Saturday, April 24, 2010
Michael Robertson Loses. Free Speech Wins. Freespire.com to Live on for 100 Years!
When I left Linspire, I had every intention of just moving on with my life, but soon after my departure, Michael Robertson hit a new and disgusting low (even for him) by trying to have some good people arrested for simply having been laid off and given severance. (What kind of greedy person would do something like that?!?) Robertson tried to have these good people arrested and started attacking them, trying to destroy their good names, and doing everything he could to bring harm to these individuals. Well, I couldn't just stand by and watch. As the saying goes, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." So, I decided the world needed to know about the REAL Michael Robertson, and little by little, I started to share some facts about Robertson via my blog, and eventually started using Freespire.com to disseminate my writings.
If you review the history page of Michael Robertson's Wikipedia page, you'll see Michael ("Mykill") and his family ("Leslieaudra") remove anything unflattering from Robertson's page (not to mention libeling others with false acquisitions). Therefore, I felt it was important that there was a website to tell the real story about Robertson and where I could defend the employees Robertson was attacking...someplace that he couldn't whitewash and censor. That place became, and is, Freespire.com.
Understandably, given Robertson's unflattering history, he doesn't want the facts shared at Freespire.com to be public, but unlike Wikipedia which he could censor directly, he had no influence at Freespire.com. So, instead, he did what many wealthy, unethical men do, and tried to squash my free speech by filing a lawsuit against me and Freespire.com.
Yesterday, the Judge in the Freespire case came out with her final ruling. Here's what happened...
My lawyer estimates that Robertson spent over $100,000 on the Freespire case (including a motion for summary judgment which he lost last year). I didn't spend even a small fraction of that. There's a saying among lawyers, "If the law is on your side, argue the law. If the facts are on your side, argue the facts. If neither are on your side, pound on the table." Robertson paid dearly for a lot of table pounding. =) Both the law and the facts were unquestionably on my side. Time and time again the courts have protected sites such as Freespire.com, for to do otherwise would be an infringement on one's freedom of speech (something Robertson pretends to care about, except when it comes to the free speech of others talking ABOUT HIM =). This made defending this case very easy, and very little work was needed or done on our part, but for Robertson, well, let's just say table pounding can be very expensive!
The day before the trial, my lawyer, Gil Cabrera, called me and asked if I wanted to get together before the trial and go over anything and do any prep. I told him, "We won't need any. If we stick with the facts and law, we win, and I know you're a pro at that. Let's let Robertson waste his money and put his lawyers' kids through college. I have better things to do with my money." I then told Gil that I'd meet him at his office a few minutes before the trial, and we'd walk over to the courthouse together. (Gil's office is only a couple of blocks away.) I told him that we'd prepare as we walked over. That's it. That's all the prep we did. I knew this was likely the least a client had ever let Gil prepare for a trial, but I told him he was good enough, and our case strong enough, it wouldn't matter.
Gil and I arrived at the courthouse and walked into the courtroom. There was Robertson with THREE lawyers from his high-priced law firm, Duane Morris (Ed Cramp, Ed's partner, and Michelle Hon, an IP litigation specialist). They had posters prepared, documents stacked a mile high, and their game faces on, all poised and ready for battle. (Robertson fancies himself as quite the legal mind, even though he loses a lot more often in the courtroom than wins.) It was clear, Robertson was sparing no expense to try and shut down Freespire.com. I felt sorry for Ed and Michelle who had been handed a total loser case, but I was anxious to see them pound that table...and boy, did they ever! I have to say, Ed and Michelle did a great job, considering they had no case and the law was completely stacked against them. Ed tried to imply all sorts of sinister going-ons as he questioned me on the witness stand about "private" domain registrations, ooooohhhh, using aliases for negotiating domain name purchases, aaaahhhh, and bank wires to escrow companies located in the, shhhhhh, the Cayman Islands. Oh my! :-O
My favorite moment was when Ed Cramp had the entire court room on the edge of their seats. He was going to drop the big bomb on us all, that would blow the case wide open. We spent 30 minutes so Ed's big moment could be allowed in court (he was going to have me read from a confidential document). There were several high school students who were in the court room as part of some class project, so we had to wait for them to all sign confidentiality agreements before they could hear the big bombshell Ed was going to drop on the court. Well, the big moment finally came...we're all on the edge of our seats...I'm on the witness stand and Ed had me turn to a specific page in the ginormous trial documents book they had prepared. He asks me to start reading his big smoking-gun document. The only problem was, what he was reading, and what everyone else in the court is reading, were completely different. It was all I could do to not look at Gil for fear I would bust out laughing while on the witness stand, just three feet from the judge. From the witness stand I had a front row seat watching Michael, Ed and Michelle scratching their heads, scrambling, trying to figure out what had happened. Where was the missing, secret document? After a minute or two of silence, while the entire court waited for them to get it together, I saw Robertson turn beet red, and he started pounding on documents on the table (literally =), as he explained to Ed that someone had photo copied the wrong document! (I could picture how later that day, Ed would have to endure one of Robertson's famous, out-of-control, childish temper tantrum "bell ringings," something I had to witness dozens of times at Linspire. I could also image the big discounts Robertson would be demanding from his legal bill for this snafu. Poor Ed. Or is it "rich" Ed, who actually seems pretty happy to keep taking Robertson's money for no-win cases? ;-)
They finally got things sorted out and Ed was able to read the big zinger. Yawwwnnn. What a let down, just more nonsense. And so the trial went on...and on....AND ON, blah, blah, innuendo after innuendo being made by Robertson's team. A case that should have taken an hour or two, Robertson and Co. dragged on for an entire day, we even stayed past the normal closing time for the court.
