Cover Reveal and Release Day for the New Edition of Neiko’s Five Land Adventure

After some thinking and consideration and reevaluating everything, I decided it was time for a new edition and to give Neiko’s Five Land Adventure a makeover with a new cover and a little tightening to the editing with things that just started to bug me.

The story has already been deemed to be good by reviewers and readers (at least the ones I have had the privilege of me having contact with), but now it’s better than ever with a few tweaks.

It’s still not suitable for mature audience. As a rework of the Dr. Pepper 10 commercial, “It’s not for grownups!” Well, at least it’s for those who are big kids at heart, but NOT for those who are mature.

I was a teen/kid when I wrote it, and I wrote it for kids. It was never meant for those looking for “mature” reads.

It’s not recommended for little kids, though. Ramses is very scary.

Here is a peek at what the new cover. Designed by the talented Mallory Rock who I  have seen do covers for author friends and have come to love:

neikosfivelandadventure3

I have published it through my own imprint Soaring Eagle Books. It’s on sale now for just 99 cents on Amazon Kindle!

Buy Now

A new paperback and hardcover edition are in the works and are being formatted and they must be uploaded.

I will have a new cover for Escape from Ancient Egypt too, and I will show you what it looks like when I get it. That story doesn’t have to have a revision.

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AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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Been Abused by Copyright Trolls? A Couple Places that Need to Hear the Public Outcry

© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice

© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When joining ELI, I have stumbed across some recent threads and topics that I found interesting to share. This post will be brief.

Copyright Week 2016 by EFF

EFF will be doing a series about copyright law starting today (Jan 19)-Jan 22, but this year is different–they will be talking more about the trolling issues. I may link to these once they come up. Go by there yourself if you wish!

Section 512 Study and Request for Public Comment

For the original ELI thread click here (which could always have future comments).

To view the page in question to leave a comment click here. The trolling companies are already commenting (since this was found in a troll Twitter Stream) so they can sway the law in their favor, which by the way, will be catastrophic. Say goodbye to creative innovation, expression, and use of intellectual property in safety without artists and users all being abused by these Goliath companies.

Need reasons why? If you have a story or read the prior posts to get you started.

This is HUGE. This is crucial. Fight for your rights or else they will be taken away by huge money-hungry conglomerates who don’t give a rat’s ass about your or any artist’s rights.

This abuse has been going on more than a decade unhindered. It’s past time that these bullies be knocked down a peg of five just like the debt collectors did and their unfair practices. Has reckoning finally come?

Let’s hope so.

 

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AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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Infographic: What You Need to Know About Copyright Trolls by Online Paralegal Degree Center

Copyright Trolls
Source: Online-Paralegal-Degree.org and please visit for some more helpful information

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AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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Copyright Troll #2–Aurora Photos: Member of the Getty Images Copyright Mafia Cartel

Sorry that’s it’s been awhile, but there is so much information both old and new when it comes to Getty Images and their collection of shill companies and their unholy monsters: LCS (License Compliance Services) and Picscout. Their extortion operation seems to be growing by the day or is it more people are talking about it or both?

The Getty Images extortion operation is one of epic proportions, and they seem to keep growing their empire by gobbling up a lot of the competition and adding their collection to their already huge collection. They have a reach that is worldwide and they target just about anyone, and they are deliberate in who they target. They don’t want to tick off bigger companies or poach a silver tuna to draw attention to themselves.

To read about all the complaints about the Getty Extortion Letter Campaign, all you have to do is put the bold phrase into Google (or your favorite search engine) to get pages and pages of commentary.

ELI has an entire forum here.

To describe these people the most adequately, I use the illustrations of cartels and mafias as opposed to Nazis. Even though they are used interchangeably, mafias and cartels are slightly different in their definitions, but when you put the two together, then it best describes what we have here. Apart from using ‘legalized’ forms of extortion and such, there isn’t much difference between them and any other organized crime organizations out there.

Mafia: (source Google): 1) an organized international body of criminals, operating originally in Sicily and now especially in Italy and the US and having a complex and ruthless behavioral code.

  • any organized group using extortion and other criminal methods
  • a closed group of people in a particular field, having a controlling influence

Cartel: an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition.

So if you think for a moment, “mafia” and “cartel” adequately describe what we have going on in regards to the stock photography world in how they deal with people (ruthless, controlling influence) provided by loopholes and gray areas of copyright law which they exploit. Also, get this: Getty Images is the world leader in the stock photography department. This world leader with the largest collection of stock photography is also a copyright trolling firm and an extortionist.

This could explain a lot why the stock photo industry is going straight to hell aside from the capability of mobile devices that are able to take snapshots. We will always need photographers though since not everyone can take a picture of a polar bear in their back yard nor would it be feasible (and unsafe!) to get a closeup of a lion or a tiger for whatever reason.

I really believe that photographers need to have an indie movement themselves since these huge firms are abusing them as well as pissing off their potential customers by threatening to sue them when no infringement has occurred and extorting them or setting them up so they can score a big payday. Heck, the photographer may not be getting any of the dough from these fake “settlements”.  The stock phrase from LCS about the poor photographers trying to feed their families to invoke sympathy when they (LCS) are, in fact, using said photographers’ work for extortion schemes and not paying the photographers is as valuable as possum scat. Give me a break. Yes, support the photogs by licensing their work from them directly. Not these huge corporations who are abusing them and their clients and potential customers.

It’s also worth noting that I have read people’s posts about them trying to rectify wrong with a photog by contacting them directly and were willing to pay them instead of LCS, but were unable to do so due to some clause that could never be disclosed since they were sworn to secrecy. Something wrong with that picture (no pun intended)?

Here is a good thread on ELI about Getty and its satellite companies really treat its contributing photographers here. Getty has been known to be sued by its own photographers for infringement and using trademarks (the scented trees) and photos without permission. And they are suing people and have a trolling operation for the exact same thing? The hypocrisy is unbelievable. Un-freaking-believable.

Getty Images also behaves like and hangs out with Corbis and Masterfile who I have knighted the Three Racketeers whose motto is “All for money, money for all!”

It’s also noted all 3 of these companies use Picscout, which is conveniently owned by the kingpin Getty Images. There appears to be some knob-buffing going on around there somewhere.

LCS and Aurora Photos: My Experience

LCS and Aurora Photos are just two of many entities under the Getty Roof. There seems to be a new “company” almost all the time, and they used the stock email of lcs@cartelmembername.com. Are they creating these “companies” to divide up their huge collection of photos? I also believe the existence of these companies is to try to deflect the fire and ire off of the parent company considering it has been under fire for infringement and for questionable business practices, but they manage to somehow sleaze their way out of it or pay the piper so that no further harm comes to their empire. Pretty slick.

Anyway about 3 months or so after the fiasco with that Waffen SS Nazi John DeBoer, I receive an email letter from LCS who is “representing” Aurora Photos. I have already done tons of reading so I knew who LCS was and their address is the same one as Getty Images which I had almost memorized from all the articles I had read.

I am not at all intimidated since I already know what is going on and what to expect. In a way I am dreading it. Am I going to have to deal with these crackheads for the next 3 years?! Frickin’ frack! Ugh!

I don’t respond to the email, but I do go and see what photo it is that they are complaining about. And, oh, what do I see? It’s not even the same freaking image. Further, I know it is an internet meme and that was a derivative created by another artist (which also meant they did not own the rights to this image) which I also HOTLINKED to–according to the judgement Perfect 10 vs. Google or Perfect 10 vs Amazon means that hotlinking is not copying, so there is no infringement. The creator’s website url was located in the lower right corner of the image I was linked to. There had never been a copy on my server and it had never been downloaded to my computer hard drive. Regardless, I delete it so they would shut the heck up.

It is very close to a similar story such as this right here.

Then I use Tineye to do a search on the image version that I hotlink to and there are tons of derivatives on multiple sites.

I go the Aurora website to see how much they are charging for said photo (the one that is theirs not the one that was actually on the site), but in order for you to get pricing information for this site, they force you to create an account to access it. Hmmm. I don’t do it, but you can still find pricing info on other Getty sites. Similar photos are about $25, so $600 bucks is not the FMV.

