by Henry Charles Mishkoff
Chapter 3: I Go to the Mall. I Get a Suit.|
August 10, 2001
I didn't think it would be a good idea to let Julie's deadline expire without some kind of response. So I faxed her back to tell her that I would definitely reply to her complaint, but that it probably take me more than a month (as opposed to less than a week, as she had suggested). If that wasn't good enough, I told her, she would just have to go ahead and sue me:
I thought that she deserved an explanation about the link to Donna's website, so I told her the whole story, informed her that she wouldn't have to worry about it any longer, and promised never to do it again:
And finally, my newfound status as a defendant didn't mean that I had to limit myself to playing defense. And so, in line with the football adage that "the best defense is a good offense," I decided that I could be just as offensive as Julie. (Or should that be, "I could take the offensive, just as Julie had"? Hard to tell.) If she could threaten me well, by God, I could threaten her right back. And that's exactly what I did:
(For better or for worse, some Web records have a pronounced tendency to be permanent. And so if you do a WHOIS search5 on those domain names, you'll see that they were all created on this very day.)
I was quite proud of myself for coming up with this gambit. I thought I was being very clever. (Too clever for my own good? Maybe. Read on.) I suspect that a lot of Big Companies have routinely felt that they could abuse The Little Guy without any fear of negative consequences. Not only didn't we Little Guys have the resources to fight back, we couldn't even really do much of anything to make the Big Companies look bad, not on any scale that would matter to them. Sure, we could tell our stories to our friends, who would shake their heads in dismay and offer us their profound sympathies but in the overall scheme of things, we just don't have that many friends. And unless we wanted to place ads in newspapers or buy airtime on radio or television (SuperBowl ads?), the Big Companies could rest easy, secure in the knowledge that, despite The Little Guys' best efforts, only a very small number of people would ever learn that the Big Company and its Evil Lawyers were throwing their weight around like a gang of schoolyard bullies.
Not any more.
As Julie was about to find out, the Web had changed all the rules.
Websites have become so inexpensive that, if you know how to create one (and with the tools available these days, it really isn't that hard), you can build and maintain a website for virtually no money at all. And once your site is online, anyone who has access to the Web can read every word that you have to say. And unlike pamphlets printed on paper, websites don't get yellow with age, and they don't get balled up and thrown away. Once you create a website, it can theoretically stay online forever.
I was making sure that Julie and her client knew that, although they could sue me, they couldn't do it in secret. I couldn't stop them from being abusive, I couldn't stop them from using their considerable power to push me around but neither could they stop me from exposing their dastardly deeds to the hundreds of millions of people who have access to the World Wide Web.
Of course, if Julie was confident that she was treating me fairly, then she had nothing to fear from the unexpected publicity. But if she was counting on being able to persecute me in private, I had put her on notice that stealth was no longer an option.
Julie had threatened me. I had threatened her right back.
The ball was in her court (tennis, as well as District). And now there was nothing for me to do but to sit back and wonder just how hard she would hit it back.
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