EFF Suit Blasts Web Prankster for Abusing DMCA

Michael Crook is a New York criminal justice student who this summer posed as a young woman in several adult-themed Craigslist ads, exchanged e-mails with several men who responded, and then posted the men’s addresses, employers on his Web site, “craigslist-perverts.com.” (The site has been taken down). Crook is considered a copycat of Jason Fortuny, who similarly this year posed as a woman on Craigslist then posted the responses online, to the great irritation of privacy advocates. But Crook took Fortuny’s “activism” a step further, even contacting one of the respondent’s wives and several of his work colleagues.

Crook dubs himself a “champion of copyright and DMCA” issues on his site, but now he’s got another title: Defendant.

On Wednesday, the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation slapped him with a suit (.pdf) accusing him of misusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The case arises not out of Crook’s Craigslist shenanigans, but from when he accused a Web site of misappropriating his image, which was taken from an interview Crook did with Fox News, without his permission. The site used the image in a very critical story about Crook.

“This is yet another case of someone intentionally misusing copyright law to try to shut down legitimate debate on an issue of public interest,” EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz said in the press release. “Crook certainly doesn’t own the copyright to the news footage Fox News does. Furthermore, a still shot of that footage, used as part of a commentary on the controversy surrounding him, is clearly a fair use. It’s hypocritical for such an outspoken figure like Crook to attack other speakers just because they disagree with him.”

In his defense, Crook (who once proudly ran the official fan club for the Dutch techno band “2 Unlimited,” responsible for the 1992 jock jam, “Get Ready for This”) says the EFF lawsuit is “frivilous (sic), and without merit.”

The EFF’s lawyers may have an interesting fight in store. Crook’s Web site boldly proclaims: “I have been known to make school board presidents squirm at school board meetings as early as the fourth grade.”

[Update: After we put this up, BoingBoing did another great post detailing the wacky legal misadventures of young Mr. Crook. It’s well worth a read.]

Jessie Seyfer

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