“Dear Internet, I’m Sorry”


Crook on Fox News

Even while delivering a video apology "to all bloggers, webmasters and other individuals" as part of a settlement agreement with 10 Zen Monkeys, he somehow seems determined to be the most hated man on the internet — if he could just get people to stop ignoring him. (You'll find that video further down on the page.)

But, let's back up a bit first...
I'm writing a new story for 10zen tonight.

Dana Plato?

Nah, the piece is about that Michael Crook guy.

That's how it started last September. We'd already written about a Seattle prankster named Jason Fortuny, who'd pretended to be a woman on Craig's List and then published horny male respondents' private info on the internet. In the fateful 27th comment on that story, a new site popped onto our radar.
He's inspired a website that exposes people nationwide — craigslist-perverts.org

That web site was registered to Michael Crook, and to this day I'm convinced Crook himself left the comment, hoping to skim off some of the attention. Sure enough, the site showed that Crook had duplicated Fortuny's stunt; he'd posted a fake ad on Craig's List pretending to be a young woman seeking sex in Syracuse, New York. But no one even noticed; according to Crook's own blog, he only got a few dozen responses. He tried posting more fake ads in more cities — Las Vegas, Dayton, South Jersey, Kansas City, and Anchorage — and created a web site with the results.



We noticed, but we weren't impressed. The original title for our article about Crook was "wannabe asshole," although we later changed it to In the Company of Jerkoffs, calling Crook "another sad member of the 'griefer community'... not only pathetic, but a pathetic copycat."
As an after-thought, I'd sent Jeff Diehl, our editor, a screenshot from Crook's appearance on Fox News to accompany the story. ("I think the bad hair and stiff tie and collar say a lot about the guy...")

We knew Crook wouldn't like it — but that's life on the internet. (I'm sure the men who answered his fake Craig's List ad didn't like it when he called them at work, either.) Life continued at our up and coming webzine — our next story questioned the press coverage about Willie Nelson's September arrest for possession of mushrooms. And then something weird happened...

Our internet service provider got a nasty email from Michael Crook. Crook wanted the embarrassing picture taken down, and to make that happen, he was pretending he had a copyright over the screenshot from Fox News, citing the "Digital Millenium Copyright Act" (or DMCA). I suggested a new headline for Jeff. "Syracuse jerk uses heavy-handed DMCA mumbo-jumbo to try to intimidate web pages he doesn't like."

We were clear that Crook had no legal claim. But his amateurish legalese spooked our spineless (pre-Laughing Squid) ISP, who asked Jeff to remove the image anyways. Jeff knew there was something wrong. In the world we live in, internet services can absolve themselves from future legal liability — if they quickly remove the suspect material. This means if someone wants an embarrassing picture taken down, simply masquerading as its copyright holder can be enough. So Michael Crook was pretending he owned a copyright on someone else's picture of his face.



Crook's legal interpretation was as laughable as the Batman comic book where the Joker claimed a copyright on a fish that looked like him.

But deep within the DMCA law is a counter-provision — 512(f), which states that misrepresenting yourself as a copyright owner has consequences. Any damage caused by harmful misrepresentation must be reimbursed. In 2004 the Electronic Frontier Foundation won a six-figure award from Diebold Election Systems, who had claimed a "copyright" on embarrassing internal memos which were published online. So not only was Jeff Diehl legally free to publish Crook's picture; Crook was in violation of the law for pretending he owned a copyright.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation now agreed to represent us. Crook hadn't just issued a copyright notice to 10 Zen Monkeys; he'd sent them to other web sites, again pretending to own the copyright on Fox News' image, to trick the sites into taking his picture down. (There were even cases where he served DMCA notices to websites that published Fair Use quotes from his blog.) Crook was a serial abuser of the copyright law — and so far his misuse of it had been rewarded every time. Some webmasters and bloggers obeyed the takedown notices without considering the counter-claim process, to avoid having to give Crook their identifying information — which he'd publicly demonstrated he enjoyed using maliciously.



