Linda Ellis

Copyright troll Linda Ellis succeeds in censoring her outspoken critic, the founder of extortionletterinfo.com

(2015 Update: Fast forward two years: Matthew Chan and the First Amendment prevailed on appeal.)


Matthew Chan

For five years extortionletterinfo.com (ELI) and its founder/operator Matthew Chan (who has just resigned from the editor-in-chief role) have been fighting against copyright trolls, but ones of a different genera: mostly stock image companies.

Recently, in addition to those companies, another type of copyright troll has drawn ELI’s attention: Linda Ellis, the author of a surprisingly popular yet amateurish poem — “The Dash.” Admittedly, this poem is built around a decent metaphor: life as a dash between two dates on a tombstone. Other than that, I can compare the quality of this work only to pathetic pre-teen rhymes. I know, I know: I risk to sound like a snob, but I did study (and write) poetry and I hope I know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I digress. If there is something written, and people find it inspirational, it’s not my freaking business to judge their tastes. Given the nature of the subject, this poem ended up on webpages of funeral homes, churches, hospitals, schools, charities… in other words, people and organizations who are prone to be bullied into quietly paying — due to their utmost respect to the law and fear of bad publicity. You have already figured out that this phenomenon has been cynically exploited by Linda Ellis and her employee John W. Jolin (who is not even a lawyer, more like a marklutz). Just like in the case of Bittorent pornotrolls, if Ellis’s “intellectual property” was found on some website, Jolin would send out a nasty letter demanding thousands of dollars and refusing to hear any excuses.

ELI had a forum dedicated to Linda Ellis, so her victims could find comfort and advice (not different from what we are about). Naturally, the attention had been hurting the bottom line of Ellis’s “business” of collecting easy cash, so she was not happy. In addition, the temperature of emotions in some comments on the ELI forum reached the boiling point: Ellis’s home address (albeit from the public source) was published, and Ellis interpreted some forum statements as threats. She sued Matthew Chan for stalking in a Georgia county court, and she has won (emphasis is mine):

Because the Respondent’s course of conduct was directed at Ms. Ellis through the posted messages and information relating to Ms. EIlis, and the conduct was intended (and in fact did) create fear and intimidation in the Petitioner, Respondent is hereby ORDERED to remove all posts relating to Ms. Ellis.

I don’t want to take sides¹ — mostly because, while visiting ELI fairly often, I almost never read the part of the site dedicated to Linda Ellis. What is appalling is the judgment per se: Linda Ellis has won a permanent protection order against her alleged “stalker” (who, by the way, never directly communicated with her), and the entire section of the site has been effectively censored.

Although (again, I can’t judge) some comments might warrant removal, prohibiting people from discussing Linda Ellis at all is a dangerous overreach. As a well-known First Amendment attorney and blogger Ken White noted,

When is writing about someone the equivalent of writing to them?

The distinction is an important one. Writing about someone enjoys broad First Amendment protection. Writing to someone can, under some circumstances, be treated as harassment, or as a threat, or as a violation of an existing restraining order — especially if the contact is unwelcome and threatening.

The judge apparently did not bother to think about this distinction.

Now let us hear directly from ELI: below is the press release written by attorney Oscar Michelen, who has been an active contributor and adviser to ELI:

 

One thing I want to be clear about: I’m not going to open a “second front” and pick up the fight with Linda Ellis: not because her extortion-like “business” is not worth exposure and counter-measures, but mostly because I have very limited resources and cannot work towards fixing all the world’s injustices. My experience shows that the only way to achieve visible results is to focus on a narrow issue. So this is the only article dedicated to this particular troll.

I simply wanted to write this post to spread the word about our brothers-in-arms’ troubles and to remind everyone that censorship is not a theoretical possibility, especially when a critic interferes with a serious money-making.

Further reading

Coverage

Followup

 


¹ Clarification: I don’t want to take sides in this particular dispute due to lack of time to research the details, but obviously I’m with ELI in a wider sense. It is mostly a rhetorical remark to stress the dangers of the censorious judgment without concentrating on the details of a particular controversy.

wordpress counter

Discussion

45 responses to ‘Copyright troll Linda Ellis succeeds in censoring her outspoken critic, the founder of extortionletterinfo.com

  1. This would happen in what I believe to be Georgia’s failing court system, they are beyond backwards. I’m glad to see Mr. Chan plans on appealing this decision!

  2. I understand your frustration, applaud you giving attention to the issue (at least mention of it), and I share your feelings about not being able to “open a second front” to declare war on the “photo trolls.”

    I too would fight them, but they are not suing anyone and Oscar is doing more than a good job sending them letters telling Linda Ellis to take a hike.

    I think the ELI website is rich with information and if they took down the information, I expect someone will visit Archive.org’s WayBackMachine ( http://www.archive.org ) and post the articles on an anonymous WordPress blog. For this reason, I’m not so worried that she’ll go unnoticed.

  3. I know that this site can’t take on all of the copyright-trolling and patent-trolling activity going on, but thank you for shining a spotlight on Linda Ellis.

