About two years ago I started writing on a set of SF stories of which none have finished yet.
Today I watched a brief video here on the new bill they try to pass in the US.
The line in the video that triggered me is this at 4 minutes in the video:
Ordinary users can go to jail for five years for posting any copyrighted work – even just singing a pop song
Europe, under IP dictatorship
One of the main topics is Copyright, violation of human rights in the name of copyright and how the near future of Europe is crippled by the US lobby for copyright protection.
The bottom line is: anything not produced within the walled garden of copyright holders is sued to death and people live in a society where you – as a citizen – are no longer safe.
One of the protogonists (Lawgirl for now) is a lawyer in Europe, who’s job is just that: sue the crap out of companies. From being a lawyer I decided later – after writing to have her be a project manager for the lawyers who sue the shit out of you when you “infringe” copyright.
Her role and the role of her story is to plunge you head first and fast forward through future history.
Elements in the story
Elements used in the story are:
- Any creative kind of work and any reproduction of creative work in the public space can lead to a lawsuit or a simple letter.
- In most cases, for most people, the simple letter is used, offering a bailout of a substantial amount of money (let’s say 800 euro) or you being sued for infringements with possible costs on your side – if the other party wins – over (again let’s say at least) 4000 euro: the cost of their lawyer and the lawsuit itself
- Any independent creative company is sued to death. Simply because whatever they create is a derived work of something else of which they hold no copyright
- Any company holding any copyright is suing the shit out of any other company holding other copyrights until some balance is reached: the new type of cold war
Since the future in the US did not decide to wait for my set of stories to be finished, I decided to put the first two parts of one of the main stories online, here.
Cold War paranoia-times return
One of the fears I use and work out in this story is the one where the US will get the European Union to implement their bullshit as well. One of the possible results is the kind of society where you can get arrested, put into jail or simply become bankrupted simply because you whistled a song. The grim kind of paranoia, fearloaded world we already saw in 1984 and any story based on the fear in the time of the Cold War between the USSR and the United States of America.
Rough first draft
It is a rough unedited first draft of about 8.000 words, written in a non-stop flow on March 27 so you will find stuff I would have normally have removed or re-written in later drafts.
As I did not- and do not have time for that, you will have to do with whatever came out that day. Just skip the crappy parts I would say.
Anyway: have fun.
Limiter – the lawgirl’s story
(CL) Garbage Only, March 27, 2011
I was eight when I saw a man gesturing empty handed under the red brick arch of the de Galle metro station. He was like the drunkards you sometimes saw: brains so damaged that ghosts from memories and hallucinations merged into the reality they perceived. The main difference was that this man was carefully groomed and dressed in Armani.
My father just shrugged when I looked up passed his arm, tugging my hand in the gesture.
That year more and more people followed, until it became commonplace.
The shrug my father gave was one of: “Yeah, whatever”. His job was to serve people in one of the little cafes in the center of Paris. His dream once was to become an engineer, but his determination and discipline never reached the levels where he could make that breakthrough. He had seen the salespeople and businesspeople before, on the terraces and streets, talking in thin air empty handed.
That year many things died. Mobile phones. Creative freedom. The last shards of opportunity for my father to do what he had studied for. Other things found a solid inception: the new copyright laws, new companies specializing in the persecution of people, artists and companies suspect of copyright- and patent infringement.
Other things got heavily damaged. The European Union. Socialism. Political tolerance. Personal freedom.
That year was the year of the third financial crunch in twenty years, counted from the year 2000 and it tore the things that made the European community a place of freedom to pieces.
It lasted one more year before the whole of Europe sold its soul to the United States.
My mother worked at a law firm at that time. She was one of the interns doing all the basic paperwork like basic contracts, requests for [law suits] and so on. The payment she received was about ten euro per hour at that time. Work for which the client would be charged between 120 to 160 euro.
It was her who told me that the age of creativity was dead and if I wanted to go anywhere in life in Europe, I should study law. And so I did.
I: “liked computers” as my teacher stated in my school report at that time. Where other kids went outside to play I could spend hours creating stuff: 3D worlds, drawings, fantasy creatures, dinosaurs, code, software driving my Lego. It was more important to me than the meaningless social games my peers played: “Who is the most popular?” “Who has the most friends online?” “Who got most photos voted up this week?” “Who got mentioned on the front page?” of some social network.
