courts in many cases i doubt it will come back to bite anyone ... unless it is that actual troll we are talking about.

           

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      identicon
      anonymouse, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 3:31pm

      Re:

      Surely after deleting the comments he now no longer has access to the details of the people who made them....

      Nice to know the court has done so badly on this ruling that they have ended up not only breaking the constitution rules but also demanded that content that could have identified the real perpetrators was destroyed by their order, unless the court for some reason would think the defendant would not do as the court requested that is....funny one this where the actual guilty party might get away with not even a warning about their behavior and in fact might not even know about the case if they have not been back to the forum thread in question.

       

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    •  
      icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 1:56am

      Re:

      Copyright Troll - People who abuse the copyright system to obtain cash they might not be able to in an actual court setting. The settlement amount is usually about what mounting a defense would cost. They often quote the $150,000 figure in an effort to scare people into settling lest they be left penniless when the court convicts them.

      The cases are often meritless but the lawyers make claims and people assume that lawyers speak the truth when talking about the law, much to their own detriment.

      See also - Prenda Law, ACS:UK, USCG, DG&W, Malibu Media, CEG Tek, and the list goes on and on and on...

      She claims he stalked her yet has never been in his presence in the real world. If not for her following the website she would have been unaware of people speaking about her trolling activities at all. This is another case of hand-wringing combined with on the internet leading to bad decisions.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:16am

    I also find it somewhat ironic that a site like ELI has this at the bottom of its home page:

    Copyright
    2008-2013. ExtortionLetterInfo. All Rights Reserved.

     

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    •  
      icon
      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:37am

      Re:

      What? A guy can't be for the basic principles of copyright but be against the misuse of it?

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:21am

      Re:

      You only find it ironic because of your absurd narrative where everyone that doesn't agree with the letter of the current law on copyright or on new legal theories for enforcing current copyright or on expansion of the rights granted to copyright holders is 100% anti-copyright. To a normal person it's not ironic in the slightest really.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:50am

        Re: Re:

        You only find it ironic because of your absurd narrative where everyone that doesn't agree with the letter of the current law on copyright or on new legal theories for enforcing current copyright or on expansion of the rights granted to copyright holders is 100% anti-copyright. To a normal person it's not ironic in the slightest really.

        They seem to be kindred spirits with Masnick, who asserts no such copyright claim yet publishes (imho) far more 'valuable' content. I just found it odd. No need to get your panties in a twist.

         

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      identicon
      mcfilms, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 2:10pm

      Re: Copyright

      Why? Why is it ironic to support copyright. Visit the ELI site. It has been said time and again that participants on the site support copyright. They just don't support extortionate demands, like $7500 for posting a sing-song poem that was seen by 50 people.

       

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        madasahatter (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 4:07pm

        Re: Re: Copyright

        Agreed, often the real issue is how copyrights and patents are abused or in their current from abusive.

        I support reforming both to narrow their scope and bring them in line the US Constitution's intent of promoting "arts and sciences".

        Ellis' actions strike many as extremely abusive, borderline legalized extortion.

         

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:21am

    so, what is going to be done? is this judges ruling(s) gonna be challenged or left? is the judge gonna be challenged as to how he/she arrived at the rulings without knowing or consulting on the related laws? is he/she gonna be allowed to hear similar cases as he/she clearly doesn't know and has actually violated the law? is he/she gonna be allowed to continue as a judge, considering the screw up made in this case must have had personal undertones?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:23am

    Did he not have a decent lawyer or is Georgia still that bassackwards? You'd think there would be more than enough precident for this case to be easily solved based on the points made by the EFF about prior cases.



    I'm still of the opinion that if courts are blatently overreaching that they should start gathering "points" or "dings" to their record as a judge. This would put it more in line with how most professional sports referees are handled. If you can't properly uphold the law (especially when there is such a precident) you shouldn't be able to keep your spot on the bench!

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:28am

      Re:

      I don't know about GA specifically, but many states elect judges. Which I think is a huge mistake.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:43am

        Re: Re:

        I thought that was the process in all states. Judges are supposed to be elected officials aren't they?

        Still, there should be a point system to notify people cause currently it's more like selecting a name for most people. And having lived in the South for a few years, I'd be willing to bet most of them vote for the one that says "Republican" or "Incumbent".

         

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          Vidiot (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Direct election of a judge seems bizarre to those of us who don't live in such states. A little like having the Elks Club vote on who gets to be a neurosurgeon.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Are_state_judges_appointed_or_elected is a brief overview of how judges get their positions.

