Skip to comments.What is Free Republic all about? Part II - Media complains of infringement and unfair competition
Posted on 12/09/2001 2:24:08 PM PST by Jim Robinson
Continued from Part I
What is Free Republic all about?
By the end of 1997, Free Republic's readership had grown from just a handful or readers and posters to several thousand readers and several hundred posters. Free Republic had been noticed on "The Hill" and we were beginning to be "The Place" to go to get the latest poop, er scoop, on the proliferating Clinton Scandals. During this time, it is was like every new day brings another new Clinton Scandal.
And, we had also been noticed by the liberal media, who, as water carriers for the liberal Democrat Party, were falling all over themselves spinning (lying) and covering-up for their fair-haired boy who just could not seem to stay zipped up and out of trouble.
The posters on Free Republic were becoming quite proficient in the art of posting the latest "news" from the various official government accredited spin outlets, and then our participants would dig into it, exposing the spin doctors' latest lies and cover-ups within. The resulting commentary threads were emailed all over Washington and all around the country and then archived for later comparison as the truth finally had to be admitted. Bill Clinton and his spin staff were exposed on Free Republic in lie after lie.
This was all working very well, and the investigative reporters from the right (and a few from the left), in addition to the Congressional Hill sleuths from both within and without government, were beginning to use Free Republic more and more frequently. Our server log contained thousands of hits every day from Washington, D.C. and from just about every department of government, including the Congress and the Executive Office of the President, as well as hits from many of the major media's servers. Each morning when the lights came on in Washington, the Free Republic server would immediately peak out and the rush did not subside until after the last D.C. denizen finally checked out in the evening.
Well, it's pretty obvious that the powers that be cannot allow this to continue. The Internet was beginning to be used by the people and it was suddenly possible for a small number of loosely organized and under funded concerned citizens to begin making a dent in the corporate media's government protected monopoly on truth. No longer does it require a vast sum of capital or resources or a huge special interest organization to be heard by those who can make a difference. The Internet allows the common man, people like you and me, the chance to exercise our first amendment right, and, at least in this case, to have it heard by our government servants and Representatives.
Everyone, including the government bureaucracy, the politicians, the legal profession, and the press, were suddenly made very much aware of the power of the Internet and the potential it had for unleashing the voice of the people.
In a move to thwart this growing and dangerous phenomenon, a sleuth was hired by the Whitehouse to investigate the Free Republic website and to find out exactly which right wing group of the vast right wing conspiracy was behind it. It was suspected all along that it just had to be funded by someone like Richard Mellon Scaif or the Washington Times or some other right-wing biggie.
The sleuth, none other than Bill Clinton's private henchman, Terry Lenzner, did the digging and turned over his findings to the DNC Lawfirm of Debevoise & Plimpton.Debevoise & Plimpton then contacted the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and several other media giants and they formed a consortium to attempt to force the closure and muffling of Free Republic.
DNC Law Firm Behind Crackdown on Internet DissidentsThe Washington Post last month sent a cease-and-desist letter to a small web site operator in Fresno, California. The Washington Post objected to the posting of a copyrighted article in a news discussion forum maintained by Jim Robinson.
Robinson's web site, FreeRepublic.com, is a popular discussion forum for dissidents across the nation. The main focus is corruption in government in general, and corruption in the White House in particular. On this topic, FreeRepublic visitors have several distinct advantages over ordinary readers of the Washington Post. When an article is posted on the web site it is immediately dissected, analyzed, and compared to other versions of the same event. Disinformation and propaganda do not stand up to such scrutiny. Second, combining valid Washington Post stories about White House corruption with other reports of White House corruption, paints a comprehensive picture of corruption the total scope of which is not immediately clear to the average Washington Post reader.
Jim Robinson has not bowed to pressure from the Washington Post. In his response to Washington Post General Counsel Caroline Little he defended the right of the general public to meet and discuss news articles that concern their rights and freedoms as American citizens, and invited Little to re-read the First Amendment.
Not An Isolated Attack
But Caroline Little's cease-and-desist letter has not been an isolated event. Over the past several months, Robinson has received similar letters, almost identical in fact, from news organizations Times Mirror, Dow Jones, and Reuters (Robinson has shared these letters with the Washington Weekly). What is unusual about this orchestrated attack on Jim Robinson is that he does not make any money on the posting of various copyrighted material on his web site by forum participants. These news organizations would have a hard time demonstrating any damages from such non-commercial posting.
Orchestrating these attacks is the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton. On behalf of all of the news organizations listed above, it last year filed a lawsuit against a commercial Internet copyright infringer who later settled out of court.