Getty and its satellites are also notorious for slapping the photos they are launching a gambit for on their rights managed page (which they seeded and/or yanked from the public domain in some cases) which means they are claiming exclusivity for so they can ‘ask’ for the ridiculous price they state in their demand letter. Their RM catalog has inflated pricing as opposed to their royalty free (which isn’t free) that most folks cannot or will not pay for. They NEVER give you any pricing history or signed agreement or anything to support their argument. Their canned answer is “we will provide it when we sue you.” That, my friends, is a smoke screen. They can’t prove jack.

It doesn’t take too long for the hard copy to reach my house. I keep the letter, but I ignore it. I plan on writing a hard copy response letter should a second letter arrive. It does. Just like clockwork.

I cuss them out without using a cuss word and give it to them with both barrels. I also tell them that my time is not cheap (if you don’t believe your time is valuable no one will) and if you keep harassing me with beating this dead horse then I will bill you for $1000 an hour and I have 10 hours on record as well a summary of my findings and mail it off. I also tell them to not contact me and definitely do not call.

I receive the 3rd letter before they get my letter. I get a phone call (after I told them not to call) which I don’t respond and they leave a voice mail to let me know they received my letter. My LCS trollette “Madison” wants to try to smooth things over and that my case would be reviewed. I never call back. I know from research that talking with these people is a waste of time, brain cells, and oxygen. I have dealt with hard-selling, boiler room jerkoffs before, and I definitely am not in the mood, especially when they don’t have a case in heck, and I don’t have anything to say or prove to them. All they want is to extract information to attempt to incriminate me when I am 100% innocent.

A couple weeks later they call again, but I don’t respond. I haven’t heard from them ever since.

More Questionable Antics by Getty Images et al

Here is a list of other things that I have found that apply to Getty et al as opposed to John “The Waffen SS Nazi” DeBoer and other scum like him. This is in addition to the fraud, extortion, and racketeering.

Suing over Internet Memes: Artists and photographers usually create these to be shared and used by people in hopes they will go viral. This is kind of like what happened with Grumpy Cat. Getty and its shill companies don’t own these, but they pinch them and stick them on their RM page and sue the bejeezus out of folks. However sometimes this may not be the case. Here are a couple articles or plug in the phrase “Getty suing over internet memes” for more.

Techdirt

Art Law Journal

Suing over public domain images: Getty is known to grab from the public domain as well and put things into their huge collection in hopes no one would notice (that is why it is important for you to research before doing anything). Check out a post in this thread on ELI where a photog (unnamed at the moment) generously put her entire collection in the public domain and someone is being sued by LCS. This is one example of many.

Suing people over hotlinked (even thumbnail!) images: Even though hotlinking is not copying, but not everyone knows that. These people are in the business of exploiting you on what you don’t know. There is a person on ELI who received an extortion letter for hotlinking to a thumbnail image in a comment on a blog who didn’t pay but was harassed for 3 years. I am another example of this in my story. Also check this out this article of an IP attorney who received an extortion letter for a hotlinked image by using the plugin Zemanta (I also use it as well). This attorney turned around and sued Getty. Whoops!

A tip of advice: If you are one of many users who use Zemanta, never use anything from Getty. You can tell which ones are from Getty by hovering over the image and it will tell you the source. Also, never use the “free” images offered by Getty as they will probe into your website and since their licensing language is as ambiguous as an Author Solutions publishing contract.

Denial of Service (DOS) Attack: The unholy monster Picscout is what is responsible for this part of the deal. I will talk about Picscout more in a moment. Here is the definition (source: Google) of what this means: In computing, a denial-of-service (DoS) attack is an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users, such as to temporarily or indefinitely interrupt or suspend services of a host connected to the Internet.

I talk about this some in this thread (among other things).

In case you didn’t know a DoS attack is illegal. Yes–ILLEGAL. Let that sink in for a moment. Here are some more articles about that.

Article #1

Article #2

Article #3

When Picscout is probing your site it steals so much bandwith that it crashes or times out. Around Jan and Feb the website they were scouring was taking forever to load, timing out, and crashing to the extent it was annoying. I was able to zoom in on the screen capture (which is their only proof of “copying”) to verify that. I have all that in my records.

Another thing that Picscout did to really piss me off was my “end of the year” snapshot courtesy of WordPress to see how my year in 2015 went that Picscout was my 3rd leading traffic generator. WTF?! Goes to show how bad the invasion was and that worthless POS accusation is the best they could come up with? Really? I know that this is not a real stat for traffic, but it is valid proof they were raping my website.

So I blocked that stupid robot from my website since it is doing nothing but raping me. I have no use for Skynet and its terminator and HK army.

Picscout is a Very Bad Robot

For the more techy people of the world, they have figured this out. Some of their commentary about the way Picscout behaves should make you wonder. Everything is not A-OK under the hood. The more you read about it, the more it looks like a hacker bot and a botnet used by hackers that hack into servers everywhere. If what they are doing is really ethical, would that really be necessary? I don’t see all that much difference between the actions of a hacker bot that is trying to hack into the US government or the Common Joe’s website except for the scale of the target involved. Why would they need to outsource it to a thug company that could be considered the Taliban or ISIS of the Internet?

For comparison, the Google Bot is a good robot. It doesn’t mask itself, lift your information (including email address, mailing address, name, and phone number), ignore your website rules, or steal you bandwith. It rewards you for following good SEO rules and ethical rules.

Articles (for more do a Google search about Picscout  complaints):

Hacker Factor

SEO Mike

IncrediBILL

Webmaster World

Webhosting Talk

Oopsie, Getty/LCS Just Pissed Off the EFF 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has just now written an article about some of the practices of LCS/Getty Images when one of their clients had received a letter. They make mention of the inkblot conundrum (mentioned above) within the article. Their complaint is that LCS is deliberately misquoted the law to try to bully and collect money. This, unfortunately has been going on for more than a decade and happens to thousands–if not millions–of people across the globe.

Trouble is that we have to have some people with some clout to do something about it, and that has been the case for a long time. Maybe in recent years LCS and Getty have the “to big to fail” mindset and maybe has gotten too big for their breeches, and that maybe they have screwed up just bad enough for someone to do something about it. Maybe, just maybe, they will give the President an extortion letter or something to that degree and really screw up.

*Crossing Fingers* Here’s hopin’!

I think Getty and their host of companies all deserve award too. I also will give them 1st runner up for the Asshat Award too 😛

 

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AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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Copyright Troll #1–John DeBoer Copyright Nazi

John DeBoer

As promised I am here to talk about the two copyright trolls I have dealt with this year. It is now time to go public about this worldwide and internet wide epidemic. The reasons why no one has heard of this crud is because these folks are keeping it out of the media and keeping people quiet so they don’t speak up for fear of retaliation and threats. Bullying and abuse 101.

The troll of the day is John M. DeBoer from DeBoer IP (you can look up his site via Google Search). This guy is the worse of the two I have dealt with, and this is the one I liken to the Waffen SS or the KKK of the copyright world as you will see coming up.

I have read lots and lots of commentary about how terrible, frightening, or scary a letter from Getty Images is, but it is NOTHING compared to this piece of work. Next post will be about Getty Images and one of their little shill companies.

I will not be able to share some of the specifics in the post on some of the upcoming info since I am in statue of limitations of 3 years, and this guy could change his story and come after me again with his facts straight as they are not right now–his case is full of holes and wouldn’t hold water in court. I do have detailed documentation of his flaws along with links, screenshots, and tons of sources.

Welcome to Copyright Hell

I have been a writer and an author for quite some time now, and I had some idea about how copyright works and what it is on a basic level, but I wasn’t (and aren’t yet) making a living from my work, so I needed to start a in-home business. I was striking out left and right in the traditional labor market, so I needed to create me a job instead of waiting for someone to give me the time of day. My husband and I were going through a very difficult time.