It was also something I avoided.
My mother told me six things, which she then printed out for me:
- Never expose your real identity online
- Never trust anyone
- Never download anything
- Never put any of your creations online
- Always shield yourself
- Build a dossier
Underneath that list were two pictures of two kids. One was Jonas Briel, from England who was sued for copyright infringement for putting a self-made drawing of Pikachu on his facebook account. The other was the twelve years old Catharine Evens who was kidnapped and found dead seven days later, her body ravaged and cut up by the rapist that had used all the data he had found on her to build up a trust relationship that had made her as easy to pluck as ripe fruit from a tree. The rapist was never found.
I found these two kids when I was preparing a presentation for school. The title was: “Why you should not be on a social network” and was mainly meant to scare the piss out of my peers, who I thought to be morons.
It got me voted: “Most weird kid in the class” with a crappy photo of me underneath. It drew the attention of an eighteen year old guy I had never seen before, who suddenly approached me because “he could see I was a lonely” and “he had been a lonely kid too”. I made a photo of his face and marked it: “bad” in the cloud before he could turn away and that was the last I saw of him. If anything would happen to me, my personal data cloud would reveal his face and the data and time we had first met. Something a child rapist does not hunger for.
When I did some research on him afterward, based on face-recognition, I found some interesting stuff on him. Not incriminating, but enough to mark him as a suspect.
While I grew older, the stronghold of right wing politics grew. The US imported more laws to Europe. European companies yielded one by one under the increasing financial pressure of patent infringement lawsuits. The church clawed its way back out of the grave to toxicate the cities it had lost grip on for decades. Public schools lost more and more funding. Private schools became unaccessable for kids of parents who had normal jobs. The devil and witchcraft entered culture again as something “real” instead of the stuff that was amusing as a disposable concept for a movie.
Via new laws VPNs and encrypted connections became illegal, unless they were provided by “trusted partners” who were companies that willfully granted full access to all their data and all their users in audits made by the US government.
When I was thirteen, the Internet was no longer a place where you could create your own thing. Schooling was something you did yourself, as teachers were in most cases clueless people who failed in any other account.
When I was fifteen, I knew I liked girls more than boys. I had tried boys first, but never had felt that excited as when I kissed my first girl. It was almost an accident as we were both still high on some kind of drug and wasted in the night, walking home from a party at a friends place. Our holding hands subletly had become soft squeezing while walking and from that we started the kissing.
It was like I had sniffed another load of PPHG, which was the shit at that time, but than induced by my body itself, touching everything in me with this incredible tingle of sensuality.
It never went further than that with her. But something that had been a vague longing I had denied for a long time now had become a hunger, a craving. I wanted to suck pussy. I wanted to be sucked. I wanted to touch the soft skin of girls, bury my fingers deep inside of them, make them come over and over again, make myself come. It did not take me long before I started cruising the places where gay- and bi-sexual girls came and the first two years I was on a high of scoring girl after girl after girl. It was like being in love with everyone and nobody in particular.
When I was sixteen, I met the woman who changed everything that was me.
It was when autumn changed the light that fell through the yellow and orange leaves of the trees in the square of San Pompidou. It was after school when she approached me.
“I am happy to see you here,” she said.
I gestured to clarify that our conversation would be recorded, something that had slowly found its way into social interactions in the past years, and she nodded.
“Stop pretending you are someone else,” she said with that simple expression that I only know from my own people, an expression of a very subtle shrug that is killed almost before it is started and a facial expression that is almost like a fools mask, used to mock when used in a stronger form.
It made her message short and clear. It made clear that it was an observation and not a judgment.
Instead of switching in defense, I sat back and let her words sink in.
She lit a cigarette.
“If you become like the other girls, you will deny your smarts and you will build a very dull and boring life. With whatever you do, you will reach your limit at 25. After that it is just waiting for your kids to grow up, your careerline to flatten out and waiting for your own death.”
She blew smoke over the empty square.
“Take risks. Leave this piss ass village. Go to Paris. Travel Europe.”
