February 7, 2013
Two months ago, almost to the day, I pulled all of my virtual world instances and stopped all of my interactions with the Metaverse community. You are not going to believe what happened to bring this about.
On December 7th, I received a letter from a lawyer in Toronto, Ontario who was representing a software development firm in Toronto. The company was claiming two things; that I had infringed on their trademark by using the word "Excelsior" and that the Station infringed on the intellectual property they were developing for their own virtual world project. Their claim was that I had somehow gained unauthorized access to their systems, or was given the content from their systems, and was using their ideas and content to develop Excelsior Station. The letter went on to say that any claims that might be made against me would be dropped if I handed over all my files so they could remove all of thier content.
I overreacted and pulled everything without any word of explanation. I've been through a civil suit and I spent all those years in a law office, I know how fucked up and destructive a law suit can be. That was my concern. Created Worlds, SoftPaw Estates, everyone connected with my builds could possible be dragged in. With the resulting court expenses costing them so much that they go bankrupt. I can take anything that anyone hits me with, but I cannot tolerate anyone else getting hurt because I am being attacked.
To anyone that this action has let down, I apologize. And an apology is in order. As I said, I overreacted. If I had kept calm and dealt with this as I should have, and which I soon did, then any disappointment this has caused would not have happened.
Here's hard enough to believe that this could happen in the first place. The usual practice is to demand the removal of infringing content or trademark. But not this one. They were demanding my files, promising to return them to me with any infringing content removed by them. It was that or suffer the expense of traveling to and from Ontario, plus all those court costs. Hell, it was even worded as if they were doing me a favour!
But, I had the weekend to think it through and that next Monday morning, I called a lawyer. In fact, I called the lawyer I worked with for 10 years. Harry and I had worked very well together and we have a pretty solid friendship. He got things rolling and I went out to Vancouver to meet with him. And it was a very good meeting, too. Not just because of some preliminary results, but I got to visit with people I haven't seen in over eight years. After all, it was the start of the Holiday Season and things were going to move pretty slowly until January, so I took the time to relax and refresh myself, getting ready to deal with the stress that court brings.
It is at this point that I will tell you that I am not going to name any names. I'm not going to post pics of the letter or anything else that might identify them. This is on the advice of my lawyer and is to protect me from any further actions, such as getting sued for defamation. That would be all I'd need just then. Not only that, but since I had already withdrawn from the Metaverse, Harry recommended that I maintain that until this was settled.
So, why am I posting now? Well, settling this situation took one hell of a turn.
You see, Harry had set in motion the initial work while I was on my way to meet with him. Basically, gathering background information about the company and their lawyer, getting current with the legislation, searching case law, all the things I used to do when I worked there. And it wasn't long before things began to not add up.
First of all, no listing for the software firm could be found. No business registry, no phone book listing, nothing. A bit odd, but not all that unusual. I'm not sure about elsewhere, but in Canada, you can save costs by letting the government assign a number as the business name. After that, you can simply us "dba" to have a name for your business. "dba" stands for "doing business as". As a fictitious example, the result would be 123456789 LLC dba Acme Inc.
But then another very odd thing surfaced. The law firm representing the company didn't seem to exist either. And a law firm would be listed. How else are they going to get new clients if people can't find a phone number for them? And then the lawyer himself. His name is not on the Ontario Bar Association. That's when the proverbial alarm bells started ringing. You cannot practice law in Ontario without being a member of the Bar. Not in any province in Canada. And Harry was all over this.
That was in the first week of January. Since then, an investigation by the RCMP has been launched and charges of misrepresentation, fraud, criminal impersonation and about a dozen other charges have been laid against the "lawyer" who started this. Today I received the notarized documents regarding those charges as well as a letter from Harry advising me that I can start trying to restore everything, as well as letting all of you know what has happened.
Which raises a huge question. What now?
I've had a couple of weeks while waiting on the documents to think about this. And I don't know. I will be working on this site again, but with a big change. In the past, I have generally stuck with writing about AuroraSim and issues within the Metaverse. I'm going to expand that now. I've seen now that what goes on in the Real World has huge impacts on us, both as a community and as individuals. And I will be tweeting and commenting again, too.
I've also returned to the world of MMO gaming and hadn't realized how much I had missed it. So, I will be spending some time in those virtual worlds, slashing and slaying my way to victory. By the way, for anyone interested, you can find me in EVE Online, Fallen Earth, Star Trek Online and Star Wars - the Old Republic. Perhaps I'll blog a little about my adventures and mishaps in those worlds.
But its the Station I am truly undecided about. Do I seek to restore it to Created Worlds? Perhaps I should seek a new home for it, perhaps as its own VW? Or maybe completely rebuild it. I've seen that AuroraScape is up and running and that their hosting company, Zetamex, have AuroraSim based packages. Perhaps a 4,096 by 4,096 would be the way to go? Anybody have any ideas?
The important thing, though, is that I am no longer in a battle to protect my work. I can rejoin the community that I have come to love and return to enjoying all the wonderful people, things and ideas that it is brimming over with.