I scrimped and saved to hire a designer to build me a website for the first phase of this business I had planned to run. I was on a tight budget, but I had a detailed plan about what was going to happen. Site built and some time (years) passes. I work with another designer for a more enhanced site and the custom artwork is transferred earlier this year. I am working diligently in trying to build the SEO and the content on this site and doing freelance work on the side.

One evening I get an email from a Diana Diaz who is DeBoer’s legal assistant. I scratch my head as I have no idea what this could be and I download the letter.

I am terrified at what I read. I was also in therapy for CPTSD (complex posttraumatic stress disorder) at this time and trying to get the business off the ground and my husband and I are still struggling. I am being accused of flagrant copyright infringement, stealing from and ripping off the photographer, and tampering with the alleged photo and being threatened with a subpoena for all my business property, litigation, and legal fees if I do not pay a settlement of $1320.00 by April 26. I received the email version of the letter on March 16. The hard copy arrived at my home/office on March 24.

What am I going to do? I don’t have the money to pay this! I certainly can’t afford a lawyer and to go to court. If this is for real, how am I going to be able to afford groceries, electricity, or even gas for my husband to get to work?

I have a full blown relapse of PTSD within minutes of reading the letter and a total traumatic stress meltdown. My stomach cramps and I have diarrhea almost instantly. I begin to sweat and shake. Horrible thoughts fly through my mind. I was beyond any capacity of rational thought. I even felt violated for some reason maybe because he knew my home address and email. I try to go to bed, but I have nightmares and insomnia, and my stomach hurts. The next day I cannot eat a single bite. I remain this way for 3 straight days. I get on the phone and call and text some of my close friends for some advice who are more savvy about such things than I am while I was in tears and completely gripped by fear. I would be perfectly okay to never darken the doorway of a courtroom in my entire life.

I try to contact these people (DeBoer and his assistant) by phone and email and leave voicemails. They never respond once. Now that seems weird especially accusing someone of something this serious. I document everything just in case.

Talking with my friends help me ground myself to reality and rational thought. They tell me this has to be a scam as such a matter like this wouldn’t be handled through email. I would have been served by certified letter or something, and it dawned on me after the fact with dealing with a matter with a debt collector who tried to file a lawsuit on a debt we didn’t owe in which case a police officer brought the letter. One of my friends looks up some information about this lawyer and they find that he is a known scammer.

Regardless, I removed the image from the website and off my hard drive to comply and take no chances.

My Own Road to Learning

I look up some information about John DeBoer and I find out other information by looking up “copyright infringement scams” and other keywords like that. Then I find out about copyright trolling. I read blogs and articles for weeks and they mention a forum called ELI (Extortion Letter Info) and the blogs in question were bloggers, photographers, lawyers, authors, and artists alike. They even had programs to help people like me, and I sign up to become a member. Even law abiding people like me get these letters and there are tons of them (not everyone that has ever posted on ELI is innocent), so that was a bit of an eye opener. I find out that cases like mine are a dime a dozen. I was hardly the one and only DeBoer victim. Here are the threads on ELI:

Poster #1
Poster #2
Poster #3

For my intro thread about DeBoer and commentary on ELI click here.

Picking Apart The Letter

Even in my hyperactive state I remembered some things in the letter that did not seem quite right. After I was calm, rational, and logical–albeit very pissed off when I learned it was a scam, I was determined to see if there may be something that would be useful in my defense should it be necessary.

First off, I remembered that the length of time he asserted I used the “supposedly infringing” photo that was used on the site was incorrect to my knowledge. I go and look up the purchase of my domain, hosting, and the invoice I had from the designer who did the artwork. BAM! Score one for me. It is very incorrect. This made me more determined. Who knows what else he may have gotten wrong? I print out the receipts and start taking notes.

Next, he accused me of going to the photographer’s website, stealing the photo, stripping off the meta info, altering it, and using it for commercial use. I know this was untrue, and if I did something like this I would be a total dumbass. I never personally copied anything, so I contact my first designer and ask her some questions, and what she had to say helped my case.

She did a Google search based upon the intended use of commercial use with the ability to modify. She had gotten for a free download off of a site with the appropriate licensing information for the intended use. She did not recall which site or the keywords she used in the site as I am not the only client and some time (years) had passed. Please note, she did not and knew better than to copy it FROM Google Images. I never had possession of the original, unaltered image.

I would also like to add that the above accusation is what is called flagrant infringement. People do this crap, BTW, but I wouldn’t or would condone such a thing. In the copyright world, being accused of this is as bad as being accused of first degree murder. My designer knew better too as she is an artist and an author herself. But I did ask to be sure.

The language of the letter creates the aura of guilty until proven innocent, and I have to “prove” I am innocent (only to a judge not this Nazi), and DeBoer is not only my accuser, but he is also my judge and my executioner. The threat of the subpoena is just icing on the cake. He hopes I will try to “prove my innocence” in the event I provide the information he needs to incriminate myself. This kind of crap is why I liken him to the Waffen SS or the KKK. This is EXACTLY how they would handle a copyright case. This is not how the justice or court system in the USA works; maybe in Nazi Germany or Red Russia perhaps.

Next, I test the link to the photographer’s website that he is presenting as “evidence” against me. It is a dead link that goes nowhere. An oversight or flat out fraud? I don’t know. I try the link in a Tineye search and find zilch. I find the real link on the photographers’ website and do a Tineye search and find 200+ results including free sites and versions of the photo WITHOUT any metadata. Classic copyright trolling. 200+ other potential targets for this one photo.

What the photographers name it on their site and what DeBoer calls it in his letter do not match. Found this out via a search on their website and Google Search. Fraud or blunder?

I try looking up the fair market value. On the photographer’s website it is offered as a puzzle download for 99 cents. Someone at ELI found a full size version large enough to put in an office for $25. So he is demanding WAY more than the fair market value, and that’s also classic trolling tactic. $1320 for a photo that is less than $1 to $25? Are you kidding me? Since he or the photographers couldn’t be reached for comment there is no way to ascertain how they arrived at that number. Looks fishy to me, and a totally honest business inquiry I might add. Not responding would look like dishonesty to me on someone’s part at least DeBoer’s at the least.

I check out the copyright registration the was supplied in the letter. I do find the information, but the collection has an ambiguous title called “Webshots Uploads and some Dates in 2004”. Deliberately ambiguous? If was a photographer, that would make no sense how to name a collection. It would be like registering all of my ebooks as Amazon Uploads or some crap like that. Plus there is a change to one or more of the photographs where an American flag is added, and it’s prior registration is in 1991. So there is no way to tell if this is appropriate registration or not or if this is the right collection. As I had read in ELI from one of the posters above, this is the same thing with “Webshots Uploads and Some Dates” but with a different photographer. Something is fishy here. Looks like a one size fits all to me.

Once finding this out, I ponder on the last page of the letter where it refers to the threat of a subpoena. I have nothing to fear. All of these allegations have been proven false, and I didn’t use the photo on any letterheads, social media, email, or anything like that, so there is nothing to retain. I don’t fear any sanctions against me as there is nothing to store. The only places it existed were asked for the photo to be deleted. Done that, and I have since replaced the photo with a different one. Here is my post about and the text of the last page on ELI. Also check out this article I found about a business owner filing a racketeering suit against a patent troll for language in a letter similar to the last page of my letter. Things that make you go ‘Hmmm’.

Defense of fair use was indeterminable for me and I needed an attorney for that, but at this point it may not be necessary. DeBoer tries to make it look like it doesn’t exist in the commercial landscape, but I do believe it is untrue.

Phone Call with Oscar Michelen

Oscar is one of the founders at ELI and is a IP attorney who has had years helping people with his letter program with this kind of stuff. It takes a few tries to get in touch with him since he is such a busy man with his regular clients and all the people who need his help. He also has had experience dealing with this clown.

He also verified to me that he is 100% pure blooded copyright troll.

I talk with him a few minutes and send him all of my research and copy of the letter. I tell him some about what I find and that I may have some solid evidence of possible fraud, racketeering, and abuse of power in addition to false accusations with no real or fraudulent evidence.

