Local author still battling copyright case

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114426546028502.jpg’, ”, ‘John Gile’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114426548430279.jpg’, ”, ‘U.S. Rep. Don Mazullo’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114426550530279.jpg’, ”, ‘Alberto Gonzales’);

Despite being forced to accept a settlement or go bankrupt, local author John Gile is not giving up his battle to get satisfaction for infringement of his copyright on his book The First Forest.

Gile is organizing a coalition to pursue criminal prosecution against the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Gile hopes to bring a class-action lawsuit against the Justice Department for failure to enforce the criminal copyright law.

March 1, he accepted a $350,000 settlement from the NWF in order to avoid losing his home and business. In signing the agreement, Gile stated: “This termination is not a settlement in any way, shape or form. I am simply acknowledging that further action in civil court is futile because civil law favors infringers and imposes nearly impossible burdens on victims. Criminal law corrects that inequity.

“I am building a coalition of creators’ organizations, property rights advocates, and members of Congress to back criminal prosecution, which may be filed by any federal prosecutor in any federal court in the nation any time between now and December 2007,” Gile said.

He said the payment of $350,000 falls far short of the $8.1 million retail value of the material that was stolen. The National Wildlife Federation sold some 547,000 copies of Gile’s work, which they took without permission, altered and shortened and marketed.

Gile said he had no choice but to end the civil action because he faced an additional expense of $200,000 to $300,000 in legal fees and stood to lose as much as 80 percent of any judgment to the lawyers. Appeals, he said, could last from two to six years.

“My goal,” said Gile, “is to do all I can to make certain others will never have to endure what I and my family have endured at the hands of the National Wildlife Federation for more than two years. Most authors who are victimized by giant corporations like the National Wildlife Federation do not have the skills or resources to defend their rights. We have help and will not be deterred.”

For a time, Gile urged the Justice Department and U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16) to do something about enforcing the law. He got little response. Last February, in frustration, he wrote Dan Horowitz, a member of Manzullo’s staff: “Does it really take you and Congressman Manzullo more than 120 days to dial the Justice Department phone number and tell Alberto Gonzales, et al. to do the job they have sworn an oath—and are paid—to do?”

Gile’s letter continued: “Your message says you are ‘doing research, Justice, Judiciary, Library of Congress, using legal intern, getting as much information as possible.’ Let me help you. A law has been broken. A victim has repeatedly, since June 27, 2005, asked Congressman Manzullo and company to compel federal law enforcers to do their job.

“See the September 30, 2005 letter with attachments I sent to an FBI agent. All that should help. Here’s more help: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is at 1-202-515-2001. Please say hello for me.”

By refusing to enforce the law, Gile said, the Justice Department has effectively nullified all individual copyrights on file. “It’s really fundamental,” Gile said. “It’s Article One of the Constitution. These guys use federal privilege and federal tax dollars to do the things they’re doing.

“My major concern is with the Justice Department; it’s more like the injustice department when they do not defend the small people. I’m determined. If I have to, I’ll head out to Washington to Gonzales’ office and camp outside.”

Gile is being aided in his fight by the National Writers Union. In September of last year, the union’s Delegate Assembly, meeting in Baltimore, adopted a resolution that calls on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to create a Justice Department task force “expressly designated to protect the rights of individual authors and creative entrepreneurs by vigorously enforcing criminal copyright law and prosecuting those who deliberately or with culpable negligence violate criminal copyright law.”

Article One of the Constitution states: “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

The writers’ group notes it’s not a narrow group of citizens that are affected by copyright infringement, but a large and growing segment of the U.S. work force. Those affected include not only authors and artists, but men and women in business who create unique marketing materials, independent publishers, computer programmers, creators of games and educational programs, photographers, musicians and composers, and the expanding number of men and women who market their knowledge and creativity with desktop publishing and through the Internet, who must and do rely on criminal and civil copyright laws to protect their property and livelihoods.

Gile is not the only creative business person being harmed by a lack of enforcement of criminal copyright law. One such is painter Ed Miracle, an artist of some renown.

Rose von Perbandt, who handles Miracle’s business affairs, said they learned in April of last year that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman of The New York Times had published a new book titled The World is Flat.

Miracle and von Perbandt charge: The cover of that book used one of Miracle’s paintings, titled “I Told You So,” without his permission; further, the painting was altered; Miracle’s signature was removed; in the British version, the picture was cut in half; and the copyright notice was changed to include the name of a company that was fraudulently selling rights to the image; in the U.K., the copyright symbol was eliminated.

Von Perbandt alleged two of the largest publishing companies in the world published the book without ever contacting Miracle for permission to use his work or to alter it; nor did anyone ever investigate to determine if the small company that furnished the poster from which the cover art was taken ever owned the rights to the image.

Von Perbandt said Friedman authorized the release of the book with the offending cover in 78 countries, despite repeated notices to cease and desist. She said: “The Department of Homeland Security is willing to team up with state and local authorities and stake out movie theaters to catch 19-year-olds with video cameras to protect major Hollywood studios—but when independent artists, writers, and small publishers report the felony theft of their work by large American corporations, the Justice Department refuses even to investigate, claiming it’s a ‘civil matter.’

She added: “They are destroying one of America’s finest creative artists. It’s ‘infringe now—pay later,’ it renders copyright law inoperable.”

Attorney Howard Gotbetter, who is representing Miracle, said of the big corporations: “They don’t give a damn for the little guy who owns something. It shows the arrogance of the publisher and disrespect for private property.” Gotbetter said he does not condone the attitude of “steal now, pay later.”

He said there is “a significant amount of infringement; a lot of it going on. There are different attitudes in the East and the West.”

Von Perbandt said: “It’s not just about art and music. Intellectual property is the No. 1 export of the U.S.”

Musing over his experience, Gile commented: “There is no deterrent. Manzullo is over in China talking [intellectual copyright] piracy; and here he has a case in his own backyard, and he ignores it. We’re creating a climate of infringement.”

From the April 5-11, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!