I guess I have finally made the big time! Earlier today Hal Wegner’s e-mail newsletter was passed along to me by someone who is a subscriber to his list. If what I was sent was in fact his entire newsletter for September 12, 2009, I should be expecting a royalty check in the mail. It would seem that Hal’s newsletter, 13 pages in total, had about half of a page written by Hal, followed by 12 pages written by yours truly. It would seem that Hal didn’t have anything to write about himself, so he chose to simply redistribute my original content without authorization. I guess that means that Hal doesn’t know as much about copyright law or copyright infringement as one would expect from such a distinguished partner at Foley & Lardner. Don’t get me wrong, I am honored that Hal thinks enough of my writing to simply take it to populate what he is passing off as “his” newsletter. I would have thought that someone with such a distinguished background would understand that citation to a source does not absolve what is otherwise clearly copyright infringement. And the worst part, while he copies lengthy passages from my writings he uses the opportunity to give me back-handed compliments that are obviously intended as insulting and belittling. Well Hal, I have ignored you and your writings in the past, the lambasting of blogs in general and your arrogant and self righteous attitude. Now you have my full attention.
In the amazingly brief original content provided in Hal’s newsletter, he writes in part:
The apparent popularity of the IPWatchdog.com today shows a seeming rebound from just two years ago when Prof. Crouch reported that the website was on the auction block for a minimum bid of $ 10,000.
With the imprimatur of Patently O, this writer has ventured to explore the writings of “The IPWatchdog”, the name that Eugene Quinn, the website author, uses to describe himself.
What is Hal referring to? Back in the Fall of 2007, I did put IPWatchdog.com up for sale at auction. I was in the process of building a house and figured I could use some money, as so many do in the same situation, and one of the larger assets I had was IPWatchdog.com, which has been online continuously since 1999. I had a verbal offer to purchase IPWatchdog.com for 6 figures, the offer being authorized by the Board of Directors of a company that would be recognized by all. The deal would have purchased the domain name and the website content, I would have stayed on as editor for a fixed monthly fee and money would have been invested into the site to take it to the next level. For reasons that I do not fully understand, the General Counsel of this company never saw fit to write up the deal into an offer. I tried to push things along, offered to write the deal up and things just stalled. At that point, in order expedite things I decided to try and force the issue. I put IPWatchdog.com up for sale at auction, which did not make the situation move along any faster, and did not meet the reserve I set.
Hal is welcome to believe that there has been a rebound, but that is simply not true, and he should have done some research into the facts before making that assumption. IPWatchdog.com has continued to grow in popularity year after year, and back then in 2007 I was receiving about 25,000 to 35,000 unique visitors a month, which grew at modest levels until about November 2008, when I decided to really turn IPWatchdog.com into something unique and began devoting full-time effort to the site. In any event, I have had offers for IPWatchdog.com, but there is no point in selling for a song. In the world of the Internet, a popular way to value a website is to determine advertising revenues on a monthly basis and multiplying that number by 12 to 18. Obviously, when a business is involved that is a woefully inadequate multiple. On top of that, no one seemed interested in taking into account that in addition to advertising revenues I collect anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 a month in attorneys fees for work done for those who find me though IPWatchdog.com.
Returning to Hal’s meager original content in his recent newsletter, he writes:
Studying the Views of “The IP Watchdog”: If there is to be a patent reform bill that passes in this Congress, all points of view must be taken into consideration. The “The IP Watchdog” website has been reviewed for postings since August, with excerpts included here which demonstrate the remarkably different views that “the IP Watchdog” has and the obviously different constituency that he represents.
Normally I do not make fun of someone who makes a typing or grammatical error, we are all human and I am an electrical and computer engineer, and folks like me are grammatically challenged no doubt, so I try and not make fun of anyone when they make such mistakes, but since Hal saw fit to point out with “sic” my mistakes, allow me to point out that I am not “The The IP Watchdog.” I prefer simply to be referred to as “The IPWatchdog,” and IPWatchdog is all one word.
In any event, I would agree with Hal 100%. If there is going to be a patent reform bill it should take into consideration all points of view, including the point of view of those of us who think the proposed reform was garbage. Regardless, the reality is that patent reform seems dead and unlikely, but you never really know. At times in the past patent reform has been inserted into the Omnibus Budget, but with all the contentious debate on so many larger issues of popular importance, it seems unlikely that patent reform will resurface. In any event, given that Hal italicized the word “all” I have to wonder what is really on his mind. For someone who shows up everywhere, comments on everything and seems to think that no one other than he is knowledgeable enough to comment, Hal routinely doesn’t make his point clear and leaves many things open to interpretation.
We all know what Hal is trying to say, but either cannot muster the words or the guts. He doesn’t like my opinions and he thinks that someone who is “The The IP Watchdog” should be neutral. Well Hal, you are entitled to your opinion and if you had a website and were willing to embrace technology and the Internet age you could do whatever you want on your virtual real estate. I am opinionated, I have strong views and I present them. You never have to guess what I am thinking, and I am very direct and clear. I have done this for years, dating back to when I started writing a monthly opinion column on the inside back page of Patent World, so it is hardly news that I have an opinion, or that I put my opinions in writing. My goal is not to write even handed, my goal is to write what I believe to be true. This form of writing is called opinion writing, and is sometimes referred to as “op-ed” writing. As has always been my goal, I have started getting others to contribute to the blog in order to express other views, but whether Hal likes it or not, I am not going to change my style or moderate my opinions. Strong opinions crystallize issues and inform those who think for themselves. Bloviating to hear one’s self speak does not have the same effect.
With respect to my “remarkably different views” and writing for an “obviously different constituency” that I “represent,” I really don’t understand what he is talking about. As of late I have been writing about how hopeful I am for the future of the Patent Office, how I have been impressed with David Kappos so far and how the claims and continuations rules were a horrible disaster and ill-conceived. I don’t know what circles Hal travels in, but these are hardly “different views” compared to what all the other patent attorneys I know seem to believe. In fact, I would say that if Hal believes that my views are contrarian then he is the one who is out of touch, not me. Notwithstanding, while I am again honored that Hal thinks I represent a large constituency, in fact the largest on the Internet if traffic stats mean anything, the truth is I do not purport to represent anyone other than myself. If there are those out there who agree with me I am most appreciative. If there are those out there who do not agree with me, that is fine as well. This is America and everyone is entitled to their opinion, and to express said opinion. The reality is that I represent only myself, and the views I express on IPWatchdog.com are mine and mine alone. For better or worse, I truly believe what I write, and I leave it to readers to decide whether they feel that is good, bad or ugly.
Personally, I think Hal is just jealous. Instead of engaging in debate, discussing the facts and expressing informed opinions, Hal time after time takes the low road. Rather than have an intellectually honest debate he holds up what he does not agree with to ridicule in his unique, condescending way. But one thing I can say with great authority, I do not appreciate copyright infringers. I do, from time to time, allow the reproduction of my writings, and I am always flattered that there are those out there who want to republish my work. What I find reprehensible is when people take my original content without even asking. How rude! I particularly find it amusing when people like Hal take original works, hold them up to ridicule and then feel self righteous about what they have done.
I am not going to hold my breath and wait for a royalty check, but the next time it happens, should there be a next time, I suspect we will find out whether this type of wholesale copying and redistribution is copyright infringement or fair use. I am betting on copyright infringement because “[d]irect quotations… provided to give the unfiltered flavor of the blog” is hardly comment or criticism, and wholesale copying is hardly fair use.