I don't like bullies.
To me, using a bad faith DMCA to silence critics is blatant bullying. Even worse is when the attempt to censor is aimed at someone I like and respect, like David Vandagriff, aka The Passive Guy.
Because of my own screw-up, my spew session about Autharium's use of a bad faith DMCA appeared on Blood Lines on Friday, February 21, 2014, at 9:30 p.m. instead of 7:00 a.m. on Monday as I intended.
Before I go farther, I'd also like to point out that Blood Lines has seven followers and roughly seventeen regular readers as opposed to the thirty-two followers and 60-70 regulars that follow Wild, Wicked & Wacky. There's not a lot of crossover viewing between the two blogs.
At 4:35 p.m. on Sunday, February 23, I received an e-mail from Matt Bradbeer.
Matt is the co-founder and director of Autharium, though he failed to identify himself as such in his e-mail to me. Now, I can't repost the e-mail here without Matt getting a bug up his ass about me violating his copyright (which frankly, I find hilarious given the original terms in Autharium's Terms and Conditions from March of 2013). That doesn't mean I can't fisk the generic items of his message.
[First paragraph - statement concerning his knowledge of my blog post followed by snide comment]
One of the first rules of negotiation, kids, is that you never start by pissing off the person you want something from.
The gist of the entire e-mail is that Matt wants me to change my opinion of his company.
Matt wants me to do something for him. And he starts his message with a snide comment.
Thereby irritating the shit out of an ex-attorney, born under the sign of Scorpio and who has just started menopause. Nope, he's definitely not the brightest crayon in the box.
P.S. All that information about me that I just stated can easily be found on the internet. ALL of it. Did Matt do his research before engaging someone he perceives as an opponent? Nope. Which leads to rule number two of negotiation--know the person on the other side of the table.
[Second paragraph - claim that Autharium tried to contact PG last March]
According to Matt, someone from Autharium tried to contact PG after his blog post last March, twice by e-mail and once through social media, and that PG did not respond. PG's original analysis of Matt's company was coming up on the first page of search results when Matt googled his company.
Matt was not pleased by this fact.
In PG's second blog post about Autharium, PG says he never received any communication from Autharium before the DMCA takedown was filed.
For the record, I pretty much doubt everybody's story without proof, and Matt failed to send me any proof of his attempts to contact PG.
But back to the actual notice issue, there are three problems here:
1) Let's assume Matt is telling the truth about his attempts to contact PG. E-mails go awry. People don't always check their social media everyday. Basically, shit can and does happen.
So why did Matt wait eleven months? Why didn't he try to contact PG again? Why not try through other means? Leave a message on the blog? Look up PG's address and phone number?
I know other countries can send certified letters because I've received one from a solicitor in Dublin before.
And the most important question of all, why is it someone from Autharium had no problems whatsoever contacting PG on Monday, February 24th?
2) Other websites have mentioned the March 2013 contract terms, most especially Writer Beware. Victoria Strauss had similar opinions concerning the old contract terms. If you'll note, her addendum concerning the changes wasn't appended to her original post until November 2013. According to Victoria, she was accused of defamatory comments about Autharium.
[Legal note: It's not defamation when the facts are true and accurate at the time they were made. Matt really needs to hire a better class of laywers as you'll see later.]
3) While Google is the most popular search engine in the US, and arguably the world, why didn't Autharium send DMCA takedown notices to Bing? Or Yandex? Or Yahoo?
I'm really trying to give Matt the benefit of the doubt here, but he's making it very, very hard. Especially when he's the co-founder and director of eGurus, Ltd., a management consulting firm. You'd think with a name like eGurus they would know how the internet works and how to use alternate communication devices.
So this all puts me in a weird position. Do I believe the attorney I've known for three years and have referred friends to for legal counsel? Or do I believe a total stranger?
[Third paragraph - claim that Matt was forced to file a DMCA]
Um, sorry, I don't buy it unless you can produce the guy who held the gun to your head. There's always choices in this world, folks. Matt chose a not-so-wise decision given the current Streisand effect he's suffering.
[Fourth paragraph - T&C terms were changed based on PG's dissection; original terms were drafted by publishing industry attorneys]
On the first part, great! I'm really glad Matt read PG's analysis, realized some of his mistakes, and fixed them.
On the second part, egads! *facepalm*
Matt doesn't appear to understand why writers are leaving trad publishers in droves, much less why we find indie publishing attractive. And he hired the same idiots that are helping to drive away the writers from trad publishing. Lack of this kind of knowledge could be death to his company. As Joe Konrath has said many times, indie publishing is a HUGE shadow industry that the trad publishing either fails or refuses to see. Trying to cash in on it without understanding it? *shakes head* Definitely not a good idea.
