Wednesday, February 07, 2007

You Can't Copyright Your Own Face, Dumbass

My last words in regards to Michael Crook, more than a year and a half ago, were thus: "Unless he decides to bother me some more, this is probably the last piece I write about him." Guess what: He decided to bother me some more. I was all set to let the subject of Michael Crook naturally progress to the only place it belongs — obscurity, but Michael Crook simply demanded that I revisit our absurd little Internet feud. He brought this upon himself.

My Photobucket account is linked to an email address that I very rarely actually check. Thus I just found out yesterday that back in the beginning of January, they removed a picture that they claim violated the DCMA. Turns out, it was the picture of Michael Crook that I captured from his FoxNews interview on Hannity & Colmes. I put only a slight bit of effort into researching the situation via Google before discovering that Michael Crook, himself, has been sending out DCMA notifications to various web hosting agencies requesting, as the copyright owner, that his picture be removed.

There's only one slight problem with this: He doesn't own the copyright to the footage or any pictures taken from it. FoxNews does, and a producer for Hannity and Colmes has already given permission for anyone to use the screengrab of Michael Crook from the program online. After laughing and asking why Michael Crook is claiming ownership rights to an image that Fox produced. This is why, taken from his actual DCMA notification to the Boing-Boing website:
"Although this is a photograph of an interview done with Fox News Channel in May of 2005, consent for use of my image did not extend outside of the Fox family of channels. To the best of my knowledge, information, and belief, Fox News Channel did not expressly consent to publication of this photograph. Regardless, however, I did not authorize Fox News to enable outside sources to publish the image, which is of myself, thereby giving me jurisdiction over this matter."
Okay, here comes the funny part: He's claiming that he owns the copyright to his own face. Not only that but that this perceived copyright to his own face superscedes the copyright of the broadcast he appared in. So, what, is he going to start charging everybody who looks at him whenever he goes out in public now?

This, however, is not nearly the best part of the story. Apparently, last year, he posted fake CraigsList ads claiming to be a horny woman, and when people responded, he posted their contact information and personal photos on a website he owned. Now, these were not pictures made publicly available like his face on the Hannity & Colmes interview. These were private photos given to him over private communications channels by gullible people in good faith. Now, if Michael Crook wins his case — which he won't — awarding him copyright to his own face, he will set a precedent for the people whose photos he published on his website to sue him. Here's the catch — not only did he post their personal information on his website, but he sent their families and jobs proof of their personal indiscretions, effectively ending marriages, careers, and lives. Granted that anyone who is looking to cheat on a spouse deserves whatever he gets, it doesn't excuse the fact that Michael Crook's actions bordered on criminal and the damages he's accrued from these people could give him a substantial financial setback.

That is the bizarre duality of Michael Crook. He seeks protection from the same laws that he openly abuses. He reprints public quotes of other people on his website then demands that quotes of his be removed from websites that criticize him because he claims copyright ownership over his public statements. He posts private photos of people on his website standing behind fair use, but demands public pictures of him be removed from websites that reprint them under the same conditions. He harshly derides people ranging from dead children to holocaust victims to the military to police officers and firefighters who risk their lives to save others, but claims "harrassment" and "extensive emotional trauma" when someone calls him a "jerkoff."

I have no problem with him stating his opinions on his own websites, even if his opinions are highly unpopular and really rather dead wrong. That's what personal websites and blogs are for. He writes his opinions on life in general on his website, and I write my opinions on mine. Sometimes our paths cross as I continue to look for new things to ridicule and Michael Crook continues to provide a wealth of it. Quite frankly, I feel honored that he kept a spot in his heart for me. It means that I must've said something that really got under his skin. Seriously, only a complete and total idiot would be offended by anything anyone says about them on the Internet. Michael Crook can write entire diatribes about me on his website if he so chooses. I only ask that it at least be humorous, but if he can't accomplish that, it's much more a reflection on himself than on me.

I honestly don't believe that he is actually offended by anything anyone says about him, though. If he were emotionally stunted enough for that to matter to him, I could handle that, however I see something far more sinister in him. Before I thought him a fool, no more than a nuisance, but I now realize that he is actually nowhere near a fool. He's still no more than a nuisance, but what I first mistook for foolishness, I now realize is a sociopathic insanity with a self-righteous sense of entitlement that boarders on a messianic-grade superiority complex. He sees fit to judge the morally impure while expunging himself from consequence. He seeks protection from laws that he abuses. He publicly condemns others but demands freedom from censure. He claims to hate America yet hides behind its legal system.