            Looks like Georgia is non-partisan election.

             

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            icon
            G Thompson (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:08am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The election of Police Chief, Fire Chief, and other "public servant" managerial positions is more than bizarre to those living somewhere other than America. In fact it's downright fr3eakin weird and abhorrent.

             

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              ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 1:11pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              The election of Police Chief, Fire Chief, and other "public servant" managerial positions is more than bizarre to those living somewhere other than America. In fact it's downright fr3eakin weird and abhorrent.

              For the most part, I'd agree with you. I happen to live in a city in which our Police Chief, Fire Chief and other managerial positions (except the City Attorney,) are appointed positions. However, I see little difference between the politicians we elect choosing their best friend to be Police Chief and the public at large choosing their best friend to be Police Chief. Of course, the public doesn't usually receive kickbacks, unlike the politicians, and thus in some cases it is the fairest way to chose a Police Chief.

              Hopefully, however, the public has enough information to choose the best one for the job. But that is a problem with appointments too.

               

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:26am

    Next steps:

    So, this is where the internet will likely fight back.

    I expect to see sites all over the internet posting terrible comments calling for the rape, torture, and death of Linda Ellis...

    What's she going to do, get this judge to censor every website on the internet because she pissed everyone off?

     

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    identicon
    dbcch, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:36am

    to be expected

    This absurd ruling is yo be expected in the South. I live there. I know. For every absurd abuse by judges you may hear about, there are 1000 more cases you haven't heard about. Many rulings send people to prison or otherwise substantially affect lives. I am sure this judge is no particular fan of that new dangled internet crud anyway

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:40am

    Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

    But common law is actually superior to EVERY statute: common law authorizes the US Constitution. And I think this ruling is well within common law that a site owner has responsibility at some point to remove posts. There'd be NO question if the posts were racist or threatening violence (as appears here). -- Definitely so when the site is commercial. Corporations DON'T have same rights as people, regardless what legalistic tyrants claim.

    @ "I expect to see sites all over the internet posting terrible comments calling for the rape, torture, and death of Linda Ellis..." -- That's EXACTLY what a responsible site owner should QUASH soon as appears. You seem to be cheering it on. But society can't hold together for good purposes when nasty little savages call for violence against strangers they know only through one-sided comments on web sites. That attitude is going to bite you -- perhaps literally: yesterday was story of an ear bit off merely for asking two guys to keep it quiet at 4AM.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      out_of_the_blue, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:43am

      This is the Collective Consciousness again

      Thank you for your more reasoned input and disagreement. We would like to see more of this in the future and beyond. Whilst we disagree that on the first part, the second part is usually (not not always) correct.

       

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        out_of_the_blue, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:48am

        Re: This is the Collective Consciousness again

        Hey "out_of_the_blue", let's you and me agree on disparaging SHEER ad hom, by which I mean NO substance to a post at all, JUST an attack. See my expanded views here:
        http://techdirt.com/articles/20100412/1526158979.shtml

        NOW, quite relevant to THIS item, IF we just could get Mike to accept SOME slight responsibility for setting the tone here, we'd have a chance. But for the 1%, "law" is all about EVADING responsibility. So that disagreement about my first para is kind of key to all.

         

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      identicon
      The main problem, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:45am

      Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

      The main problem most people seem to have with this is that the order was WAYYYYY too broad, ordering Chan to remove ANYTHING related to Linda. I don't think anyone's really arguing that threatening comments shouldn't be moderated in some way.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:54am

        Re: Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

        @ "The main problem most people seem to have with this is that the order was WAYYYYY too broad, ordering Chan to remove ANYTHING related to Linda. I don't think anyone's really arguing that threatening comments shouldn't be moderated in some way."

        Well, the way I read Mike's reading of it (plus his prior stance), that's exactly what Mike believes: that a site owner is totally shielded by statute from ALL responsibility for comments. SO, let's ask Mike:

        Mike: On what basis, besides clear commercial spamming, do you or would you EVER remove comments?

        There. Let's hear Mike take an actual position, not just put this out to gin up angst and squabbling.

         

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          identicon
          out_of_the_blue, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:21am

          Re: Re: Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

          Why must I always turn these posts into a petty squabble with Mike Masnick?

           

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          Rikuo (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:52am

          Re: Re: Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

          He's answered this before, but I'm too tired right now to go searching through his tens of thousands of comments to find where he said it. He's said he won't ever censor or remove comments. He'll let the community report them, which is how it should be done (consensus of a community is better than one man dictating what can and cannot be said).