He let me know that there is another person (without revealing specifics) that DeBoer demanded $25K for a single photo. So my problems didn’t look so bad, but I wonder if that person had the same threats and accusations that I did? I wonder if he got the threat of a subpoena too?

So, then I got onto his letter program. I wasn’t taking any chances although April 24 had long came and went and I never heard anything from DeBoer or his assistant. My fear turned to rage and it was time for me to go public about this. I had already started by sharing my story and the next on ELI. This is far more effective than going to court if I had the nerves or the money to do it. Even if I had that kind of money I would rather spend it on charity or publishing books, not wasting my time on thugs in three pieced suits like these.

The Invisible Copyright Trolling Empire of the World

Counter Attack Strategy

One of the things I am doing against this act of terrorism is reporting it to the world by posting about it on my blog and the ELI forum. I didn’t sign or agree to squat I am not bound to confidentiality. This is the very thing that DeBoer and people like him are doing to keep this hush-hush and out of the media–they learned well from their predecessors’ mistakes. The way they lift information about their targets is much sneakier than the way they used to do it. They have been successful for over a decade due to those reasons. The photo trolls lead the pack and that’s the home DeBoer belongs.

I looked up some common defenses and counter claims past victims had against patent, trademark, music, and video trolls in the past. Some of these trolls have been the RIAA, MPAA, and Prenda Law–and DeBoer exhibits some of these and possibly others:

Abuse of Power: What this means is using knowledge of the law and the system to intimidate, bully, and collect money without fully disclosing rights. The language of these letters make it seem as the aforementioned guilty until proven innocent and there is no other recourse other than “pay or be sued” or “to make it easier for yourself, just agree to pay”. This, of course, is a load of hooey, and that’s what they want you to think. Plus, there could even be the chance there is actually no case whatsoever (like mine), but it’s up to you to check and not take their word for it! I’ve learned that several times over before this happened.

Blackmail/Extortion: These two are closely related to one another in that something is wanted (usually money) to avoid some other kind of bad outcome. Read: Pay the money and “it all goes away”. In the illegal terms that includes harm or death to someone or their family. In the term of ‘legalized‘ extortion, the mantra is “pay us or we sue you”. In which case someone is threatened with public humiliation, litigation, and/or the loss of income or their business, property, or home. Instead of threatening to shoot you, they threaten to sue you, which in my opinion, is a lot worse. Furthermore if you wuss out and pay up, then they might be back with more “claims”.

Fraud: After looking over the letter and finding blatant inaccuracies that were made to be “evidence” and presented as fact to incriminate me, I am still wondering if it is oversight/incompetence or just flat out fraud. Here is the dictionary definition here and the legal definition here. I don’t know which is worse, being labeled incompetent or a fraud. Considering how “put together” it all seemed (which is much better than a Getty Images letter), I am going with fraud. He assumed (and probably hoped) I wouldn’t look into it and check and the threats and intimidation tactics would work and cover up any inconsistencies and bank on oversight on my part. I am glad I checked. If I found out later I had been had, I would be kicking myself for the next decade. Considering the letter contained false information and it was delivered by email and by snail mail there is possible mail fraud and email fraud. He even tried to have me submit this to my business insurance (if I had it) and file it as an “advertising injury”. Considering that the information therein was fraudulent, it could be viewed as attempted insurance fraud.

Racketeering: Copyright infringement does happen, unfortunately, but this is not where the racket is. For the definition of what a racket is click here (it’s not the country word for noise). There are several instances where I find it to exist in his and several other copyright trolls’ schemes and it has come up in the past and were successfully brought to justice. Within the letter the so-called settlement also included a “retroactive license” and paying that amount would “cure” the situation and if I wanted to continue using it, then I should make a separate agreement with the photographers. A judgement from the 2nd circuit states that this is invalid, but DeBoer is presenting that this still a common and acceptable practice. Not surprising after what else I have discovered so far. Further there is the seeding and entrapment scheme used by many copyright trolls where they seed the internet with pictures and wait for people to download them and then go on the hunt and collect–this is what Linda Ellis and others do too. Total racket. I also wonder if any of these photographers have any idea that their work is being used this way? Are they getting any of the money from these “settlements” and “enforcements”? If they don’t and they find out he would be on the hook for infringement. There are multiple photographers that work with him, so they all couldn’t be seeding, could they? It’s obvious someone is, and people who seed upload the full size image to wallpaper sites and voila–this comes from both ELI and intel from this photog. And due to these seeding and entrapment schemes, the proportion of alleged infringements is higher than the actual infringements so are these photographers paying him to “protect” their work from all those “evil people out there”? Then that is also a possible racket and one that Getty does. Educating people instead of extorting them would help solve the problem too, but that’s not what they want. Where’s the money in that?

I have taken a good course on copyright enforcement. When employing GOOD and PROPER enforcement strategies someone would make it very difficult or impossible for someone to steal their work, and if they did, then the artist would have a very strong case. Use of metadata, using thumbnails, shrink wrapping, encryption, and all of those other kinds of strategies help with this, but seeding and entrapment schemes make it easy for the unsuspecting and maybe even for the learned as this racket has turned the internet into a digital minefield–it’s like playing Minesweeper with digital photos is if you will. If you ever played that game, you know how hard it can be. If you have documentation, keep it forever, and take screenshots and links of anything that is free. If you don’t know, don’t download it or use it. This junk has even made it to where people are afraid to use anything at all. I was about there.

Of course the whole confidentiality clause in the email (that no one signs) that is not enforceable by law is also a racket.

I already mentioned the whole load of bupkis about the subpoena above and it is a racket even though the troll was able to sleaze his way out of it, and it didn’t stick to that one, but still… Plus, copyright trolling by its very definition is a racket as well.

The whole idea that I or anyone else caught in this web has no legal recourse, rights, and is guilty until proven innocent and passing it off as a judgement (when it is merely an offer) since no judge has actually seen it is a racket. Asserting there is no possibility of fair use whatsoever is a racket. Saying that if someone doesn’t pay by said deadline is going to ‘likely’ and ‘inevitable’ litigation (when more than likely the opposite is true) is a threat and a racket as litigation is expensive and would cut into their profits unless they have a solid case and one did a good job incriminating themselves. That is why most of these trolls don’t sue very often, and possibly the ONLY reason.

As of the time of this writing I still have not heard from this guy, but I am not taking any chances as I still have over 2 years left. I have everything documented and I am telling this story to warn others about this crap. There are plenty of people who have taken it to the blogosphere about this outrage, but it is still happening. One day at a time. Again, that is why I am not sharing some of the specifics of some of the information here. I have already handed it to IP and defense lawyers, so my bases are covered on that.

Next time I get to talk about Getty Images, the world leader in copyright extortion. It’s just that John DeBoer is a ten gallon Texas asshat and here is his award.

An Award

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AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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Infographic for World Literacy Day by Grammarly

In celebration for World Literacy Day, I am participating in support of world literacy. Permission and credit by Grammarly.

World Literacy Day

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AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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Copyright Trolls: Fantastical Creatures or Nightmarish Reality?

I am an author by nature, but fantasy will always be my first love even if I am getting into supernatural, mysteries, and thrillers. I am a genre crosser and genre hopper in reading as well as writing. What can I say?

In being a fantasy reader, author, gamer, and movie lover, I have seen my fair share of trolls in regards to the mythical ugly, disgusting creatures that wreak havoc in any world anywhere. I have seen them meet their ends the blades and weapons of other races after they have had enough. I love killing trolls in video games.

In the Neiko saga, Neiko doesn’t kill trolls, so I don’t really write about them, but they could arrive on the scene possibly should someone feel like making them. Or they may appear in another fantasy book.

All the fantasy fun aside. We all know there are trolls in the real world. They may look human but underneath they are the ugly, wart and mucus covered, hook-nosed, club slinging beings they are. They exist on the Internet and this is when they show their true makeup instead of the human covering they wear until they get online. Today I am going to talk more about a more lethal species of internet troll genus: the copyright troll.

