Internet Archive V. Shell: The Publicity Aftermath

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After news of Suzanne Shell’s countersuit against Internet Archive surviving by the thread of one non-dismissed claim – the claim that Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine web crawler was guilty of breach of contract by ignoring the site’s terms of use – hit the cyber circuit, a real catfight hissed and scratched its way across the weekend.

You might call it a "flame war," in the traditional Internet sense, but that’s hardly accurate.

Besides the ensuing vitriol, the interesting twists the case puts on Internet copyright law, and the implications of what happens as a result of the case, at the end of the day there are incredible juxtapositions afoot. Specifically, a child has issued a challenge to a woman dedicated to protecting the rights of accused child abusers.

Though one may be hesitant to readily accept Shell’s cause – both her countersuit and her response to the "Internet Geeks" lambasting her toe the line of the extreme by demanding punishment of Internet Archive beyond, by some standards, what might be considered reasonable, and by use of what may be considered extensive abusive language in her FAQ (PDF) about the case – Shell manages to effectively illustrate the shortcomings of cyber-mobs unable to channel their anger into intelligible language carrying anything that might be called "gravitas."

Yes, we’ve certainly addressed the "weight-class," if you will, of the average Digg.com user, and we generally didn’t like what we found out.

Let’s review and clarify. When Shell discovered that Internet Archive had copied and displayed 87 versions of her website, profane-justice.org, she demanded the company pay $100,000 in licensing fees, according to John Ottaviani. Shell has a notice on her site announcing that copying pages from the site carried some pretty stiff fees. Internet Archive’s crawler copied the site for use on the Wayback Machine, an act Shell says is agreeing to the contract. There is some precedent for machines entering contracts, which makes this case all the more interesting.

Internet Archive refused to pay the licensing fees and sued Shell in a Colorado court seeking judgment that no violation of copyrights had occurred. Shell countersued, alleging copyright infringement, conversion, civil theft, breach of contract, along with federal and state-level racketeering. All but the breach of contract claim have been dismissed.

Shell is quick to note in this aftermath, that her case is not about the legitimacy of search engine spidering, but about copying and displaying. She defends Google’s and other engines’ fair use of Internet content for indexing purposes.

The story really came to light last Friday, though the case has been pending for nearly a year and a half. After that, a mob of so-called "iGeeks" began shooting off emails to Shell with threats of hacking her site, calling her a "moron," a "stupid whore," a "retard," and calling her lawsuit "a joke." Most of these emails were sent anonymously, Shell points out, climaxing with a threat to murder and sodomize Shell’s children. Shell has subsequently claimed, according Digg.com, that she is tracing phone calls and plans to press charges.

Shell responds in vitriolic kind in an FAQ published on the site over the weekend, accusing anonymous emailers of being cowards, unintelligent, rude, macho, nasty, sick, scary, and abusive, in as many different terms as she (or the writer of the FAQ) can find.

And she makes a good case for it. Say what you want about the merits of her seemingly overly-punitive countersuit, or even the cause in life to which she is devoted, but the breach of contract claim is an important one to explore in a time of uncertain copyright limitations.

Those that would argue Internet Archive is within its rights to copy and preserve at will, that the "opt-out" standard is acceptable in this age of boundless information, would be better served if their anonymous emails, if they must remain anonymous, had some sort of bite beyond petty, immature, misspelled, informal, and uncalled-for abuse.

Flaming, on the Internet and in life, just doesn’t win an opponent to your cause. Perhaps part of this is due to the orbitofrontal cortex, the brain’s regulatory center for appropriate speech that takes facial and body language cues to control what comes out of the amygdala, or the nastiness center. Anonymity coupled with lack of empathy-inspiring cues from the other side cause this process to halt, according to some researchers.

But it may speak more about an online culture more acutely coming into conflict with the real world, and a youthful base, that hasn’t developed certain communication skills and judgment yet, suddenly gripping a powerful vehicle for speech.

And that brings us around to Jeff Veillette. Veillette is a 15-year-old Canadian, judging from profiles on the Net, a Digg.com user, and self-insulting* online community member with what you might call typical 15-year-old rhetoric. Publicizing his actions on Digg, Veillette is daring Shell to sue him after setting up sue-me.info, a complete copy of Shell’s website, which would, if the terms were agreed to, rack up fees beyond counting.