Bruce P. Keller of the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton did not respond to Washington Weekly questions about how Jim Robinson's site was selected, who selected it, and whether outside interests played any role.
The name of Debevoise & Plimpton popped up recently during the Filegate deposition of Clinton private eye Terry Lenzner. Lenzner revealed under oath that he had been retained by Debevoise & Plimpton to perform investigations of a political nature. Lenzner has admitted that he performs research on White House critics. Debevoise & Plimton is the law firm of the Democratic National Committee, and has conducted most of the investigation of illegal foreign contributions received by the DNC. For this work, the DNC owes Debevoise & Plimton $6 million.
Coincidentally, the offending article cited in the first letter from the Washington Post to Jim Robinson concerned Chinese agent Ted Sioeng and his $250,000 donation to the DNC.
The White House itself is engaged in a struggle against another Internet critic, Matt Drudge. Drudge does not use any copyrighted material but often paraphrases advance copies of news stories. Thus he is beyond reach of the Internet copyright lawyers at Debevoise & Plimpton. The attack on Drudge, the infamous $30 million lawsuit, was orchestrated inside the White House by media handler Sidney Blumenthal.
Picking a Fight With the Wrong Guy
So far the White House effort to silence major critics on the Internet has been a failure. After being sued by the White House, Matt Drudge forced into the open the Monica Lewinsky story that had been kept from the public by the White House press corps for months.
Jim Robinson is no less combative in the face of attempts to threaten and intimidate him. As a modern-day Patrick Henry, he defiantly declares from his wheelchair: "They'll have to pry my keyboard from my cold dead fingers."
Source: Washington Weekly: DNC Law Firm Behind Crackdown on Internet DissidentsMajor Media wants to shut us downI posted the above thread, on the day I received first official word of any alleged copyright infringement or unfair competition.
12/05/97 Jim Robinson
I am in receipt today, 12/05/97, of email letters (and have been notified of certified mail to be delivered) from the Times Mirror Company, (owners of The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Baltimore Sun and Sporting News); The Dow Jones Company, (owners of The Wall Street Journal and Barron's); Reuters, and earlier a letter from the Washington Post. These companies all feel that we on FreeRepublic are infringing on their copyrights and are engaging in unfair competition by "framing" their sites and have demanded that we cease and desist.
I informed them that I feel we are within our legal and Constitutional rights of Free Speech to post small amounts of copyrighted materials from news sources under the fair use rules for education and discussion purposes. I also informed them that I will modify my links to their websites so that we do not "frame" their sites, or I will remove their links if they wish.
FreeRepublic is not a commercial website. I do not charge a fee to readers and I do not charge for advertising. I do have links to a handful of my HTML service customers (as a courtesy to them, they are all tiny operations owned by individuals) which I will remove if the media companies feel they are truly unfair competition. I have received less than $15,000 for my personal HTML services from these customers and I've received less than $500 in donations from readers of FreeRepublic. Both my wife and I are permanently handicapped and are confined to wheelchairs and this is our only source of income. I do not believe that we are impacting the revenue streams of these giant media companies, but I guess "unfair competion" from FreeRepublic is just too much for them to bear.
I have asked these companies to give us permission to post articles from their newspapers and will inform you of their decisions. In the meantime, please be aware that even if Goliath slays and eats David he may be hungry for more.
Regards, Jim Robinson
P.S. I'll post URL's later of websites where you can go to get further information in case FreeRepublic is suddenly shutdown. I have had a couple of generous offers from other webmasters to try to keep a discussion forum going.
Posted by: Jim Robinson (firstname.lastname@example.org) * 12/05/97 18:27:07 PST
Quite naturally, we received a lot of support on that thread and follow-up threads, including offers of financial support and words of advice from our posters and several attorneys.I am late to the thread this morning. In a previous post I said this is a fight we should be spoiling for and we should kick their proverbial asses. I also said that this is a free speech issue masquarading as an intellectual property issue. I am the trial lawyer who said I have some time for Jimrob and would help in any way I could.There were many articles and threads running on Free Republic during the following months and a general consensus was reached supporting our free speech rights and a resolve to fight the government supported media was forming. The readers and participants decided to fund Free Republic and its fight with for free speech:
I repeat that statement now that the issue has been joined.
This is a fight that must be waged relentlessly if we are going to defend legally.
I want you all to understand that the other side has big hitters on their legal payrolls. They are well funded and will be directed by the whitehouse. (this is the other foot of the blumenthal v. Drudge suit)
A preliminary issue is: Do they really want to sue, or do they think they can accomplish their purpose by intimidation.