          Now, just to shut you up about the "censoring" that goes on here at Techdirt...again...no it is NOT censorship. Censorship is when speech you have made is deleted or removed, and/or you are prevented from making speech. If Mike blocked certain user profiles...that's censorship. If he blocked you via IP address (stupid method I know) that would be censorship.
          When entire websites are ordered shut down by the government on a mere accusation of copyright law, THAT is censorship, since speech is removed and people are prevented from making more speech there (Dajaz1, Rojadirecta)
          When the community here reports your comments, blue, you are NOT being censored. Your comments remain. They can still be viewed. You can still comment. You are not being prevented from making speech. What is happening is that the community is deciding that what you say, 99% of the time, is a waste of time and indicating "Don't bother reading this". If someone wants to read your comments anyway, they still can.

           

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 11:31am

          Re: Re: Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

          You keep trying to draw this connection between if or if not moderation is ever appropriate at the above. There is no connection. The fact that moderation can be a good thing for an online community in no way what-so-ever justifies legal liability for electing not to moderate comments nor does it justify holding a site operator responsible for the actions of a site's users, which is what this article is actually about.

           

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:46am

      Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

      ""But common law is actually superior to EVERY statute: common law authorizes the US Constitution. And I think this ruling is well within common law that a site owner has responsibility at some point to remove posts.""

      Well based on what you said then it is Mikes responsibility to remove every comment and post by you on this site and he should do so immediately.

       

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        identicon
        Digitari, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:38am

        Re: Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

        I would have to agree to "some" of OOTB's posts, but not all


        (Yes OOTB I just defended you)

         

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          That One Guy (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 1:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

          While I agree with you, keep in mind OOTB seems to think there's nothing wrong with the judge's order here, which involves removing all comments that mention the woman, not just the more objectionable ones, so as the saying goes 'Live by the sword, die by the sword'.

           

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:14am

      Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

      Many web sites do not moderate user comments. Requiring this would force site owners exercise editorial control over user comments. This would have several effects on comments, reduction in volume and delay in comment appearance.This would stifle the conversations that occur when comments are not moderated.
      Such a requirement is also likely to result in a registration to comment requirement, eliminating anonymous comments.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:27am

        Re: Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

        Not to mention just forcing some sites to shutter when they can't afford the cost of having each comment be reviewed.

         

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:20am

      Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

      A lot of people cant handle a troll. Also a lot of people are unable to carry on a civil conversation or deal with criticism. People need to grow up, get over themselves and deal with the situation at hand.

      With trolls, its simple: ignore their comments, and they lose interest, just like little children. If there's a mechanism for hiding the offending comments or banning the user, use it, we do that all the time here for OOTB.

      Now I understand there are laws that come into play when someone makes genuine threats online, however we really need to evaluate the validity of those threats before contacting the authorities. Just because some random troll says he's going to kill you doesn't immediately mean you should fear for your life. You need to ask a few simple questions:

      1. Does this person know your real-world identity, or are they likely to find it out?

      2. Have you received more than one threat from this same person?

      3. Does this person have a history of trollish behavior?

      If one of the first two are true, and the person is not a known troll, then the threat may be more serious, otherwise, I would not be worried.

      BTW, could the real OOTB please come forward? Your clones seem to be taking over.

       

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      A Lawyer, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:18am

      Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

      ... Nothing you said is even remotely correct.

      Common law is the bargain basement of precedent. It goes: US Constitution, Federal Law, State Law, Common Law.

      Not only that... I sincerely think you should read the actual post. CDA § 230, the Zeran Case and the First amendment all make very, very clear that site operators have no liability for their comments.

      Or, you know, continue ranting totally insane bullshit. Your choice.

       

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      JEDIDIAH, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:22am

      Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

      Common law only recognizes a small handful of crimes.

      Being annoyed (or even frightened) by some troll isn't one of them.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:25am

      Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

      There'd be NO question if the posts were racist or threatening violence.


      Yes there would.

      That's EXACTLY what a responsible site owner should QUASH soon as appears.


      Not all site owners can afford to so heavily moderate their comments. Many do and moderation can be a positive force for a community but that doesn't mean it should be a legal requirement, that refusing to moderate should incur any sort of legal liability.

       

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      Karl (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 11:14am

      Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

      But common law is actually superior to EVERY statute: common law authorizes the US Constitution.