She pointed at me with her cigarette between her fingers.
“Write that down: Take risks, go to Paris, travel Europe. Add Berlin, London, New York and Amsterdam. Here is why: you are different. You are a creative. In another time you would have been a painter or a writer. In this time you are either an employee of Disney or sued for copyright infringement. Both will kill you. ”
I wrote it down: risks, Paris, Europe, Berlin, Amsterdam.
I had never seen her as serious as that moment. It was like one facade had slid away and another face had come out from underneath.
She was short, one meter and fifty centimeters, fifty seven years old. She was called: “the weirdo” as she never conformed to whatever was displayed in- or done by the other teachers. Her classes included biology and physics. Once she was involved in several start-ups and done some impressive crazy things, but the crunch in 2017 had ended that. And shortly after that her father fell ill, what had drawn her back here.
So: yeah, I listened. And I wrote down.
“What is it that you want to do?” she asked when I opened my eyes.
“Law,” I said.
“Law,” she repeated and smiled as she tracked my data. “Like your mother.”
“Not exactly,” I said.
My mother worked for a new firm since three years, located between Paris and this little piss ass village. Trying to become a partner as is the usual usual in many firms.
“Not in a firm,” I said.
“Wise,” she said. “Why law?”
“As you said: being creative makes you end up at Disney or being sued for copyright infringement.”
“And I decided that it is better to be on the side that holds power.”
“You really believe that,” she said. It was not a question.
I nodded and stuck my hand out. Silently she offered me another cigarette. I lit it.
We smoked in silence.
“My father never really made a good choice for himself,” I said after killing my cigarette, “and is still waiting people coffee. My mother will have to waste her evenings and weekends for cases that are shit and bullshit for another ten years. And if she did not burn out by then, she might become a partner.”
“I do not know yet. I have not found my niche yet.”
“Go to Africa too,” she said. “There is some fascinating shit going on there.”
And – after seeing Paris, Amsterdam and London – so I did.
Where Europe sold everything they could sell to save whatever was left after the big sellout before that, Africa went through the black hole and emerged in a completely new universe.
What happened was China. What happened was Nigeria.
Since the 1990’s China had slowly been building up influence in Africa, establishing trade routes, buying land, buying governments, putting down plants and R&D centers, getting access to natural resources like oil and gas. Getting access to the biggest source of ready-to-harvest solar energy on earth: the Sahara.
Unfortunately for China, China collapsed. Or lapsed.
Patiently waiting for any opportunity, the dark side of Nigeria took over. Trafficking drugs, playing global rip-off schemes for decades – including credit card fraud, the hyping and harvesting of penny-stocks a lot of money and power was available in the hand of a handful of very powerful and ruthless clans and families.
With all the riches and all the power available on native soil, these families stretched out and absorbed what could be absorbed. And started to step up their game.
With a global market paralyzed by the third credit crunch, anyone who would enter now with something truly new could become the next Shell, Unilever, IBM, Microsoft, Google. Owning a market with legal companies could engross more reach, profit and power than drugs or credit card fraud.
Ripping off patents that were lying dormant in public vaults, unhindered by any form of law enforcement and with claws even deeper into any type of trade, lobby and criminal organizations they started moving technologies beyond the artificial limits that were in place.
People died. Judges, juries, political men, military advisors. In their home lands. In their home towns. Assassinated on the street, killed at home, overdosed on drugs, murders covered up as suicides. Others “more lucky” only lost credibility by dirt from the past washing up in the present, or were pressured through their peers. And even when there was nothing: with everything open on social networks, it is not hard to doctor profiles and inject data, material, footage that is incriminating. Like: key people showing up in home-made child porn videos. Associations with criminals, whores and illegal activities.
The bottom line message was: “Piss off now, or you will regret it tomorrow”.
On the surface, Nigeria remained to be a democracy.
This was two years ago. People slowly learned their lessons. You can not fight death itself. No actions were taken.
It was not in my intention to go to Nigeria. But at that point in time it was the most stable country in Africa. And stuff was happening there.
My flight landed in Lagos.
Three things struck me when I entered the airport:
- The colors.
