An Internet Crook Is ‘Sorry’

    March 15, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Michael Crook, along with the rest of us, learned some valuable lessons. The biggest lesson we all learned (Crook much, much more acutely), is that you don’t screw with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The EFF eff’d him up good.

An Internet Crook Is Sorry
An Internet Crook Is ‘Sorry’

Crook didn’t make any friends in 2005 or 2006, appearing on the Fox News show Hannity and Colmes backing up his belief that the US troops in Iraq deserved to die, scamming the "Craigslist perverts," and denying the Holocaust.

Shortly after, when 10 Zen Monkeys got hold of a screenshot of Crook and posted it on their site – followed suit by much of the blogosphere – Crook sent out a flurry of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices, claiming all rights to his image as it appeared on Fox News.

But Fox News owned the image, not him, and posting it was covered under Fair Use. The EFF took him to task, taking up 10 Zen Monkeys editor Jeff Diehl’s cause and filed suit against Crook alleging violation of free speech and abuse of the DMCA.

The EFF announced that the suit has been settled, and the terms of the settlement are nothing short of sending Crook to the chalkboard to write "I will not abuse the DMCA" a hundred times. Crook’s mea culpa was entitled, "Dear Internet, I’m sorry," delivered via a 10 Zen Monkeys-produced web video.

In the video apology, required under the terms of the settlement, Crook admitted what he did was wrong, essentially "stepping on [Jeff Diehl’s] free speech rights while attempting to protect my image." He said his appearance on Hannity and Colmes was "very embarrassing" and that he’d like to forget it.

Of course, two years worth of antagonism and stirring up angry Internet mobs isn’t exactly the best way to do that. And Crook also admits "the best advice is that if you want to maintain complete control over the use of your likeness, don’t voluntarily appear on TV and don’t consent to have your photograph taken."

In addition to the 10 Zen Monkeys-produced and all-rights-reserved video apology, the EFF settlement requires Crook to withdraw all DMCA complaints, and take a copyright law course.

"Crook’s legal threats interfered with legitimate debate about his controversial online behavior," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "Public figures must not be allowed to use bogus copyright claims to squelch speech."

Any DMCA takedown notices sent by Crook in the future must limited to works authored or photographed by himself or his wife, or where the copyright was specifically assigned to him. Future notices must also include a link to EFF information on his case and the settlement agreement.
"We’re pleased that Crook has taken responsibility for his egregious behavior," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Hopefully, this will set a precedent to prevent future abuse of the law by those who dislike online news-reporting and criticism."