More Alliance, Nickles, and Patent Troll News

(NOTE: Originally published Feb. 10, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013.  The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)

Geez, I didn’t have to lift a finger this weekend to find fresh news relating to our friends at the Copyright Alliance.  Within 10 minutes of sitting down with my coffee and the New York Times on Saturday morning, I came across Joe Nocera’s op-ed on patent trolls, Innovation Nation at War, a subject which I wrote about in my very recent post Copyright Alliance Update.

A short while later when I checked my e-mail inbox, I was presented with a link to Friday’s “Moyers and Company” program, Susan Crawford on why the U.S. Internet is Slow, Costly, and Unfair.    Bill Moyers interviews Susan Crawford, author of “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the Gilded Age” who provides yet another unsettling view of the mischief that the backers of the Copyright Alliance and its parent, the Nickles Group LLC, are into:

Susan Crawford:

“What’s happened is that these enormous telecommunications companies, Comcast and Time Warner on the wired side, Verizon and AT&T on the wireless side, have divided up markets, put themselves in the position where they’re subject to no competition and no oversight from any regulatory authority. And they’re charging us a lot for internet access and giving us second class access.”

Crawford discusses the role these companies have had in actually stifling broadband access across America, and how their efforts to preserve and increase their profits are doing great economic and social harm.  To remind you, these are the same corporations that pushed for SOPA  (Stop Online Piracy Act) that similarly would have done great harm to the internet in the name of corporate profits.  You helped them, by the way; the Guild’s executive membership in their proxy, the Copyright Alliance, gave substance to their claims of “grassroots” support for their pro-SOPA lobbying efforts.

The small amount of digging I did this weekend was to follow up on Susan Crawford’s account of municipalities trying to create their own independent broadband networks being stymied by corporate-sponsored legislation.  Efforts by town and city governments to treat the internet as a vital utility rather than merely a luxury commodity, have been met by state legislatures who’ve passed laws banning them from doing this, which of course might endanger the monopolistic power and profits of the big telecom service providers.  This sounded to me like the work of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), and a quick Google search turned up a number of articles confirming this, such as this one at ars technica, South Carolina Passes Bill Against Municipal Broadband.   If you’ve read my report on the Copyright Alliance, you might recall that its parent organization, the Nickles Group LLC, is a supporter of ALEC, and that ex-senator Don Nickles was a contributor to ALEC while serving in the senate.

A Big Question Mark.

(NOTE: Originally published Feb. 07, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013.  The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)

The following is why I’m of the opinion that a serious independent audit of the Guild’s finances is overdue.  A particularly stunning eye-opener in the LM-2 data is the amount of money listed under “Other Disbursements.”  Our 2011 LM-2 Annual Financial Report details expenses such as rent, employee salaries, copier leasing, newsletter design, printing, and etc.  There are, however, “Other Disbursements” entries found in the General Overhead, Union Administration, and Political Activities schedules, showing that in just 2011 alone, $217,000 was spent with no accompanying information whatsoever on payee or purpose.  That’s over one-quarter of all the money spent by the Guild in 2011.  I’m thinking that’s a lot of paper clips, coffee filters, or similar miscellaneous expenses that you’d expect might be categorized as “Other.”


My graphic breakdown of the 2011 LM-2  will save you some time in bringing the whole picture into focus.


Copyright Alliance Update

(NOTE: Originally published Feb. 05, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013.  The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)

There just doesn’t seem to be an end to the mischief popping up in the news that keeps leading back to the Copyright Alliance and the Nickles Group LLC.  If you paid some attention to the high profile lawsuits involving Apple, Samsung, and other tech giants that made headlines this year, then you’ve likely heard the term “patent troll” which refers to companies that amass large libraries of patents, then proceed to make a tidy profit by suing manufacturers that arguably infringe on those patents.  Poorly defined, ambiguous software patents in particular have allowed trolls to threaten manufacturers with expensive lawsuits unless they agree to license the troll’s patents. In other words, trolls extort “protection money” from manufacturers in exchange for not suing.  NPR / National Public Radio’s “This American Life” has an excellent exposé of trolls in program #441, When Patents Attack.  There’s also a recent article posted by Mark Gibbs in Forbes, A Patent Troll Wants to Charge You for Emailing Your Scans!  that contains a summary of the business of patent trolling.

According to Mark Gibbs:

“From its original start as a rather sleazy extortion racket, patent trolling has evolved into a serious business model of which the biggest may well be Intellectual Ventures, a company founded by Microsoft’s former Chief Technology Officer, Nathan Myhrvold, and backed by a roster of the business who’s who to the tune of more than $5.5 billion.”

Now for the fun part.

Enter the Nickles Group, LLC, and their copyright boutique side-business, the Copyright Alliance.  

It turns out that for 5 years in a row, since 2007, Intellectual Ventures has been the Nickles Group’s #1 client.  And the Nickles Group has been Intellectual Venture’s #1 lobbying firm.  The primary contact listed on the lobbying reports for the Intellectual Ventures account is Cindi Tripodi, a founding partner of the Nickles Group, and the lobbyist who also represents the Copyright Alliance.  Cindi was actually listed as a Copyright Alliance staff member until September 2012, when her bio was removed from the Alliance’s website.  (This happened very shortly after my report ‘An Examination of the Copyright Alliance’ was distributed, which pointed out the connections between the Alliance and Nickles; but of course that’s merely a coincidence, . . )

Nickles Group top clientsBelow is a detail of the report filed by the Nickles Group on its lobbying for Intellectual Ventures; first quarter 2012.

lobby report; Tripodi and IV

Should any of this matter to you? Only if you care about where some of your dues money* to the Guild ends up, and who’s being consulted when Guild officers make decisions on advocacy.  Here is a detail from the Guild’s 2011 LM-2 Annual Financial Report to the Department of Labor.  Note the address, and where we’ve been sending $5000 every year.

Guild LM-2 shows Alliance addr=Nickles

Detail of the Guild’s 2011 LM-2, schedule 16, Political Activities and Lobbying.


(*National officers claimed that this statement is untrue, that the Graphic Artists Guild’s annual $5000 payments for membership in the Copyright Alliance have come from reprographic rights royalty money.  However, while I was a member of the Guild’s International Board of Directors, no document was ever produced that separated usage of dues from reprographic royalty funds.  This includes the official budget proposal documents presented to the International Board of Directors for the Guild’s November 2012 Annual Convention.  See my March 13, 2013 post Reprographic Royalties for some background information.)