Sadly, the TAM audio is now offline. I recieved a cease and desist letter from the JREF lawyers, which due to contents you’ll shortly see, I’m going to go ahead and post it here.
EDIT: I wussed out and am not actually posting the letter.
In case you didn't make it through that gobbledegook, the lawyer referenced something I said in an email to someone not a part of the James Randi Educational Foundation. That someone was Derek from the podcast Skepticality, who asked me what the licensing details on my recordings were. (Podcasters are really careful about only using what the license allows them to in their shows.) I told Derek that I didn't technically have permission to record the lectures, and that he'd have to ask James Randi (who Derek was going to be calling anyways) whether it was all right to use on his show. I don't blame Derek at all, I'm sure he wasn't tattling, just trying to find out if it was OK to use the audio. I’m guessing it wasn't :)
In any case, I figured that since they're playing dirty by using emails not addressed to them as a scare tactic, that it'd be ok for me to post these letters not addressed to you.
Here's my reply:
Dear Michael F. Huber,
Being a staunch supporter of the JREF —and not wishing them any more grief or harm (whether perceived or otherwise)—I've removed the offending material.
It saddens me greatly that the JREF would choose to take legal action against someone who so obviously supports them both financially and in spirit and intent, when a simple email telling me they don’t want me distributing these files would have sufficed very nicely. I mean, obviously I'm a supporter, I paid over $300 to the JREF just to attend the meeting, let alone the $300+ I spent flying to Vegas. Heck, that alone ought to prove it; anyone who knows me knows I don't even get on planes, let alone go to that godforsaken city. Then there's the fact that I spent hours and hours of my time and money to help "spread the word" by helping people to hear the very important messages that the speakers wished others to hear.
How could that hurt the JREF? Isn't spreading the word about critical thinking the entire point of the JREF? Recording devices were not only NOT prohibited, they were extremely prevalent throughout the whole conference. Everywhere you looked you could see camcorders, cameras, laptops, digital recorders and other devices capable of recording. Is the problem that the JREF is afraid I will hurt the sales of the DVD? I'm sure not making any money off this as I'm sure you've seen, I don't even have banner ads on my site and if you actually listen to any of the audio, you'll see that it is of such poor quality that no one would dare trying to sell copies. Also, I'm willing to bet that they'll actually have more sales, as people who listened to the audio will want to see the stuff they missed because they couldn't see it. There was a some really great visual stuff.
Also, no matter what I jokingly said in the email you referenced -- you know, the one where I suggested that I "surreptitiously" recorded the speakers -- my recording gear was in plain sight on the table in front of me at all times. Bonus points to you for bringing up "eavesdropping" charges while referencing an email that wasn't addressed to anyone at the JREF in the first place. That takes class. While on the subject of that ill-gotten email: the context of what I said was that I told Derek (who is on speaking terms with James Randi) that since I didn’t have explicit permission to record the show, I was unable to assign a license to it, suggesting that he ask Randi himself if it was ok to use the audio on his radio program. If I were trying to be sneaky, do you think I would suggest that Derek bring the matter to Mr. Randi's attention?
As for those eavesdropping charges, I'm pretty sure that those don't apply to recording someone who is a) speaking into a microphone in public, b) surrounded by tons of people with visible recording equipment, and c) extremely passionate about spreading the word on the issues they're speaking about (unless, obviously, the issue they're passionately speaking about is unlawful recording, then there might be a problem..). I don't think I would have to worry too much about that, even if I weren't complying by removing the material, which I am.
In any case, I've done what you ask and hope that this won't affect my future dealings with the JREF in any negative way. I think they're a great organization, and I'd be very sad to be unable to pay membership fees to them in the future. I think I've made my case fairly clearly that no harm was intended and that I continue to support the work they do.
Oh also: seeing how part of your claim against me referenced an email conversation with someone uninvolved in this issue, I’m sure you won’t mind that I've posted both your letter and this reply to my website where other uninvolved people can read about it.
The author lives in Vancouver, Washington, USA with his girlfriend and a menagerie of cats, rats, fish, birds, guinea pigs and robots.
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