At the very moment I am writing this, someone is stealing from me. That website I mentioned in the last post – the one that was using my work without permission? Still doing it. Despite cease-and-desist letters and DMCAs to webhosts, a big chunk of my work is still there.
Some of my stuff was removed, after a second round of DMCA takedown notices, including all the photos and some text. Yet paragraphs of my writing still remain.
In the only direct reply I’ve received from the thief, he told me that he wants me to sue him (in the same paragraph, he also said he doesn’t care, so I’m not sure what the truth is. I know if I were caught red-handed, the last thing I would do is ask to be sued but I also know this guy’s penchant for bluster when caught). And to affect the cessation of theft, I may have to.
I don’t want to resort to a lawsuit, for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s a hassle. I’ll have invest hours going through and organizing all the material I would need to show a judge that my work was used without permission. For some items, it will be easy. Other items will have some assembly required. I’ve already taken a quick look at my files and have no doubt I can meet the burden of proof (preponderance – not beyond a reasonable doubt like in criminal cases), it’s just going to involve investing yet more time in this mess, which is the last thing I want to do.
Second, it’s an expense. Not much in the grand scheme of things because if I file suit, I’ll go the much cheaper route of small claims – just over $100 to file. My claim supports much higher damages than the small claims limit of $5000 but my lawyer is expensive and I wouldn’t file a larger suit without her. She’s worth every penny but spending any time talking to her about this will probably be wasted, because…
Third, I don’t think there’s anything there to recover – there was certainly no capital available while I was there. One of the harsh truths of lawsuits is that a victory merely gives the legal right to collect a judgement – actually getting money out of the other side can be a challenge. There are some levers available, from garnishment to requiring appearance in court for an examination of assets, but that means more time and hassle.
I do want a lawsuit because not only did he renege on his promises, which I relied on to perform 300+ hours of work and rack up several hundred dollars in expenses, but he took my work after I specifically withdrew permission to use it. I also promised legal action if he used my work again. And he did.
I also think my work is worth something. Except for a brief period of madness for most of 2005, I’ve been a freelancer for almost fifteen years. Which either means my work is worth something or I am continuing to pull off an amazing long con job, like a politician or Joel Osteen. A judgement, if you affirm it every 5(?) years, stays in place until satisfied. It would be like finally getting paid for my work, albeit with a check I would need to hang on to until there was enough money in the account.
And then there’s the reason in the first sentence of this post: my work is being used right now without my permission. And I’m not sure what else I can do about it.
I had become perfectly happy with my decision to just walk away back in October. Well, not exactly perfectly and not quite happy but I got to a place where I accepted what had happened, identified and owned my part in it, and was grateful for the lessons that came out of it – I was, in marketing catchphrasing, Ready for What’s Next.
Turns out what’s after What’s Next is revisiting what was before it. It’s all a great big circle, man.