But it was a mistake to try his stunt anywhere near Silicon Valley, where people closely follow how technology is evolving, and care deeply about protecting free speech online. Local web stars cheered on the lawsuit at sites like BoingBoing and Valleywag (where Nick Douglas wrote, "This Emo Kid is Getting Sued," and later begged Crook for a DMCA takedown notice of his own — which he got and displayed proudly). Someone had finally noticed Michael Crook — but for all the wrong reasons. Web sites were now re-posting even more copies of the picture he hated.

Crook tried hiding from the delivery of the legal documents — then later blustered on his web site that he'd successfully re-structured his business holdings to make it hard to collect. In a futile go-for-broke strategy, he then sent even more bogus DMCA notices — to other web sites which were reporting on his original bogus copyright notice. "I wonder if this is another one of his stunts for 'bad attention,'" I asked Jeff. "Everyone online hates the DMCA; maybe he's deliberately abusing it, the way Andy Kaufman used to bait professional wrestling fans."



For a brief moment it was Michael Crook versus the internet — until Michael Crook lost in a blow-out. Ignoring Crook's amateurish legal posturing, Fark.com users created over 50 versions of the supposedly-forbidden photo, photoshopping Crook's face into even more embarrassing poses. Someone tracked down Crook's high school yearbook photos (which, ironically, ended up being mocked in the blog of the original Craigs List prankster, Jason Fortuny.) Someone even uploaded the photo into the virtual gaming world Second Life. (Crook then tried unsuccessfully to issue a DMCA notice against a photo of that photo.) The ongoing mockery became a kind of online seminar, reminding web surfers to stand up to copyright law abusers, and to never pay attention to the Michael Crooks of the world.

In November, web writer Tucker Max called out Crook for an online debate. Crook accepted — though he only made three short posts, apparently caught off guard when Max refused to take Crook's weird positions seriously and instead attacked Crook himself. "You are desperate for attention," Max wrote, "and the ability to feel something, anything, you are willing to be the most ridiculed, hated person on the internet. Look at yourself dude. Look at your life." Max even claims he used his contacts as a law school graduate to guarantee that Crook, who says he wants to one day be a lawyer, will never pass the bar.

But abusing copyright law was only Crook's latest attempt at provoking attention. He'd previously claimed to hate the military, Jews, gays, immigrants, non-whites and children. Max noted that Crook tried to join the army, and had been rejected; and that Child Protective Services had taken his children away. Were Crook's attacks just a misguided lashing out over his own bitter failures?

The online world was faced with the griefer paradox: that griefers want bad attention, and the only real answer is ignoring them. Behind the scenes, the EFF was working to establish the only true point of the case — that web sites didn't have to buckle in the face of bogus copyright threats, and that abusing the DMCA would bring consequences.



Because Crook proved himself to be legally indigent, and was representing himself in an incompetent way that would likely have lessened the impact of an official judgment, it was decided that a settlement agreement could accomplish just as much, possibly more. Crook eventually signed such an agreement. It requires him to 1) take a course on copyright law basics; 2) never again file any cease and desist notices concerning the image of him on Fox News; 3) withdraw each and every DMCA notice he served regarding the image; 4) refrain from filing any DMCA notices for 5 years unless the material in question is personally authored, photographed or originated by him; 5) include in any DMCA notice during that 5 year period, URLs pointing to the EFF's web page summarizing this case; 6) turn over ownership of any domain names to Jeff Diehl and 10 Zen Monkeys if he is caught violating any of the terms of the agreement.

And, finally, he had to formally apologize to those he harassed. In video. Here now, is that video:




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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.


