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…
Set in the year 1865, the television show Hell on Wheels centers on the individuals working on the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. Colm Meaney plays Thomas “Doc” Durant, a greedy entrepreneur and the driving force behind this railroad, where he hopes to take advantage of the changing times and make a fortune. Although his mad quest is noble in many ways he goes, for the most part, unwatched. He successfully kept the US government at bay by occasionally returning to lobby Washington while his operation ran as he saw fit.
Here we are in the 21st Century, where new railroads have been constructed and new entrepreneurs are taking subsidies and lobbying the US government on how they think their throughways should be governed. The Internet is not just a bunch of wires and tubes, but the sidewalks, highways and railroads of our nation. Profiteers want to bamboozle you into thinking that this is not the wild west. It is.
I was recently on Capitol Hill presenting along side many of America’s labor unions in support of the pro-jobs bill known as Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). We were regular working joes presenting to congress and outside were teams of Google suits with wolfish grins. I can tell you first-hand that those leading the charge against SOPA are the richest people in the history of mankind. They want to make sure they can run their operations without regulation as long as they can. The non-billionaires that oppose this bill are the gunslingers who also profit from this lawlessness.
Every nation has border security. If a swindler tries to make his way across the American border he will likely meet with an enforcement agent and, if found a threat to American consumers, will likely be turned around and not make it across the border. If a swindler makes it across the border, and is caught, he is deported. SOPA is nothing more than a border protection act.
Google and Facebook are not their own nations and they do not deserve their own laws. They are companies incorporated in the United States and want to do business here. They also stand to benefit from the sale of illegal goods to American consumers. Because they believe older generations’ learning curves are slower, they are making outrageous statements like we are going to “break” or “censor” the Internet. Heed my warning — Do what is best for the consumer, not the billionaires and the gunslingers.
A great American Eleanor Roosevelt chaired a committee to draft The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1948 it was adopted by the United Nations. Article 27 Section (2) of this declaration states, “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.” In 2011 those rights are under attack. Under attack by faceless perpetrators who are hiding behind these Rogue websites. Forty-seven per cent of America’s gross national product now comes from Intellectual Property. That means our nation’s most precious resource is its IP. Rogue sites are not only the vessel of choice of the modern criminal, I have seen first-hand terrorist and other criminal organizations selling counterfeits online to fund their activities overseas. I will tell you this — They don’t care about the economic impact, labor standards or consumer safety.
The Internet is a real place with real people, and real businesses need real laws. Don’t let these billionaires swindle you into thinking otherwise. Wyatt Earp needs to clean up. Let’s do this!
Ten years ago on this date you may have seen a goofball driving down Washington Boulevard in Culver City blasting the Tom Petty song ‘Free Falling’ while joyfully singing out the car window as if he were Tom Cruise in ‘Jerry Maguire‘. That was me. The reason for this occasion was that, just like the title character of the aforementioned film, I quit my job with no safety net or certain future in order to start my own business.
Six years prior to that, I married the love of my life. Believe it or not, the anniversary of our marriage doesn’t equate to me as much as the day I told my wife that we were never going to have to have jobs again. I stopped off at the grocery store on the corner of Doheny and Beverly and came home with that chilled ten-dollar bottle of California sparkling wine.
I began my company in the kitchen of my one-bedroom apartment on Oakhurst Drive in Beverly Hills. All I had was a desk, a fax machine, and a computer that I assembled myself from scraps. I spent the next week or two learning Quickbooks. During this time I attended the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition’s Fall Meeting in Las Vegas. This was the first time I showed up in public as Rob Holmes, proprietor. Just as for my father before me, this organization and its members are my family and home. I look forward to spending my tenth IACC Fall Meeting in Orlando with these fine people.
Since 2001 I have carved a niche for myself in the areas of Intellectual Property and the Internet. I catch bad guys and get paid for it. Half of the time I’m sitting on my ass at Starbucks. Life is good. Thanks to all of you who have made this a possibility for me. I love you all. Let’s have another great decade.
