It was in July of 2012 that I received an email telling me that I had committed “copyright infringement of the poem, ‘the Dash.’” I had posted it on a website I created with things that I thought were inspirational and motivational. It had been sent to me in an email with “author unknown” so that was how I posted it to my site (in 2001).
The sad part is that I hadn’t even been to that website since around 2004 because I was working from home. I didn’t have time to go on the internet (anyone that is self-employed knows you work your tail off to pay Uncle Sam). So I had completely abandoned the website but left it there for those who were benefitting from the inspiration materials posted there.
The letter went on to talk about (in big bold letters) the damages to Ms. Ellis and her company and that she would have to pay intellectual property attorneys to defend the copyright because of those who were exposed to it through my unauthorized use and that removal of the poem would not be enough because there were now damages to consider.
It then turns to the main motivation… money. It says that she could be awarded anywhere from $30,000 to $150,000 but that she would graciously settle for $7,500.
I called my husband in a complete panic crying like a baby. Being diabetic with health issues, he was not happy that someone had sent me something so frightening that was completely harmless. He said that this person had no legal standing to just remove the poem from the website and let it go. It was clearly an innocent mistake and one for which no judge would award thousands of dollars in damages. He wanted me to just ignore it and move on but how could I? What if they were right? What if I was liable for thousands of dollars? So, I began a web search and, wow, what I found made me sick.
It turns out that I am not the only one that has gotten this letter. In 2012 there were multiple reports of people not only getting these horrifying letters but settling for astronomical amounts out of fear of being sued for even more astronomical amounts.
That was how I was led to April Brown, and thank God for her! She had experience with this woman and her “copyright-trolls” that basically spend all of their time searching the internet for people who have innocently shared what they thought was a beautiful and inspirational poem.
It’s absolutely sad to think about the women who didn’t have a wise and supportive husband to tell them not to stress out about something that is absolutely harmless.
Perhaps they were people that didn’t have a lot of experience researching and so weren’t able to find April Brown. Perhaps they didn’t understand that the letter isn’t even from an attorney and just a scare tactic (albeit a successful one in many cases).
April Brown’s advice was to take the poem down and ignore any further emails or letters. I took the poem down and received another email thanking me for taking the poem down and demanding that I contact them to discuss settlement. I ignored that email and was not contacted again.
Apparently, they only go after those that they can convince to settle. It’s not about her feelings of being “infringed upon” but another way for her to make money on something she wrote. I guess selling the poem and speaking around the country doesn’t make her enough money so she has to go after those who innocently share her work unaware of their potential copyright infringement.
The saddest part, in my opinion, is that the people I found that settled with her were either grieving families that erroneously used the poem on a funeral circular, nuns or Christians that actually found the poem inspirational and wanted to share it with others that it may bless. People that actually enjoyed her work are the ones she wants to pay.
In preparing the writing of my story I researched this situation again, as it has been over 2 years since my experience, and I’m sickened by the number of people that have given in to her extortion. Truly in most cases it would probably be judged “fair use” and no award would be given, which is why she probably doesn’t actually sue. In all my research I have yet to see anyone that she has attempted to sue for posting this poem to a website or any other venue (this is in no way a recommendation that you do so just to see if she will sue).
In all honesty, my greatest prayer for Linda Ellis is that no one will ever share her poem again. I pray that I will never see it on another website (except hers), that I will never see it on a funeral circular and that I will never see it on Facebook, MySpace or any other social media site. My greatest prayer is that no one will ever innocently share her poem again.