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See also:
EFF's Jason Schultz Explains the Crook Case
EFF's Diehl v. Crook page
Settlement Agreement
In the Company of Jerkoffs
The Case Against Crook
Crooks of the World Hurt Copyright, Free Speech
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued

77 thoughts to ““Dear Internet, I’m Sorry””

  1. This is also the same guy, that on our radio show, claimed that he A) Raped an underage woman and B) impregnated her, which he had a little girl, who he does not see, nor care about. He further went on to exclaim what he did was not wrong, and he would never be caught, and since of course this was done on a live radio show, we have it recorded, and available to anyone who wants it. http://www.nhbradio.com and just ask us, we’d be happy to give it to anyone, just to further prove how much of a tool this guy is.

  2. “Who knew you can’t control your own image?”
    Everyone but Crook, I guess. I think the settlement he received was much less harsh than the punishment he deserved, and he seems less than sincere in the video, but such is life.

  3. What an asshole. I’m so glad that he agreed to this settlement. This has been an interesting case to follow. Some day, with luck, Crook will get hit by a Mack truck.

  4. yeah, I like how he still tries to play tough on his site- like he won or something. Even his video: “ooh, I didn’t know”. Deihl got everything he wanted from this case- just another video for the internet community to see that this guy loses. every. time.

  5. Assuming the statute of limitations has run out for the rape, he might never get legally caught. But having the whole world know that you’re a rapist? That’s good enough for me.

  6. You know, have a sense of humor, laugh about it. Blast 10 Zen Monkeys on your own site. Post a retort. Now you have not only humiliated you several more times over, but they OWN a video of you, and everyone on the internet thinks you are a huge asshat. You will never live this down. Assuming anything else I read about you is true, you are a sick sad little man.

    And people on craigslist want to take dumps on your chest.

    Sick.

  7. While watching the video, I began wondering if he purposely shaved his face except juuust under his nose, leaving him with a **ahem** “Chaplin” mustache.

  8. Sometimes, the good guys do win.

    And for the record, I didn’t use my contacts to make sure he didn’t pass the bar–the kid violated all sorts of ethics guidelines himself. I just promised to make sure the right people knew this when he does try to pass the bar. It’s all in the call out thread.

  9. Hi, I’m a Fag! Even though I’m hated by over half the educated world because I love someone. Those around me respect me because of my ethics. Its sad to say Mr. Crook still has more rights than I do.

  10. “Some day, with luck, Crook will get hit by a Mack truck.”

    do people really just say things like this and not understand how horrifying it is?

    let’s play a little game of “paraphrase”

    “take down my picture by law!”

    “that’s such a rude thing to do I HOPE HE DIES BY VIOLENCE”

  11. I see. So, Once again I am denied from participating in society. Thank You for making that so obvious. All your talk about freedom of speech was a bunch of crap!

  12. Both sides are pathetic.
    Just shows how people use the internet as a substitute for real life, and waste loads of time on it, working out their neuroses in public.
    Unfortunately, the internet has finally given a voice to obsessive/compulsive computer geeks, who channel the frustration of a lack of quality pussy, into trying to destroy each other.
    You’re both sad examples of the downward spiral of the human condition.

  13. Good work guys, really. The DMCA is a real pain in the behind and the more people point out the flaws in it the better.

    The only thing I’m worried about is that they won’t repeal it but replace it with an ‘improved version’…

    best regards,

    Jacques

  14. Theres nothing wrong with surprise sex, or ‘rape’ as it is unfortunately called. That underage woman experienced the joys of sex without the trouble of finding a boyfriend- i think every woman wishes she would be so lucky. Not that I’m defending this failure’s trolling attempt- he fails it in a way that many of us did not consider possible.

  15. Surpise sex is fun for both parties and always justified. That young woman got to enjoy the pleasures of sex without the trouble of finding a bofriend… I think we all wish we could be so lucky. Not that I’m defending this failure’s trolling attempt- he fails in a way that many of us did not consider possible.