Now I’m going to finish my coffee.
As I regularly search for shows on my TiVo using keywords that relate to my interests and work, I ran across a rerun of ‘Swift Justice with Nancy Grace‘ that originally aired on 2/28/11 entitled “An online rip-off; pit bull puppies”. This was caught in my filter because the word ‘knockoff’ was in the show’s description. In this episode, the first case was of a woman who had purchased a pair of Coach boots from a website buymerchant.com. Upon receipt of the boots, the Plaintiff stated that she believed they were counterfeit and was entitled to a refund of $174 USD. Whether the goods in this case were actually counterfeit is actually not even relevant to what I’m about to share. What followed was some of the most irresponsible judiciary-slash-journalistic behavior I have ever seen.
Grace first examines the boots saying, “If these are fake, I’ll buy ’em! I’m all about fakes!” She then hollers backstage, “Hey, bring me out my my ‘Frauda’!” She giggled and looked back at the camera explaining, “My fake Prada. I love it.” As she brings the conversation back to the case on hand, she turns to the Plaintiff and uttered in a snarky drawl, “So… you don’t like fakes?”
After picking up my jaw from the atop my Birkenstock I witness Grace call in her ‘expert’ to authenticate the boots. This guy’s qualifications were that he was a former employee at a Coach store. Wait, it gets better. As he makes his unconvincing case, Grace barks again and looks offstage, “Hey, bring me back my fake!” Then she asks her expert to authenticate her ‘Frauda’. He explains to her that it is counterfeit and that a real handbag of this type is of higher quality and would retail for about $1,500 USD. Then Grace starts howling like a preacher with a bellyache with, “Fifteen… hundred… dollars?!?!?! Do you know how long I’ve had this thing? Five years. That’s a good quality bag!” Just as I did, you are probably asking if this idiot actually admitted to purchasing illegal goods, defend it and then promote the behavior from her bench on national television. Yes. She did. You can witness an excerpt of the event for yourself by clicking this link here: http://www.swiftjustice.com/case_files/2011-02-28
While much of the civilized world is trying to discourage this type of contraband activity, we have a nitwit like this adjudicating cases with her own television show, and doling out legal advice on CNN. While Nancy Grace is hosting ‘Swift Justice’, what she really needs is a swift kick in the rear end.
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:
On 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.
I was exploring websites of other investigators the other day and located one whose site was offering fake Rolex watches for $49. Yes, that’s right. It is not likely that his intention was to break the law, but that he is missing basic knowledge of how web advertising works. When I first designed my own blog a few years back, the idea of adding a revenue stream to cheapen the credibility of my site with Google ads was a thought that crossed my mind. Then it kept walking. Google ads are placed on a site based on the keyword content. Therefore any site that is part of the Google ad program that discusses counterfeit goods will have advertisements for counterfeit goods placed on it. It is not rocket science. I am just surprised to see someone in my line of work doing this. I am not naming the investigator, as my purpose is to bring awareness to the danger of using Google ads on any site fighting the sale of fakes. Likewise, his knowledge of the online space is probably not worth the paper on which his business card is printed. Don’t be this guy.
Now I’m going to finish my coffee.
Twitter announced on their blog yesterday that they recently filed the application to trademark the word “Tweet” (USPTO #77715815) in IC’s 038, 041 & 045. Twitter is the name of a company and an online social network. The term ‘tweet’ has become an accepted noun meaning ‘a message transmitted via Twitter’ and verb meaning to transmit such a message. Prior to Twitter’s application a number of companies had already filed variations of this socially-accepted slang term. Some of those marks are: Tweetdeck, Tweetmarks, Tweetphoto, Tweetup, CoTweet, Tweetworking & Tweet.Me. All of the above were filed in 2009.
In cases like Kleenex, Xerox and Google, there is precedent of the use of a trademark as a generic term and clear rules of how those words can be used. Is this the first time that a completely different word that refers to a service has been applied as a trademark? Is this enforceable? Inquiring minds want to know. I want to know. Lawyers, I would love your feedback.