I need jimrob to enlighten me on this.
High profile litigation is about taking no prisoners. The pressure will be intense and you will see maneuvers by the attorneys for the media mavens that will be sickening.
Having said that, I rather relish being the underdog.
Our consumate strength may be our small size and zeal.
Jimrob I am sending my check along with a brief note on letterhead.
I want to personally thank all of you for your support of Jim.
I think it is worth repeating better to die an incindiary death than death by a thousand little cuts.
Regards to all
From: Paul R. M. (email@example.com) *A trial attorney with 19 years experience, specializing in copyright and intellectual property rights matters and other constitutional issues, our very own "Clarity," real name Brian L. Buckley, saw the merit in our case and agreed with the important underlying free speech issues. Brian stated that we (Brian was a poster too) on Free Republic are operating squarely within our rights under the U.S. Constitution and the fair use provisions of Copyright Law. He volunteered his pro bono legal services to Free Republic and me personally and vowed to never, ever surrender, and that we would continue fighting the good fight until victory!
11/19/97 c|net news
L.A. Times cracks down on framers
12/05/97 Free Republic (Jim Robinson)
Major Media wants to shut us down
12/08/97 Washington Weekly
Government Crackdown on Dissidents -- Hand of White House Seen In Massive Effort
03/25/98 Free Republic (Jim Robinson)
Washington Post Complaint
04/05/98 WASHINGTON WEEKLY
ALERT TO ALL FREE REPUBLIC READERS! DNC Law Firm Behind Crackdown on Internet Dissidents--THAT'S US FOLKS!!!!!
09/29/98 Drudge Report
BIG BOYS SUE FREE REPUBLIC
FreeRepublic Site To Be Sued Over Copyright
09/30/98 Free Republic (Boston)
Discussion of Copyright Fair Use Exception
09/30/98 Washington Weekly
DNC Law Firm Behind Crackdown on Internet Dissidents
10/02/98 Free Republic (Jim Robinson)
10/04/98 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
Text of The LA Times/Washington Post Complaint For Copyright Infringment
10/4/98 Washington Weekly
Washington Post and L.A. Times Sue Jim Robinson
10/08/98 The Progressive
FREE REPUBLIC SUED BY MEDIA BULLIES. . .
10/29/98 Media Bypass Magazine (Doug Fiedor)
Nurturing Today's Liberty Tree
10/30/98 Media Info
Web Site Claims 'Fair Use'
11/01/98 Free Republic (AP)
Free Republic being sued!..Join the Battle!
11/01/98 Los Angeles Times
Copyright Suit Goes to Heart of Debate - Complete Article
03/13/99 Washington Weekly
A Political Force to be Reckoned With - Interview with Free Republic Founder Jim Robinson
To be continued in Part III.
Whew! I was on pins and noodles, wondering "How will the Great Dissenter come down on this one?"
Now, finally informed, you may return to your eternal slumber.
Zzzzzzz . . .
Ain't no thang, Jim! They push, we push-back, harder!
It's a great thing that you started here, pal. It also helps to be half-crazy. When I got out of the hospital after my last heart-procedure, I drove to Miami the next day to Freep algore! I was going 130 mph when part of the windshield moulding flew-off, and I had to slow down to 90! The Freep was important!
Keep-on with the 'Free Republic' purpose threads, and try to recover the ancient threads, even if-only for-sale on CD's. Bob Ireland is nuts for the original postings.
WRITE THE BOOK, DAMMIT!!
Stay well, my friend, and may God Bless You and Your Family with a Merry Christmas!........FRegards, Barry/gonzo...
"I've always been crazy but it's kept me from going insane."
"Mommas don't let your babies grow up to punch keyboards."
Whereas, I've always viewed that you put the torpid sluggish dullard in "torpid sluggish dullard".
Funny how that worked out.
Have fun, play nice, be good. Well not too good.
And I agree with the others -- Write a book!!!
Just my 2 cents.
I will grant you that a lot of confident assurances were made on the board and elsewhere. I assumed that was for the benefit of rallying the troops.
I guess I would be surprised if Clarity didn't express private concerns to you about the unlikelihood of prevailing on the full text/fair use issue. Could it be that you wanted to pursue it and he went along with your wishes? Or perhaps he just wanted to try the case and you went along with him? Did he tell you privately that you would win?
The registry is not always accurate. I registered very (VERY) early on but was erroneously bounced once or twice. Hence my 'Member' date is at least a year late. Ah well ... I, for one, often enjoy Laz's picquant comments!
(Jes' kiddin'--so do I)