  16. From everything I’ve read so far, it sounds to me like this guy might be a compulsive liar.

    If that were true, then it’s not his fault per se that he’s making all these outrageous claims and trying to get attention. That’s just what happens with this type of illness.

    He brings up some good points in this video, namely about being able to control your own image– this is a serious issue that isn’t satisfactorily addressed under existing copyright, IMHO.

    By making this into such a big deal, you’re just encouraging him – as you yourself said, just ignore him. You’ve practically turned him into some sort of goliath or dark hero. Oooooh no! He submitted a false copyright takedown notice– how horrible. He’s not the satan against free speech for goodness’ sake.

    The guy just wanted a picture of himself taken down. By ridiculing him and reposting it to such an extent, I think you’re actually damaging the plight of the individual on the Internet. Do you really want to encourage the idea that individuals cannot control their own image on the Internet? Regardless of the semantics of the situation, I don’t think it’s a great idea in our age of copyright brouhahas to be uniting together to collectively shit on an individual that just wanted his picture taken off. Who gives a fark if he seems like he’s an asshat? He’s just some guy. We should be uniting against the big corporations when they aim to take unreasonable control over their copyrights over images of us. I don’t see how this issue hasn’t strengthened the position of big companies with respect to their ability to control your image.

    When you realised the takedown notice was false, you shoulda just sent an FOD letter and shut up about it. Why is this so fricking newsworthy? I just don’t get it. This doesn’t seem like the right issue to make a stand on with respect to free speech.

  17. Did you release the video under Creative Commons, since the rights were assigned to you?

    Seems like that would be poetic justice.

  18. He’s right in his fox video, soldiers didnt give us our rights.

    Soldiers didnt pen the constitution.

    Soldiers didnt divise the concepts of rights.

    Politicians and statesmen did.

    Soldiers are a tool, soldiers historically fight for whomever will pay them.

    To say soldiers gave rights is a fundemental misunderstanding of a soldier’s role in a society, historically, and in the USA.

    Soldiers do what they’re told.

  19. Thanks, Michael Crook, for having the inspiration or just dumb luck to be simultaneously both unbelievably irritating AND unbelievably incompetent, and thereby providing us all with

    a kind of online seminar, reminding web surfers to stand up to copyright law abusers, and to never pay attention to the Michael Crooks of the world.

    .
    Better than any lawyer, Michael Crook, either through astonishing levels of social retardation or Kaufmannesque pretense, has given us yet another opportunity to let us know that just as ‘soldiers’ didn’t give us our rights, neither do those same rights depend on his whims.
    Cheers!

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  21. @Pearlcaster,
    Considering Michael Crook’s online career arc, his “protecting my identity” argument is IMPOSSIBLE to take seriously. 10Zen is going overboard with this, but Crook isn’t in a million years worth defending. Your sympathy and armchair psychiatry are too good for this Fortuny wannabe.

  22. Did he say the girl was underage? And he lives in Syracuse, NY, close to the Canadian border?

    I’m wondering because I don’t believe there is a statute of limitations on underage sexual assault in Canada. You can charge the perpetrator 50 years in the future.

    Course, it’s likely just more attention-whoring.

  23. He must strive for some kind of internet celebrity and/or notoriety because he can’t make it in the real world with that odd voice and misshapened head.

    Does anybody know if someone laid down a severe boot-stomping on his face at some point? If so, I feel badly that he may have paid good money for such a poor job of reconstructive surgery. If not, then I feel badly for what appears to be the swelling of his brain through the top of the left side of his skull which may likely be causing his erratic behaviour.

    Poor guy.

  24. In response to this: “He brings up some good points in this video, namely about being able to control your own image” this is a serious issue that isn’t satisfactorily addressed under existing copyright, IMHO.”
    I have to say: “If he didn’t want his image used, he should have stayed off of TV. Two things happened when he appeared on TV. 1, he gave the right to use his image to the TV network to use as they decide. 2, he made himself a public figure.

