Remember the issue we discussed a few weeks ago about Andy Baio, Jay Maisel, and their spat over "Kind of Bloop"? Well, Jeremy Nicholl of The Russian Photos Blog has posted an article that takes the research several levels deeper—and exposes a troubling level of viciousness and actual real-world mob-mentality intimidation. It's called "The Photographer, The Entrepreneur, The Stockbroker And Their Rent-A-Mob." Recommended reading.
By the way, kudos to Jeremy for a superior blog post. That's not blogging, that's journalism. [Note: See Andy Baio's comment below for another view on that; Jeremy Nicholl then responds to Andy. —Ed.]
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by TBannor: "I read this a couple of days ago and I agree, it's a great piece of work. The thing I think is somewhat troubling is the suggestion that people contact the stockbroker's employer at the contact info link which sort of turns it into mob against mob. Perhaps these people can be shamed without resorting to that.
"By the way, the new Google Search by Image tool is a great way to track down online infringements. Doing so has opened my eyes to the downside of licensing images for online use. Once an agency or photographer supplies an image with their watermark removed, it's open season on copying. A few of my images licensed for legitimate use have ended up on blogs all over the planet."
Featured Comment by HT: "The name Thomas Hawk rang a bell for me but I couldn't place it. A bit of Googling jogged my memory. He's the same guy who pilloried Jill Greenberg back in the day. Ugh. Some things never change."
Featured Comment by Andy Baio [Note: because Andy is a principal in this controversy, his comment is presented unedited. I've added only one elided word, in square brackets. —MJ]: "I don't know Thomas Hawk and I don't remember ever meeting him or communicating with him online. But I read Hawk's blog posts and disagreed with much of it. His repeated name-calling, leaps of logic, questionable grasp of copyright law, hostile attitude, and the repeated inaccurate (and irrelevant) references to each of our finances were frustrating. This isn't a David vs. Goliath tale, and while that kind of reductionist thinking makes for a dramatic story, it doesn't reflect reality.
"But Jeremy Nicholl's posts are just as ridiculous in their hysterics, albeit on the other side. They're riddled with inaccuracies, and attempt to paint me with the same brush as Thomas Hawk, anonymous Internet commenters, and the people who defaced Jay Maisel's building. I find it offensive to state that my original blog post was 'an ammunition dump' responsible for starting a 'witch-hunt.' I went out of my way to present the facts of the settlement in a calm, straightforward, and non-confrontational way—which, I should add, was approved by Jay Maisel and his legal counsel without objections.
"The reality is that people weren't angered by my blog post—they were upset about the facts of the settlement. The mere disclosure of the terms is what got people angry. Whether it came from me or an article in the New York Times, the effect would be the same. People like Jeremy can blame me for going public about it, but they're effectively shooting the messenger.
"I love that so many people have been discussing the merits of the case—with some of the best discussion here on The Online Photographer—but it's been incredibly disheartening to see important and difficult issues around fair use, intellectual property, and copyright reform devolve into personal attacks about the personal character of Jay Maisel and myself through the words of people like Thomas Hawk and Jeremy Nicholl.
"Some corrections to Nicholl's post: I don't know Thomas Hawk, and certainly was never his roommate or client. I never paid someone to make the artwork; it was made by a pixel-artist friend for free. The terms of the Upcoming.org acquisition are covered under a non-disclosure agreement, but I can confirm it was a fraction of the $10–30M figure that Jeremy Nicholl pulled out of thin air. Also, Yahoo! didn't just buy some sort of intangible intellectual property: they were buying the assets of a website, including a codebase, design, data and domain. Comments are turned off in my entry because that was part of my settlement agreement with Jay Maisel, intended to prevent potentially disparaging comments against Maisel; not [to] stop discussion. (I think it was the right move.) And if hosting The Grey Album is wrong, I don't want to be right.
"And a significant omission: I campaigned against the sort of harassment Jeremy Nicholl mentioned, including public requests for civility posted to Jay Maisel's Facebook page, my Twitter account, and prominently at the top of my blog post.
"Thank you for doing such a great job moderating these discussions, it's been a delight to read."
Featured Comment by Jeremy Nicholl: "I believe Andy Baio's 'corrections' to my blog posts contain a number of misleading and inaccurate statements. Specifically:
• Andy is offended by my description of his blog post as an 'ammunition dump' raided by Hawk et al. The fact is that Hawk, the supporters who organised the defacing of Maisel's home, and many others quoted Andy's blog as justification for their behaviour. Andy further neglects to mention that I also described his blog post thus: 'his account was reasoned and devoid of the rants that were to come from others; and since his story was apparently vetted by Maisel's attorneys we can reasonably assume it to be factually accurate.'
• I did not claim that Andy knows Hawk, or that they were room-mates: Scott Kelby made those claims, as I explained and linked to in my post.
• Andy says I was wrong to claim that he sold intellectual property to Yahoo. I note that he retracts that in a later comment, thereby confirming my original statement.
• Andy claims I pulled my Upcoming.org sale guesstimate out of thin air. Not quite true. This was one of a string of acquisitions made by Yahoo in 2005. The acquisition was big enough to make BusinessWeek; industry estimates of the other acquisitions are $10–50M. My supposition that it was very unlikely that the Upcoming.org deal was, as Andy claims, 'a fraction' of the other deals was reasonable.
• Regarding copyright law Andy says: 'If hosting The Grey Album is wrong, I don't want to be right.' One couldn't ask for a better example of the sense of entitlement that led Andy to use Maisel's work without permission.
• Andy claims I 'significantly omitted' his campaign against the harassment of Maisel. Wholly untrue: I quoted in full and prominently highlighted his appeal for civility near the top of my first post.
"Andy clearly feels I've given him a rough time (although it's obviously little enough compared to what Maisel has had to endure), but the truth is I'm not that concerned about the original copyright dispute: it's what happened afterward that is significant. My feelings are best summed up by my reply to one of his supporters who was trolling me on twitter last week: 'You have your opinion I have mine. Neither's been proven in court since Andy Baio settled. Live with it. He can. But not so interested in Baio/Maisel per se. They disagreed, settled: end of. What's nasty is hate mob unleashed against Maisel.'
"Apart from the statement on his blog, Andy was all but invisible during the widespread and sustained assault on Jay Maisel. Now, almost two weeks later, he's posted here a pretty damning indictment of the behaviour of Thomas Hawk, who was arguably the most vociferous and extreme of all those who attacked Maisel. If Andy had posted such an indictment at Hawk's blog and a few other places when the row was at its height he would have removed the mob's justification and stopped them in their tracks. Andy chose not to do so. It's reasonable to wonder why he chose not to intervene.
"And finally, Terry Hart has just published a lengthy analysis and dismantling of Andy's attempted Fair Use defence in the Bloop case at Copyhype. Andy would doubtless disagree with Hart's analysis: but Terry Hart is an intellectual property lawyer and Andy Baio isn't."
I'd like to thank both Andy and Jeremy for weighing in on this issue here on TOP. I'd just like to point out that they are to some degree talking at cross purposes: Andy is naturally most concerned with the alleged copyright violation and its settlement; Jeremy is most concerned with the reactionary mob-like response whipped up by a third party that was directed at Jay Maisel. I don't personally want to publish more about this issue here at TOP, but I'd like to close by mentioning that my own concern is somewhat different from both of theirs: it's to advocate for continuing public education about copyright and to caution potential infringers not to. —Ed.