Some people have taken to calling Michael Crook an Internet bully, but I disagree. To call him a bully would give him the satisfaction of a certain dominance resulting from fear. He's more a form of indentifiable troll dating back to the prehistoric era of the Internet. Certainly he shares characteristics with the typical forum troll — he posts shocking nonsense to attract attention to himself and feel superior over anyone foolish enough to be offended by his words, and he generally harasses and bullies webmasters until they ban him or he grows bored with them.

Some people have even gone so far as to try to insult his status in life, calling him sad and pathetic, or stupid and irresponsible. He is none of those things however. I have no doubt that he does possess a high IQ. His only fault is letting his psychosis control his impulses. The words he writes that he claims to be his true opinions are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. His antics to call attention to himself are no more than a sham. This is a game to him; an experiment. He wants to see if a person can be both a criminal and a victim, at the same time, and using the same laws. To this end, he has no conscience and no remorse.

In one article describing how to legally escape process servers, he advocates the murder of county sheriff agents:

"If the process server attempts to forcibly bypass the screen door, that is breaking and entering in most jurisdictions. It is also grounds for you to feel threatened, and if you own legal weapons and are trained in the laws and safety issues pertaining to their use, you may, in most cases, be justified in defending yourself accordingly (Consult your local laws). It would be such a shame if a process server forcibly attempted to enter your property and got a little 'surprise' in return."
In another article, wherein his delusions of superiority are frighteningly apparent in the Italicized stresses of "me," ("That's the part that makes me laugh: they think they have the right to seek justice against me?") , he makes a statement that sums himself up with amazing accuracy:
"It's safe to say when it comes to my bottom line, I have no morals, and no ethics."
If the true root of human evil is greedy self-indulgence at the expense of others, then Michael Crook is truly an evil human being. Not reproachable, not reprehensible, but pure evil. Perhaps he should chew on that for a while when considering the morality of other people whom he sees fit to judge ethically. Soon an ethical man will proceed to judge Michael Crook, and I can only hope that his past behavior and the various statements he has made regarding his opinion of the American legal system weigh in on that verdict. Justice is best served poetically.

As for his DCMA notice to Photobucket is concerned, I let my counterclaim period lapse, so I took down the original picture, but simply uploaded an
updated version that I will continue to monitor. When Photobucket sends me notice of its alleged violation, I will be ready to respond that the copyright owner of the image has given permission, and that the DCMA does not deny fair use of press photos or guarantee the copyright protection of a person's actual face, which Michael Crook is asserting.

Essentially anything you post on the Internet essentially becomes fair game for collection and redistribution. That is why I have the common sense to not post anything that I truly do not want to be stolen from me. I don't post any drawings of original characters that I plan to use nor do I post portions of stories over which I wish to retain ownership. Not until I obtain a legal copyright for these intellectual properties. Anything that I do publish on my blogs I have accepted as fair game to be copied, redistributed, or even stolen and recredited. If you make public statements, such as writings on your website, prepare to have them quoted. If you make funny pictures, prepare to have them stolen by the likes of Ebaum's World. That's the way of the Internet. Too bad, so sad, thanks for playing. You have to protect yourself with a certain veil of anonymity. Reveal too much about yourself and you open yourself up to attack.

That is why I don't think Michael Crook is really bothered by any personal attacks against him. Much like his assumed name, the bold opinions that he claims so true are nothing more than an image he wishes to purport. He's created a personna that is open to ridicule. How different it is from his true self may never be revealed. He thrives on the attention and ridicule, though. He has created for himself a certain notoriety — a celebrity status to be mocked. It's part of his experiment. Once mocked, he can fein injury and see if the same laws he willfully abuses will, in turn, protect him from the very same abuses.

On the surface, Michael Crook is nothing more than a masterful practical joker. However, when I explore the motives behind his actions, I find a sinister urge that I can only attribute to a very benign form of selfish evil. Unlike
last time, I have no ulterior motive for writing about Michael Crook, so lest respond, this will end this chapter in the Michael Crook saga so far as I am concerned.

Additional reading:
10 Zen Monkeys
Laughing Squid
The Truth About Michael Scott Crook
Tucker Max Deconstructs Michael Crook (Brilliantly, I might add.)
Michael Crook's DCMA Notice to Boing-Boing (In .doc format.)

np: Bonham - "Change of a Season"


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