- The energy
- The newness of everything
It was as if electricity buzzed in the air. It was as if I stepped from a grey and sickened world into one of light: where the blinds where pulled back and the sun enlightened everything.
The buildings around the airport were no older than five years and showed uses of materials I had never seen until I did the virtual tour some months before.
It felt like coming home.
It was something very small. A very tiny glint of a spark. But it felt like home.
It was happening here.
Were I not been traveling through Europe, I might have missed the hints. I might have missed the tendrils of almost invisible energy that floated in the air, ready to be taken, ready to be tapped into.
Still a student and deep in debt due to the awesomeness of the European Educational System I had arranged a place for myself at the home of a Nigerian girl living in Lagos. Using the free public transport I moved into the city where the smartness of this country revealed itself more and more.
It is like you take a system apart and redesign it according to new rules. Each cycle of this redesign is aimed at simplifying things. Making it shorter, simpler easier to understand and use.
Everything that did not make sense had been slowly cut out.
It did not take much time before it hit me. I had been here before, exploring the city in depth. But being here – with my senses wide open – was so much more. All of the ride to my sleeping place I was crying.
Imagine a city where smart people come together. Where the aim of the game is to establish a win/win situation, no matter what you do or try. Imagine a craving to become better, in a laid back way. Because you can, not because you have to. A natural flow of improvement. This is what I tasted. This is what I expected, this is what I felt.
From entering the airport, the bus, the streets, a café. None of the inward bound attention. None of the mistrust that had become part of my society. None of the: “mind your own business and do not call for me, so I can mind mine”.
For the first time I noticed how tense I was.
As I tried to relax my muscles, I felt tension in my belly muscles popping loose, like bonds being cut, releasing blockage after blockage.
I cried like a little girl, snot running out of my nose, absorbed by a handkerchief kindly offered by a stranger who did what was required before minding her own business again. My muffled: “thank you,” was met with a simple smile.
Hands helped me out of the bus, making sure I would not trip as my vision was still blurred by the flow of my tears and when the bus drove away I just stood there for a while, until my tears were dried.
One of the bases for the current Nigeria was a simple game by a girl who was nineteen when she created it; almost twelve years ago. Inspired by a comic book series based on: “Pay it forward” and reading books on game-theory and karmic theory she had designed a simple social mobile game that followed a set of simple rules, making the benefits and repercussions of your actions in the game more visible. When you did anything in the game, the ripples of cause and effect would be mapped and whatever came back to you would be traceable on the initial action that had triggered the chain of actions, presenting you scores and tables. The colors were black and orange, where black stood for the dark, the cold, a lack of energy, a life fill of worries and where orange stood for sun, warmth, gold, enrichment, a life without worries.
Briefly summarized: shitty actions within the social game resulted in most cases in a large list of shitty results on the “black” side. Positive actions resulted in most cases in a large list of nice results on the “orange” side.
The aim was to grow the list on the golden side: resulting in an easier and carefree life.
When kids started to implement these rules in real life and saw their lives change for the better, it became a huge hit.
The girl who opened was not my host. As face recognition raced through online repositories of public photos and background-data was collected from whatever source available, I took her hand and answered her smile.
The palm of her hand was cool and dry, a pleasant experience against my skin. Her eyes were shiny and bright. Eyelashes long and curled up, skull shaven with tiny curls of bleached hair covering her black scalp.
“Hi,” she said and beckoned me in.
The smell of coffee with cardamom shifted the air and a simple cooker was on a small fire.
“You want one?” she asked when she saw my gaze shift.
She touched my cheek with her cool hand while her eyes darted to look at my face.
My crying was all over my red and puffy eyes. I knew she had seen, but she simply nodded.
She was tall and slender as a girl could be and two years my senior. Her sociogram unfolded before my eyes when I closed them, showing all the relationships my software had found on public sites.
She was gay, like me.
She studied. Electronics and Informatica. Her projects were amazing. A crossover between art and applied technologies. I fast-forwarded through the photos and 3D projections.
“I like your projects,” I said when I sat down.
“Thank you,” she said.
She was cute. Very cute.
She put down a glass and filled it with water. I drank it down like there was no tomorrow and poured water from the bottle for the next filling.
