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When I say no, I actually do mean no…

September 14, 2021, 2:32 PM

We’ve all been taught the meaning of “no” before, as well as the idea of “no means no”, i.e. someone has declined, and that’s the end of it.  “No” doesn’t mean “yes, if I am persistent enough.”  When I say “no”, I mean it.  In the case of Jeremy Jones, who ran the @DMVFollowers Twitter account, I feel like he just couldn’t grasp this concept.

For some background information on this case, DMVFollowers was a Twitter account that posted news about things happening in the Washington, DC area.  They typically posted links to news articles, and included a photo with their posts.  Their feed looked like this according to an Internet Archive snapshot from January 2018:

@DMVFollowers in 2018

Some of the photos that turned up on there when he was talking about transit-related issues were mine.  Specifically, these:

Blue Line train on D Route bridge in 2005
Blue Line train on D Route bridge in 2005.

Red Line train at Brookland-CUA in 2008
Red Line train at Brookland-CUA in 2008.

7000-Series train at Greenbelt during press event in 2014
7000-Series train at Greenbelt during press event in 2014.

These were all Creative Commons images, and the license was not followed, as no attribution was provided.  Therefore, these were all processed as copyright violations.  The first photo was submitted on April 19, 2018, the second was submitted on August 29, 2019, and the third was submitted on December 1, 2019.  In all of these cases, the images were turned up via Pixsy scans.

About nine months after the first takedown, I received a message from Jones:

Hey Ben,

My name is Jeremy Jones from DMVFollowers, earlier last year we received a DMCA claim for an image we used on our Twitter. Just wanted to reach out to see how we can resolve this, let m know. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Thanks, Jeremy

My records do not show that I responded to this message.  My policy when it comes to follow-ups with DMCAs is that the user made the decision to violate copyright, and they are responsible for whatever consequences come from getting caught.  Therefore, once the notice is processed, and I verify that the image is, in fact, removed, I’m out of the process, as the matter has been resolved.  In other words, he may not consider it resolved, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s resolved.

In the case of the first takedown, the image was removed from the server, and that was the end of it.  Same for the second.  However, the third takedown caused their Twitter account to be suspended:

@DMVFollowers in 2021

Sounds like that third notice put them into habitual-offender territory as far as the Twitter was concerned, and they said enough is enough.

Then on July 13, 2021, a year and a half after the last takedown, i.e. well after the account was suspended and we all moved on, I got a message from Jones on Schumin Web’s Facebook page:

Hey Ben,

My name is Jeremy Jones from DMVFollowers and I was reaching out to see if we can resolve a DMCA claim you made against our Twitter account a few years ago.  It ended up getting our Twitter account suspended.  Back then I was 24y/o and really didn’t understand the importance of crediting for photography.  I was really just posting cool things from around the DC, Maryland, Virginia area.  I totally understand now and wanted to see if I can resolve this somehow.  Let me know, looking forward to hearing from you and sorry for the trouble!

I’m 100% I can bring more business to you!

The first part sounded sincere enough, though it is the typical sob story of someone who doesn’t want to have to actually live with the consequences of their actions after they got caught.  Then the second part made me think that he wasn’t necessarily being sincere about the copyright infringement, i.e. that he was using this as an “in” to drum up business for himself for whatever reason.

In any case, I wasn’t biting, and sent this in response:

As far as I am concerned, the issue was resolved in 2018.  The takedown notices were processed by Twitter, and the infringing materials were removed shortly thereafter.  Therefore, I have been made whole.

Additionally, considering the length of time between when the suspension occurred and when I heard from him, I suspected that this Twitter account wasn’t exactly a high priority for him.

Then fast forward another month, and I got three more messages from Jones:

Hey, thanks for reaching back out.  Sorry for the late response but I rarely check my FB (I activated it just to reach out to you).  This is what happen, our page DMVFollowers was made in 2010 and overtime we reached the threshold of copyright infringing posts, the limit is around 8-10.  After talking to Twitter, they suggested I contact the last person to make a claim and potentially resolve it to restore the page.  DMVFollowers being down for the last 2 years has hurt a bit but Twitter finally got back with me and told me to reach out to you.

Let me know what you think, willing to pay for the photo used or whatever you fine suitable.  Thanks Jeremy

Also, let me know if you have any questions.

