Don’t Drop the SOPA

Imagine a world where all of the world’s creative works are reduced to ones and zeros and the control of that art is in the hands of a few tycoons.  A world where those same few Wall Street companies have enough money, influence and power to force all creators to work for free.  That time is now.

Beginning midnight on Wednesday January 18th, 2012 a few popular websites shut down for 24 hours as a planned protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act known as SOPA & PIPA, respectively.  In fact, one protester’s website says “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge.”  Reducing my creative works to ‘knowledge’  or ‘data’ that can be commoditized is so Skynet.

Some people spend their entire lives creating that one toy, one song, one book, one clothing accessory.  Their legacy.  In most cases, this creation is the only property of value they will have  to pass onto future generations.  Only to have some tycoon call it ‘information’ and re-purpose it for their own profit.  A creative work is not mere ‘knowledge’.  It’s a human creation.  Someone’s child.

This Ain’t a Movie…

Here is an excerpt from the popular movie The Matrix where the villain explains to the hero how, in the film’s bleak future, one organization controls the masses:

  • “Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from… …Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.

What Agent Smith did not understand was that the human condition is more than ones and zeros.  Our ideas are more than data that can be distributed perfectly with algorithms and without complication.  Humanity is suffering and pain.  Humanity is joy and laughter.  Humanity is complication.  Imposing any perfect-world scenario should not be mistaken as naive.  The last organization to almost succeed in creating a Utopian society were the Nazis.  How’s that working for you, Agent Smith?

The American dream used to be to learn a trade, earn a decent living, have a house, and make your mark.  That is still my dream and the dream of many others but it is no longer the dream that is being fed to us.  This new dream is to start a company, sell it to Wall Street for a hundred million dollars; rinse and repeat.  Although we are being told it is our dream, doesn’t it look a lot like a plan for world domination?

Let Me Clear Up a Few Things…

SOPA will not break the Internet.  The Internet is a network of millions of networks controlled by millions of people.  It’s not one thing that can break.  Yes, this regulation will create more work for some large, not-so-poverty-stricken corporations.  But these new jobs that will be created will actually help keep the virtual streets safe for our kids.

SOPA is not censorship.  Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable.  This bill will not stop anyone from being original or objectionable.  It will, however, stop people from distributing your original works without your permission.

SOPA does not bypass due process.  In order for the owner of a creative work to enforce against a rogue site, they must prove to a judge that the site has received refuge from outside the United States and that there is no reasonable way to properly contact the host or registrar.  Only then will a judge sign an order to block the illegal website.

Google, Facebook and Twitter already have systems in place to filter content they deem objectionable such as spam, child pornography and even racism.  Piracy can join that mix without a ton of disruption.

I have been working to prevent the theft of others’ Intellectual Property my entire adult life just as my father did before me.  I have faith in our judicial system, which is comprised of thousands of officials whom we ourselves elect.  I do not trust a handful of tycoons.

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee…

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Wrap It Up. I’ll Take It.

Since I last posted, I have been to three conferences in two countries, hosted two events and conducted five hours of public speaking.  During this time, I’ve been in coffee shops and hotel rooms doing the marketing, bookkeeping, client meetings and other tasks required of a small businessman.  I am by no means a small man, but an entrepreneur thus the small business reference.  Here is a recap of my latest adventures:

Knockoff Report  - BostonOn May 12th I was a featured speaker at the Trilateral Security Conference in Calgary, AB.  I gave my talk entitled “IP Cybercrime: Knockoffs & The Web”.  While attending I was able to try Alberta beef for the first time and, being from Texas I never thought I’d say this but, it was amazing.  I want more.  The city is beautiful and reminded me much of Fort Worth.  Large working class neighborhoods, evidence of more than a century of architecture and a very quaint upscale downtown club district.

My eight-day Boston trip included the company of a woman many of you know as “Wifey” of Facebook fame.  She and I flew in Tuesday and had dinner at Ristorante Limoncello with fellow Online Guy Nils Montan and his lovely wife Teresa.  Being in Boston’s North End I went straight for the linguini with clams and was far from disappointed.  The International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition kicked off on Wednesday May 19th at 9am with a half-day presentation of my IP Cybercrime Boot Camp.  I was pleased with the turnout and thank the IACC for the opportunity to present.  Kudos to IACC President Bob Barcheisi for putting on yet another great conference.  The venue was the Hyatt Regency Boston on Ave de Lafayette which was great with the exception of below-par room services due to a strike which could not be avoided on our end.  The program was rich with topics, the committee meetings were productive and I believe attendance was an all-time high.