She lived two houses down the block, third floor. A small apartment for one person.
Some of the photos were made there.
“You are the first girl I meet who is from France,” she said.
“We do not travel much,” I said. “And if we do, we stick to the north of Africa. Further down does not have the best of reputations where I come from.”
I guess I can skip the rest. She had it all worked out. Knowing that I would come, she had done some profiling and found some nice matches that might make it work between the two of us. She liked white girls. It was spot on.
The second day I slept at her place and when I subscribed for a year on the Lagos University of Law we did some trading and found a new apartment big enough for the both of us and her projects. One year became three. In the second we separated and I when I finished my studies, which combined universities from Europe with the one in Lagos I went back to Europe.
In the meantime, Europe went ablaze with fear for what was going on in Africa. Using the push they had gained in years of silent work behind the scenes of established institutes, augmented people were allowed to enter Europe. But when the press got hold on the story all shit broke lose.
You remember the weeks and months of fear-mongering on every online spot that bothered.
Where we were still stuck to boxes we carried in our pockets, more and more African people entering Europe showed up on scanners with strains through their bodies of modified tissue that housed very advanced technology.
It started with business people, but in the years that followed, more and more “normal” people would have the same lines showing up in their bones.
We all know the stories of augmented people, enhanced, with processing power embedded in their bodies, brains enhanced by drugs and supported by extra systems. Always online, but connected in a deeper way than you and I ever experienced.
Everyone who cared was waiting for it to happen, with now dead people like Ray Kurtzweil as some of the first. But nobody had expected it to come from Africa. China, yes. Japan, maybe. The United States of America – no doubt. South America? Possibly. But a backwash sundried region like Africa? Not until five years ago.
It was no secret at all. The first research results were published five years prior to that. But the legal battles fought had always been about patents and the fuss created by that had obfuscated any real information hidden in plain sight. It was a smart doctoring of publicity.
Africa had dived into the black hole and emerged on the other side, in a new universe. Hesitant, bumbling as people started to find new balances, but there.
I applied for treatment. It is a very simple procedure. They inject the base crystal in your bones. From there parts of your bones are transformed into something that is not quite electronic and has pure and raw processing power to be used by any software that you inject.
That – however – is not the real game changer. What is, is the mesh-network of quantum-entangled particles that make for a network that has no dependencies on any existing infrastructure.
The people have become their own information network.
It cut Nigeria loose from any and all dependencies to any power in the world.
To land that point: any information that you and I can read, find and access online goes through an infrastructure that is monitored and controlled by a small group of companies. Each of these companies is part of a bigger structure with a lot of political interests and dependencies.
When the population gets restless, information is doctored and groomed to soothe the people at large. When you specifically become a problem, you are cut off.
When you are outside of that system, you become untouchable. More than location, information and an information infrastructure is a means of survival. You can take over Nigeria, but when the people disperse you still have to deal with individuals who are faster, smarter and better informed than you are.
I applied and was refused. I am not born in Africa and for many reasons they withhold the technology. One reason is – in my words – that the Western continents, including Europe, Russia and The United States of America, are still quite retarded in their cultural development. It would be like giving a gun to a fucked up kid. If he does not blow out his own brains to begin with, others will very likely be severely harmed instead.
It made me depressed the first week. Then I was simply angry with anything and everything. And sad and in heavy denial. Then just sad and angry and angry and in denial.
I discussed this with the girl I was living with at that moment. What she said in a flat tone was this:
“It does not mean we are better.”
“Nigeria is no paradise. In some ways it is just as controlled as Europe is. In many ways people are still used and abused. We have just entered a higher level of sophistication or refinement in how we execute it.”
She outlaid the structure of her country from a game-theory point of view.
Overlaying the charts with Europe, there were only slight differences in the scores.
Only where it hit economy and internal development the African countries that were connected showed great peaks spiking upwards like dragged by rockets to the sky. It was where we could have been if Europe and the United States would not have been stuck in paralyzing and useless wars of intellectual property.
Moving up north and moving down south, the development had simply been frozen where it reached countries that were still dominated by Western values.
Knowing something is one thing. Having it experienced can change you. And I changed. I changed a lot. Whatever I could upgrade I upgraded. I set out a path to make these upgrades possible. And I looked at my possibilities returning to Europe and staying here in Africa.
