Thursday, May 11, 2006

Hey, Groucho. No giving up Casablanca, eh?

Remember Groucho Marx’s battle of wits with Warner Bros’ shysters over A Night in Casablanca in the late forties? It came to mind when I read what happened to 17-year-old Mike Rowe of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He registered his name with a ‘Soft’ added at the end for his website last August. This attracted the wrath of Microsoft as well as a cease-and-desist e-mail (19 November 2003) from its Canadian lawyers, Smart & Biggar, saying he was infringing copyright and offering US$10 for his name. In sheer pique, he asked for $10000. In retaliation, they accused him in a 25-page letter (15 January 2004) of harbouring all along “the intention to sell my domain name to Microsoft for a large cash settlement”. Mike seemed to have emerged the winner from this David vs Goliath encounter. He got worldwide attention and fame and 250000 visitors to his website as of 19 January. For a hilarious (though fictional) view of the
row(e), don’t miss out on what’s at Point to ponder: If Microsoft puts a notional value as low as $10 on, surely it doesn’t see it as much of a threat, does it? Then why spend several times that puny sum on lawyers’ fees to bully Mike? Is it, as he writes on his website “just another example of a huge corporation just trying to intimidate a small business person (and only a 17 year old student at that) to get anything they want by using lawyers and threats”? But, hey, guys. For all his brave talk, Mike finally caved in and ended his ordeal with a ‘not with a bang but a whimper’ settlement. (‘Mike Rowe goes soft, hands over PR victory’ by Kieren McCarthy) P.S.: Two other Mikes – owner Rushton and owner Morris – too had fallen afoul with the software giant earlier. Also take a look at for good measure.

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