by Henry Charles Mishkoff
In February 2003, Henry Charles Mishkoff emerged victorious from an epic little-guy-against-the-big-company battle that put the corporate world on notice that they and their arrogant lawyers could no longer push people around with impunity. The Internet had leveled the playing field.
The first-person story of Mishkoff's harrowing two-year legal struggle, ThisBookSucks.com culminates in the dramatic victory that made legal history and captured the imaginations of legions of enthusiastic supporters around the world.
The legal imbroglio began innocently enough when Mishkoff created a website to herald the impending arrival of a new shopping mall near his home in Dallas. Nearly two years later, the mall's owners, the Taubman Company, noticed the site but rather than thanking Mishkoff for promoting their mall,
Rebuffing Mishkoff's repeated attempts at cooperation and reneging on a settlement agreement that they themselves had proposed Taubman dragged Mishkoff into court because he refused to relinquish his website's domain name. When Taubman's lawyers convinced a federal judge to force Mishkoff to remove his site from the Web, Mishkoff created a new website to document Taubman's shockingly abusive tactics in copious detail. In keeping with the tradition of Internet complaint sites, he named his new website "TaubmanSucks.com."
When Taubman learned about the new site, they complained to the judge that Mishkoff shouldn't be allowed to use their trademarked name to criticize them. Because their new complaint clearly crossed the line from trademark issues to constitutionally-protected free speech, Mishkoff never imagined that the judge would force him to take his TaubmanSucks site off the Web but that's exactly what the judge ordered him to do. To his dismay, Mishkoff came to the frightening realization that not only was he battling a giant corporation and their overbearing lawyers, he was having to contend with a hostile judge as well.
Prior to this case, several "sucks.com" cases had been decided in various courts, with various outcomes but as no case had ever risen above the local level, none of the decisions was binding on any other court. With the help of a pro-bono lawyer who specializes in cases involving civil liberties and the Internet, Mishkoff won a far-reaching, precedent-setting victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals. According to that court:
ThisBookSucks.com not only documents the twists and turns of an agonizing legal ordeal, it explores several important background issues that underlie the case, including the history of complaint sites, the myriad problems caused by the explosion of commercial activity on the Net, and the lessons Mishkoff learned from using the Net to publicize his cause and to garner public support.
In 2004, award-winning filmmaker Theo Lipfert produced a short documentary about the case. Taubman Sucks was premiered for an enthusiastic audience at the Seattle Art Museum and
Mishkoff, who earns his living as a computer and Internet consultant, has written two books and dozens of magazine and newspaper articles. His first book, Cracking the "Peanut": Your IBM PCjr Companion, was published by Wordware and was later reprinted by Prentice-Hall. His second book, Understanding Artificial Intelligence, was first published by Texas Instruments and has subsequently been reprinted by Radio Shack and SAMS. (It has been translated into several languages and is considered to be part of the standard bibliography of the field of AI.) Mishkoff's first short story, "Dream Girl," was awarded the grand prize in a contest sponsored by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
ThisBookSucks.com is a real-life legal thriller that highlights some of the societal issues raised by the explosive growth of the Internet. But it's much more than that. It's the true story of how the Internet community rallied to the aid of one of their own and how they joined forces to successfully fight off a virulent attack by a bevy of unscrupulous attorneys and a mega-corporation with virtually unlimited resources.
"David now has a sling. The Internet and its mass-communication
Next: TaubmanSucks Soars into the Blogosphere
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