[Fifth paragraph - acknowledgement of free legal advice from PG; repetition of contact issue; expectation that PG monitors every single website that discusses Autharium]
I'm pleased that Matt recognized PG was right, and Matt fixed the problem.
I think Matt's expectation that PG keep up with every website that talks about Autharium shows a bit of a narcissistic quality. It's a bit unfair when Matt himself seems to have difficulty keeping up with indie publishing as shown by my commentary on the Fourth Paragraph.
[Sixth paragraph - quibble about a legal issue from PG's followup on Autharium on Friday]
I love it when a civilian tries to argue legalese. Again, know who you're talking to, folks. Frankly, if I were still licensed, I would say PG didn't go far enough.
If I were still licensed, that is. Which I'm not.
Unfortunately for Matt, I don't have a lot of respect for some who tries to come off as an expert in something when it's very obvious he's not.
[Seventh paragraph - claims that I lied; that I'm being mean; the soft threat]
Matt never specifies exactly what it is I lied about. If he does ever let me know what FACTS I stated that are incorrect, I'd be happy to correct them.
Then there's the guilt trip. Y'all just know a girl is supposed to be nice, don't you? Sorry, but my mother is much better at that than Matt. It's not going to work.
I do have to give Matt credit for going for the soft threat, an insinuation he might do something though he never comes out and says exactly what. Most men at this point go for the hard threat, a la Sean Fodera, an attorney at Macmillan, threatening to sue over 1200 people who reposted a story about insults he lobbed at a writer.
But still, really, dude? You might do something because some chick on the other side of the pond insulted you?
[Eighth Paragraph - released a writer from a contract when she received a trad deal]
So what? Matt did something out of the goodness of his heart. What would have happened the old Terms and Conditions if she wanted to leave but didn't have a trad deal?
Under contract law, promises, issues, or ANYTHING not specifically stated in the terms of the contract means nothing. However, I'm no longer an attorney, so please double-check with your own legal counsel.
And if you haven't clicked the link for Matt's job history above, he used to work for Waterstone's. For those who don't know, Waterstone's is a UK bookseller chain, similar to Barnes & Noble here in the States.
Which I would use as evidence of his mental state when it comes to writers.
If I were still an attorney.
Which I'm not.
[Ninth Paragraph - another reiteration of I'm mean]
[Tenth Paragraph - request to change my opinion]
After all that, I have re-evaluated my opinion of Autharium, and I'm even more wary of the company for two reasons:
1) The Terms and Conditions
Has Autharium changed their terms and conditions since PG's original post based on his analysis? Yes.
However, there's a couple of things in Autharium's T&C that I still don't like, despite the changes that have been made. There's no guarantee Autharium won't change the T&C back to the way it was in March of 2013. And frankly, while I highly respect PG, it isn't his intellectual property on the line; it would be mine by signing up with Autharium.
Don't get me wrong. PG's a good guy, and I would hire him in a heartbeat. Also, Autharium has used him as free legal counsel (and maybe they should think about hiring him instead of the attorneys they are currently using), which he doesn't have a problem with..
I, on the other hand, am a bitch, and I don't give advice for free to people I don't know. So I won't state the problems with the T&C I see in this blog. If you know me, contact me privately and we'll talk. Informally. Because I'm no longer licensed, and I can't give legal advice. *grin*
Matt's thinking seems to be firmly rooted in trad publishing mentality, which is scary in and of itself. I rather get the impression he hoped to intimidate poor, little ole' me.
Because all the trad publishers and agents just know that writers are cattle to be culled. (No, Donald Maass, I will never let you forget that statement. I even have a t-shirt to commemorate it.)
What bothers me more are Matt's social missteps and his tendency to use a tactical nuke when a hug and kiss would have gotten him a lot farther in what he wanted.
Generally speaking, once the contract is signed the kid gloves come off, and you are fucked by whatever is actually written on the contract. Therefore, you are at the mercy of the other parties to the contract. You have to ask yourself, "Is this someone you want to do business with?"
In the case of Autharium, my answer is no. You, the reader of this blog, have to figure out what your own answer is.
While I was drafting this blog post, someone from Autharium did contact PG some time on Monday. The Autharium representative supposedly said the DMCA notice should have been handled differently.
Well, it's good that they figured it out. Hopefully, they learned something about how to deal with negative publicity in the future. Such as, don't piss off a respected blogger who can measure his followers in five digits per day.
For example, I found out last night that Techdirt wrote about Autharium's attempt to white-wash it's past.
And that is exactly the problem with the Streisand effect, kids.