Fontana Chickens – An Open letter to Vince Maher

Dear Vince,

Since the ad hominem attacks against my person seem to be getting out of hand, I am writing this response to your “open letter”. A legal brief regarding my proprietary interest in material under license to Amagama/Amatomu, will be arriving in due course, and I trust you will find the wherewithal to publish this on your site, failing which we will find some other means to communicate.

1. You claim “this product was built with a great deal of interaction with the user community”. Well, despite being a vital member of the local blog user community, there was absolutely no interaction except your infantile response to a simple request for the return of my material. This following the deletion of a posting on Blogmark. Like I said, I intend taking this up with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Advertising Standards Authority.

2. While I may support the underlying principle of creating some Fontana Digital Chickenhouse of the Net, (Schmaak is kool but not original!) with the principle aim to aggregate and grow the local blog readership, I am concerned that bloggers are merely becoming Chicken feed for a much larger goal, which is the sale of content to advertisers without remuneration to the selfsame user community.

3. Paulina Boorsok’s Cyberselfish tome, is not something one easily tosses away. I consider it requisite reading after the first Dot-Bomb and iNet Crash. The seemingly utopian ideals of sending 2.6 million clicks to bloggers “unselfishly” is merely the sheepskin coat covering the wolf. Vince Maher, you like so many “digirati” who have gone before you, and one should expect, are the weazle that eats the snake that strangles the goose that lays the golden egg. But not without some painful lashing by a grizzly bear that comes with judicious upkeep of the law. At what point do a million clicks to ones blog via Amatomu translate into mutually beneficial financial gain? Frankly I am tired of being a hit on Google.

3. Regarding the move from Blogmark to Amagama, you are patently wrong in suggesting to the user community that my registered email address on Blogmark was not in use. I have had this email address for several years now and your lack of notification is clearly a result of the dispute surrounding denial of access and deletion of my material. Some comments on Blogmark in the weeks following the blocking of my account are perhaps illustrative: Unfortunately the entire December 2006 seems to be missing.

4. Yes I feel justified to claim that both Mathew Buckland and yourself, should take responsibility for the deletion of my work. I did indeed speak to you on the phone after Mathew referred me to you, and you promised to export the entire blog into an Xml file so that I could use the content somewhere else. Despite your assurances, I waited patiently for weeks for the files to arrive. Eventually I received a post with new log-in details, and I realized that you couldn’t be bothered to fill your side of the bargain and had simply lifted the bar on access to my account. Giving me new login details to a restricted account in which postings can be deleted without notice, is not the same thing as downloading my files. I therefore had to do this Xml work myself and feel justified in complaining to SA Rocks and whomever I can about the truth, since you are the one who has lied.

5. The reason why I intend to lodge a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority is because you have made a number of claims that are not able to be substantiated in a court of law. Not only have I been denied access to my material, some of which was deleted, and had to battle for six months to regain access, but am now faced with the inevitable problem, that your aggregator presents. As a literary being, I am not surprised that aggregator rhymes with alligator. And you are crying crocodile tears while slowly consuming the entire SA blogspace for which you hope to make a mint.

6. Until you are able to categorically state that you do not own copyright, either under licence or otherwise, nor have such an intention, then using a title and snippet of content in order to link back to a blog will not be considered fair use. This is a bit like a manufacturer of street signage moving into the mapping business and saying: “I make no claim to own the territory”, when everybody knows the Internet is the one case in which the map is the territory. You are making a category error therefore in assuming that viral marketing has no consequences.

7. “Are we paying individual blogs for hits? No – why would we?” This is so typical of Cyberselfishness. Having created an opt-in system in which property rights do not exist, Vince wants to hold onto the keys to the castle and become a property baron and information tycoon while maintaining rights over his microserfs. Frankly the current copyright act gives Randlords first rights over ones wife on the honeymoon night and I am surprised that you have not thought this through.

8. There is no point in talking about an “opt-in” system, since one cannot “opt-out” of the current SA Copyright framework as it precludes the presence of the creative commons and other licensing schemes, which have developed in the cold vacuum of cyberspace. Believe me, I have had major battles with publishers over this issue and invariably it comes down to the fact that writers have absolutely no rights when it comes to the daily press, and the merest intention of submitting anything for publication means copyright goes out of the window.

Schweet regards I guess. Yes I eat chicken, but can no longer afford to eat at Fontana.

David Robert Lewis

UPDATE: DRL has now complained to ISPA and the matter appears to be nearing resolution. He has not submitted a complaint to the ASA due to work pressure. Please see the link below:

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