      This is factually false. Common law certainly cannot override the Constitution. Were that the case, then the "common law" could get rid of such things as the First Amendment or the right to due process, and that is ridiculous.

      State laws can grant the people additional protection against the (state) government, like when states have laws that protect free speech more than the First Amendment does. They can also handle things that are not handled by federal law (like contract law). But they cannot "override" federal law.

      Nor was it the basis for the Constitution. I mean, obviously - because at the time, the common law was all British law.

      And I think this ruling is well within common law that a site owner has responsibility at some point to remove posts. There'd be NO question if the posts were racist or threatening violence (as appears here).

      Except such things have already been tried in court. And the courts have gone in exactly the opposite direction.

      One of the first tests of Section 230 was Zeran v. AOL, where the court held that AOL was not responsible for defamation and death threats left on AOL's message boards (and the death threats got the FBI involved).

      Case law has made a ton of other rulings - all of which grant immunity to service providers - about defamation, fraud, prostitution, and even child pornography.

       

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      cpt kangarooski, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 12:35pm

      Re: Yes, statute shields those who violate common law.

      But common law is actually superior to EVERY statute

      Where did you get that idea? It's statutory law that overrides common law where they conflict. For example, if there ever was a common law of copyright, legislative bodies killed it by enacting copyright statutes. A body of interpretive precedent can arise around the statutes, but it apt to be quite different than what the common law would've been all on its own.

      common law authorizes the US Constitution

      That's a hell of a claim. Got a cite?

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 8:42am

    Getting what you deserve!

    Do you know how many dozens of dollars are lost every year due to piracy in the poem industry??? Think of the poets' children!

    This is poetic justice!

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 11:14am

      Re:

      Dozens of dollars, you are over estimating the market. V should encourage distribution, as it would be a more fruitful way of getting her name known that demanding money with menaces.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:08am

    "Any future acts committed by the Respondent towards the Petitioner which are in violation of this statute and this Protective Order can amount to AGGRAVATED STALKING, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-91, which is a felony. A person convicted of Aggravated Stalking shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years and by a fine of not more than $10,000.00."

    Is it just me, or does this sound like the sort of thing that a lawyer would send someone to intimidate them, and not at all like something you expect to see in a court order?

    It "can" amount to aggravated stalking? So it might not? Then why say anything? And why mention the punishment?

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 1:33pm

      Re:

      Offhand the 'can' bit seems to be the judge trying to make it looks like he's not actually violating the guy's first amendment rights by telling him what he may and may not say or have said on his site, he's just trying to be 'helpful' in pointing out what 'might' happen.

      Of course the fact that a threat like that would cause any reasonable or sane person to assume 'can' is actually 'will', and modify what they do accordingly, makes such 'help' about a subtle as a sledgehammer.

       

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    crash test corpse, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:10am

    an even handed response to the situation demands parity

    I think Linda Ellis should sue everyone who uses this poem in a eulogy without her express written permission beforehand. All the people commenting on her site about how they were touched by someones reading of The Dash at a funearl eulogy were clearly parties to the violation of Ms. Ellis right to exclusive control over public performances of this poem. Here is the link to the poem on her site, along with the aforementioned comment thread: The Dash Poem by Linda Ellis

    I think any concerned tech dirt commenters should chime in on that thread and let her know about her right, nay, her obligation to sue everyone who publicly recites her poem at a funeral without her express written permission and a payment of the $7500 royalty.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:25am

      Re: an even handed response to the situation demands parity

      Thanks for linking the poem. It's far worse than I'd hoped.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:15am

        Re: Re: an even handed response to the situation demands parity

        Ms. Ellis should really read her own poem and pay attention to it.

        Right now, for her, that dash stands for copyright troll.

        Is that how anyone would want to be remembered?

         

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        G Thompson (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:15am

        Re: Re: an even handed response to the situation demands parity

        Vogon poetry man.... Vogons freakin everywhere

        "The Dash" is a prime example of basic childlike rhyming with an ok metaphor. Though a Gilgamesh, a Shakespearean sonnet, a Sues, nor a Frost this definitely isn't.

        In fact there are better poems associated with this metaphor of a dash between birth and death. Though those poems don't have an author with a bigger Ego it seems.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 7:27pm

        Re: Re: an even handed response to the situation demands parity

        The Dash
        by Linda Ellis copyright 1996

        I read of a man who stood to speak
        at the funeral of a friend.
        He referred to the dates on her tombstone,
        from the beginning…to the end.

