Well, well. Last year, there was a lot of attention paid to a so-called "revenge porn" site called "Is Anyone Up"? The site reposted submitted nude photos, linked to the person in the photo's social networking accounts. The "idea" (a horrific one) was that spurned people, who had naked photos of their ex's, could publicize them. Not surprisingly, many people were completely horrified by the concept and the media coverage
was not kind. The site eventually went down, but others popped up to take their place. Lawyer Marc Randazza has decided to go to war with one of them
, which uses the very similar name "Is Anybody Down" (and, no, I'm not linking to it). Randazza points out that he has no problem with porn or porn sites, but when the participants are not consenting (and not necessarily adults) he has serious problems.
However, his main issue with this other site is in what he believes to be its sneaky business model. There is apparently an "advertisement" on the site for a "lawyer" named David Blade, who will help you get your photos off the site for $250. Randazza argues that it's really the site's own business model:
Here’s their business plan:
Step one: Register the domain name “isanybodydown.com”
Step two: Get ahold of nude photos of people who never consented to having their photos published.
Step three:Publish them, along with their names, home towns, and links to their facebook profiles.
So now how do you “profit?”
Well, openly saying “I’ll take down the photo for $250,” would probably create some legal issues for you. So, instead, you create a fake lawyer persona and say “I am an internet lawyer, named David Blade, III, and I’ll get your pics down for $250.”
The "ad" goes on at length about how successful "David Blade" is in removing images from the site, and how it's much cheaper than going to any other lawyer. Blade has his own website, called TakedownLawyer.com
. Randazza has a few damning facts. The registration info for both sites... are by the same person. The "ad" by "Blade" insists that they're different people, with Blade claiming to merely be a college friend of the operator of the site -- and someone who disapproves of the site. "Blade" claims that as he's tried to convince the operator of the site to take it down, their "compromise" is that the site owner has allowed him to place that "ad" that just so happens to help "Blade" make money any time someone wants their images down from the site. The other bit of damning evidence? There is no record of a David Blade as a registered NY attorney (where he claims to operate). Oops.
In an email discussion
(pdf) with "Blade," he insists that he really is a lawyer, but that Blade isn't his real name. That, too, is a big issue, since lawyer advertising is pretty heavily regulated, and one of the common requirements is having your real name and contact info. Randazza points to the NY law to that effect, and "Blade" (still using that name despite admitting it's not real), insists there's no violation since he's not engaging in "case law, civil law or trial law," but merely doing "mitigated/mediated takedowns, which are not considered to be a legal service."
Of course, soon after this exchange, the website for "Takedown Lawyer" announced: "Due to ethical concerns our business and the website will now be called 'Takedown Hammer'." Uh huh.
Meanwhile, the operator of the "Is Anybody Down" site sent Randazza a profanity laden email
asking "why the fuck are you messing with me and Dave?" And it gets worse from there, resorting to ethnic slurs and much, much more. Of course, one could read that email to suggest that the site and "Dave" are, in fact, partners.
There are other little tidbits in this mess, including the fact that the Is Anybody Down site has a blog post asking for investors:
A. Investors, Funding, Etc.
We need more funding (i.e. seed money and/or potential Stage 1 funding) in order to upgrade our server and make T-shirts. Please click the “submit” button to contact an admin if you wish to invest, donate, etc. We are looking for investors, venture capitalists, angel groups, etc.
The seed money will be used for equipment/hardware (computers and server costs), software to be used in the production of the website and the manufacturing of T-shirts which will be sold for value.
Our goal is to raise $50,000+ in seed money to help expand this website, followed by a round one investment prior to an IPO which will return upwards of 600%
There are, of course, a whole bunch of other legal issues brought up by the site, but the statement above? Yeah, that's a pretty blatant violation of securities law. Publicly advertising for investors is already a no-no, but then also promising an IPO (I'm trying not to laugh) and a return of "upwards of 600%" go way beyond what you're allowed to say.
Oh yeah, and "Blade" eventually claims that he's going to hit back at Randazza for "extortion," which is interesting since Randazza didn't ask Blade to give him any money (though he does ask him to return the money from those who have paid up to remove their images).
All in all, this certainly feels like yet another one of these "only on the internet" stories where it may be time to get out the popcorn and wait to see what happens next.