I had smelled what was possible and I wanted to reach that level as closely as possible.
That is where I found the guts to become what I could not become until that: an agent of defense that attacks its own host system.
And in the years that followed I started to build my niche.
Legal warfare in Europe has all became about killing all creativity and innovation that does not happen within the pearly gates of United States owned companies. Countries like the United States, China, Russia and india have become like crack addicted pimps, grazing in any money possible to pay for the increasingly expensive addiction of flowing money to bottomless pits of greed and waste. Europe is nothing more than one of their grazing grounds for crack whores: to be exploited until rendered worthless. Treated with the least of all possible respect and getting weaker every day as all life is slowly sucked out due to drug use, bad diet and the resulting malnutrition.
As a lawyer in the field of intellectual property, your task is either to kill whatever fresh and green comes up outside your own garden or to protect whatever is grown from being killed before it reaches its estimated value. What remains in general are brown fields of death and dying crops and a few fat pigs who feasted on what used to be. If you have a problem with the fact that you are reaping the benefits of hitching a ride on the legal machines which are cutting up anything that was the country and the continent of your parents, tough luck, fuck you, grew up or fuck off and go do something else.
As a kid I read Gunnm. My mother had collected the first series of nine by Glénat and I lived the story of the robot / girl Gally that kicked ass. Each volume had a different theme starting with “Angel of..”. And If I had to choose one for myself, it would be “extinction”. I then played the games and in between I dreamed to be like her.
I worked my social profile, spiked it with the required details where needed and made sure it read the messages of single minded determination, quality and brains. I worked my matching profiles to sort out the largest and most aggressive law firms and ran simulations to see where they might bring me.
That was the biggest part of my work to get in. It took me five days to get it right.
Within seconds after I made my availability clear I started to be approached by search bots who would be man in the middle for the first screenings. Three days later I set my signature under the contract with LL and D.
That weekend I returned home to my parents.
With everything patented, including crops and the processes of making wine and cheese, there are no local products anymore. The few that tried to hang on gave up when their bank accounts were blocked and the only alternative to go down in shame was to produce stuff for other countries. So we celebrated with wine and cheese from the supermarket. What my mother could see was me working for a big ass company and reeling in shitloads of money so I could pay of my debts and would be independent. She was the practical one.
My father felt betrayed. It was not so much in his words or his actions, but in the pained looks he had when he though nobody paid attention.
It was good to feel them, to touch them, to hug them.
When night fell, me and my father were sitting on the small patio, just warm enough to do without a blanket.
The house hummed silently around us, eagerly releasing information and statistics when I wanted it. Me: being one on the trusted list. Father had upgraded it recently with more sensors to refine the energy-distribution so that the energy footprint of the house was reduced with an extra 5%.
Added some extra modifications and a single cow in a treadmill would be able to power that fucking home.
He lit my cigar, then lit his. The flames died as we puffed and the tips glowed deep red in the dark of night.
“You do not seem happy,” I said.
“You go right to one of the most aggressive company there is,” he said. “They have no mercy. I have looked at their stats and they really go for the kill.”
“Yes,” I said.
“Why? I never took you for a gun for hire. I always thought you would do something with your creative side.”
I let the smoke circulate in my mouth, then puffed it out.
“For that I am born in the wrong country,” I said. “It is something I want to do. I can not do anything to stop it. I can not do anything to get out of it.”
“So you join.”
He was not pleased with that answer. At all.
I showed him the stats.
“I go in for five years. Then I step back and see what I want next.”
“Africa did change you. Your mother was right. What happened?”
He was a sweet man. Always has been. After he realized that his future was in catering and accepted the results of his choices, he mellowed down.
I sat silent as I smoked my cigar, legs pulled up in the lazy chair. So much like the younger girl I was.
“I saw the future.”
“There is a third option, so I no longer feel troubled.”
We imported the American dream right after the Second World War. It is the dream that: “you can be whatever you want to be”. It came with stories of small people who became gloriously successful, who built empires like never before.