First of all, the late response surprised me.  If you don’t normally use Facebook, and when you have demonstrated that you have my email address, which you got via the DMCA process, why not use that instead?  In any case, any sympathy that I might have still had for them went right out the window after that message, based on what they said.  Specifically, “we reached the threshold of copyright infringing posts, the limit is around 8-10.”  Eight to ten?  I submitted three.  That meant that they had at least five other infringements before I came along, i.e. this was by no means their first rodeo when it came to copyright infringements.  And after admitting that they were a habitual offender, they had the gall to think that I was going to dig them out of their hole.  My takedowns may have put them over the top, but they clearly made their own bed, and are unhappy that they now have to lie in it.  I treated him like an adult and held him responsible for his own poor choices, and he clearly didn’t like that.  I find that to be a common thing: people demand to be treated like adults until you actually treat them like an adult, and then they get all upset that they actually have to be held to account for their own decisions.

In any case, I ignored these messages, because I had already declined to take action, and as far as I was concerned, that was the end of it.  For a habitual offender like Jones, I had no reason to think that he wouldn’t go right back to stealing more photos and getting nailed again, so I wasn’t inclined to bail him out by any means.

But apparently, for Jones, it was not over.  When I was visiting my parents last week, Dad told me there was a message on their answering machine for me.  I found that curious, so I gave it a listen:

It was Jones on my parents’ antiquated answering machine.  Apparently, he did his own research and tried again, and ended up calling my parents looking for me.  This would not be the first time that this has happened.  Back in 2008 or so, my parents received a very threatening message for me on their answering machine from neo-Nazi Bill White, after we had an interaction on Wikipedia that he apparently did not like.  I forget what the interaction was, but apparently I removed some sort of content from that site, probably for good reason, and he didn’t like that.  So he decided to follow up, and left a very disturbing message on my parents’ machine.  In any case, the joke was ultimately on him, because White got banned from the site shortly after leaving that message, and he is now incarcerated for a very long time after being arrested in 2009 for threatening a federal juror, and then later fleeing the country in violation of the terms of his release.

In the case of both Jones and White, though, I suspect that they didn’t specifically intend to call my parents, but thought that they had actually reached me.  I googled myself to see what turned up, and what I found amused me.  A site called AllBiz listed four entries for me: two in Stuarts Draft, one in Harrisonburg, and one in Maryland, all containing very outdated information.  Apparently, according to them, I run a “combined office administrative services” company with 25 employees and an annual revenue of $10 million.  Also, if you need assistance, contact my sales representative, James Richardson, at james@schuminweb.com (an address that has never existed).  The contact information for me was listed as such:

AllBiz contact information for me

I’ve redacted the specific details for purposes of privacy, but a 540-337 number does indicate a landline phone in Stuarts Draft, Virginia, and trust me that the address listed is, in fact, my parents’ address.  The email listed was one that I had used a long time ago, but I now use a Gmail address.  I suspect that this information came from a domain name listing, as I did list that as my domain information a long time ago.  AllBiz is by no means the only site to list garbage information for me based partially on old domain registration information, but it just happened to come up high in the search results when I looked it up.  My domain registration details are now private, but that wasn’t an option back then.  Regardless of what those sites say, though, take one look at my website and then compare to those business directory sites, and you’ll see a disconnect somewhere.  It is painfully obvious that my goofy little website is not that of a $10 million company with 25 employees.  James Richardson couldn’t sell $10 million worth of anything with this website.  What I’m getting at is, if Jones used one of these sites to find information about me in order to rescue his Twitter account from oblivion, he should have done more research, and taken these sorts of listings with a major grain of salt, especially before actually calling one of those numbers.

Additionally, when I do not list a phone number as an official communications channel, I feel that calling me crosses a line somewhere.  Similarly, I do not list a postal address, and therefore I feel like if someone mailed me something unsolicited, that would cross a line as well.  If I list it, then by all means, use it, but if I don’t list it, that means that I do not want to be contacted that way.  I also freely admit that if not for the phone call to my parents’ number, you would never have heard of Jeremy Jones and his former @DMVFollowers Twitter account, at least not on account of me.

In any case, though, when I communicate back and decline to take action, i.e. when I say “no”, I really do mean “no”, and don’t appreciate it when people take “no” as an invitation to keep prodding until I acquiesce.  Especially when you steal my content and violate my licenses, I’m not particularly inclined to help bail you out of your own problem.