Tuesday, June 1, 1999 -- Wouldn't you know it.
The Ampol staff takes just one day off to remember our men and women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, including a number of our own relatives, only to return to the office - and an email inbox filled with a couple hundred messages.
There was the usual fan mail, a couple of nasty messages (from frustrated hard-righters, we must assume), and continuing comments about Mac MacArthur's forceful counterflame to a piece of hate email
we received last week.
But among the other items we received was a copy of a snail-mail letter originally sent to Zack Exley, the owner of gwbush.com, a decidedly anti-BushBaby site. The letter was from Ben Ginsburg, an
attorney for "Dubya's" Presidential Exploratory Committee.
Many of you will remember Ginsburg as the bald, goateed, bespectacled and thoroughly satanic-looking pundit regularly seen on MSNBC (which must stand for "Make Sure Nobody Believes Clinton") at the height of Lewinskymania. Throughout his all-too-many appearances on that cable channel during the failed impeachment coup, Ginsburg could barely stifle not only his obvious glee in bashing
Clinton but what appeared to be outright personal contempt for the man.
Read for yourself what Ginsburg wrote to Exley in a letter dated April 15:
Dear Mr. Exley:
As counsel to the Governor George W. Bush Presidential Exploratory Committee ("Exploratory Committee"), I am writing about a web site registered to you, which appropriates without authority the
text and pictures of the Exploratory Committee's official campaign web site. In addition to using the Exploratory Committee's official web site without authorization, your site, which contains links to
sites that promote violence and degrade women, is patently offensive.
In your wholesale misappropriation and imitation of the georgewbush.com web site, you violate a host of copyright and trademark laws. While we might overlook this given our recognition of the
constitutional right to free political debate, we cannot, in this instance, given the nature of the material you graft onto the words, look and feel of the Exploratory Committee's site. For that reason,
we must demand that you immediately cease and desist your misappropriation of the materials on the Exploratory Committee's copyright and trademark-protected web site.
The Exploratory Committee's official web site is an informational presentation and display of photographs, illustrations, text, and arrangements created by, and owned by the committee. The federal
copyright laws protect the Exploratory Committee's web site displays to the same extent these laws protect all other person's and business' creations, including the creations of book authors, artists,
advertisers, and software developers. The Exploratory Committee's web site is for public access without charge, but it is still protected by copyright. See e.g., Storm Impact, Inc. v. Software of the
Month Club, 13 F.Supp. 872, 48 USPQ2d 1266 (N.D. Ill. 1998). (Material placed on the internet for free distribution held protected by copyright). Even if you are or you represent a not-for-profit entity,
or even a political group or organization, this does not allow you unlimited and unauthorized use of the copyrighted features of a committee's web site. See Scanlon v. Kessler, 11 F.Supp. 444, 47 USPQ2d
1692 (S.D.N.Y. 1998)(being a non-profit entity is not a defense against liability for copyright infringement.)
The copyright laws protect you, as well as all other members of the public. I do not believe you would want your own written creations taken at will, by anyone, without your permission and without your
control. Your cavalier usurpation of the Exploratory Committee's web site may reflect a confusion on your part of the "fair use" provision of the copyright laws of the United States. Without
providing a tutorial on "fair use", I suggest that you consult with a copyright attorney. If you cannot afford one, then you may wish to contact the pro bono services likely provided by your
city government, and by certain law firms and, perhaps, by the law school nearest to you. As a general matter, I can assure you that the copyright laws do allow, in particular defined and reasonable
circumstances, for a certain amount of "fair use". See 17 U.S.C. � 107. See also, Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises, 723 F.2d 195, 206 (2nd Cir. 1983) for a helpful
discussion of fair use. However, the quantity of the georgewbush.com web site materials appearing in your web site is so large that, on that basis alone, your use is far outside of the "fair
use" provided for by the copyright laws.
Your use of the Exploratory Committee's web site material is so substantial that there is a real likelihood that a person "surfing" the web could be confused into believing, somehow, that your
site represents or is authorized by the Exploratory Committee. Such confusion may damage the perceived integrity of the Exploratory Committee's web site. I therefore demand that you remove immediately
from your web site all of the materials and arrangements you have taken from georgewbush.com, with the exception of such pure facts that you may wish to use and, as pure facts, may be shown by you as a
permitted "fair use" under the U.S. Copyright laws.
If you do not take this action immediately upon your receipt of this letter, the Exploratory Committee will consider taking the full legal remedies available to it to rectify this situation.
Benjamin L. Ginsberg
Governor George W. Bush for President Exploratory Committee, Inc.
Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen - Ginsburg and his pals are out to quash your right to speak your mind on the Internet under the cloak of "protecting" intellectual property rights.
And speaking of strange convergences involving people named Bush and television celebrities, Ampol received an email message before the Memorial Day holiday from none other than Michael Moore. Yes -
the same Michael Moore behind the hilarious, no-holds-barred television series The Awful Truth currently on the Bravo cable network (for those of you who don't get Bravo, this is the ideal excuse to go
out and buy a satellite dish) and www.iseelucy.com, the online tribute to that "champion" of privacy rights, Lucianne Goldberg.
In September of 1996, while on my book tour for Downsize This, I was in Detroit for the day to do a series of interviews. Radio station WJR asked if they could do their interview live from the lobby of
General Motors world headquarters across the street. I said OK and we headed across the street.
In the middle of the interview in GM's lobby, in through the door walks Neil Bush (George's son, of Silverado Savings & Loan fame) with a group of four Asian men.
He was stunned to see me standing there and broke into a nervous sweat. "What are you doing here?!" he barked.
"What are YOU doing here?" I asked, "and who are these guys?"
"Uh, they are, uh - businessmen from - uh... Thailand."
The only thing is, according to one of the people in our entourage, the "Thai businessmen" were speaking Chinese.
General Motors - along with its Hughes Division - is among the top five defense contractors in the country. Who were these Chinese? What were they doing there - with Neil Bush? I asked Bush who he was
meeting with there.
"The Chairman," he replied. "I want to know - where are your cameras?" Bush demanded, his eyes darting around.
"No cameras," I responded. "I'm just doing a radio interview."
Bush looked suddenly relieved, came up and pinched my cheek, mocking me and
saying, "Oh, too bad! No cameras! Ha!"
He and the Chinese/Thai guys headed to the elevators.
This can all be verified with the man who was conducting the interview, Mitch Albom, author of "Tuesdays with Morrie."
Needless to say, we had to scrape our jaws off the floor and take a few minutes to recover from the fit of laughter we were having over Neil's "Thai" buddies.
And we're still smiling over both of these letters. Granted, we're hardly happy at the jackboot tactics that BushBaby's lawyer Ginsburg has deployed against Exley, but Exley is a hero in our view
for standing up to this legal assault and, as we said nearly two weeks ago, exposing Bush as an enemy of political speech on the Internet.
And Exley and Moore are just two concerned citizens beginning to assemble a pattern of despicable and deceptive behavior by not only George Jr. but the entire Bush family that raises serious questions
about George's fitness to hold higher office.
Something tells us things are gonna get uncomfortably hot in Austin - and anyplace else a Bush may dwell - real soon.