Intro to the Copyright Troll Species

This picture is an adequate description of what it is they do. Unlike your normal, every day, run-of-the-mill internet troll who starts flame wars on public forums, social media, blogs, etc who make no money for the trouble they cause, copyright trolls do. They make lots of money by abusing copyright law and using legal methods of the flame war and hard-sell boiler room techniques to extract information and pressuring people to pay some kind of a settlement demand on an alleged copyright infringement. It may or may not exist altogether, but it’s up to you to prove it to the hypothetical judge in the event that it should hypothetically go to court. Chances are good that it won’t, but be prepared in case.

To make matters worse, there are entire colonies of these creatures. Sometimes even very large empires. They target regular people, bloggers, business owners, and others. They use very scary tactics and threaten to hit you in the head with those clubs that could be dubbed “statutory damages” and “litigation”. They are very good at what they do. They pillage the marketplace and make it unsafe for everyone to use any intellectual property albeit legitimately. Doesn’t matter as they keep hearing “ca-ching!”

They are masters at setting snares and deadfalls for people. They are adept at using the Internet to propagate their plan for world domination. They have pretty much taken over the civilized world. There is no way to tell what is safe and what isn’t. That is the whole idea, isn’t it? Doesn’t matter who gets hurt as long as they get their gold. The creators and the users–doesn’t matter. Heck, they even take money from the creators as well in ambiguous contractual language (seen something on ELI forums about this and reminds me how Author Solutions companies ensnare authors) and inflated incidences of infringement due to their own campaigns (racketeering anyone?). Everyone is expendable as far as they are concerned. As long as no one knows or says anything, then life is good right?

These creatures have become an epidemic. They are worse than Ebola, Herpes, AIDS, or Hepatitis C. They can find you wherever you live and make your life hell. They have a hidden cache of spells, but people have been able to discover how they work and ward them off. I’m learning some of that now. I’m sure they are bad enough to run Satan out of hell and cause him to find another home elsewhere.

Subspecies of Copyright Trolls

This breed of troll has a a nice colorful collection of subspecies. It’s actually quite interesting and amazing should anyone care to study them further. They can interbreed and work together to make more lethal combination. Here they are in no particular order:

Trademark Troll   Trademarks Kingdom
Patent Troll
Patent Kingdom
Porn Troll
Pornography Kingdom (movies, online magazines, photos)Photo Troll Photography, Stock Photography, and Stock Footage Kingdom
Movie Troll
Movie Kingdom
Music Troll
Music Tunes and Lyrics Kingdom
Fabric Troll
Fabric Patterns Kingdom
Text Troll
Any form of Writing Kingdom
Attorney Troll
Attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants. Usually nomadic going from kingdom to kingdom. They are the ultimate driving force of the battle and plunder
Licensing Troll
Usually the smaller footmen that live in the larger sections of the different kingdoms. Stationary and not nomadic. They are not as versed in the laws of the kingdoms as the Attorney Trolls are and not scholars in those arts. Usually call themselves “licensing specialists” or “license compliance specialists.”

Possibly more…

The War Still Rages On

Some of these kingdoms (music, movie, and porn) of copyright trolls have suffered some bitter defeats while others still plunder cyberspace relentlessly, almost unhindered. The ones leading the pack are the Photo and Text Trolls who also have the larger armies of Licensing and Attorney Trolls. They have learned well from the mistakes of other kingdoms. The Photo Trolls lead the pack with much spoil and plunder. Not too many people are doing anything about it. They are keeping it quiet and that aids in their success. Bullying and Abuse 101: as long as the victims keep quiet and scared silent we can keep abusing and bullying them.

Some people like me have picked up my sword and said enough is enough after two of these creatures have come to my virtual home and pounded their big green, snot-covered fists on my door demanding money I don’t owe. They have even sent their stinky, grunge-covered letters to my home just to piss me off some more. I have done a lot of homework and sought some legal advice and know I have done nothing wrong. I am a writer with a blog and will do my due diligence and my part to warn others about this nonsense. I am also reporting it as one of these pointy-eared thugs may be guilty of worse things than extortion. I hope he drops his clubs on both of his feet and hobbles home.

What to do?

As always don’t feed the trolls. In this sense this would mean definitely don’t pay them no matter how much they threaten, curse, slobber, and swing those clubs at you. Objectively and carefully survey the situation. Don’t talk to them on the phone or by email. You may need to respond once by snail mail and that be it. Don’t prove your case to them as they will change their story and come after you again and then may be able to pursue litigation. Hold your hand close to your chest if you have something to knock them off the bridge. You should put that in your complaint and if you should consult an attorney. Carefully plan your strategy. Reach out to others who have gone before you. You may have a fighting chance. You don’t have to take it to court to win your battle unless you have the stomach, patience, and monetary resources.

Please, do not feed the trolls!

Please, do not feed the trolls! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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Intro to Copyright Extortion: Schoolyard Shenanigans, Robbers, and Copyright Trolls

 

 

copyright thug

Today’s post will have some tongue in cheek humor as I introduce something that is not at all funny. In a lot of ways bully schoolyard shenanigans, robbers, and copyright trolls have so much in common that it isn’t funny, but I do believe that copyright trolls are the worse of the lot.

I came to know about copyright trolls and extortion by becoming an unwilling, unfortunate target. I am far from being alone. This happens to thousands or even millions of people every year around the globe. I have been targeted by two of these scoundrels on two of my websites under two differing conditions. Even people who try to do things right and abide by the law become targets (like me). People don’t even have to really do anything wrong to be targeted just like in the schoolyard or on the street somewhere. Basically all you have to do to be a target for a copyright troll is to have: 1) an IP address, 2) have a website with/without content, or 3) share anything whatsoever. These schemes and copyright infringement in general seems so easy due to the advent of the Internet. I remember at about 20 years ago you had to really go out of your way to commit copyright infringement and there would be no question about what was going on. It’s not like that anymore. I also remember in school that the thing you had to really worry about was plagiarism. You still do, but it has blown way out of proportion.

I in no way support copyright infringement like many honest, hardworking people out there. I also am a fellow creator of intellectual property myself(author, artist), so I do try to respect the property of others. Copyright infringement does happen, unfortunately, and that is part of the occupational hazards that comes from the business of sharing work with others. It’s the same as opening up a store somewhere and having to deal with shoplifting. So many other people out there who try to abide by the law and respect others are bumfuzzled when they have been accused of infringement and the threats that come along with it.

Now, copyright trolling falls on the other end of the spectrum to infringement. It can be summed up as good copyright enforcement gone bad. People have a right to protect their work. It would be like someone stealing one of my books or parts of that book without attribution, permission, or making money off of it at my expense. I would have the right to pursue the matter. Now this is not what copyright trolling and extortion is, so artists who sue people for legitimate infringement with a rock-solid case are not trolls or extortionists. I will use these illustrations as examples to illustrate how copyright extortion might work (there are multiple variations that could apply):

Example #1

I have just published my book and listed it for sale on Amazon and other retailers. I have granted these platforms the right sell and distribute my work where readers can purchase a copy for their own enjoyment. A reader who also is a book reviewer either received 1) free copy from me personally 2) got it off of a free promotion on a retailer or another site where I offered it for free (not a pirate site) 3) bought it and proceeded to write a review, posted excerpts with commentary, and a copy of the cover. Let’s say they loved it, and I never knew this reviewer had posted the review since it wasn’t on Amazon or Goodreads. Amazon has a robot named Bookscout to scower the Internet for text and covers on websites, forums, ereaders, etc. Sometime later (maybe even years) this reviewer gets a settlement demand letter or possibly sued by Amazon for copyright infringement and they (Amazon) say they represent me. They demand this reviewer pay them $1000 or they would pursue the matter to actual litigation for statutory damages of $150K + legal fees. They claim they are the copyright holder and they have a hive of lawyers and an entire department that handles this at their disposal.