    Imagine that your father passes away. A few months later, you find this poem — it is attributed to Author Unknown. The poem does resonate at a certain level so you post it quickly on your blog and even attribute Author Unknown. A month later you receive an email from Linda Ellis demanding $7,500 and threatening you with a judgement of up to $150K (I know you guys know this drill). So, you talk to your lawyer and settle because you are still grieving and you just want this to go away.

    That was me. A spotlight needs to be put on her overreaching extortion letter activities especially because she goes FAR OUT of her way to silence her critics and get people to take information that does put her in a favorable light out removed.

    I am sure that you will soon hear that story of someone who had her clients harassed by Linda, her husband’s employer harassed by Linda, and had a Google Ad word campaign taken out on her by Linda. When that story gets out, every single aspect can be proved and is supported by an email exchange with Linda where, in a bit of a rage, she acknowledged it.

  4. I read of a man who stood to speak of the douchbaggeness of Linda Ellis,

    And was subsequently censored for speaking his mind about her excesses,

    I know my prose sucks but a certain Georgia Judge is a fucking messy disgrace.

  5. linda ellis is a horrible person who preys on the emotionally distressed and morally true. she is no different then a scammer ripping off the elderly because they are trusting and unaware. in many ways i find her to be more disgusting than the worst of the porn trolls. even if you attribute your postings to her she will threaten to sue you. preying on the bereaved is sick, and just b4 eli took down their linda “the evil” ellis section there was a story of her going after someone who posted the poem re: a 9-11 victim. you can find a youtube video of her justifying herself here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFArOIL7bks

  6. Posting Ellis’ address is probably what went overboard for the judge, but really? I wonder if John Steele isn’t smacking his forehead somewhere, thinking that he should have gone trollin’ for poetry instead of pornography.

    Perhaps in the future (no offence or joke intended for those who have dearly departed), people will simply etch:

    Born: 19XX
    Died: 20XX

    And completely nullify Ellis’ analogy, just to spite her or out of fear.

    • Posting public information is not illegal. Her address is readily available to anyone who searches for it online.

      I glanced over her original complaint and there was much hand wringing and huge leaps of possible things vs reality. Its possible a plane might crash on me tomorrow and it would be this guys fault because a 3rd party said something I decided was a death threat.

  7. it used to be an artist was happy to have there work used in thoughtful manners.this women sets a trap for people in pain,I think God has a special place for folks like this!!!

  8. The true crime here is Linda Ellis couldn’t write her way out of a wet paper bag, yet she makes more money from this gurgle than most actual talented writers…through extortion.

    …in my opinion.

  9. Huh… imagine that.
    TXu000858108
    If you wait 2 years to register, I thought you were capped at actual damages.

    • she has not won a suit, and has only sued i think one person, a case she lost. it’s the threats and ignorance of the threatened that make her her money. like i said she is no different than the people who scam Alzheimer patients because they are good and trusting people who don’t know any better.

      • Just adding breadcrumbs to the pile.
        Someone will discover that she did wait 2 years to register the work, and that there is a cap to damages.
        That the damages could be increased for willful violation, but as she never gives any warning there is never a chance for anyone to correct what should be seen as a simple error. That quoting entire works as been found ok under the fair use doctrine, and her history of threats to sue rather than take any other actions to protect her content show a pattern. That she is more concerned about people pointing out her abuse of the law, than protecting the content itself.

        She spends more time trying to extract extortive settlements than marketing her “work”, that should be a clear sign of what business she actually is in.

  10. What many people don’t realize is that Linda Ellis spread The Dash poem with a form on her website. http://www.lindaellis.net. I can surmise this is how The Dash ended up in my inbox. I have the screenshot of the form. One box for your email and 10 boxes for your friends emails. That form and Google made it easy to get money from 99% (her words) of the people she sent an extortion letter too. All she had to do was monitor the websites associated with the emails and wait for the next violator. Pretty easy money. The form no longer exists on her website. That’s like the guy who owns a glass store shooting out the windows in the neighborhood and waiting for all the new customers to show up. Please tell me what the difference is. Linda Ellis has literally thought of every possible way to make a living as a troll. Including silencing Matthew Chan – if only temporarily. Copyright trolling is an “everyman” issue and people will wake up when they realize “you could be next”.

  11. Linda Ellis: AUTHOR. SPEAKER. POET. EXTORTIONIST.

    This has been one man’s opinion. Here’s another opinion of mine. She’s a crook who entraps people by giving her poem away for free and then extorts them for money. Many who are grieving family members. Whack job. She even looks and sounds like a smug troll in her videos explaining her right to extort for copyright violations. Again, all opinion.

    • And this is what can happen when people declare that copyright is our most valuable asset.

      No one will die without this poem, it will feed no one, it will shelter no one, it will cure no disease.

      And somehow the legal system has given this poem the ability to extract large sums of money for its creator with threats of huge statutory damages. She is one of the poster children for how broken the copyright system is.

      • @TAC,
        I’m one of those content creators. Now, I am not pleased with the rampant pirating of ebooks, but I know there’s a world of difference between going after pirate sites with DMCA takedowns, etc, and seeding torrents; or doing a giveaway, then retroactively copyrighting my work and suing the crap out of people.

