This is the first part of a six part series on boingboing.com so I won't re-post it all. Needless to say --- lawyers can be outrageoius, irrational, and downright nasty sometimes. But - they can also be witty while doing so. This exchange is the first of many that just had me rolling.
A lawyer is arguing about and alleged illegal DVD rental program.
Lawyer: You’re breaking the law by renting out videos with out my client’s permission!!
TJIC: What law, specifically, do you allege that I’m breaking?
Lawyer: It’s not my job to educate you, get your own attorney for that!
TJIC: So, I’m breaking a law, but you won’t tell me which one?
Lawyer: We’ve been looking forward to having a class action lawsuit on this issue!!
TJIC: OK, great, because you’ve got one.
TJIC: You want a class action lawsuit. Go ahead, you’ve got one now.
Lawyer: I’ll see you in court!!
TJIC: Yes, that’s what I said.
I next sent an email to the lawyer, CC-ed to my lawyer:
Mr. Robert H. Tourtelot,
Thank you for returning my phone call just now regarding the matter of me renting out XXX’s DVDs.
For the record, I was somewhat surprised that you told me that renting out a DVD was “illegal”, but that you refused to specify what law you allege we are breaking. I’ve had dozens of interactions with lawyers, and I’ve never once had the experience of someone telling me that we were breaking a mystery law, which they were unwilling to cite.
With regards to your statement that you’ve been “looking forward for a class action lawsuit on a case like this”, I, too, would enjoy such a lawsuit. The publicity that we would derive from defeating your firm in court over a baseless allegation of copyright infringement, brought about by a law firm and a lawyer that does not understand the First Sale doctrine, and which are entirely ignorant of the Supreme Court case law on the topic, would be of incalculable value to us, and would be a very cost efficient way to further publicize our service.
As I have repeatedly assured Mr. XXX, we are 100% in compliance with the law, and I continue to hope that Mr. XXX will become convinced of the proven track record of rental markets increasing profits to content creators such as himself.
However, if Mr. XXX persists in believing that we are acting illegally, and you encourage his belief in some unexplained “mystery law” that somehow refutes 17 USC 109 and several Supreme Court cases, then we will see you in court. As I mentioned on the phone, we would also likely counter-sue both Mr. XXX and - potentially - your firm.
You can direct any legal documents about the lawsuit to the our firm’s lawyer (who is CC-ed on this message), at YYY
Travis J. I. Corcoran
The lawyer, after taking enough time to actually crack a law book and realize that he has no case at all, replied:
Mr. Corcoran: We understand more than you think about copyright law. What I was referring to and what you failed to mention in your e-mail concerned the copying of DVD’s. Enough said?
I wrote back to the opposing attorney:
Ah, it would have been nice if you had answered my question on the phone instead of telling me that you didn’t have the time to “educate me about copyright” - we could have saved some time.
As I have already assured Mr. XXX, we have never copied a DVD, we have no illegal copies of DVDs in our inventory, and have a program to allow authors and vendors to audit our inventory.
If you allege that we either are illegally duplicating DVDs, or are breaking some other law, then I advise you to take us to court, ASAP, because I’d love the publicity.
If you do not allege that we are breaking any law, than I assume that our interaction is at an end, and I wish you a good day.
I then wrote to the opposing party and - because what is best in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women - I CC-ed his lawyer:
I had the “pleasure” of having your lawyer tell me on the phone that it was illegal for me to rent out DVDs, and then - believe it or not - refuse to tell me what law forbid this.
In email, I challenged him, and later - perhaps after doing some research - he backpedaled, stating that he had only been talking about copying DVDs. ( I note that this is manifestly untrue; he explicitly said on the phone that “renting is illegal” ).
Your lawyer’s website says that he specializes in “real estate law” and “personal injury” law, among 12 different areas of expertise.
Nowhere does he list copyright law.
