Before you share anything on Facebook, Pinterest, even your own blog, be fair warned that you just might become the victim of a copyright troll. April Brown, CEO of Charity Auction World and Director of Whisker City Feline Rescue is caught in a copyright trolling scheme initiated by Linda Ellis, author of The Dash poem. The poem went viral a decade ago and instead of enjoying her good fortune, the author agressively seeks damages with a campaign of fear, intimitation and harrassment. In Browns’ case the author wants $7500 – and much more from anyone who shares the poem anywhere – internet, print, video or in oratory. Brown says, “A client sent me the poem in an email and I thought it was nice so I shared it on my blog.” That innocent sharing unleashed a torrent of emails and abuse from the author, claims Brown. Brown values her sharing of the poem at $3.50 – the price of a Hallmark card.
The poem was shared in October of 2011 and since that time Brown has been targetd for public ridicule by the author. “This Troll is particulary unethical. She uses tactics considered illegal by debt-collectors. Ellis bought Google ads to attack my company, my character and my business. She tried to draw my husbands’ employer into the fray by writing lettters accusing him of an FCC ethics violation.” Browns’ husband is a 30 year veteran sports reporter for a CBS affiliate.
Brown decided to go public with her campaign and expose this practice of copyright trolling. Spreading the word has been challenging. Brown created 2 videos telling her story. Both received over 51,000 hits in 5 days – a clear indication there is interest in the issue. Ellis filed copyright strikes and the videos were blocked by Youtube, Vimeo and Blip TV. Fortunately, other victims are circulating the videos. Even with the censorship, Brown believes enough people are involved that the message will prevent other victims and the loophole in the copyright law that allows this abuse will eventually close. “For now, apparently what Linda Ellis is doing is allowable under the law. Fortunately so is my refusal to pay up.”
Brown began an anti-sharing campaign that she believes people who don’t want their content shared should be responsible for. “If someone shares their own content and then goes after others for doing the same thing, the onus is on them. It is just not possible to find out if every single word, every picture, and every video is legal to share if the copyright holder is sharing their own content everywhere,” said Brown.
Brown began the “Beware Do Not Share” campaign hoping in time, people will stop sharing the poem – although most legal minds, including Judges hearing copyright cases, deem this type of sharing as Fair Use. Unfortunately for future victims, the scheme is so lucrative, the author claims she successfully collects 99.9% of her infringement claims – without ever stepping foot in a courtroom.
Why do victims pay? Mainly to put an end to the relentless attacks – not because they have actually committed a crime. Many of the infringers are stay at home moms who maintain a topical or family blog, many shared the poem in a death notice or funeral service, others as part of a sermon, play or presentation, and many, like Brown, who thought sharing the poem was an act of kindness not thievery. “I am particularly disturbed that his author represents herself as an inspiration to others. The content of the poem is about how we choose to spend our time on earth – and this author chooses to hunt down good people and make outrageous public accusations about intent and character. Brown believes creating a crime out of a simple act of sharing, thus a criminal, then assessing a penalty has to be unconstitutional and a clear violation of my rights. “In my opinion, Linda Ellis is the criminal.”
Brown is fighting back by uniting others in the same boat. She created a blog with information and offers a 20 minute talk about Copyright Trolls for community service organzations, non-profits, business groups and classrooms.
For more information: April Brown 206.235.4697