Ken White blogs at Popehat. He’s a litigator and criminal defense attorney at Brown White & Newhouse LLP in Los Angeles. His views are his alone, not those of his firm. This post is cross-posted from Popehat with permission. And, because we here at…
… by which I am referring to the Nigerian Scam, not folks from Nigeria, many of whom I would imagine are fine, upstanding folks.
For at least a decade the Nigerian Scam has been working through the ranks of attorneydom, at times to such effect that the California Bar Journal posted a warning about it way back, and here’s one from about 3 years ago regarding faux divorce settlements. Yes, attorneys keep falling for it.
It invariably involves advance payment to the firm, with a check that bounces after the “overpayment” part of the check has been refunded to the scammer. Neat, huh? Probably as ancient a scam as scams get … or at least as old as the existence of checks. Oh, and they tend to use real companies and at times real CEO names, making it seem — perhaps — legit.
So how do you tell if you’re being scammed? Duh! Sounds too good to be true. Also, if you happen to know a thing or two about the internet, just looking at the email header information, or just the email addres, can be a pretty good tipoff. So sometimes a bit of fun with these folks is in order. Case in point (names edited to some degree).
I need a breach of contract lawyer to assist me with a legal matter.
Well, that’s a red flag already, and I do not mean the email address; I refer to the brevity.
Thank you for contacting this office. I may or may not be able to assist you, depending on the facts. Please provide some details, such as what the matter is about, where, etc. Thanks.
T.C. Johnston, LL.M.
I n t e r n e t L a w
You know, the stuff that should have been in the initial query. What lawyer could not handle a “breach of contract?”
Thanks for your response, we provided a business associate of ours Acme Engineering Group an unsecured business loan in the amount of $7,950,000.00 (USD) The loan was needed to boost investment in one of their companies. The loan was for 12 months with interest rate of 4%. AEG have defaulted on the last instalment of the loan in the amount of $676,941.74 (USD) which was supposed to be paid on 1/12/2011. Kindly let me know if this is a matter you could consider handling on our behalf, we will provide you with all the necessary information and answer any other questions you might have.
Chief Executive officer
OK, so we have a new email address, a font-obvious cut and paste, and some real companies. Sweet.
Please feel free to forward for my review (in pdf format) the loan agreement and related documents, all statements and invoices related to the matter, and all correspondence detailing your company’s attempts to collect on the debt. I will then be in a better position to advise on the matter.
Additionally, I am curious why the CEO of the largest construction company in [Northern Europe] would use an insecure French Yahoo! account to directly contact a solo San Diego Internet lawyer about instituting contract litigation against a company in the Los Angeles area, when there are literally thousands of local contract attorneys who could handle the matter more efficiently. I would have assumed your company already had legal contacts in L.A., and that your house counsel would handle such queries. I am also curious as to the circumstances that resulted in ImportantCo agreeing to an $8M unsecured loan in the first place, and why it waited for over two years after such a substantial default before considering legal action to collect.
And here endeth the query by “Andrew.” Dude never got back! Do you think it was the request for information that would be needed to assess the matter, or the snark?
If you know what that means, go to the Chrome Store. Otherwise, here’s Forbes on it: Chrome Add-on Tells You When You’re Browsing A Site That Supports SOPA – Forbes.
In case that story locks up on you, here’s another version from ReadWriteWeb.
Here’s a primer of sorts about SOPA, with yet another parody using the oft-trolled Hitler clips from “Downfall” – this time with SOPA as subject. Mostly spot on, and very funny.
I’ve got plenty to say about this (like the irony of the “Downfall” clip being used in this context), but I’m on holiday, so it’ll have to wait.
Just dropping some links to important stuff, first from Mike Masnick @ TechDirt, who tells it not-like-a-lawyer: PROTECT IP Renamed E-PARASITES Act; Would Create The Great Firewall Of America | Techdirt. In sum, the House version broadens the bad. Says Masnick:
The bill would require service providers to block access to certain websites, very much contrary to US official positions on censorship and internet freedom, and almost certainly in violation of the First Amendment.
