AP2 Legal Capers
Wednesday, June 5th
The first public version of AP2 appears, written by lots of people, edited and compiled by J Nash and S Campbell.
Staff of popular computer publication CU Amiga ("the UK's biggest selling Amiga magazine") ask their mailing list on Wednesday the 26th if anyone knows of possible sites for their regular covermount CD that can be "grabbed for offline use."
Diligent AP2 reader Matthew Garrett suggests AP2 the next day, expressly indicating that CU Amiga would have to get in touch with The A-Nows ("the administrator") first,* helpfully supplying the e-mail address.
CU Amiga begin their unauthorised copy of AP2 on Monday the 15th at 8.05pm, stripping pages off the server with an automatic downloader that seizes every linked file of a site.
CU Amiga complete their unauthorised copy of AP2 at 12.58am on Tuesday the 16th. The unauthorised copy is altered from the original - for example, an entire section is missing. To be fair, up to now CU Amiga have broken none of AP2's conditions ("You are free to examine AP2 for your own use, but cannot, for example, put it on a CD or something"). To be super-fair, they can't otherwise have obtained an offline version at this point, because the archives have been disabled anticipating a large update which has been postponed until we can find a reliable host. (A special AP2 announcement has asked readers to "continue their patient vigil" for some time now.) In other words, CU Amiga at this stage are completely fine as long as they don't, for instance, go on to put AP2 on their cover CD or something.
The new issue of CU Amiga appears (on the 15th, identified only as "February 1998"; no ish number is given) with its covermounted "Super CD-ROM 19."
Diligent AP2 reader M Garrett alerts us as to what's happened, which is that AP2 is on the CU Amiga CD. (He beats diligent AP2 reader James Cha Cha Cha to the EXCLUSIVE by five hours and forty-nine minutes.) Ben From Amiga Format helpfully checks the CD - we don't have a copy, obviously - and confirms that AP2 is on there; also that the inept stripping method (which, for example, can't handle long filenames) means that the unauthorised copy of AP2 doesn't work properly.
As AP2's official squeezy love mascot of cuddly big-eyed warmness, Stuart Campbell phones the head of Emap (publisher of CU Amiga) to ask, in a purely friendly and non-confrontational way, what happened.* The head of EMAP (publisher of CU Amiga) tells Stuart to get lost.
We engage the AP2 Solicitor (part of a tiny local firm specialising in copyright) whose opening salvo explodes in Emap's maw like the TOOTHACHE OF JUSTICE. Fantastically formal legalese informs Emap that they've blatantly infringed our copyright, refers to AP2 as a "literary work" (coo) and demands the cessation of mag sales and the handing over of the names of anyone involved in the manufacture and distribution of the CD, plus any and all material pertaining to the CD itself. This is a standard opening gambit, which is a relief, as we simply haven't the room in the loft.*
Emap's solicitors (an appropriately huge company whose pan-European portfolio covers everything from the media to construction) leap into action. In summary, their reply on Emap's behalf is (a) we didn't do it; (b) even if we did, no reader could find AP2 on the CD; (c) the CD generates loads of free publicity for the featured sites by displaying them to thousands of readers; (d) it isn't our fault guv, the CD's compiled by a freelancer; (e) this is clearly a plot by employees of a rival publisher; (f) Stuart didn't ring up politely asking for an explanation but demanded money; and in a fantastic bit of Perry Mason courtroom judo (g) AP2 is just a bunch of swearing with the sole purpose of being "grossly defamatory" to everybody the mag mentions, including two of Emap's employees, and unless you remove those pages and pay compensation we'll be counter-suing, bignose.
Boring practical stuff, such as finalising the legal aid certificates and the AP2 Solicitor kindly emphasising at least twice that costs will probably end up around £15,000 and even if we win there's no guarantee those would be covered - a judge might order the loser to pay most, rather than all, of the expenses incurred; also, that legal aid does not cover the allegations of defamation. We decide to press on. (It's also at this point that we regretfully spoil the AP2 running gag of stealing material by revealing we had permish from Future to reproduce pics and mag extracts from AMIGA POWER. Interestingly, our set of full-size AP covers - at a rapid glance, a section of AP2 that's the copyright of a powerful media conglomerate rather than two idiot writers and their scribbling chums - is omitted from CU Amiga's unauthorised copy.)
