The First Forest author prevails in federal court

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StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11097793532164.jpg’, ”, ‘John Gile’);

n National Wildlife Federation admits piracy, pays $350,000 for copyright infringement

The National Wildlife Federation has admitted pirating Rockford author John Gile’s copyrighted work The First Forest and has paid Gile $350,000 to terminate civil copyright infringement litigation in federal court.

The First Forest, an award-winning work that has made and topped best-seller lists, is the flagship book of Rockford-based JGC/United Publishing. The book is illustrated by widely-acclaimed Rockford artist Tom Heflin. Without seeking Gile’s permission, the National Wildlife Federation unlawfully took, altered, and published The First Forest in a publication sold and distributed to 547,000 homes, professional offices, schools, and libraries.

Gile said he is accepting the $350,000 to terminate the two-year battle under civil law to focus on securing felony copyright infringement prosecution of the National Wildlife Federation under criminal law.

“This termination is not a settlement in any way, shape, or form,” Gile said. “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.

“My goal 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,” Gile said. “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.”

Gile said the National Wildlife Federation responded to reporters’ questions about their infringement by issuing a news release in July 2003, saying they wanted to pay “just compensation” for The First Forest.

“Their $350,000 payment to repair damages to our rights is hardly just compensation for stealing work with a retail value of $8.1 million,” Gile said. “That disparity, the disruptive and costly ordeal of a more than two-year legal battle, which nearly drove us into bankruptcy, and the way I was forced to terminate civil litigation make criminal prosecution imperative if constitutionally-mandated protection of creators’ property rights is to have any meaning in real life for our nation’s creative workers.

“Our Constitution guarantees ‘authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and works,” Gile said. “I do not believe that right is intended only for authors who have hundreds of thousands of dollars available for defending themselves against predators.

“I had no recourse but to terminate civil litigation,” Gile added. “I was faced with an additional $200,000 to $300,000 in legal fees with prospects for as much as 80 percent of the judgment going to lawyers and with appeals lasting two to six years. The erratic and arbitrary aspects of civil copyright infringement litigation also jeopardized my ability to repay backers who helped me survive the crippling disruption of my work and avoid bankruptcy while challenging the National Wildlife Federation in court.”

Gile said he is 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.

“This case is about much more than The First Forest and the National Wildlife Federation,” Gile said. “It directly affects the large and growing number of American workers who rely on copyright law to protect their property and livelihoods: authors, artists, men and women in business who create unique marketing materials for their own exclusive use, small publishers, computer programmers, creators of games and educational programs, photographers, musicians and composers, and the ever-growing numbers of men and women who market their knowledge and creativity with desktop publishing and through the Internet.

Gile added: “It also affects all American taxpayers because the National Wildlife Federation uses federal tax code privileges and direct grants of federal tax dollars, forcing taxpayers to subsidize their activities.

“From the civil libertarian perspective, this is an outrageous case of government-subsidized copyright infringement undermining civil and criminal copyright laws, abridging the Bill of Rights—both freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and violating Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution of the United States of America,” Gile said.

Gile said he is chronicling the infringement in a new book, The National Wildlife Federation Finds No Place To Hide In The First Forest, and will use the book to seek reforms in civil copyright law that will strengthen protection for creators’ rights. The book addresses ethical and moral aspects of the National Wildlife Federation’s infringement and provides creators with help for protecting and defending their works.

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