Fortunately, the anti copyright-troll community is a friendly one and shares information. Earlier I posted a link to a full analysis of the Linda Ellis “The Dash Poem” copyright extortion letter scheme at:
The site’s author has allowed me to put a piece of that post directly into this blog because it addresses the most important question a letter recipient has, “What do I do now?” I have slightly modified the piece to make sure the links work and to remove some extraneous content.
For the purposes of full disclosure neither the original author nor I are attorneys. We are not giving legal advice. We are only sharing out opinions based on our observations. Ultimately, you are going to have to decide what to do.
What should you do?
So, what should you do if you post The Dash Poem and (as will quite likely happen) receive a demand for $7,500? My advice is don’t post the stupid poem in the first place. But if you do, you can either consult an attorney (which usually costs a lot. But you could consider contacting Oscar Michelen who has a relatively inexpensive program to write a letter for you.), or do what I would do:
- Even if you believe your posting is permitted under fair use (and it may be) take down the poem. It is copyrighted and in those cases where copying doesn’t qualify as fair use, Linda does have a right to request you take it down.
- If you believe (or simply fear) your use might not fall under “fair use”, write a response letter that does not admit fault but states that to get this matter behind you, you are willing to offer $200 which you believe is the amount a judge would assess in this specific case if he found in favor of Ms. Ellis inadvertent infringement. Make the offer contingent on her agreeing to drop any claim and refuse to sign any confidentiality agreement that might prevent you from discussing your experience. My understanding is offers to settle are viewed on favorably by judges when assessing damages should Ellis take what seems to be the unprecedented step of suing someone who posts the poem on a web site, blog or funeral circular. You may of course continue to negotiate if you wish.
- Upload a copy of the email she sent you in a public forum like Scribd– or really anywhere; after you have done so, drop a link to the document in comment for this post.
- Consider finding newspaper articles and PR pieces discussing Linda Ellis and The Dash and relate your experience. Help Linda protect her rights under copyright and warn people what can happen to those who inadvertently post the poem. Suggest they protect themselves by never posting the poem in a blog post, comments, a funeral commemorative or similar item. Warn those you know to avoid endangering others through public readings which serve to publicize the poem, thereby putting others at risk of later posting the poem.
OK, it is me again. Don’t forget, Linda Ellis has never actually sued anyone who has posted The Dash poem on the internet. She hasn’t gone after even her most vocal critic -April Brown. Are her past actions a guarantee, she won’t sue you? No they are not. But now that you have seen in other posts, the more realistic damages you might face and have seem some tactics here that will help you, I hope you can sleep a bit easier at night.