In this example, I am the actual copyright holder, and I have no knowledge that Amazon has done this and used my work for extortion (Amazon doesn’t do this in real life, BTW). Amazon is the extortionist here, and I am not, but I’m sure after a while my books wouldn’t sell very well, and I would look bad until it was found out that Amazon did this with multiple authors. Here, this reviewer is obeying copyright law under fair use and is not infringing on my rights. Amazon hasn’t been given the right to sue the reviewer. In possible actuality, Amazon may be guilty of infringement as they are using my work in a scheme to make a profit. Furthermore, I don’t get anything other than my usual royalty checks, so I don’t see any money from this “enforcement” or recoup any “damages”. As long as I am still making money and don’t know anyone is pissed off, life goes on.

Example #2

I have listed my book for sale on multiple platforms and readers had legitimately purchased the ebooks. Amazon, without my knowledge, moved my book to their KDP Select Program (which means they have Exclusivity to sell my book). They use Bookscout again, and it can get into people’s ereaders and check to see if they had purchased the book from Amazon. There is no receipt on record as they bought it at Apple, B&N, or Kobo. They either have the receipt or not, or maybe they downloaded it for free somewhere where I may have offered it free, or they got it in a giveaway where I legitimately offered it to them and it was still on their ereader, and there is no receipt because it was free. Of course if they got it from me directly they have my permission to read and write a review, but they can’t sell it to anyone. Amazon’s department that handles this thing and/or their attorney sends all the readers a nasty letter saying they are infringing on my copyrights and they and their attorneys represent me. Even when people provide their receipts, they say that the readers could have made that up. (I am not making this stuff up; it really exists!)

Again, I know nothing of it unless I check and see that Amazon put my book in their exclusive program without my permission. Again, I still make my royalties from Amazon and elsewhere and nothing from this “enforcement”. Of course I am wondering why my readers are pissed off and blaming me? Amazon is the perpetrator and people’s ereaders aren’t their safe little virtual book reading forts anymore because of the unholy monster called Bookscout and it’s hive of lawyers and “license specialists”. And, Amazon does this with many of its authors other than the high-list, household-name authors. Don’t want to piss off any readers there or everyone will know what’s happening here. In this case, I could sue Amazon for copyright infringement as I didn’t give them permission to make my title exclusive with them and they are using my ebook in an extortion scheme. Had I not checked or any readers told me, I would have not known.

Example #3

I find me a local IP (intellectual property) attorney and we team up to make a quick easy buck. This attorney has software that works like Bookscout does for Amazon that can locate “infringers”. I upload my book on as many websites as possible as a free download. “My buddy and me” sit back and wait. After some time, has passed and there have been lots of downloads, we send out the bots and the nasty extortion letters. As the money starts rolling in, my attorney and I see it’s paying off huge as opposed to if I would have tried to sell this book legitimately, and he gets a cut. So then it grows and grows…

In this example, I am the extortionist and the attorney is my little helper. I don’t recommend this behavior, BTW. If you do/are doing this, you are scum. This is what Linda Ellis is doing as her little side job with her poem (see last week’s post).

There is more complexity to the issue than this, but this can give you an idea what the big deal is here. Sometimes they catch real infringers, and this kind of “justifies” the behavior to some extent. Other times there can be a simple, innocent mistake, or in others, there is no infringement at all, but they demand money and harass people relentlessly regardless and demand huge settlements. How is this okay or good copyright enforcement? How can this be likened to schoolyard shenanigans or robbers? It’s what happens inside the letter and after it is received that is the big deal.

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Schoolyard Shenanigans

The business world can be likened to the grown up version of the schoolyard. It’s where we have to do our daily activities to function in society. Of course, every schoolyard has bullies.

You can follow the school rules, make good grades, and be all you can be at school and still be targeted by bullies. They target you because they want something from you or you threaten them in some way albeit inadvertently. As anyone knows, anyone can be a potential target for a bully. As they make more people cower in fear, the stronger they get. The longer they get away with the bullying and the principal and teachers do nothing about it, the worse it gets.

In the extortion sense this is the bully that goes around stealing everyone’s  lunch money or they will beat them up and/or stuff them in a locker or trash can or give them a wedgie in front of the entire school. If they tell on the bully, then “they will be sorry”. So people give the bully their lunch money out of fear. Then the abuse continues because no one tells the school about it and more kids are targeted. Some kids stand up to the bully. The bully can raid the snack machines and get lunch for him and his posse on everyone else’s dime while they don’t get their lunch that day or ever again.

People have to stand up to the bully and usually band together to put a stop to it. Unfortunately in some cases when someone is brave enough to approach a grown up at school, they don’t do enough, or worse still, nothing at all. So the bully is able to keep up his behavior.

 

Robbers

Robbers are the schoolyard shenanigans taken to a lethal level. This usually involves loaded guns or any other kind of weapon. They usually hide their identities. They usually want money or other things of value. The threat is gone once they leave the scene with the goods/empty handed or if someone makes a stand or the police arrive.

If someone chooses to surrender their wallet, they can kill their credit cards and take other preventative measures for damage control. Except from what was lost and maybe some PTSD and aggravation, everything is fine.

Should something go bad here someone could die or be sent to the hospital. Then it’s usually over.

Thugs in Three-Pieced Suits

Copyright trolls are most of the time lawyers or they are usually involved. That doesn’t mean that every IP lawyer or every lawyer is a thug in a three-pieced suit; it’s just these sleazy lawyers make other lawyers look bad. Plus there are some artists that are extortionists and there are large conglomerate corporations that are as big as Amazon (hence the choice in the examples above) that house entire departments for their extortion campaign and they employ their thug lawyers with them. So basically, copyright trolling and extortion is big business that nets big profits. The bigger the company, the bigger the scheme, the bigger the profit. Some industry leaders in some industries are extortionists and it really hurts that industry and people wonder why sales are in the toilet? The actual incidences of true infringement are fractions of what is being “reported” and how it may be reported.

I think these thugs are worse than any street thug or gang banger that’s out there. These people can make your life a living hell. The loaded gun they wave around and use is the law (in this sense copyright law), knowledge of the law (they are mostly lawyers after all), and the legal system as a means to threaten and strike fear into anyone on the receiving end and they use that same system to collect. There can be real damage if the trigger is pulled. It’s not a toy gun that has a flag that says “bang!”. The effects are much worse and lasting than any bullet or projectile. They can and will invade your privacy on something alleged. It’s like getting a involuntary cavity search at the airport by the TSA, and some of them threaten to do a full-on colonoscopy if they are in the mood. Their mantra is, “Pay us or we sue you.” They may or may not have a case; chances are they are making it up as they go along and put whatever they feel like in the letter to scare the bejeezus out of people (personal experience here!). If you admit guilt when you aren’t even guilty can get you into hot water if you aren’t careful. It’s up to YOU to check into it, so like the bully or robber on the street, you can fight back or hand over the money.

These thugs don’t leave no matter what you do unlike our street robber. If you concede to their demands, they may be back for more money and other “infringements”. If you choose to stand your ground, they will harass, threaten, and bully you for a maximum of 3 years which is the statute of limitations for this type of thing. Plus, if they pursue it hard enough and they find the dirt or you incriminate yourself by flaming with them, they can drag you into court and cause large scale financial hardship, bankruptcy, property seizure, etc. This is the most extreme thing and a majority of the time they can’t. Most of the time they don’t sue as it cuts into their profits, or if unless they think they have a chance at those bigger profits. They don’t give a rat’s tuchus about your rights or the artists’ rights, so keep that in mind. Also keep in mind you don’t have to prove your case to these people–have it built just in case and really evaluate the situation, because you may be surprised at what you might discover, and if anything helps your case, keep it close to your chest. They have to prove you did anything  to a judge before it can go that far, and you should prepare that defense in the event it is ever seen by a judge. Remember, chances are this hasn’t even been seen by a judge or a court yet.

The success of these operations is staggering. It would make the mafia or any drug cartel envious. I’m pretty sure the mob would like to employ some of these lawyers on their team. What they can do with copyright law is far better than what they can do with breaking legs, fully automatic guns, and brass knuckles.

Here are some other synonyms for these kinds of people: copyright mafia, copyright Nazis, copyright cartel, copyright thugs, etc.