        He noted that first came the date of her birth
        and spoke of the following date with tears,
        but he said what mattered most of all
        was the dash between those years.

        For that dash represents all the time
        that she spent alive on earth.
        And now only those who loved her
        know what that little line is worth.

        For it matters not, how much we own,
        the cars…the house…the cash.

         

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        •  
          icon
          That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 2:02am

          Re: Re: Re: an even handed response to the situation demands parity

          Oh and that isn't the date she copyrighted it. It took her 2 more years IIRC to get around to it. Its in the copyright records.

           

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    •  
      identicon
      anonymouse, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 3:55pm

      Re: an even handed response to the situation demands parity

      get your dash on, seriously what the hell is she trying to say, it is not very clear is it. And her eyes are too close together in her photo she looks weird, lol an ugly person complaining that someone is stalking her,i have seen this a few times and feel so sorry for the girl as she must really be lonely.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:14am

    It's worth pointing out that other sites have documented Ellis' endeavours in making her look like the victim - despite, for a long time, having a portion of her site dedicated to publicly forwarding "The Dash" to other email addresses of your family and friends. She's even gone to FightCopyrightTrolls just to flame.

    This is supposed to be the behaviour that average_joe and other glorious defenders of copyright revere and encourage?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Rob, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:18am

    lol

    This is going to spread far and wide. It could have been contained to one forum. But now its going to go everywhere.

    There must be a law for that... something's law.....

     

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  •  
    icon
    stimoceiver (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:19am

    an even handed response to the situation demands parity

    I think Linda Ellis should sue everyone who uses this poem in a eulogy without her express written permission beforehand. All the people commenting on her site about how they were touched by someones reading of The Dash at a funearl eulogy were clearly parties to the violation of Ms. Ellis right to exclusive control over public performances of this poem. Here is the link to the poem on her site, along with the aforementioned comment thread: The Dash Poem by Linda Ellis

    I think any concerned tech dirt commenters should chime in on that thread and let her know about her right, nay, her obligation to sue everyone who publicly recites her poem at a funeral without her express written permission and a payment of the $7500 royalty.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 4:04pm

      Re: an even handed response to the situation demands parity

      A Parody

      The Cash

      I read of a lawyer who stood to speak
      at the trial of a friend.
      He referred to the protection of free speech,
      that the Constitution will defend.

      He noted that first there was no internet
      and spoke of the beginning of the blogs and posts,
      but he said what mattered most of all
      were the laws that protected websites and their hosts.

      For Section 203 represents protection
      from jerks that roam the earth.
      But now we have courts that think
      free speech is of little worth.

      For it matters not, what trolls think or say,
      offensive, threatening or crass.
      What matters is they alone are culpable
      for the things they pull out of their (well you know).

      So, judges think about this long and hard.
      There things you cannot change?
      For that is the job of the Congress
      though changing the statute would be strange.

      If offended people just slow down enough
      to give thought to what’s true and real
      if you engage these petty idiots
      it makes it a bigger deal.

      And be less quick to sue and extort
      and be reasonable with what we do
      and try not to ruin other people’s lives
      we might find friendship with a few.

      If we’re not hypocritical and show respect
      there would be no need to file,
      a easily overturned court case
      that will only last a while.

      So, don't disparage at the end,
      this moments just a flash
      you’ll still be able to extort poor souls
      So you can be flush with cash.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Eric, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:22am

    E-mails to the Judge?

    Any chance anyone has the e-mail of the judge and a copy of the decisions EFF states? Then we can all e-mail the judge the decisions and let him know he needs to re-consider his order based on US Federal law.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:27am

    Appeal

    The letter on page 6 of the embedded document says they may or may not appeal. But their website pretty much says they will:

    "And regarding the appeal, it looks like with great certainty I will now be pursuing an appeal given the fact that the plaintiff and McCormack are playing loose with the facts in a public media. They appear to want to go public. If we are to go public, all I ask for is balance and accuracy. I was thinking I might not make the effort or expend the resources to pursue an appeal to let the venom die down but it looks like I have no choice but to pursue it. I can’t have McCormack and plaintiff continue sharing their stories publicly with intentional distortions and inaccuracies. Winning the appeal and clearing my name is the most effective way to refute their claims."

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:51am

    Hold up one second there -

    This article kind of glosses over the posts that Chan himself was making - there's no question he was being what many would call a "douchecanoe", if I am understanding the vernacular correctly. He was insinuating that he would videotape Ellis' house and publicly post directions on how to get there on his blog full of Ellis' rabid critics, which is completely skeevy and pretty much indefensible.