Stuart consults the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) Solicitor on the case. The NUJ Solicitor's supplementary analysis echoes the AP2 Solicitor's advice and highlights some possible pitfalls (eg, if we were employed by AMIGA POWER at the time of writing AP2, the copyright might be theirs. We weren't, so it isn't). The encouraging letter also points out some things we'd amateurishly missed when explaining things to the AP2 Solicitor - for example, while Emap claim their CD is of little to no value to the mag except as a promotional tool (hence their insistence that any damages would be negligible as they never pay for stripped sites) the NUJ Solicitor shrewdly notices the CD edition of CU Amiga is 25% more expensive than the non-AP2-carrying floppy disk version. We decide at this point it'll probably be a really good idea to find a copy of the ish.
We each find a copy of the ish, which costs an extortionate £5.99. J Nash inspects the cover CD thoroughly and discusses the mag's history with friendly expert Ben From Amiga Format, arranging to race into town by private train and meet S Campbell in Bath's non-famous Regency Cafe. Our chums conduct a pleasant working lunch, over which J Nash presents his findings: that the unauthorised copy of AP2 has been ineptly stripped and altered (that entire missing section, for example) and consequently doesn't work properly;* that CU Amiga have a habit of stripping commercial (and fan) sites without permission (empirically confirmed when we write to a random selection of sites on AP2's CD and none of them knows they're in CU Amiga); and that CU Amiga's CDs serially and majorly infringe copyright - previous CDs have included, for example, the official sites of big-business concerns like The X-Files and Motorhead, plus (to accompany a Mac emulator which carefully avoids litigation by expressly distancing itself from Apple's system software) a full set of Mac System Software - AP2 itself sharing the disc with the complete scripts for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. (Apple and Lucasfilm have never heard of CU Amiga.) We remind ourself once again with a convenient printout of the extensive and foolproof submission guidelines on the CD's mag section that ensure clearance and permission.
During the lunch we contract food poisoning and are laid up for several days (in J Nash's case, horribly too weak to rise from his fever bed, this involves grotesquely and repeatedly vomiting out of a window). While this would CLEARLY AND UNARGUABLY never have happened without Emap, and is therefore their fault, we generously waive attaching dry-cleaning bills to the case. The Regency Cafe subsequently changes hands several times BUT WE WILL PREVAIL IN OUR SACRED QUEST TO HUNT DOWN AND KILL THE PERPETRATORS. (NB: this is of course a funny joke, so if you're the perpetrators do not bother to contact your legal representative or vary your homeward route over the rickety bridge.)
The AP2 Solicitor replies to the Emap Solicitors' concerns with a ThunderingStatementGlove of BonyFactKnucks. In summary: (a) Stuart DID ask politely what had happened, not demand money (the confusion arising from a follow-up call when the head of Emap (CU Amiga's publisher) asked if money would be part of any settlement, which Stuart confirmed); (b) this CAN'T POSSIBLY be a plot by employees of a rival company because JN and Stuart are filthy layabout tramps who owe allegiance to no one; (c) despite Emap's attempts to disavow any knowledge of his existence (or something) the CU Amiga CD compiler is prominently listed in the mag's flannel panel with an official CU Amiga e-mail address, plus anything Emap publish must surely be their responsibility; (d) the attempt to reduce the case to a minor mix-up over a nominal licensing fee FAILS LIKE A BAIL'S QUAILS because we'd never, ever have licensed AP2 to CU Amiga;* and (e) claims of defamation on certain AP2 pages, regardless of merit, are a bit tricky to present when you've just distributed those pages yourself on your own CDs to dozens of thousands of your readers all over the world.*
There are a few more exchanges of this "a-HA!" / "o-HO!" nature, but the only interesting bit is the tussling over the commercial value of AP2. In short, for bargaining purposes, Emap regard this as zero - it's a free mag which doesn't carry any advertising, for example. Our view is that if you make an unauthorised copy to put on a CD and sell, you've acknowledged it has a financial worth (the fact that you've not previously had to pay for any stripped site because nobody's taken a stand being totally irrelevant). We begin by examining AP2 in view of current commercial rates for web design (hey, it mostly works, has a distinctive, possibly unique, design, and there are 500 lashed-up pages of it) but for simplicity roll this into an overall word count - ie, bundling the HTML and text together. We estimate this bundled size of the unauthorised copy of AP2 to be 200,000 words which, at our then rates, comes out to about £30,000.*
Settling in for the long haul. One angle of our case is that, as compensation, we're claiming part of CU Amiga's sales, ad revenue, etc, for the ish which carried the unauthorised copy of AP2. Emap emphatically deny this is reasonable. It transpires that they claimed EXACTLY THE SAME DAMAGES in a previous case of unauthorised (minor) (ie, not 200,000 words) copying.
Lots of research into appropriate damages. (Unauthorised, stripped copies of 200,000-word sites sold on cover CDs aren't covered in actuary tables.)