Reading these letters from my two trolls has been an eye-opening experience. One of my trolls sent a letter that could have been from the Waffen SS or the KKK molded to fit copyright law in the extent of false accusations and threats. I’ll talk more about it soon. Beforehand though, I didn’t know this problem of epic proportions even existed, and it’s the same with each and every new person it happens to. That’s because these trolls have frightened almost everyone into silence, and unlike some of their predecessors, they are keeping it out of the media. Their populations are growing all the time as more of them are created as they operate unhindered and unchallenged. Their methods of gathering information have also been done more quietly due to advancements in technology. Some of this technology would be very useful in good copyright enforcement that is done as it should be done and done correctly as it was intended in the first place. As it is right now, the tech that is in the hands of these people is like giving Al Capone a rocket launcher or John Dillinger a 20 mm rifle with incendiary cartridges. Take your pick.

All of this are the secrets to their success. There is a lot of commentary online about it but the people who can do something about it aren’t. It’s just like the epic fails at school with the bully stealing lunch money–as long as he didn’t bring a gun to school to perpetrate his money making scheme, he won’t get expelled.

To make matters worse, this extortion isn’t considered illegal. Hence it is called legalized extortion. Doesn’t make it right. Now, if someone were to prove a case on the basis of fraud and/or racketeering among others, then it may be a different story.

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AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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The Dark Side of “The Dash”: The Worst Author Epic Fail and Bad Behavior I Have Ever Seen

Copyright trolling

Linda Ellis at her Best (or worst) Image Credit: Robert Krausankas Copyright-trolls.com

Has anyone ever heard of the poem “The Dash” by Linda Ellis? No, it has nothing to do with The Incredibles character (that’s what came to mind for me or something related to the Flash). If not, it is supposed to be an inspirational poem about the dash on a headstone that goes between the dates of birth and death and what people choose to put there is up to them. I haven’t heard anyone talk about it in the author world, but if it has been spoken of, it’s not in the circles I am in since I am a YA fiction author and occasional nonfic, but not a poet. I  may have heard of it spoken of in another book but I can’t remember which.

Considering the prevalence of the poem, I haven’t heard of it before until I began researching other unrelated topics: copyright trolling scams and extortion. The poem and the aforementioned topics are intertwined, and it not the worst that it gets.

I came to know about copyright trolling and extortion schemes on another issue and do not have firsthand knowledge of dealing with those issues with that poem. But I do have firsthand experience dealing with these types of schemes since I have been hit twice on two different websites I own by two different copyright trolls THIS YEAR. I never had a problem before–ever–and I have been blogging for almost 5 years and I have written a lot of content.

I do my very best to try and follow copyright laws the very best that I can as most people do. I no way in any shape or form support copyright infringement of any kind since I am also an artist and a creator of intellectual property and try my best to respect the work of others, but that in itself doesn’t keep me or anyone safe from copyright trolls. Copyright trolls will target anyone whether or not they follow the law or respect the works of others. They are in it for the money and don’t give a frickin’ frack about protecting copyright interests of artists or the rights of the public. Both artists and the general public are being harmed in these schemes. Sometimes the artists themselves are the perpetrators and use tactics to deceive and entrap people so they can allege they committed copyright infringement and collect money. However, they sometimes get it right as you will see coming up.

So it’s time for a public awareness alert since the schemes are still prevailing and I had never heard of them until I got sucked in–twice. One troll has a totally bogus case, and the other went totally overboard and accused me of things that I never did–and if I would have been stupid enough to ACTUALLY do the things he accused me of, then I would be a complete idiot and deserved whatever was coming to me. But I didn’t, and I found fatal errors in his case so it would have a high chance of being thrown out should it ever go there. Moving on.

I will be going public about this as the trolls don’t like being called for what they are and don’t want anyone talking about their bullying tactics, and they definitely don’t want their schemes being made public. The silence, unawareness, and sheer ignorance of people on various sides are the reasons why some of the schemes have perpetuated as long as they have (nearly a decade for some) and has continued to grow. People have been scared into shutting up. Bullying 101 at its finest. I’ve dealt with bullying all my life and I won’t stay silent about it so others can get screwed. I am a very concerned neighbor. This crap has to stop.

I will be writing a series on my blog Newbie Author’s Guide about these topics in great detail, and I will write about the two trolls I am dealing with here on this blog and an introduction to what how these schemes work before that. I have so much info from research it is running out of my ears about the trolls, my individual situation, articles, commentary, and the works.

Who is Linda Ellis?

Linda Ellis is the author of the inspirational poem “The Dash”, owner of Linda’s Lyrics LLC, and the trademarked phrase “Live Your Dash”. She is from Marietta GA. Georgia is my home state by the way, so what I will be writing about today is embarrassing to me as an author and as a Georgian. I live further south than Marietta, so that goodness she’s not near me. But I will tell you that this sweet GA peach is rotten to the core.

She professes to be a Christian. Now this is not a post about religion, but the general public holds people with that profession of faith to a higher standard (or did?). Her credibility is gone as far as I am concerned. She doesn’t serve God, she serves mammon. No one can serve two masters. They will love one and hate the other. Nobody can serve both God and mammon — Matthew 6:24 (paraphrased). “The love of money is the root of all evil” 1 Timothy 6:10. I am sure that all religions have their own commentary about money and greed. Rich people can be good people too. It’s all in what they do, how they use it, and how they treat others.

When Every Author’s Dream Becomes Everyone’s Potential Nightmare

The success story behind Linda Ellis over one poem is where dreams are made. Every author or blogger’s or photographer’s dream. In this regard, Ellis’ story is inspiring (this part is inspiring to me too) to anyone. The poem went viral and she was able to build an entire enterprise over this one poem. So, in short, this is the poet’s equivalent of Grumpy Cat and its success.

This is where the goodness ends though.

The criticism I am bringing about her business model has nothing to do with capitalizing on the virility of the poem in a legitimate fashion (like Grumpy Cat). As the author Les Giblin said in his book (paraphrased) “Criticism should be kept to yourself unless there is danger and/or if it really matters.” There is danger and heck yes it matters.

It’s this little side business she has going on here. It’s not all about the little trinkets and things she is or could be selling. It’s a little something-something aside from speaking engagements, public readings, etc and all the wonderful things we authors do to promote our work that bothers me…

On the side she is a copyright extortionist/copyright troll. She probably makes more with this part of her business than she does with anything legitimate she might be doing. I have a serious problem with this part of business model and behavior. It is not only predatory, but it is also shortsighted and hurts her PR and harms her potential for more opportunities to take it to the next level in a good, practical way.

To add, copyright trolling is called a racket. Other things about these schemes are also a racket. This equals racketeering. Racketeering and extortion are very closely related! Other copyright trolls have been charged with racketeering, so…

It’s who she targets that would make the worst of copyright trolls squirm.

What she is doing is not illegal by the way. The extortion in question is what is referred to as “legalized extortion” since she isn’t threatening to kill anyone or break anybody’s legs (like the mob or gangs); she is using the legal system, legal counsel, and the law to scare, threaten, and bully people into paying a settlement demand (it’s not a judgement–it is an offer) stated in the letter. It’s not the amount that makes it extortion (in this case I may beg to differ– $75oo for sharing a poem), it’s the fact that she uses unrealistic deadlines and the threats of costs of statutory damages, court costs, litigation, possible public embarrassment (being called a thief), if you fail to pay the amount by X date. Then it “all goes away” (read: blackmail). They USUALLY (that doesn’t mean never, BTW) don’t sue anybody, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.  They may have a legitimate claim, but it’s on them to try to prove it, and it’s on you to have a defense if it should go to court. I will get into all of that in my upcoming posts on here and Newbie Author’s Guide.

