Jerk.com – Dealing with Online Harassment & Cyberbullying
|Written by Gene Quinn
Patent Attorney & Founder of IPWatchdog
Zies, Widerman & Malek
Follow Gene on Twitter @IPWatchdog
Posted: Apr 16, 2012 @ 3:09 pm
UPDATE: First, please realize that IPWatchdog is not in any way affiliated with Jerk.com. We are a blog reporting on intellectual property and Internet issues. Second, since this article was initially published Amazon.com has severed ties with Jerk.com. Third, if you wish to try and get removed please see Jerk.com: Who to Contact to Get Removed (published on IPWatchdog.com 1/18/2013).
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Jerk.com is perhaps the most abusive and offensive website on the Internet. In addition to encouraging the voting on whether people are jerks they allow the most vile commentary to be published. I can’t think of anything else to call this other than cyber bullying. Not only are they engaging in widespread harassment of unsuspecting, innocent and helpless individuals — INCLUDING CHILDREN — but they are also engaged in widespread copyright infringement.
I have never had more e-mail inquiries from a single article than I received from the article I wrote just 5 weeks ago titled Using U.S. Copyright Law to Get Removed from Jerk.com. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it easy to get copyrighted materials removed from the Internet because if a proper demand is made and there is no removal than the entity that hosts the infringing content is liable for the copyright infringement. Webhosting companies are immune from copyright infringement lawsuits if they promptly remove infringing material when notified. For reasons I cannot explain Jerk.com has not removed copyrighted material even after being properly notified. What is more curious is that Amazon.com is hosting the Jerk.com material on its servers, which means Amazon.com has opened itself up to extraordinary liability. I know there are people already investigating class action lawsuits against Jerk.com, and Amazon.com will of course be made a party for their failure to take action where the law requires action to be taken.
Since I wrote the aforementioned article a little bit has changed. The Jerk.com website continues to explain in arrogant terms that they will never remove anyone, saying
Just because you have a profile on Jerk does not mean you are a jerk. Less than 5% of the millions of people on Jerk are jerks. Jerk is where you find out if someone is a jerk, is not a jerk, or is a saint in the eyes of others. No one`s profile is ever removed because Jerk is based on searching free open internet searching databases and it`s not possible to remove things from the Internet. You can however use Jerk to manage your reputation and resolve disputes with people who you are in conflict with.
An Internet company actually saying that they cannot remove a profile is laughably absurd. It is this type of condescending attitude that has really irked me, which means I am going to be like a dog with a bone on this one I assure you. But what is even more absurd is that federal, state and local authorities are allowing this type of willful and intentional harassment of children to go on right out in the open. It is pathetic that a company like Amazon.com is involved in the harassment of children. Simply inexplicable.
What has changed since my article ran is that Jerk.com now explains the mechanism to get copyrighted material removed. While they say they won’t take down a profile they claim to respect the rights of artists and creators, and they have the following instructions on getting copyrighted content removed from their website:
Copyright Infringement Notification
To file a copyright infringement notification with us, you will need to send a written communication that includes substantially the following (please consult your legal counsel or see Section 512(c)(3) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to confirm these requirements):
- A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
- Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.
- Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material.Providing URLs in the body of an email is the best way to help us locate content quickly.
- Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.
- A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
- A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
To expedite our ability to process your request, such written notice should be sent to our designated agent via our online copyright complaint form below. You will need a Jerk account in order to utilize this tool.
If you would prefer to contact us by mail please send your mail to:
16192 Coastal Hwy. Lewes, DE 19958
What is extraordinarily insulting is that to use the online copyright complaint webform you have to be open a Jerk.com account. Without a Jerk.com account YOU HAVE TO PAY $25 BY CREDIT CARD! Have these people no shame? This is well across the line and horribly offensive.
The photographs that Jerk.com allows people to post are copyrighted. The law says that they are copyrighted immediately upon fixation in a tangible medium of expression, so they are copyrighted even without having a federal copyright registration. If you are ultimately going to sue Jerk.com and Amazon.com in federal court, which someone will eventually do in a very public and embarrassing lawsuit for Amazon.com, you will need to have a federal copyright registration. If you complete the copyright filing online at the United States Copyright Office the cost is only $35.
In the meantime, here is what you are going to do. Use this Jerk.com DMCA Notification and send it to the real world address listed above. Also copy Amazon.com. You might even want to send these to Jerk.com and Amazon.com in some manner that will provide you evidence that it was received, whether using USP, FedEx or US Postal Service consider getting some kind of delivery confirmation. Signature shouldn’t be required, just something to prove that it was actually delivered.
Apparently, Jerk.com and Amazon.com are ignoring DMCA notifications sent via e-mail. In fact, Amazon.com seems to be completely ignoring the requirements of the DMCA by doing nothing other than passing DMCA takedown notices along to the party doing the infringing. This has come to light recently with Pinterest. See Mashable article. It seems Amazon.com likes to use the DMCA, but they don’t like to allow copyright owners to use the DMCA in a usable manner. See here and here, for example. Just look at the Amazon.com online abuse form, which requires the submitter to identify source IP addresses and logs, neither of which is required to be provided a webhost under the explicit terms of the DMCA.
Up until dealing with Jerk.com and Amazon Web Services I have never had an e-mail notification ignored like this, but the DMCA does allow them to identify the recipient of the complaint, so send it via real world mail. To the best of your ability also use the Amazon.com online abuse form. If you do that and Jerk.com does not remove your copyrighted photographs please let me know.
What else can be done? In addition to facilitating harassment online and facilitating widespread copyright infringement, Jerk.com is also engaging in widespread misappropriation of the right of publicity or likeness. State law in most jurisdictions prohibits anyone from using your name or likeness without your permission. So if you are really upset with Jerk.com and you want to sue them, and Amazon.com, the law already provides that opportunity.
Hopefully our elected leaders will step in and do something. Congress should hold hearings on this type of Internet bullying that is being perpetrated by Jerk.com and facilitated by Amazon.com. So in addition to sending the DMCA Notification letter to the real world address above you should write and/or call your Representatives in the House and your U.S. Senators. For listings see visit Directory of Representatives and Senators of the 112th Congress. You may also want to contact the Department of Justice, your State Attorney General and local officials, even school officials and members of the local School Board if you know of a situation where Jerk.com is being used to harass children.
About the Author
Gene Quinn is a US Patent Attorney, law professor and the founder of IPWatchdog.com. He is also a principal lecturer in the top patent bar review course in the nation, which helps aspiring patent attorneys and patent agents prepare themselves to pass the patent bar exam. Gene started the widely popular intellectual property website IPWatchdog.com in 1999, and since that time the site has had many millions of unique visitors. Gene has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the LA Times, USA Today, CNN Money, NPR and various other newspapers and magazines worldwide. He represents individuals, small businesses and start-up corporations. As an electrical engineer with a computer engineering focus his specialty is electronic and computer devices, Internet applications, software and business methods.