We complete our research. Also, we were occupied hooking fish skeletons out of dustbins and laying them on tableclothed tree stumps beside guttering candles and a plate with an old boot on it. We've no idea what Emap and their solicitors were up to in the same time, but assume they were roaring with laughter in big rooms while eating swans, foreclosing mortgages and kicking urchins loaded with flagons.
The AP2 Solicitor consults a barrister. (Effectively a spinach-powered senior solicitor who decides beforehand whether or not a case will stand up in court.) The AP2 Barrister advises reducing the claim to £10,000 plus costs. As the AP2 Solicitor helpfully explains, the knotty nature of the English legal system means that if we (as the all-powerful clients) "instruct" her to ignore the AP2 Barrister's advice, we lose our legal aid. (In effect, the legal system is saying, "What are you, stupid or something? Or what?") We accept the AP2 Barrister's advice.
The AP2 Solicitor, who has been thoroughly tremendous throughout, assures her place in a marble mansion when we use the settlement to seize control of the government by referring to AP2 in the official documents as "a significant work of art." (Obviously it's a ton of unsurpassably self-satisfied rubbish about a dead computer mag, but we don't spoil the moment.)
A bunch of haggling between the AP2 Solicitor and Emap's Solicitors (who don't think AP2 is a significant work of art in any way, all but calling it a ton of unsurpassably self-satisfied rubbish about a dead computer mag, the PLEBEIAN PIFFLERS). We leave them to it, electing to stand on the sidelines shouting "Go Go!! AP2 Solicitor" through a rolled-up cone of newspaper we've been using as a vest, and throwing bits of gravel at Emap's Solicitors as they sweep past in their gleaming limo twice the length of two Toyota Corollas laid end to end. The sums are see-sawing around the five thousand pound mark - though critically Emap's Solicitors are excluding costs, which would sink us. The AP2 Solicitor spots this wily tactic and DASHES IT TO THE PEBBLES.*
More haggling. It's the height of summer, so we dispense with our unravelling woollen fingerless gloves for a few days.
CU Amiga are unexpectedly killed off by Emap.
Diligent AP2 reader M Garrett has forwarded us their farewell mailing list message, which includes the phrase, "One way or another we'll be around when the Super Amiga surfaces."
(Sunday the 27th.) With no end to the AP2 Legal Capers in sight, plus feeling guiltily buoyed by all the messages of support, plus the chances of AP2 being ripped off again now substantially decreased, we switch AP2 back on with the large update. Hurrah! (Excellently, the AP2 Withdrawn page has attracted more readers than the actual thing.)
October to December
A quiet time for the AP2 Legal Capers.
Hang on, did we die during the winter or something?
No, there we go; the Legal Aid Board has written a special letter to Stuart. Hurrah! They've changed the rules and he is no longer eligible for legal aid. Bah. (It's taken them four months to say this. Obviously we can't do anything until this is sorted out.)
Hang on, it was all a mix-up in the post. Stuart is eligible for legal aid after all (and has been all along). Phew.
The AP2 Solicitor sends a final draft of "Instructions to Counsel" to the AP2 Barrister. This is the complete text of our case, set out in four pages of A4 (including two cover pages). The AP2 Barrister must now decide whether to submit this to proceedings (ie, we go to court) or ask for further clarification of certain points, or throw it in the bin if we've failed to convince him of the merits of the action. Assuming the AP2 Barrister thinks it's a solid case, we're off to court. Hurrah!
The AP2 Solicitor leaves to pop her sprog. This means that the AP2 Legal Capers have now officially taken longer than is required to produce a tiny human child. We suggest the sprog ought to be called "AP2." The AP2 Solicitor declines. We turn up to congratulate her on displaying shrewd foresight in the preparation of a dynasty of replacements in the event she retires before the case is concluded. The AP2 Solicitor gestures our attention to a desk tidy and when we turn back she has fled the county in a train. Partner in the tiny local firm the AP2 Solicitor 2 takes over.
Friday, May 7th
Emap suddenly settle for £3,000 plus costs. The AP2 Solicitor 2 estimates Emap's legal bills to have been at least £10,000. As Stuart has discovered from his own legal adventures, come the day it's a lottery of getting a judge with nous, rather than, say, one who completely agrees with your cast-iron case but finds against you on an abstruse technicality you'd previously been assured was not a problem then awards the phenomenal costs to the other side. We accordingly accept the settlement, knowing that JUSTICE, SOUGHT, HAS ARRIVED ON THE TRIUMPH MOTORCYCLE OF TRIUMPH and that Emap have thrown away an enormous sack of cash for want of a bit of politeness.*
++ VICTORY TO AP2 ++