        I thoroughly denounce what she is doing–this is no way to protect your copyright.

        • The system benefits those that would play games with it, and this is wrong.
          It is more lucrative to engage in questionable actions than to market content.

          The plague of Copyright Trolls in the porn world are just the most visible pieces.
          They can ruin your name by attaching it to a porn title with nothing more than an IP address, and they enjoy having this leverage to obtain money.

          This scam with the poetry is a lesser version of that, but she is not alone in doing this.
          Pictures, poetry, short stories, articles, etc…

          Copyright needs to be updated to handle how times have changed.
          Balance needs to be restored. Infringing on copyright should have a penalty but at the same time there needs to be penalties for misuse of the DMCA takedowns.

  12. Linda Ellis was unknown to me before she used the courts to silence Matthew Chan. I find her exploitation of both copyright law and the ignorance of these innocent infringers to be one of the more disgusting scams I have heard in a long time. I now make it my business to warn everyone I can about her badly written poem (Linda: do you have no concept about poetic meter or anything other than simple, one-syllable rhymes? Please take a night class at your local community college).

    Every single person I explain this to is outraged. Every single one.

  13. heh… it dawns on me that someone should write a spider that uses Google to find places that have mistakenly used her work, and send them a warning letter about what is to come. Offer alternative suggestions of works by people who are not trolling for dollars.

  14. It would appear that the EFF is none to fond of this decision either, Linda Ellis did not like what we were posting and saying about her “business model” she chose to go to any length to silence us, without realizing by doing so, she would be more exposed.. We won’t be silenced, we will get the true story out, her legacy won’t be a cheesy poem, it will be the fact that she is a copyright troll, hell now that FTC wrote this post Linda Ellis is now associated with porn.

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/03/georgia-court-order-threatens-message-boards-everywhere

    • they were probably made by her attack dog John W. Jolin, from everything i have read he seems like a real piece of work.

  15. I am the woman who sued a church
    and a magazine and a blog
    It was over a stupid poem I wrote
    I’m a hypocritical hog

    I spent my life writing this crap
    I’m crabby and a pain in the ass
    but for all the time I’ve wasted
    I’m at least gonna get some cash

    For cash is the only thing I want
    it’s the best thing in this life
    I want it more than being a mom,
    a friend, or even a wife

    All that matters is how much we own
    the cars the house the cash
    It matters not how we live and love
    but how we spend the cash

    So think about this long and hard
    before you steal this my shit
    I’m hiring a bunch of lawyers
    to reach into your pocket

    I don’t care about you enough
    to consider what’s true and real
    Just hand over the cash you loser –
    fuck the way you feel

    I am very quick to anger
    an unappreciative whore
    and those stupid people in my life
    are nothing but a bore

    you pasted my lame ass poem
    it’s too late for your retort
    so hand over a wad of cash
    or I will see your ass in court

    So, when my eulogy is being read,
    with my life’s actions to rehash…
    I don’t care what I did or said
    just that I had YOUR cash

  16. There is one thing that could bring Linda Ellis’s scheme to a grinding halt and screw her in the process: A lawsuit filed by one of the “settlees” where they ask for class status.

    There are far too many problems with her “business model” that demonstrate she’s extorting money. Only someone who settled can go after her for extortion, ask for damaged, and get class status. I’m sure one of the anti-troll lawyers perusing this site would be interested in at least academically discussing the case if not taking it on. Seems like a slam dunk, and it would put this terrible woman in her place.

  17. Line up to see the next streisand effect winner! Come one come all as we watch the search lines light up for another round of “How to draw way too much attention to yourself!”

  18. Well, Linda Ellis: AUTHOR. SPEAKER. POET. EXTORTIONIST. has put up a new poem on her website proudly proclaiming herself as a troll. She’s proud to be bilking money from grieving family members. What a legacy.

    I guess now her website banner should read Linda Ellis: AUTHOR. SPEAKER. POET. EXTORTIONIST. PROUD TROLL. Hey Linda, next time you make a video about protecting your copyrights try not to look at the cue cards so much. It doesn’t give you much credibility as a speaker when you can’t remember something you wrote. Clown. This has been one man’s opinion.

  19. There was a man too drunk to speak
    at the wake of a buddy
    He commented about the frozen tombstone
    that fell out of the freezer and left him bloody

    He noted that first you must preheat the oven
    and spoke this next part with tears
    you have to cook it when it’s still frozen
    ’twas the secret all those years

    For the pizza represents all of time
    on a crust that stands like the earth
    And for all of those who have ever loved it
    know the approximate worth.

    It matters not, how much we have eaten
    How much dough…how much cheese…how much sauce
    What matters is how we decided to eat it
    And the toppings that we lost.

    If we just sat and thought
    to consider whether the cheese is real
    and always sought to understand
    the meaning of the wheel.

    And be less quick to condemn
    and show appreciation more
    for the factory workers that made the food
    and their wage that’s surely poor.

    If you treat your food with respect
    and more often walk a mile
    you and your heart will live a little longer
    but maybe only a little while.

    So when your dead and buried
    when all your life is rehashed
    will they say about you “he liked his pizza”
    or will they read “THE DASH?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s