Shortly after being served and deciding to fight to save my domain, I started a weblog to record events and information surrounding the case. Below, you can read my entries describing the efforts to defend my domain. Oldest entries are at the bottom.
People are Fighting Back. A great new resource has just come online called The Chilling Effects Clearinghouse. Many companies are abusing the process to try to wrest domain names away from their rightful owners--just like Unicom Systesms, Inc. tried to do to me. That process always begins with the "Cease and Desist" letter. This web site archives the C&Ds people have been receiving, and provides resources on how to fight back.
Stories and links. I published a media page that collects the links that have been made to this web site.
Media alert. Tomorrow, we will be issuing a press release declaring our victory.
I'd like to thank the Academy. What a crazy day it has been. Word of our victory spread fast, and I've been getting the nicest notes from people all day long. Be sure to see what people are saying in the guestbook.
The day (now yesterday) began with a front page post on Slashdot. The resulting traffic melted down my main web server, which sits at the end of a DSL line in my apartment. The server that runs this site, however, resides in a downtown-Austin data center, and kept on tickin' like a champ.
Once again, I want to thank everybody who has supported this effort. And, of course, thanks to Cherie and Jim for doing such a great job on my defense.
Yes, contributions are still welcome. I continue to welcome donations to the Legal Defense Fund. That's for two reasons. First, the party may be over, but now I've got to pay the bill. Even though we won, I'm still responsible for the costs of my defense.
Second, we're considering what my next step should be. Some of those steps could involve even more fees and costs. So, to some extent, the balance of the fund may help rule in or rule out some of those options.
And now we wait. The court ordered the hearing removed from the calendar, and our case decided without oral argument. I'm feeling pretty good about that. I'm comfortable letting my lawyers' filings argue the case. They did a great job. Plus, it means I don't have to pay Jim to dress up in a monkey suit and spend several hours downtown.
We don't know when a decision will come down. Could be soon, could be later. I'm prefer soon.
NEWS FLASH. My Monday hearing is canceled. Judge King has dropped it from his calendar. His office indicates he will rule based on the filings. It's anybody's guess how long that will take.
Department of oversights. It was pointed out to me that I neglected to include the Etoy group in yesterday's list of luminaries who signed the guestbook. I went back and corrected that.
Celebrity gawking. Although just one Hollywood celebrity has signed the guest book, several net.luminaries have stopped by. I want to thank them for visiting and commenting on my situation. Here are a few:
- Karl Auerbach is an at-large director of ICANN, the organization responsible for Internet domain policy. Visit his home page to learn more.
- John Gilmore has been one of the most active people fighting for our rights on the net. He's been involved in founding so many significant efforts--from Cypherpunks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Visit his home page to learn more.
- The Etoy group was involved in one of the earliest and most famous domain disputes. In the end they won, the other guys did a massive dot-com flameout, and the web site remains home to some of the most interesting interactive art on the net.
- Roblimo works for some rinky-dink weblog. He has a home page too.
Who did I miss? Let me know.
Shout out. Greetings to the visitors from Brassknuckles Webzine. Welcome to my nightmare. :-)
A little help from my friends. I have been receiving incredible support from the 'net community. People have been volunteering their money, time, and good thoughts. I want to express my appreciation, once again.
Special thanks are due to Eric C. Grimm. Mr. Grimm is an attorney with experience in Internet domain issues. In the preparation of my case, Jim Tyre, my California attorney, has consulted with him several times. Mr. Grimm has been very generous with his time and advice, particularly with respect to some of the jurisdiction issues we've raised. Thanks, Eric.
Interesting comments. There was an interesting guestbook entry today. This visitor had some interesting commentary in response to my past few 'blog entries.
We refute, continued. This entry continues yesterday's discussion. You may want to read that first.
Yesterday, I highlighted my lawyers' discussion of jurisdiction issues--why this case should not be tried in California. Today, I direct you to another interesting argument that suggests this case should not be tried at all.
Plaintiff also predicates its arguments on the shaky foundation that Plaintiff holds valid, incontestable Trademarks.
- Defendant's Memo in Reply, p. 13.
In their opposition memorandum, the other guys point to federal trademark registration 74483489 (oppo. memo., p. 15) as evidence of "first to use." They go on to note, however, that "the Mark was inadvertently abandoned." Yikes!
This may be a serious setback to their position. My lawyers have pointed out that if a trademark is abandoned--even inadvertently--it now becomes generic. This raises the question of validity of the trademark registrations the other guys claim.
The charges against me--other than cybersquatting--largely revolve around violations of trademark rights. Well, what happens if there isn't a valid trademark here? That means no rights, no violations, no claim for which relief can be granted.