Over the weekend, Wifey and I took time to sleep in a bit, have a couple romantic dinners and take the very entertaining Ghosts and Gravestones tour of Boston after dark on Sunday.  Dinners at Bouchee Brasserie on Newbury and Kingfish Hall in Quincy Market were quite enjoyable.

By the beginning if the International Trademark Association Spring Meeting on Sunday my voice was completely shot.  As most of you know, talking is my favorite activity so this was not going stop me.  I vocally limped my way through the next four days while gorging on honey and lemon between meetings and events.  The first event to mention is the well-publicized IP Tweetup hosted by “The Online Guys” myself & Nils Montan.  Our RSVP list from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn totaled more than ninety and I suspect actual turnout was much higher.  This is beyond what would be expected for a pre-dinner happy hour.  Our sponsor Knowem brought three representatives to give a presentation and Q&A throughout.  It was so successful that we have already announced there will be a followup event next year in San Francisco.

Like many INTA attendees, I fill my days with meetings so I do regret to say I have no report on the daily sessions themselves.  Back to the nightlife.  Tuesday night I attended the reception hosted by law firm Duane Morris at the classy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  I have been to this firm’s events before and can say they know how to choose a nice venue to escape the madness of the legal world.  Speaking of venues one cannot mention this conference without raving about the Finnegan party at the House of Blues.  There were bands playing all night for what I estimate to have been over a thousand in attendance.  I think I even saw a few people swinging on chandeliers.  I was able to bump into dozens of friends and also made some new ones.

By the final day, I met many friends, made several new client relationships, closed a few business deals and became Mayor of my hotel on Foursquare.  Back home for a few days awaiting my next mission.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

What’s Your Handle?

Knockoff Report  - BostonThis week we interviewed Michael Streko co-founder of Knowem.com, a wildly successful startup that enables people to reserve their screennames on every website. In this episode Montan & Holmes, The Online Guys, discussed personal branding, corporate branding and what the Social Web means to both.

This is also a great chance to get to know the sponsor of The Online Guys Tweetup in Boston. Both founders will also be on site in Boston to answer any questions.

EXCLUSIVE: Holmes and the case of the naughty web host

On Friday August 28th, 2009 a jury in the Northern District of California found ISP/web hosts Akanoc Solutions, Inc., Managed Solutions Group, Inc. and Steven Chen liable for contributory trademark counterfeiting and awarded Plaintiff Louis Vuitton Malletier $32 Million.

This story is not only the first you will likely read on this case, but its author was the primary investigator and a witness for the Plaintiff.

Welcome to Akanoc SolutionsI first observed this group a few years ago doing business as Managed Solutions Group (MSG) when they were popping up as a US-based web host for China-based sellers of counterfeit goods.

A couple of my luxury brand clients asked me to look into this entity and I did.  I asked a colleague who is a higher-up at a major anti-spamming organization if he had ever heard of them.  His immediate response was, “Yeah.  They are spammers.”  He later clarified stating that they had positioned themselves as bulletproof hosts for spammers for some time.  He told me they had straightened their act in that industry after the CAN-SPAM Act was passed and made it a criminal act to facilitate such activity.

Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v. Akanoc Solutions, Inc. et al was a bold case and a years-long battle fueled by the passion of Vuitton’s in-house legal wizard Nikolay Livadkin and outside counsel Andy Coombs and Annie Wang of J. Andrew Coombs a P.C. A brilliant case was laid out that illustrated Akanoc, MSG & Chen’s non-compliance despite diligent efforts by Vuitton.

Laughably, Akanoc admitted that they complied with the requests of big companies like eBay and Microsoft but not with smaller companies such as my client.  I don’t know which part of that statement is more moronic: The Defendant sneezing at a 100 year-old company that made $24 Billion last year (triple eBay but less than Microsoft); or that they looked a federal judge in the eye and sneezed at the rights of all companies they did not perceive to be ‘big’.

The verdict is below and many interesting stories will arise.  There are many things to learn from this.  A few of which are:

  • Web hosts must not ignore the violation of anyone’s rights on their watch.
  • Don’t mess with Louis Vuitton.
  • Evidence produced by my office is far better than our competition and can help you win cases like this one.

For more information please contact me by phone at (972) 422-2100 or by email at rob@ipcybercrime.com.

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.