A bit of well-intentioned advice:
1) in my experience, no lawyer who does real-estate law is top notch.
2) any lawyer who claims 12 areas of expertise has ZERO areas of expertise.
3) if you have copyright concerns, you want to deal with a lawyer who does copyright, copyright, copyright, and nothing but copyright.
A good copyright lawyer would have told you during the free phone consultation that renting out DVDs is deeply settled law, and is fully legal.
I hope that Mr. Robert H. Tourtelot doesn’t charge you too much,
If you’re going to be in the business of producing copyrighted work, you really want to find a halfway decent lawyer.
Now, here’s the great part: the opposing attorney flew off the handle and ranted about me to his client, while keeping me CC-ed.
In two messages.
For a moment, I thought I was losing my mind. The guy said in his e-mail: “nowhere does he list copyright law”. Well, cutting him a little slack, I guess maybe he is dyslectic! As you can see from reading our web- site, we do list “Intellectual Property Litigation”. Duh!
Dear XXX: One of the more obvious downsides of the internet is the fact that any fool can write anything to anyone, so long as he or she has the-mail address. On the brighter side is the availability of programs like Spambully, which are designed to keep electronic garbage from people like this out of sight, so to speak. Mr. Corcoron, an individual who quite obviously has far too much time on his hands and, no doubt, not enough business, seems to delight in writing fiction.
As for his assessment of my legal skills and abilities, God forbid word of this gets out amongst the public! I have been quite successful keeping up the charade for all these years, only to be exposed now by someone in D.C. who probably makes less in a year than I gave to charity last year. Why did this have to happen to me? I had it all going so well. They all thought I was “top notch” and now this pip- squeek from across the Potomic has let the cat out of the bag. Well, XXX, all I can say is that its been one hell of ride so far. Best regards, RHT
PS I will bet you $1,000 that ol’ Mr. Corcoran, is not over 5′-6″. Want to bet?
PS XXX: For a moment, I thought I was losing my mind. The guy said in his e-mail: “nowhere does he list copyright law”. Well, cutting him a little slack, I guess maybe he is dyslectic! As you can see from reading our web- site, we do list “Intellectual Property Litigation”. Duh!
Actually, someone skilled in the area would know that IP covers a broad area: copyright, patents, trademark, trade secrets, etc. Any lawyer who specializes in one of these areas specializes in ONE of these areas. A good IP lawyer will cover copyright OR he will cover trademark.
I note that, because I seek out trained professionals who are good at what they do, that I retain two separate lawyers: one copyright lawyer, and one patent lawyer.
You can certainly find a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none who does all of these (and personal injury law, and divorce cases, and the other 10 specialties that your attorney professes), but you’ll have to go to the yellow pages of the local phone-book.
PS I will bet you $1,000 that ol’ Mr. Corcoran, is not over 5′-6″. Want to bet?
I entirely agree with your lawyer that “any fool with an email address” can pop up on the Internet.
For example, you’ve hired one who is totally ignorant of the 17 USC 109, the First Sale doctrine, Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus, 210 U.S. 339 , 1979 Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., Novell v. Network Trade Center 25 F. Supp. 2d 1218, etc.
…and then he tried to cover his poor law skills by trying (and failing) to make cracks about someone’s height.
By the way, RHT, I’m 5′11″.
If you’re so inclined, please mail the $1,000 check to me at XXX.
Oh, and another thing, RHT, “dyslectic” isn’t a word. (XXX, another hint: most real attorneys spell check their emails before sending them to their own clients, and/or the opposing side).
Seriously, if you’re in the market for a real copyright attorney, talk to me, I’ll put you in touch with some professionals, instead of the small town divorce-and-condo-agreement folks you can find in the yellow pages.
Travis J I Corcoran
Robert H. Tourtelot, this blog post is dedicated to you, and every other B-grade lawyer trying to compete in an A-grade world with nothing but bluster, arrogance, and an arsenal of short-jokes.