“Ye’ old Family Widget Co.” (Copyright Infringement)

My daughter came home from Grandma’s today. Oh, it was such a great day. She had been gone most of the Winter vacation so that she could take full advantage of the time she had with her Grandma.

They did all kinds of things while at Grandma’s. They took lots of pictures, and even got a set of those really neat Olen Mills studio portraits where everyone is wearing goofy Christmas sweaters. My mom looked so pretty, seeing my daughter and her together filled me with such pride.

“My goodness they look a lot alike” I thought.

Sitting at my computer later that night I started thinking of my father. He had passed a few years ago, but the company still bore his name. Family had always been important to him, and he believed that the business needed to reflect that. So when he had the company web site created, it seemed only natural to include a few family pictures on the site.

“What a perfect place for these recent pictures!” I continued thinking. “This will be great! I’d even bet that people will buy our widgets just because the sweaters are funny.” Dad would be so proud of me for making a decision to post these images. He would say that I had made a good business decision. “Family values sells more widgets than puppies!” He often said.

So I updated the company site, smiled to myself, turned off the light, and went to bed. “Today was such a great day.”

I have to admit. When I woke the next morning, I was kind of anxious to show the rest of the family how good the pictures made the company site look. But when I went to pull it up, I got an error 404 “page not found” message.

Needless to say, I was rather disappointed. But since I was running late, I figured I’d show everyone later on. I knew we had a busy week ahead of us, and since everyone would be home this weekend, I decided I’d show them all then.

Around the middle of the week though, I got the strangest letter from one of my major advertisers. Apparently, they were notifying me that they would no longer be doing business with us. They cited something about “breach of
contract” and seemed to indicate they might even be suing us for some type of damages. I tried to get a hold of our lawyer, but he was still on vacation in Hawaii and wouldn’t be back until next week.

“I’m sure it’s just a mistake” I told myself as I looked through the rest of the mail. So, I put it aside, and figured I’d worry about it later.

The rest of the week seemed to go by rather slowly to me. We didn’t seem to have as much business as usual. Not only that, but not one person had even mentioned the sweaters. “Oh well,” I figured. “Maybe everyone is still worn out from the holidays.”

The weekend came and went. Gosh everyone seemed to be in such a hurry. I didn’t even get a chance to log on and show off the new pictures. In fact, I had completely forgotten about it.

When I returned to the office on Monday, my attorney called me to ask what I had needed the week earlier. I let him know about the letter, and he said he would look into it and get back to me as soon as he learned anything.

“By the way, did you guys know your web page is down?” he asked.

“Still?” I said. “I thought that business had been a bit slow. I guess that’s why nobody had mentioned the sweaters.” I laughed. “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll be sure to look into it.” I told him before I hung up.

Right away, I called my computer guy, and asked him to check the site and get back to me. “Sure.” he said. “I’ll have you up and running again in no time.”

Since it was fairly late in the day by this point, I decided I’d go ahead and close a little early. “I’ve got to go by the bank today anyway.” I thought. When I got there though, the teller informed me that my account was temporarily frozen. “What?” I exclaimed. “Why?” I asked.

“I’m sorry sir, but all it says is that there has been a freeze placed on the account by the Dept. of Justice. There’s no other information I can give you. I’m afraid you are going to have to speak with our manager when he comes in tomorrow.”

Well, as you can imagine, I was really upset by the time I got home. The last thing I wanted to hear was any more bad news. And then the phone rang. It was my wife.

“What did you do!” she yelled at me. “Our attorney just called and told me that the company is being investigated for “copyright infringement” and that the advertiser who had written us earlier decided they were going to sue after all.” “They said it was because we breached our agreement because our actions placed them in a situation where they had to pull all ads on our site. And since this was a holiday special, they’re suing us for loss of revenue too!”

“I honestly don’t know.” I told her. “I honestly don’t know.”

The next morning I got a call from the attorney.

“Did you by any chance post some pictures on the company site of your mother and daughter a few weeks ago?” he asked.

“Yes.” I said. “Why?”

“Do you remember where those pictures were taken?” he asked.

“I’m not quite sure. Olen Mills Studio’s I think.” I replied. “Why?” I asked.

“Are they handy?” he asked.

“Right here.” I replied while looking at them.

“Do you see the name Olen Mills on the bottom right hand corner?” he asked.

“Yes.” I said.

“Well, that printing is there to establish copyright ownership to those pictures.” he said.

“But my mother paid them for the pictures!” I explained.

“That may be true, but that only covers the sitting fee and printing. Not ownership of the photographs.” “So when you posted them on the web page, without their consent, you technically committed the crime of “copyright
infringement” as defined by US Code Title 17 S.S.506.” “It’s a crime that can carry up to ten years.” “And since HR 3261 was passed successfully last year, once Olen Mills filed a complaint, your site was frozen, your advertisers were forced to pull their ads, and criminal charges were filed.”

“That’s why your bank account was frozen too.” “Possible proceeds from a criminal enterprise.” he explained.

Well, long story short. The company was successfully sued by the portrait studio, as well as the advertisers for over ten million dollars and therefore had to declare bankruptcy. I received 5 years in prison that were suspended, so I’m now on probation, and to make matters worse, was also fined $250,000.00.

Since we no longer had the company, I had to take a part time job down at the plant, which doesn’t pay nearly what the company used to bring in. We’ve had to sell the house to help pay the civil suits, so I’m sitting here writing
this with boxes all around me.

But before we left, I felt I had to write this down. Perhaps someone somewhere will read it and know what ever became of the “Ye’ old Family Widget Co.”

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Published on August 1, 2013 at 9:08 am  Leave a Comment  

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