After the trial, we had to wait a couple of weeks for the Judge to issue her ruling. When it arrived, as expected, it was a complete and total victory for free speech. Robertson lost. Free speech won. Judge Judith Hayes was spot on in her ruling. She didn't miss a thing, and correctly ruled "...the Defendant had a bona fide noncommercial use for the website, the Court finds the general purpose of the website to be a free speech forum wherein Defendant criticized the management of Plaintiff. ..the Defendant at no time harbored a bad faith intent to profit from a registered mark and that his use of the website undertaken to inform consumers and criticize Plaintiff's management constituted a lawful use of the site."
Oh, but wait! Michael Objects!
I guess Robertson didn't feel like he'd wasted enough cash on this dog case (or maybe Ed Cramp had another kid needing to be put through college), so they filed a TWENTY-SEVEN PAGE objection with the court, contesting the judge's tentative ruling. When we received a copy of their objections (27 pages of the same blah, blah they tried at trial), Gil suggested we really should respond. I told him, again, I had better things to do with my money than waste it on this ridiculous case. I typed up a paragraph, emailed it to him, he translated it into legalese, and that was our response. We then waited for the Judge's final ruling...
Judge's Final Ruling
Yesterday we received Judge Hayes final "Statement of Decision." It reads: "The Court has considered objections by Plaintiff, overrules the objections so noted and hereby issues its Statement of Decision." Translated, this means, "We read your TWENTY SEVEN PAGES of blah, blah, and free speech is still protected in this country. You lose. Free speech wins." (Click here for a copy of the Judge's ruling.)
For all the money Robertson paid the MULTIPLE Duane Morris attorneys, I'll take my ONE lawyer, Gil Cabrera, any day. Even though I didn't pay him to prepare to anywhere near the extent Robertson did his team, Gil easily won. I didn't pay to let Gil have all the resources that Robertson let Duane Morris ring up (motions for summary judgment, prep time, research, nifty white posters, 27-page objections, multiple attorneys at trial, etc.), yet in my opinion, he clearly out lawyered them where it counts--in the courtroom. Gil beat Robertson's team with one hand tied behind his back, while Robertson gave his troops a tank. Gil won by sticking to the heart of the issue (non-commercial free speech site), regardless of all the nonsense Robertson's team threw out there. Sure, Gil DID have the law and the facts on his side, but he still did a great job in delivering them, and it's clear by the outcome that the Judge didn't miss a thing. Kudos to Gil for making sure the real issues didn't get buried in the mud Robertson's side was throwing at the wall.
I won't be at all surprised if Robertson appeals, as he might still have a little money left. (What's that they say about a fool and his money? ;-) But, I'm happy to see Robertson wasting his money (as I'm sure his attorney Ed Cramp is too =), since I won't be the one spending anything, just like before. Doesn't Robertson understand that the more he attacks, the more attention he just brings to Freespire.com? He spends HIS money to bring more attention to the very thing he's trying to shut down. Doi!
Some of us who worked for Robertson have a saying, "Take the smartest, most logical thing to do, and plan on Robertson doing the exact opposite." It's what makes him so predictable. What would be the dumb thing to do here? To appeal and waste more of your money to bring attention to freespire.com. So, what can we expect from Robertson...you got it. Mark my words. Like I say, as predictable as a dumb donkey.
Freespire.com for 100 Years
The Freespire.com domain name was set to expire next month. I just renewed it for another 10 years. I would have registered it for longer, but that's the max they'd let me go. I suppose they figure that in ten years who knows if "web sites" and "domain names" will even exist. One thing I can assure you, however, no matter what the medium will be in the future, I'll make sure the facts about the REAL Michael Robertson get published, not just for the next 10 years, but for the next 100.