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