Monday, April 20, 2020

About that lawsuit I've been involved in for the last year...

The lawsuit is over, and we won.

There has been a lot said about me, and this lawsuit, by people who don't know the full story, or who think it's perfectly okay to profit off of the stolen labor of others. I couldn't address any of that, because of the ongoing suit, but now that it's over I'd like to address a few things.

First off, I hesitate to label the other party as some kind of ethical or moral pillar, because he's not. He never was. He wasn't doing this to fight copyrights or help people; he was doing this for MONEY. Plain and simple. By his own account, he was making in excess of three hundred THOUSAND dollars a year off of his website.

Got that? He was stealing my work, and the work of other authors to make money, lots of money, with which he bought two airplanes and lived a pretty good life. He now claims that he's broke and living out of a conversion van (aren't those expensive?). I don't know if that's true or not, and I don't care.

The primary goal of this lawsuit was always to get an injunction and stop him from stealing my works and the works of other authors. I didn't even know his site existed until I was told my works were on it by some fans and other authors. I sent a C&D, my lawyers sent a C&D, and my lawyers even sent the appropriate DMCA notices. BTW, DMCA did NOT apply to his website. He was NEVER protected by its 'safe harbor' rules. Seriously folks, stop trying to practice law and talk to a real lawyer. The things my critics think are true and legal are bizarre.

Oh, and for all of those saying I should have settled out of court? We tried. Three times. The first time? Mr. McCrea sent US the settlement offer. One that was a hell of a lot better than what he was hit with today. He asked us to write it up for him (because of course he didn't have a lawyer - right). So I paid my attorney's to write it up exactly like he sent it to us.

And he never signed it.

Twice more we sent it to him, at the judge's (subtle) urging. He didn't respond to the first of those and was a bit rude on the last time. Again, it would have left him in a far better position than the ruling that came out today. So when the crocodile tears start to flow, don't pay them no mind. He was given three chances to get out of this for a lot less money, a LOT less.

But he refused.

My reasons, again, for this lawsuit.
  • First is that he was making money off of the stolen work of me and other authors, and bragging about it.
  • Second, he was claiming that by stealing my works (and the works of other authors) he was 'helping us'. If he was 'helping us' why did he post more than say the first book in any of our series? Or more than one or two?
  • Third, he claimed 'he had permission'. Which of course, he didn't.
  • Fourth, he never complied with any take-down requests. Oh, I know he claimed he did, and I was told by one author that any books taken down (in the few instances he appeared to do that) were back up again in days.
  • Fifth, he was destroying the retirement of many authors, who rely on the royalties they get from their backlogs to pay their bills. This is a real thing! People were being financially hurt! This wasn't some small pirate site that maybe a couple of dozen people go to. The site was getting over a million hits per month, by his own account. Millions of books were being downloaded. Books are not like songs where you listen to them again and again. You read a book once, that's it. People who steal books don't come back and buy them later. Claiming that they do is a myth.
  • Sixth, he was destroying the ability of new authors to enter the market. If your book only sells a few copies on Amazon, but it's the 'book of the week' on his website, with people downloading thousands of copies. Do you think that author is ever going to write again? It takes thousands of hours to write a book. It takes money to get cover art and editing services. If you don't get paid for your hard work, you find another job.
  • Seventh, though it would be wrong, because the availability of my books on eBook.Bike was beyond my control, I was worried that Amazon might pull my books and punish me, for them being on his website. After all, he was claiming he had permission for them to be there. Other authors were highly concerned with this as well.
  • Eighth, he was not only impacting my sales, but he was impacting my sales ranking and my marketing. The secondary impact of this theft is a lot harder to estimate, but it was there, and I felt it. Again, other authors felt it too.

Mr. McCrea survived only because lawsuits are expensive. He knew this, hence his challenge 'just sue me!' He knew most authors can't afford it. Well unfortunately for him, I could. I saw authors whom I'm a long time fan of complaining about the damage, I saw reflected in my own sales damage. I've been very successful as an author, I'm very thankful to all my fans, and all of the authors who have gone before me.

So I saw this as an opportunity to pay them back, to give something back to the writing community. To take down someone who was stealing, who was profiting from that theft. Someone who was so self-entitled that he was laughing at the rest of us and just challenging us to sue him while bragging about the money he was making.

Understand that I did NOT want to do this. But if not me, then who? If not now, then when? Sometimes, you just have to stand up for what is right. This lawsuit hurt me, considerably, and not just because of the money that came out of my pocket. Rarely did a day go by that I wasn't thinking about it, and rarely did a week go by when I wasn't having to deal with my attorneys. But it wasn't just about me, it never was.

I'm glad this is over. I'm happy we won, and I'm happy with this ruling. I will look and see if I can find a place to post it so that others may read it. I'm sure the usual sites that have been following this will post copies, I'm sure they'll completely mis-interpret the legalities involved, and I'm sure I'll once again be harangued and liabled in the comments.

To all of you who contributed, thank you very much! I appreciate your hard-earned dollars, and I appreciate your words of support. I'll be shutting down my gofundme soon, the final cost of this lawsuit will come out to be somewhere between seventy to eighty thousand dollars. Yes, going to court is not cheap. However a precedent has now been set, so things will be cheaper and easier for those who come after.

Last of all I'd like to thank my attorneys. They were highly professional and are both incredibly experienced and smart. They helped me through the hard times and I would recommend them to anyone who finds themselves in the same or similar position. Their staffs are also very professional and put in some long hours on my behalf. Joshua and Gary, I couldn't have done it without you, thank you both very much.

-John Van Stry

(yes comments are off, sorry.)