At the top of the site, Veillette issues this statement:

Listen. Don’t fuck with us. We fight back, Suzanne. Try and sue me. I DARE you. Your entire site is framed here. Not one file (not two, but all) being processed is done by you. I framed it all, Suzanne. And you can’t do anything. Come on, Suzanne, go for it.

NOTE: Heh! I actually wasn’t stealing anything. Just frames. But it proves a point. We don’t like you, Suzanne. Someone will try this, but at 15 years old I can’t afford it if you go insane. Sorry. Maybe next time.

And now, we sit back, shake our heads at both sides, and watch what happens next between a sharp-tongued, heavy-handed mother and the exceedingly arrogant bravado of a teenager. And we watch nervously.   

*CORRECTION: Veillette informs us that the "self-insulting" post was a prank by a friend of his and not actually him.


Internet Archive V. Shell: The Publicity Aftermath
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  • Billy Wiseman

    shell has a degree in computer programming. She left out the robot.txt on purpose she also owns http://badadvocates.com/
    just to show what kind of person she is…
    my site is

  • FlaccidWanker

    Donna Suzanne Ostrum-Strand-Shell is currently married to a Dennis Gene Shell, who is the epitome of a momma’s boy. Donna and Dennis live in his daddy’s trailer on a crappy chicken farm in Colorado. They still live with his parents.
    Allegedly, Dennis sought greener pastures in the arms of another woman awhile back, and has allegedly kindled some more extramarital bonds just recently.

    One William O. Tower of Sacramento California sued Donna Suzanne Shell for putting slanderous information about him on her website www.badadvocates.com. Interestingly, she claims that the site isn’t hers, even though it is registered in her name, and all email from the online forms goes to her own personal email account.

    Donna is a graduate of the Coon Rapids High School. She got knocked up at age 17 which is the alleged reason for her father, a Mr. Donald Ostrum of Minnesota, punching her in the face. She was a high school cheerleader and alleged floozy.

    Donna had two sons from her first marriage, which were the subjects of her involvement with Child Protective Services. While it is true that she got CPS off her back with her tactics of bullying, the boys deigned to reside with their father instead. Thus she allegedly never truly retained custody.

    She not only allowed, but condoned, her new husband, Dennis Shell, an upholsterer, to beat her child Jacob with a martinet, which is a cat’o’nine tails. Allegedly this whipping left no marks, and resulted in an acquittal for Mr. Shell.

    Since then, Ms. Shell has proclaimed herself to be the expert on how to deal with parents falsely accused of Child Abuse and Neglect. However, her longstanding ability to alienate others who refused to kowtow to her leadership has earned her relentless scorn and ridicule from usenet groups and other areas of the vast internet. Truth be told, her tactics of bullying lawyers guardian at litem (LGALs), CPS caseworkers, judges, and other officials, have only caused woe to her cases and clients rather than weal.

    While other groups emerged to combat the false allegations of child abuse and neglect rampant in the United States, Ms. Shell has done everything within her power to discredit, disparage, and disenfranchise those people who worked hard to make a difference in their respective communities. Particularly those who disagreed with her.

    Claiming to be a journalist, Ms. Shell, who actually does possess some published works of dubious quality, chose to create what would later be known as the “Bad Advocate List” (BAL). This BAL’s purpose was to slander and malign any of her competitors in the Child Protection Reform “Industry”. Despite most of her claims, very few of the people on her BAL actually charge any money for their advocacy/activism work. This BAL can be found at the same place mentioned above.

    Ms. Shell then tangled with a man by the name of Billy Wiseman, who really is a journalist. His website may be found at www.thetruthistold.com.

    Every single person on her Bad Advocate List had not been contacted by her prior to their inclusion on the list, to show their side of the story. Most of her allegations involve some sort of sexual impropriety, such as a California man being a child molester, a Michigan pastor having an affair, and an Illinois woman being a strip club dancer. Also, most of her BAL entries are men, as she has a victim complex and hates men.