A final note. This discussion is my interpretation of the arguments my lawyers have advanced. I've tried my best not to misrepresent anybody's position--theirs or ours. Due to my lack of legal background, I may not have been completely successful. Please refer to the case documentation for a complete presentation of the arguments.
We refute. Today, the flurry of paperwork ended, as we all now look forward to the January 28th hearing. Earlier this week they filed their opposition to our motion to dismiss. Today we answered their opposition.
To hold that [... external linking ...] could establish personal jurisdiction would create an intolerable chilling effect on Internet speech.
- Defendant's Memo in Reply, p. 3.
We believe that lack of jurisdiction calls for this case to be dismissed or transferred to Texas. The other guys, in their opposition memo, argue there is jurisdiction for this case to be heard in California. They support this by pointing out that my web site has links to web sites in California.
They even go so far as proposing that because I link to a web site that links to other web sites, some of which are operated by California-based companies, there is jurisdiction.
My lawyers question the legal basis for that argument. I question the sanity of that argument.
(Tune in tomorrow ... to be continued! ...)
They respond. The other guys have filed their opposition to our motion to dismiss. They may be willing to drop the Cyberpiracy charge (opposition memo, page 3, lines 27-28), but are pursuing the others vigorously.
I will be delighted if the Cyberpiracy cause is dismissed. We've stood on the point that UNICOM.COM was obtained in good faith, has been used only for lawful purposes, and has never been offered for sale. This charge has raised implications of arbitrage and extortion, and that deeply troubles me. I'd be glad to see this settled.
The jurisdiction issue--whether this case belongs in California--remains significant. Their filing claims that the hyperlinks on my web site provide sufficient presence in California for jurisdiction. For instance, they point out (declaration, items 3, 5) that there is a "powered by" BSD Daemon logo on my home page that is linked to bsdi.com, which redirects to a California company, so that creates jurisdiction. (BSDI was a Virginia operating system company. They were acquired by Wind River last April, and now the link is redirected to the parent company's web site.) It will be interesting to see if the court is responsive to that argument.
Forward march. Today, we received their written opposition to our motion to dismiss. We're reviewing the documents now. It looks like they are prepared to soldier on, and so are we. I will work on getting some of that information into the documents library shortly.
On the air. Uhhhhhhh, I did the Bob Rivers Radio Show yesterday morning. Uhhhhhhh, it was a fun time. Uhhhhhhh, you can listen to a recording of the interview. I, uhhhhhhh, think if I review this clip, uhhhhhhh, it may help me do an even better job, uhhhhhhh, the next time I, uhhhhhhh, do a radio interview.
Media alert. I'm scheduled to do a radio interview on the Bob Rivers Show tomorrow (1/10). I believe it's going to happen somewhere around 7:40 a.m. or 8:10 a.m. PST. It's broadcast out of Seattle, and carried in Portland and Juneau, AK. Anybody willing to record it for me?
Shout out. Too cool! I've been Slashdotted.
Shout out. Greetings to Declan McCullagh's Politech mailing list members.
Shout out. Greetings to the visitors from the N.Y. Post.
A crazy odyssey. Most people don't get sued all that often. Or, maybe, that's just me. Anyway, we're led to believe the courts grind at a snail's pace. The biggest surprise for me has been the speed at which events have occurred.
On December 12, I was home, waxing the cat or something. There is a knock at my door. This guy is standing at my doorstep. He hands me a stack of papers and says, "Here. These are for you."
At that instant, a countdown begins. I have 20 days in which to find a lawyer, engage their services, analyze the complaint, formulate a response, and produce the myriad of picayune paperwork that is required by the Court. Well, actually the lawyers do most of that work. I mostly sit around eating Cheetos and reading the drafts.
Now, even if you got a 250 on your math SATs, you probably can count off twenty days from December 12 and realize that time interval includes two of the most important national "I Ain't Doing Squat" days of the year. No matter. Your previous plans are now canceled. Your response will be completed and filed by January 2.
Thank yous. Which brings me to my point: thanks Cherie and Jim.
My lawyers busted their tails to meet that deadline. On December 24, for instance, we all worked through the day, emails flying furiously until evening descended. Then, we all split off to be with family or friends. The next day, right after dinner, we're all back online, picking up right where we left off.
If you had to pick the three weeks of the year in which to do this, the ones we were dealt were not the ones we might otherwise have chosen. But, we've persevered. I'm grateful for my lawyers' work, especially so for sacrificing their holiday time to help me out.
Now it's our turn. Today, we responded to the lawsuit.
This case boils down to whether a little known corporation, which obtained a federal trademark registration long after Defendant began using his domain, can leverage the trademark by forcing Defendant to give up his domain name without regard to the facts or the law.
- Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, pp. 7-8
We declined to file counterclaims. Instead, we are asking the court to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim. My lawyers argue this case doesn't belong in any U.S. District Court, but if it's going to be heard then the proper jurisdiction is the Western District of Texas.
Shout out. Greets to the visitors from Farkistan.
Do you have Sir Walter Raleigh in a can? I'm at home one day last week, reviewing the list of defense exhibits. The phone rings.
You are a cybersquatter!
Ha ha! Very funny!
You are a domain hijacker!
Alright, who is this?
It went on like this for a while. I was trying to figure out which of my lame friends was pulling this lame stunt, when the caller hung up. Only then I realized--yoicks!--it was a real prank call.
About three minutes later my phone rings again. I let the answering machine take it. It was the same guy.
Uhhh ... Chip? Sorry, I dialed the wrong number. You're the good guy. Sorry.
I'm glad to see other people are as outraged as I am. Phone harassment, however, may not be the most productive way to show our indignation. Here are some ways you can show your support:
- Give me five bucks. Just click on the DONATE button to the right. It's a great way to support the fight for small web publisher's rights.
- Money is nice, but not necessary. Get your opinion on the record. Sign the guestbook.
- Tell three friends about this web site. Get the word out that this sort of threat exists.
Thanks to everybody who has shown their support one of these ways. And if I see Sir Walter Raleigh, I'll be sure to let him out.
A cruel end of the year. This web site was selected as Cruel Site of the Day for today. Here is what they said about us:
Your Domain are Belong to Us
In 1990, Chip Rosenthal registered unicom.com for Unicom Systems Development. Eleven years later, Unicom Systems sued him for infringing a trademark it registered in 1997, relying on a unique legal theory involving a breach of the space-time continuum.
Tee hee. Happy (and safe) New Year everybody!
Shout out. Greets to Matt and all the good folks from MeFi.
California counsel. A week ago I mentioned I would need local counsel in California. I am pleased--and privileged--to announce that James S. Tyre has joined my legal team. He has represented free speech interests for over twenty years. He has been involved in some of the most important cases that address our rights on the 'net, such as:
- MPAA v. 2600. 2600 Magazine published a computer program that provides access to the encrypted contents of DVDs. The motion picture industry was livid. 2600 was sued not only for publishing the program, but also for just posting links to other web sites that had it. James authored the Programmers' & Academics' Amici Brief, in which seventeen of the world's most distinguished programmers and computer scientists argued that computer programs are entitled to First Amendment protection.
- Felten v. RIAA. The record industry developed a method to secure digital music, and issued a public challenge to break the system. Princeton Professor Edward Felton accepted the challenge and found a weakness. When he went to write a paper and present his research at a conference, the recording industry sued to silence him. James is a member of the legal team defending Felton.
James is a co-founder of The Censorware Project. He does not have a web site, which is pretty darn lame of him, but other than that he's a decent bloke.
Defense fund setup. I have setup a defense fund for those who are interested in contributing to this fight. To contribute, click on the PayPal button on the right. If you'd prefer to do a check, wire transfer, or stock options, mail me.
Our team is growing. Andrea has joined our team as a researcher. She is going to help us gather the information we need to pursue this case.
Web site update. I've taken a bit of a gamble and revised this web site to use cascading style sheets (CSS). If you have problems with the site, or if it just plain looks like crap, please let me know.
Guestbook. Thanks to everybody who has signed the guestbook. I've really enjoyed reading your comments.
Exciting news is afoot! Because the suit was filed in California, that means I need to hire local counsel there. I don't want to name names until we get a contract signed, but boy howdy have I landed a doosey! A great lawyer, with national renown in cyberspace and free speech issues, has expressed interest in joining my team. I am so tremendously flattered and grateful.
On the other hand, that means I need to cough up more cash. As they say, the wheels of justice grind slowly ... and expensively. Which means coming soon (yep, you guessed it): the Unicom.Com Legal Defense Fund.
Almost exactly a year ago, that California company sent me a Cease and Desist letter. My lawyer wrote a wonderful, direct Response letter. At the time I thought that had settled the issue. Guess I thought wrong.
The web site is live! (Thanks Brian.)
I have scanned and posted the complaint.
I am going to be represented by Cherie M. Chappell of Chappell Law Firm, P.L.L.C.. She is great. She has a good understanding of technology issues and the evolving legal landscape.
Right now, we hope to get the case dismissed. There is legal precedence in our favor. Kevin Spacey sued to recover KEVINSPACEY.COM. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, and it was granted. The court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction, and the suit would need to be filed where the defendant resides.
That bodes well for me. I reside in Austin, TX, and USI filed in California. In fact they filed in the very same court that dismissed the Spacey lawsuit. So, we're hopeful the court will follow that precedent in my case.
back to Save Unicom.Com home page
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