    Of course that doesn't excuse ignoring vast tomes of US Constitutional laws and precedents, but maybe the stalking allegations (at the very least) really aren't that far off the mark.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 12:12pm

      Re: Hold up one second there -

      I don't see how stalking allegations are even close to applicable given that "he never met, talked to, emailed, wrote, contacted or followed the alleged victim." Insinuating that you will do something does not make you guilty of actually doing it, that's crazy.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 9:59am

    Get rich quick scheme of the day

    Step 1. Write a crummy poem.

    Step 2. Blackmail everyone who posts the poem online into giving you $7,500.

    Step 3. Bribe a crooked judge so any lawsuit against you fails and people aren't even allowed to talk about your scam.

    Step 4: Look into getting a Scrooge McDuck-style money bin to hold all your blackmail money.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Oscar Michelen, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:31am

    Legal comment on all of the above

    I am the legal adviser to the extortionletterinfo.com site (ELI). Thanks for the many comments. I will try to address some of the questions raised. Matt was overconfident perhaps that the First Amendment and the CDA would protect his right to post public information about Ms. Ellis and that he could not be responsible for the comments of others; he also did not foresee that he would be the first person held in violation of this stalking statute who never met, talked to, emailed, wrote, contacted or followed the alleged victim - so he went Pro Se. He will be filing a Notice of Appeal this week and I will be representing him (pro bono)on the appeal. However, he still needs to retain local Georgia counsel as well as pay an estimated several thousands of dollars for the transcript and about $600 in court costs. He has established a legal defense fund on ELI so any assistance is appreciated by Matt. The judge's decision was very overbroad. ELI had to take down every single post about Ms. Ellis even though she only complained of about 5 out of 1,900. (she never asked Matt to take the posts down prior to filing for the order by the way). Also the Order of Protection is for Matt's lifetime even though he was only personally responsible for two posts. I don't believe the two posts violate the Stalking Law but I won't debate that here - they were rude and somewhat insulting and for that he has apologized as the post mentions. But regardless of what anyone feels about the content, the order went far beyond what was called for and what the law allows. I'll keep my eye on this post if there any new issues folks want to know about or please feel free to contact me at omichelen@cuomollc.com. Thanks again.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:56am

      Re: Legal comment on all of the above

      Thanks for the informative update, Oscar. Will you be trying to get federal jurisdiction on this?

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 12:37pm

    If their forced to speciffically take down whats already there, then start another bloody one......and go paint the town on version 1.1, although lets go further, say, 10.1, as a big, up yours

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 12:44pm

    We're all ignorant in the eye of Linda Ellis.

    Courtesy of her Facebook page:

    "Linda Ellis - AUTHOR, SPEAKER, POET I thought when I watched my father die, I had met evil in the form of cancer. But today, I met it all over again...in the form of the ignorant who reside in Cyberspace."

     

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    •  
      icon
      art guerrilla (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 4:54am

      Re:

      OMG
      okay, i guess she is to be pitied: a hothouse flower who can't survive in the real world, and thus has to have her own reality distortion field to make it through the day...

      and people wonder why i prefer dogs to nekkid apes...
      i have infinite patience when it comes to most things, but nekkid apes ? 'bout tired of those stupid shits... near as i can tell, 100% of the real problems on this planet are because of them, and *most* of that due to the parasite/lawyer cohort... fuck'em

      to (mangle) a quote by voltaire: how easy to love mankind in general, and how impossible in particular...
      (i ain't no pangloss...)

      art guerrilla
      aka ann archy
      eof

       

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  •  
    icon
    omichelen (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 2:34pm

    tomxp411's comments

    Why not visit the ELI site to get a general feel for what goes on there? While the Linda Ellis forums have been taken down you will see that it is a content-rich site on issues of copyright, digital image litigation, trolling, legal strategies that have worked and failed, humor, parody, etc. All that was painted with the same broad brush as a few posts that Ms Ellis and the court interpreted as threatening. The First Amendment and The CDA are certainly worth defending. As for Ms. Ellis, no one ever disputed her right to enforce er copyright in her poem, but her tactics and overbearing demands seem hypocritical to me and many others. They also seem to seek damages to which she knows she is not entitled in an effort to get folks to pay more than the infringement is worth.

     

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  •  
    icon
    Thomas (profile), Mar 27th, 2013 @ 4:10pm

    Not a surprise...

