(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, . . )
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.
(*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.)