Of course it’s supposed to be about protecting copyrights, but ulterior motives breath beneath the surface, and bad results sure to follow.
Eric Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog drops this quotable with more links in his 10/5 Copyright Quick Links:
The PROTECT IP Act is an abomination. I signed a law professor letter against PROTECT IP. Entrepreneurs circulated their own letter. Larry Downes offered some suggestions on how to make the PROTECT IP Act less worse.
I had touched on the Protect IP Act previously, back when it was just awful. Happy surfing.
This morning my inbox coughed up the most recent spate of UDRP decisions from the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) – the body that decides a big chunk of the domain name arbitrations in … er, the world. Breezing through usual types of decisions (e.g., folks registering a variation of known commercial trademarks to create ad-squatting sites) I got a taste of some celebrity fun.
Lady Gaga (née Ms. Stefani Germanotta) – or more precisely, her attorney – brought a UDRP arbitration to obtain the LadyGaga.org domain from its owner, a huge Lady Gaga fan. The site itself is a noncommercial fan site containing prominent disclaimers (keywords: “noncommercial,” “fan site,” “disclaimers”). Claim denied. Here’s the decision.
So then the game is guess-which-element-Gaga-couldn’t-hit. Which I did, and was (kinda) wrong. Our elements are as follows:
(1) the domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(2) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(3) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
The first element is a slam dunk. And there’s enough to establish that nobody … nobody (even stuffy arbitrators, apparently) is denying that Gaga is, like, super famous; as is the Lady Gaga mark. I thought the claim would fall on (3), the bad faith element, but the panel doesn’t get there; it kills the claim at (2), finding the Respondent has a legitimate interest in the domain.
The Panel agrees and finds that Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name in conjunction with a fan website is a bona fide offering of goods or services under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use under Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii). * * *
The Complainant’s arguments that the Respondent registered the name to take advantage of Complainant’s fame are unsupported by the evidence presented. The Complainant cannot have fame without fans and fans cannot have fan sites without referring to the objects of their adoration. Respondent’s fan site does meet Complainant’s definition of nominative fair use by its identification of Complainant’s music and related goods and services. If the Respondent were to change her use in the future in a manner that indicated an intent to profit, such as by selling items, offering any commerce, or offering or accepting the sale of the disputed domain name such facts might justify a refilling and, depending on the circumstances, could lead a Panel to a different outcome than the one reached by this Panel in the present matter.
So Respondent gets a clear directive here: Do Not Monetize! Easy enough it seems, given the site as it stands.
Then my minor questions are: How much did Lady Gaga have to do with this? (My guess, not a lot.) And why bring this arbitration now? The Respondent argues that there are lots of other Gaga fan sites, and that they have been operating LadyGaga.org for three years without objection. You see these arguments a lot, and while they are not generally legally dispositive, the arbitrators are after all organic lifeforms prone to influence by the obvious.
In my world, a substantial delay in prosecution usually means the site said something the Complainant didn’t like, so Complainant tries to curb perfectly legal speech and opinion through the trademark (and often copyright) laws. Man, I see tons of that, as reprehensible as it may be. I am not saying that is the case here, and I don’t really care.
Notwithstanding, there is the obvious public-relations snafu this might be. Gaga tries to shut down fan site after three years? Sounds like a potential Streisand Effect problem, as well. We’ll see how this plays out in the next few days…
But the big fat pressing question from me is: Why didn’t you register the freaking .org when you were buying domains in the first place? I see this all the time. The clients call wanting to sue over TLDs they should have registered, and their answer to that question is, “Well, we didn’t need them,” and “Why should we pay for them?” Dude, seriously, it’s like $15 a year. It’ll cost a bunch more that that to try to get it from someone else, and as in this case, you may not.
In the end, we have just another standard fan-site case, only with a uber-famous player. Can’t wait to see how the LCD news gets it legally wrong on reporting this one …