    To fully relay the details of this poor, sick woman would take as many pages as her huge book of dubious value, “Profane Justice”. Let it suffice to say that it shouldn’t take a judge long to realize what a scam artist she is, and rule accordingly. However, she is a force to be pitied, not feared, and her evil shenannigans under the auspices of Christianity should not be taken seriously.

    • Sean_

      This comment is bullshit and defamatory on it’s face. I am not part of Shell’s family rights movement (or whatever it’s called) and I do not agree with particular aspects of her approach to advocacy and activism (but, of course, that’s my personal preference, which I am entitled to). However, I take offense at scurrilous and lascivious claims that are disrespectful of the truth.
      I have met Suzanne Shell in her home in 2004 or 2005 and my wife and I found her to be hospitable, warm and industrious. Although I cannot recall if her home was a “trailer” or not, I do know that she raises chickens, turkeys and some other type[s] of fowl. I also know that there were no parents living there with her.
      I have no knowledge of her “bad advocates list” and, generally, find it deplorable that such in-fighting exists within a movement that is in desperate need for funding, organization and solidarity. Whether Shell is a “journalists” or not is completely subjective and whether her written works are scholarly or not I cannot say (because I have read none).
      The poster’s allegations, which address purported incidents of a highly personal nature dating back to Shell’s childhood and, which are based on purported personal knowledge of her intimate marital relationship, are indicative that the poster has an ax to grind and is not credible. Moreover, it is highly improbable that anyone could have such inside information to make such claims. Finally, the fact that someone would post such claims of such a highly personal nature is probative of the poster’s vitriol and hatred for this woman.
      In closing, a poignant and telltale sign that this poster’s claims are without merit is his or her allegation that Shell’s limited successes, if any, are attributable to, “her tactics of bullying lawyers guardian at litem (LGALs), CPS caseworkers, judges, and other officials.” Everyone knows (or reasonably ought to know) that lawyers, CPS caseworkers and judges cannot be “bullied” by a lone chicken farmer.

      • Dee

        Ms. Shell would have the backing of many if it were not for badadvocates.com, her own inspiration, if it were not for the fact that “The poster’s allegations, which address purported incidents of a highly personal nature dating back to [their] childhood[s] and, which are based on purported personal knowledge of [their] intimate marital relationship[s], are indicative that the poster has an ax to grind and is not credible. Moreover, it is highly improbable that anyone could have such inside information to make such claims. Finally, the fact that someone would post such claims of such a highly personal nature is probative of the poster’s vitriol and hatred for [these [people].”

  • Val

    145|Shell, Suzanne||14053 Eastonville Rd|Elbert|CO|80106||||Freelance Writer, Accountant, Upholsterer, Computer Programmer|BOOK:Profane Justice:A Comprehensive Guide to Asserting Your Parental Rights|Yes||Degree in Computer Programming & Accounting||Lived in Colorado Springs 1975-1978. Returned in 1982. Lived in Elbert County 1991-1996. Now live East of Black Forest.|Roswell, New Mexico|3-7-56

  • vAl

    I’ve spent the past week reading through Ms. Shell’s webpages and public group. To my surprise, I found she has a degree in computer programming and continually brags about her expertise. This leads me to believe Ms. Shell is nothing but a con artist trying to entrap anyone to make an extra buck. I read through page after page of her vicious attacks. She then claimed she was the victim. Her attack on the “iGeeks” was also blamed on others. It is my opinion this woman has no integrity, suffers from multiple personality disorder and should be escorted to the nearest padded cell. Her webpages and group should be shut down for TOS violations as a service to humanity.

  • PeteSmith

    April 25, 2007 – Internet Archive v. Shell settled – Internet Archive, a library of historical Web site content, and Suzanne Shell, author and proprietor of the Web site www.profane-justice.org, jointly announced today the settlement of their lawsuit, which stemmed from the archiving of Ms. Shell

    • Jason Lee Miller

      thanks pete!

      • Billy Wiseman

        Although I cannot recall if her home was a “trailer” or not,
        You Mean My Picture Could Be True??
        I take offense at scurrilous and lascivious claims that are disrespectful of the truth.
        He Cant Even Tell The Truth about The Trailer Shell Lives In What The hey :+}
        Whether Shell is a “journalists” or not :+} I Told You So :+}
        I Think I Said Enough :+}

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