“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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In the San Francisco Bay Area? Celebrate free speech and the EFF: Free Speech Ain't Free!

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 guy just doesn’t know when to quit, does he? The whole time I was reading this, I was thinking, “what a tool”, and then the first post I read identifies him the same way. Apparently, the universal concensus is, “this guy is a real freakin’ tool”. Wow…….

    As to whether he is gay or not, who cares? That has no bearing on his public persona. What he IS, is an attention whore. The only way that he can feel better about his own pathetic life is to bag on other people and try to humiliate them in front of others. We all knew people like this in high school, the difference being that they all grew out of it, where as this guy did not.

    It almost makes me want to feel sorry for him…….nah, the hell with him.

  2. Hmmm, so Crook , without permission, took control of an internet account (ofhis girlfriend/boyfriend) and send out DMCA notices in the name of a wife that does not exist? This guy could be in more trouble than he could imagine. Since his wifes name is (was) Beth, but he claims it was Kayla that sent the DMCA notices.

    Oh well, not the first time he claimed to be his own wife/girlfriend/lover/supporter.(all the same person.) I am sure that it will happen again… Oh how many holes there are, that can be poked in his stories… He needs a publicist just to help him keep them straight (no pun intended.)

  3. Hi, Jose(Michael). Give it up. When you have to pad the comment areas to stir up (phony) controversy about yourself, your 15 minutes are over.

  4. I am wondering..when someone does send a DMCA notice, doesn’t the person have to be real and prove proper ID on who he/she is, if questioned?

    It has been brought to my attention that just last January, someone recieved a DMCA notice on a personal photo of Crook.Further viewing said DMCA notice the email is to a gmail account that Crook has used for himself and as other names claiming to know him, yet the signature was signed Scott Delaney.

    BTW-The link that goes to said photo is to the one nekked photo Crook sent out in the past to Flawfan using his old eastcoastdude2004 yahoo account. That same photo crook swore up and down was a fake. So the question is, if that photo is a fake and it IS NOT Crooks property,why was Crook sending out DMCA notices on it?!

    Another past one that was sent out, the name was Kayla, claining to be Crooks wife (which was a lie).Wouldn’t this fall under false statements even though it is Crook himself sending them out?

    Maybe we should start a list on the names he has used on the DMCA sends so others will know if it is legit or not.

  5. Been around long following Crook, Emily? I didn’t think so. Might want to run that theory by M.Fox. I have a few of my own… In fact, your comments pretty much solidified it for me.

  6. If I have created an enemy where I might have had an ally, then I mourn my loss. Michael Crook has more aliases than Heinz has varieties, so I will continue to be cautious.

  7. So Michael Crook (what an appropriate last name) gets pwned by everyone* else on the internt. Have to admit that originally had only followed the story as an offshoot to the Jason Fortuny (there’s another androgynous asshole) CL scam but have to admit that the Michael Crook/10 Zen Monkeys saga is far more ammusing and thrilled that Jeff took this pantie waste of a human to task. More thrilled with the outcome!

    *poetic license, I’m sure there are some other wankers out there who are part of Crook’s fan club

  8. I first learned of the guy while serving on a carrier in the gulf around the time of his FOX appearance. The guy is just scamming for money. What was really annoying is that he took money from vets to buy his forsakethetroops site and he just proceeded to turn around and make another site. I have no problem with people with unpopular views, hell I spent 2 years in a war I didn’t support, but what is so irritating about the guy is he’s like a 5 year old screaming swear words in a church. He doesn’t frame his opinions in any meaningful fashion. Really pathetic are his youtube videos that end with him begging people to go to his site yet he silents the opinions on his site so people immediately stop going there. If he”s going to say crap to piss people off and generate buzz about his sites, he should allow people to vent. He doesn’t seem to understand how to really run a site pass fluff. He’s a sad guy that would never generate a story except for the internet and Fox News.

  9. publish his address, not nessarily here on this thread but spread it around like he does anomously elsewhere.

  10. Wow, what a lot of wasted energy. Here we have a national AG replacing attorneys who don’t toe the Party line, and this limp little blog is getting its rocks off over . . . what, exactly? Just shows the priorities of the Rabid Right.

  11. how DARE you commit the doublecrime of questioning the integrity of our beloved administration AND insulting this limp little blog! you are surely going to a rung of hell where the red-eyed overlords shall nail your scrotum to a plank and yank your innards out through your pupenschute.

  12. I pray that Crook gets what he deserves. Every vet who put his or her life on the line fo this country and for Crook’s freedoms, in my opinion, has the right to smack him in his fucking face. In my opinion, every person that lost loved ones in the holocaust has the right to spit in his ugly face. He should be in a mental hospital. Where is a crazy, heavily armed, vietnam vet when you really need one? I hope that one day I get the chance to take a piss on his grave.

  13. Want to know what is really funny. Grown men acting like children. Oh, let me take that back. Grown.. prideful…arrogant men acting like children.

    There’s the power of my free speech!

  14. This won’t be the last spurious action before the US Courts.
    The “Litigation happy” USA will see to that.*
    Which will, in time, kill the “Social Networking” aspects of Web 2.0

    * The daytime TV in the USA has how many “Court” shows? where people are suing for damages? ( after the production company makes sure it isn’t completely spurious )
    SCO started the ball rolling with their lawsuit activities, we all know how foolish SCO is, why would we expect any single person to be any smarter?

  15. “… I hope he dies by violence!!!” LOL, that’s great! I’m in the Army and I hope he dies at the hands of the AL Qeda!!! Or even Suni Rebels!!! What an Ass Monkey! He’s an insincere sad little person and makes me sad that I chose to fight for his rights to be stupid, but that’s what we do as soldiers. We defend the Freedom to be Stupid, sometimes.

  16. crook is a scumbag for everything that hes ever said he wants to talk so much shit but then hes a lil bitch and appoligized and man he is one ugly mother fucker

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