    The courts are becoming increasingly anti Constitution. I suspect it is because more and more companies recognize that you can slip money to the judges and then they will rule in your favor.

    Besides, this is Georgia, where the Constitution is considered a northern insult.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    mcfilms, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 4:34pm

    @anonymouse - I post on that site from time to time and I have to tell you that there were several stories from small business owners and church representatives that made the mistake of posting that poem in a newsletter. Matthew Chan made some of these documents available on Scribd and Ellis issued a DMCA claim. This required Chan to dispute it. She also filed a DMCA hit on other content (YouTube videos).

    These were all restored, but they required Chan to file a counter-claim. She was using the system to try and silence criticism of her $7500 claim. I think he was fed up with what she was doing. This is certainly not an excuse and I'm sure he learned a hard lesson about Internet rants.

    But she is doing it again. She was able to shed some tears and get a judge to censor ALL coverage about what she was doing, virtually silencing all criticisms of her $7500 poem.

    The one positive that has come from this is that more people are aware of the danger of publishing, sharing, or writing down, The Dash. Less people will be inclined to quote the Dash. And I believe that THAT will make the world a better place.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      anonymouse, Mar 28th, 2013 @ 4:47am

      Re:

      Agreed 100%

      I seriously dislike her for trolling and especially the way she has done it, it points to her not being a very nice person at all, and probably one that deserved a lot of what she has received even the threats, but i for one am not going to support someone stalking another, it is not as bad as what she has done to others but is not something i agree with, and for him to come out and ask for funding to help get rid of the stalking claims is just not in my mind the right thing to support, now if it was just to prevent her from trolling people and to force her to refund anyone she has trolled so far i would donate money to the cause, but it is not just that, this case is about someone trying to get rid of the stalking claim laid against him, and using the troll aspect of the case to get support.

      I think she needs to be outed as the crazy troll she is and the courts need to treat her as a troll and overturn any payments made to her for her trollish behaviour. If anything this is the heart of the matter that has been overshadowed by the bitchiness of getting a anti stalking order which hopefully the court did not do just because of some false claims.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        misssb, Mar 28th, 2013 @ 6:51am

        Re: Re:

        But he didn't stalk her. He never met her. Never talked to her. Never emailed her. All he did was write posts about her.
        The posting of her home was a google streetview image photo. And he didn't even post that.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 10:35pm

    What's worse, becoming senile to the point of forgetting about the 1st amendment or sitting on a bench for years never having known about it?

     

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  •  
    icon
    DeliciousWaffles (profile), Mar 28th, 2013 @ 10:54am

    Matthew Chan really crossed the line.

    Yes, Linda Ellis is a vile extortionist.

    I read the details of her claim against Matthew Chan here:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/131675524/Memorandum-of-Law-Ellis-vs-Chan

    I have concluded that Matthew Chan richly deserved the restraining order. He made constant and very creepy threats always in a veiled but highly aggressive and frightening manner.

    He often covered his ass by making obvious threats in the same paragraph with re-assurances he wouldn't do anything "illegal."

    QUOTE: "There are people who hate you and looking to put you into the ground. [...]But I will leave a few nuggets to let you know I mean business. [...] It wouldn't take much to push me over the edge on this."

    Those are death threats. That's way beyond "stupid comments." I would have sought a protection order myself under such circumstances, and were I a judge, I would have judged against him as well.

    I also understand, in the context of Chan using a forum to publish death threats and whipping up followers into a frenzy, that the judge shut him up for good re: Ellis.

    Ellis is still a reprehensible extortionist and her poem is as trite and uninspired as she is. It's still not right to devote a forum to threats of violence, stalking and/or death.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    rummeltje, Mar 29th, 2013 @ 8:04am

    Children's rhyming is NOT poetry

    I read of a witch
    and the poem she wrote.
    It was very bad
    and wouldn't bring in that dollar note.
    So she extorts the 5 people
    that actually liked that crap.
    "Pay me $7.500
    or a lawsuit will be the next step."
    People noticed this behaviour
    and called it a scam.
    They opened a website
    and she says : "Damn,
    I better sue this bastards
    to shut them up.
    So she acts like a baby,
    even though she's all grown-up.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Artist, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 7:26pm

    Extortion Letter Info

    This Matthew Chan got exactly what he deserved - his tremendous ego and group of ELI sychophants led him to believe his actions were completely above reproach - he waltzed into court representing himself truly believing he would make a few statements and exit the courtroom victorious - he was slapped down just as he should have been for his unacceptable behavior - and btw this is not the first such instance for Matthew Chan

    He is now completely MIA from the ELI site and the whole site has lost all momentum and credibility.