Most of the time these trolls have either an innocent infringer (see video below or look it up) or no infringement at all. They may or may not have real evidence to their claim. It’s up to the accused to try to prove it to a judge, not to the troll if they will not negotiate or behave like a person instead of the mythical creature they are likened to. These people don’t negotiate and try to get the information they need to incriminate people by flaming with them. Try to stay out of court or have a solid case (if you have a one) as a precaution. It’s not profitable for them to go to court and that’s the only reason why they don’t sue, unless they have enough incriminating evidence against you. Even if you are found to be a innocent infringer you can still be liable and there can be costs (from $200-750), but it’s not $150K or more. And it’s not $7500.

If you try to state your case or try to ignore it, then she and her team will threaten, harass, and bully you for the statute of limitations of 3 years after the date of the first letter to try to get you to court (if they can get enough evidence to incriminate you) or get you to settle the demand. If you make it through that, they usually go away and go after other prey.

All you have to do to be the lucky winner for a settlement demand letter is to share it on your blog, at a funeral, on a flier at your church/synagogue/temple, nonprofit, etc without permission from the author. See these videos for more commentary.

For more videos go to YouTube and Vimeo and put in “Don’t share the dash” or go here

WARNING: DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SHARE “THE DASH”! YOU WILL PUT YOURSELF AND OTHERS AT RISK! Don’t attempt it to find out it is for real unless you really love confrontation or dare to experiment.

I am not going to link to this author’s website. She doesn’t deserve my traffic if she is going to treat people like dirt. “Look but don’t share” if you do a Google search. Besides, I don’t want to make it easy for her to find me by linking to her website. Just being a concerned online neighbor looking out for others and not looking for anything here. Saving someone the trauma makes me feel good inside and makes me sleep better at night.

Hey wait. Isn’t that how it became viral and popular in the first place? Well, yeah. That is the heart of the internet. That’s every author’s dream, including mine, for something I wrote to go viral and it touch people enough to share it. This is the only author I have ever heard of that that sticks it to people who share–This is what they are supposed to do and we authors try to beg people to do on a regular basis. And people did this with minimal effort on her part. A massive epic fail on her part. WTH is she thinking!? That’s the whole idea of putting something online, isn’t it? She even puts a call to action on the page of her site to share the friggin’ thing of all things! OMG!

If you don’t want it shared, then don’t put it online. Period. If you want it protected, licensing and other information should be put there where people are coming so they know what to do. If she was so worried about her poem getting shared, she should have stuck it in a drawer somewhere or even lock it in a vault. The end.

So wonderful book loving people and other fine folks: If you post anything with any piece of this poem on your blog even if it is fair use and follows FTC and copyright guidelines, even for an honest review, you are putting yourself at risk!

But wait! There’s more! Say what?

When Copyright Enforcement Goes too Far

Anyone who has intellectual property they make public or for monetary gain should be protected against theft and illegal use. I have no problem with that as I register my novels. I don’t do that for my blog, though. There was an incident where an author put the poem in his book without permission and even breached a contract with Ellis, so deserved what he got since it is a case of flagrant/willful infringement. She uses said case for her letters and prevalence of winning. This is not the same thing as what is happening here.

When you send a grieving family, a nonprofit organization, religious institution, or even 9/11 victims a threatening settlement demand letter without a prior (not required, but basic decency) cease and desist or DMCA notice crosses the line a bit. Losing a loved one is not an excuse for infringement, but there is a time and a place for everything. If anything, she should have contacted the funeral home, left the family alone, and behaved like a civilized human being to protect her rights without any terrible ethical collateral damage. If it were me, I would have just left it alone. Sending a grieving family, or even worse still families of 9/11 victims and firefighters who cared enough to share her poem, a threatening settlement demand letter is just plain awful. Shocking. Disgusting. She claims to have Jesus in her heart. This woman doesn’t have a heart.

She doesn’t care about the family who just buried a loved one. She just wants their money. Their grief be damned. This isn’t illegal, but it is morally wrong in all essence of the phrase. Who gives a furry rat’s behind about copyright at a time like grieving the dead? As a recipient of two of these nasty letters from two other trolls, I know how traumatizing this can be, and I am not dealing with a death in the family or remembering someone who died in 9/11. One of these trolls sent me a letter when I was in therapy for CPTSD (not that he knew that, but just sayin’). That did WONDERS for my therapy let me tell you!

As you saw from the videos, she tried to shut up April Brown, one of her worst critics. She shut up thousands of other people, and she tried to do it to somebody else: Matthew Chan a businessman and an independent author from Columbus GA who also became her critic. She targeted a whole forum of people by taking on the head guy. I recently joined this forum in dealing with my troll problem and that’s what this site is all about. It’s a wealth of information and there are tools (including IP attorneys, epecially the cofounder) to use at your disposal. I will donate soon. The internet has some more gems!

Now this went way beyond a flame war on a forum  or on social media or on a reviewer’s blog like most badly behaving author stories. Linda Ellis went big and took it to court. TWICE.

Taking a Business Dispute to Court

The first round Matthew Chan had with Ellis, she tried to silence him and have ELI (Extortion Letter Info) shut down by filing a permanent restraining order against him because he was talking ABOUT (not to) her and criticizing her about her copyright trolling scheme and accused him of stalking her and that her life was in danger (seriously!). There were some things he posted that may have been a bit questionable, but that isn’t enough to justify this level of action. Although the judge ruled in favor of Ellis, Chan refused to give in. I don’t know why the judge granted it, but dang… She used a tactic used for domestic abuse issues in a business/civil dispute. WTF?

So then it goes to a higher appellate court here in GA. I chose this video because the justices’ reactions and comments to one of Ellis’ attorneys in the case are absolutely priceless. This attorney that is speaking is Timothy B. McCormack, the leading legal thug for Getty Images another known copyright troll (one of the trolls I am dealing with BTW). For more articles and videos put “Linda Ellis Court Case” or “Linda Ellis Court Case Atlanta GA“.

So this action by Ellis in trying to silence everyone who is talking about or criticizing her choice of business engagement is a direct violation of the 1st amendment and the basic human rights we enjoy in the free world. This goes WAY beyond copyright law and infringement. This isn’t Red Russia or Nazi Germany, folks. If she doesn’t like being called a copyright extortionist or a troll, then she shouldn’t be one. She should find a new business and marketing plan that’s ethical. Problem solved. Well, the damage has been done, so it won’t go back to the way it was for her. She is still in the trolling business BTW.

Let me introduce you to the celebrity, non attorney spokesperson for Linda’s Lyrics LLC:

Linda Ellis

Hitler and Lenin just didn’t quite make the cut.

 Are You a Victim? Help is a Click Away!

Read some of the commentary on this forum on ELI just for Linda Ellis and her Tolling Operation. Her “confidentiality” agreement is BOGUS in an attempt to shut you up. April Brown (mentioned above) is also a member of ELI who would love to help you. There are some low cost, paid programs and a lot of help you if you sign up and start posting your story. Use simple search engine searches to get educated. I may even try to help where I can even though I am not an attorney or an expert. My cases are different as I have never dealt with Linda Ellis, but I can help where I can.

Should she come here making threats at me, I won’t shut up. She can go suck a green persimmon as they are worse than lemons. I have friends in high places!

What she seems to be putting in her dash doesn’t look good (couldn’t resist that), and “Living Her Dash” is going to really burn her batooty when this finally hits the fan. It just takes people talking about it (like I and others are doing) for it to go viral. Maybe someone else will post or talk about it. Whatever it takes for this to be exposed. Just doing my part to make the online community a better place.

Who’s ready for a Grumpy Cat picture? Kidding.

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AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

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Posted in Copyright Extortion Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Inforgraphic: Anatomy of a Grammar Nerd by Grammarly

I was recently invited by Grammarly to share this infographic study about the anatomy of a grammar nerd. I have a few shades of grammar nerd among all my other nerdy qualities. I may be an author, and I may have learned the proper way of speaking and grammar-nerdiness shows in my prose, but my life in the backwoods and rural areas of Georgia also allow me to butcher the English language on a regular basis while speaking 😀 LOL!

Anatomy of a Grammar Nerd Infographic

 

 

Permission was granted by Grammarly.com to post on this site.

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AK Taylor

AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusDiggStumbleUponReddit

Posted in Authorship/authors, Uncategorized, writing | Leave a comment