  25. He also, by any reasonable ethical standard, declared himself fair game when he started randomly fucking with strangers and violating their privacy on his “Craigslist perverts” website. He’s not “making a point.” He’s just throwing his food on the floor and then crying because it’s too dirty to eat. There’s a difference between a gadfly and a piece of shit.

  26. Despite the apology, he’s posted an off-the-record video of himself that shows he’s not learned his lesson, and he’s started yet another website of misinformation for it.

  27. I actually feel a little sorry for this guy. He was attention seeking and it backfired. I also feel a bit sorry for him since he actually believed that he had the rights he claimed according to DMCA. Well guess he learnt his lesson.

  28. I am happy for Jeff and 10 Zen Monkeys for getting a victorious judgment against Michael Crook. Unfortunately, the ruling seems to be on the “Fox News” picture, not the one that I had on my blog. My internet provider was sent two DCMA complaints month’s apart, one for posting information about him and one for posting the picture. My web site was shut down twice. Crook and his (wife) Kayla kept up the intimidation by contacting my advertisers with a claim that it would not be in their best interest to be associated with my web site. Several advertisers asked me to drop their links to them.

    I also contacted the EFF, without a response of any real value.

  29. I’m sure you’re done with the Michael Crook story, but I thought I’d share this gem.

    I posted on his forum what I thought was a decent expression of free speech based on his second Youtube video where he says that the owner of 10zenmonkeys has mental health issues and other questionable comments.

    I went back to check on the flood of comments I’m sure my expression would bring and found that I was permabanned. The reason?

    “Dissenting opinion against he who is Michael Crook”

    Yeah. He’s totally not ready for forgiveness.

  30. Congratulations, Jeff and the EFF! Your punishment of Crook hurt him in ways he will never admit. You don’t have to look too far between the lines to see he is thoroughly pwned. One of his shortcomings is his transparency. You know when he’s lying because he tells the lie and then immediately denies it.

    Andrew preston, I’ve been permanently banned from his site for pointing out some of his scams. Previous to that, he edited my comments to support his views. Oh well, I have an opinion piece on my blog that he can’t change.

  31. Justice is served! Big ups to Jeff Diehl and the EFF for seeing this through this end. The video is a wonderful touch. This guy looks completely pained to have to make this apology video. I mean, you could almost hear his internal organs liquefying as he speaks into the camera. I love it!

    I personally do not accept his apology. Although I didn’t receive a DCMA notice from him for posting his picture on my blog, I was appalled and insulted by his DCMA-happy behavior even before I read the racist, anti-Semetic, and homophobic rants on his website.

    Now, if we could only light some torches, smoke him out of his rathole, and put him out of his misery the world would be a better place. However, this is a good start.

  32. I thank this website and Emily for exposing this guy as to who he really is.

    What’s sad is that he spends so much time blasting homosexuals, yet he goes and does this on a weekly basis:

    http://syracuse.craigslist.org/cas/296073755.html

    I’m ashamed to say I met him on Craigslist and we had some encounters. He seemed like a nice, normal guy, and then I read an article about him in the local paper today and decided to Google. Boy am I glad I learned the truth.

    I wish he wouldn’t hide his true preference though…it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

  33. For the record, “I Didn’t Know” above is our old buddy Michael Crook. He sent me the same message using the sock puppet “Dave”. One problem, he used the same gmail account that he sent all the fraudulent DMCA notices with. I have a comment on my blog today about it.

  34. Emily hasn’t read her e-mail.

    This was already explained to her. Mike used my e-mail account, with and apparently a few times without my consent to send these DMCA notice things.

    That said, there is proof on the internet of what I am saying, and I am certain it will make its way here shortly….being his boyfriend, (not for much longer, but he doesn’t know that) I have pics that prove he’s not as straight as he claims….so, Emily, I’m afraid, fails to check facts prior to posting them.

    It’s okay, though..the truth is coming out, so to speak.

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