    Their trusty lawyer Oscar Michelen still uses the ELI site to pimp his "defense letter" to infringers creating quite a lucrative revenue stream for his law practice

    Never once does anyone on this site say you shouldn't have intentionally stolen copyrighted work and used it - or you're a professional web designer so why don't you understand that images are copyrighted ect and Google Images does not mean free - they just offer tactics to avoid the issue and of course push the Oscar Michelen Defense Letter Scheme

    This ELI site dispenses a lot of mis-information and speculation - and disrespects anyone who does not agree with their very narrow perspective - actually it's quite entertaining to read - but also disturbing - so disturbing in fact that their fearless leader was handed a restraining order for his actions - and rightfully so

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Rob, Feb 27th, 2014 @ 11:41am

      Re: Extortion Letter Info

      I totally agree - I participated on Extortion Letter Info a while back but it just got to wacky - I mean bad evil vindictive wacky -in fact started when that April Brown showed up - actually none of this would have ever happened if wasn't for her fanning the flames under Matthew Chan - and his followers feeding his ego and working themselves up into a frenzy - it's easy for some to be critical now but they didn't see or read the posts that were written and photos posted that brought this about

       

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      •  
        icon
        Gwiz (profile), Feb 27th, 2014 @ 12:01pm

        Re: Re: Extortion Letter Info

        I totally agree...

        Yeah, I guess you would agree - since, based on the gravitars, you just now either responded to yourself (likely) or someone who had the exact same IP address as you back in July 2013 (highly unlikely).

        Just sayin'

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Oscar Michelen, Feb 27th, 2014 @ 12:33pm

    Response to Rob & Artist

    The ELI site provides volumes of free information and guidance on copyright, digital image litigation, and other intellectual property issues. While others have casually commented on the scourge of copyright trolling over digital images, clip art and pornography, or even devoted whole sites to copyright trolling, ELI remain s the most vibrant place for the exchange of ides, strategies, and just plain old war stories for folks caught up in this scheme. As to Artist's comment that "Never once does anyone on this site say you shouldn't have intentionally stolen copyrighted work and used it - or you're a professional web designer so why don't you understand that images are copyrighted ect and Google Images does not mean free" is totally wrong. Repeatedly on the site, in some of our videos and in many, many forum comments and posts I and others on ELI have always stated that we do not condone or support copyright infringement. Take down the image in controversy and never use it again. We have two basic issues with the current methods used to enforce copyright in digital images: (1) demanding sums far beyond what the actual award would likely be in the event of a lawsuit; (2)threatening lawsuits and making these exorbitant demands while at the same time refusing to provide any proof of ownership of the image in question. As to me "pimping" my services out - are you kidding me? Do you see what I charge to handle these claims? It basically covers my administrative costs for taking the matter on. Have you ever wondered why I am still the only lawyer in the country willing to do something like this? Because it's not a money-maker - I am doing it on principle not on profit. If it was profitable, many other lawyers would have opened up competing sites - have you ever seen the mesothelioma commercials - lawyers are hungry and ambitious, if this was quick profit center we'd have clones and copycat sites all over the internet. How about the many not for profits and Mom and Pops that I do not charge for my services? How about the baseless Bar complaints filed against me by those working for or on behalf of Getty? Quite a few of them have written letters to my home and my law partner to try and get me to stop representing folks on this issue. I am representing Matt pro bono on this Georgia Court of Appeals issue because I believe the decision needs to be reversed. I am fortunate that after 27 years of practice I am in a position where I can devote some time and energy into leveling the playing field for smaller businesses and trying to have an answer to the trolling mechanisms that are sweeping the Internet. Not everything is about money. As to Rob's comments, I agree that at one point ELI got a little too raucous and delved into sophomoric humor. But it was never a vehicle for stalking or criminal behavior. And yes, ELI likely would not have heard about Linda Ellis had it not been for April Brown. But thankfully April brought it to ELI's attention and we were able to shine a spotlight on Linda's trolling behavior. I also commend April for not hiding behind a pseudonym and putting her name out there. She is a successful business woman and many others in her position would have been worried about potential backlash or bad publicity. But April just puts out the facts - and it disturbs some people when they are confronted with their own hypocrisy. I invite you back onto the ELI forums - all are welcome even ELI's detractors - for an open, honest discussion about all of these issues.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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