Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In which I am vaguely threatened with a bogus copyright claim

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Davy Vara
Davy Vara

I’m a nobody. I’m talking in the grand scheme of things – or even as specifically as in the Canadian atheistic blogosphere. There’s no shame to it; it just is. This here blog gets just over a hundred individual visitors (or 200 pageviews) per day on average, which may sound minimally impressive until one realizes that even moderately popular bloggers like Hemant Mehta or Ed Brayton rack up as much traffic in less than an hour (and let’s not even mention the juggernaut that is PZ Myers). Frankly, I consider myself fortuitous that enough people even notice this place to validate its inclusion in Google’s database.

So, all things considered, you can imagine my surprise when I received this email earlier today:

“Cease and Desist Order” from Davy Vara
Personally identifying information uncensored because he doesn’t deserve the courtesy or effort.

Transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

Contact Form: Cease and Desist Order
6/27/2012 4:59 PM
To: preliatorcausa[at]hotmail[dot]com

Name: Davy Vara

Email: keepitonthereelproductions[at]yahoo[dot]com

Subject: (recommended to avoid spam detection) Cease and Desist Order

Message: Per my attorney's advice, this will be my last attempt at reaching you regarding the article I wrote about the dog that was shot in Gates, N.Y., the article that you copied and pasted then posted on your site without attributing it to me, or giving me any credit as the author whatsoever. My attorney has advised me to try one last time to reach you before he commences litigation. I am asking that you immediately cease and desist your libel actions and that you immediately pull down my article from your site. The fact that you intentionally omitted the words "By Davy V." when you copied and pasted my article on your site, is why I ask you to immediately remove my article from your site. This message, along with several other attempts to reach you on facebook, have been documented and are being forwarded to my attorney.

Someone noticed me! And sent me an email! With a bonus legal threat! Should I feel honored or concerned? And if the latter, then should I worry for myself, or for Davy Vara, if he actually thinks he’s got a case?

See, the post of mine he’s referring to is this one, which includes an excerpt of few short paragraphs quoted from Vary’s own article at Cop Block. Sadly for him, though, the above is truly a dismal attempt at a legal threat, and not just because it’s written (and repeated) like he had to pause every ten seconds to consult an “English as a Second Language” guidebook. I do hope it’s both the first and last he’ll ever write, at least until he allows his attorney to review the draft before sending it. Then again, if his attorney actually advised him to proceed with these above claims, then they’re clearly not much of a reference, either, if their expertise can be adequately countered by a cumulative thirty seconds on Google.

In the spirit of being charitable, here are why, in detail, Vara’s claims against me and my post are not only wrong, but ridiculously wrong:

1) I “copied and pasted” his article on my blog!

It’s not clear whether he’s alleging that I published either excerpts of his article or the entire post in full. But I just said I’d be charitable, so I’ll assume he’s claiming the latter (although the former honestly wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest). Firstly, as one will notice by strolling over to said post, I excerpted a grand total of 197 words across five paragraphs. His original post comes in at 760 words and roughly 20 paragraphs (some of them are single lines without punctuation, so it’s a little difficult to know what to count). My trusty calculator informs me that my quoted amount tallies up to a whopping 26% (or 25.921% for you sticklers) of his original writing. Hardly a comprehensive republication.

Now, both common sense and and my rudimentary knowledge of U.S. and Canadian copyright laws, along with their respective Fair Use and Fair Dealing doctrines, tell me that such protections from allegations of copyright violations are perfectly applicable to my post, given that A) I excerpted a relatively small amount, B) I used it for the purposes of commentary, and C) I’m not making a cent from it in any way (and nor can I, given that this site lacks any kind of moneymaking mechanism).

In other words, my “cop[ying] and past[ing]” of his post amounts to a few lines I reproduced and to which added my personal take on the issue, and the whole on a blog that doesn’t even have monetized ads or a donation button. If I do say so myself, you couldn’t conjure up a post more compliant with any applicable copyright law if you hired a lawyer to write it for you.

2) I am committing “libel actions”!

Perhaps Mr. Vara would like to explain exactly how one can commit “libel” – presumably against him, even though that’s not specifically mentioned, either – when one doesn’t even mention him in any way, shape or form? Seriously, how can anyone read my post and take away that I’m casting aspersions upon the good name of Davy Vara when he is completely and utterly irrelevant to anything I wrote there? He desperately needs to have a talk with his lawyer (or maybe he just needs a new one), if he thinks I could libel him despite not acknowledging his existence in any way.

Speaking of which, though:

3) I “intentionally omitted” his name, thus wiping out any attribution!

As if he hasn’t already revealed his total cluelessness, Vara appears to think that anyone who ever quotes anything ever written anywhere on the Internet needs to include the name(s) of any author(s) responsible for said article(s) in order to avoid breaching copyright. The mere fact that an estimated 95% of all content ever published online that includes quoted excerpts from other works would be penalized by such a requirement should really be all that’s needed to illustrate how monumentally absurd that claim is.

But nonetheless – again with my being all charitable an’ stuff – I’ll take the time to point out to Mr. Vara how both extensive precedent and plain common sense make it clear that a hyperlink to the source article is all that is required to constitute an appropriate citation. Or would Mr. Vara also like to pretend that I didn’t link to his post, either?

4) Therefore, I must take down my post!


Finally, he says that he’s tried to contact me several times, especially on Facebook (of all places – I go there maybe once a week, if that). Of course, I haven’t received any such messages, either on that site or by email – I would’ve been sure to let y’all know much earlier if I had. The above is the only notification I’ve received.

Honestly, I don’t even know what to make of this bizarre attempt to threaten an obscure blogger into removing a random post. Is he that concerned about other people quoting his writings? Or does his disjointed mind actually think that I had so insulted him on this blog that it merited not just a rebuke, but outright legal action (or a semi-coherent threat thereof)?

At any rate, there can be no confusion about what this is: a transparent attempt at legal thuggery. And there’s only one thing that bullies anywhere deserve: Go to hell, Davy Vara, you incompetent, litigious douchebag.

UPDATE: 06/29/12 1:08 AM ET —

Vara & co. respond below, to which I respond here.

Edit (06/29/12 1:08 AM ET) – Fixed the broken link to Vara’s original post at Cop Block.