It is tempting, building something from nothing and be wealthy before you reach the age of thirty. It was marketing. It is still here. Throughout Europe new companies are raised with people believing that they can make it. Using licenses on existing solutions new products are invented and developed. When you make it, you are bought. When you do not, you go broke. When you are stupid or do not do your homework, you infringe patents.
If you are unlucky, patents are exclusive and blocked.
Where patents started as a way to share inventions and to allow you to license your production to other companies without losing your market, they became weapons to claim ground and block any development in that direction by any other party.
It is this second option that fucked up the market. Any real innovation in Europe died when we sold out to the US: medicines, electronics, software, biotechnology, genetics.
To understand my work, understand how the game is played.
There is nothing you can develop without at least touching three or four patents that have never been used. To make sure at least something happens, innovation is stimulated by programs on universities and via contests which draw smart people to their working grounds. With a limited amount of funding projects are started which can either grow out into a huge money maker – at least so it seems – or into a set of potential law suits.
In reality most of that money goes into covering all the debts that have been stacking up during the startup-period. When the startup is tainted by law suits from competing companies, the value of the startup is reduced to closely nothing. The people who took the risks, the owners of the startup, usually end with little more than what they started with.
They are lucky if they get out without too many losses.
In the other case, researchers work for US owned companies and – being employees – whatever they develop automatically becomes the ownership of the company.
End of the line the whole scheme is a cheap form of R&D with no risks involved for the companies that sponsored the project. And anything that could be mind blowing is stillborn as none of the involved parties is interested in something that is really disruptive.
This is all still kind of harmless. Where it hits is that whatever is produced in Europe never is our ownership. It automatically becomes American, Chinese, Russian or Japanese. The circle becomes as follows:
- We invent it
- Someone else gets ownership over the intellectual property
- Someone else, somewhere else produces it –as we are not allowed to do that
- Once it is ready for sales, it gets imported again
- We buy the stuff and pay for the right to use our own inventions, transport and production cost
Still this seems quite harmless.
Economy 101 teaches us that this is how the global market works.
The big problem is that we can never go back to where we were. Producing anything that is more than a steam engine would lead to legal claims that could cripple this continent.
Bottom line is that we are dependent like crack whores on a set of countries incapable of proper financial self-management, and addicted to heroine themselves. Once no money is left to burn and everyone is sucked dry, the stash dries up and we all fall down.
The next big crisis is predicted to happen between five to ten years. And since we completely sold out to the American model of Intellectual Property, we might go down hard this time.
Anyway. As long as I pretend not to also have this point of view, my work is fine.
My first assignment was a twenty man company in Paris. They had been beaten up by three different law firms already, threatening them with all they legally had. And so here I was, sponsored by one of their bigger investors, with a fluffed up resume provided by my firm, to make me look like I could pull it off for them. And since I had the hotline and an entire staff of drones in their home offices, I probably could.
They simply needed a sympathetic human face in the office of their client.
I myself was nothing more than a smart sound board of their investor. My freedom was close to zero. My main job was to report the situation of the client to the home office, translate whatever the home office threw at me to the client and make sure that the client did not fuck up by doing something stupid.
To keep myself out of any line of liability my main line after every summary to home office was: “What do you advice?”
If I had any ideas of my own, I parked them in some limbo and only retrieved them when someone at home office requested for my opinion.
It could have been done by an intern, where it not that it is easy to make mistakes by misreading and misinterpreting the information that you get. And a few simple mistakes can easily build up to a million euro loss. So paying me until the issue was solved was always cheaper than the possible alternative.
I was placed there after three months of intensive simulations and two weeks of holiday on Fuerte Ventura to celebrate my passing. It had been like a military bootcamp, drilling your mind until you could run the legal equivalent of 10 kilometers with a heavy backpack over a terrain full of hills and still shoot five bulls-eye with five bullets and your rifle when you arrived at Mark Bravo and dropped down in position.
My value to clients was now 300 euro per hour.
My income after taxes: 56 euro per hour. Which was the double of Average Joe working on whatever law firm for five years. Not bad for someone entering the market.
I arrived by bike, which I dropped in the parking lot. I re-arranged my outfit, which dealt with creases and sweat. I checked my make-up to assure my skin looked silky-smooth and entered the backdoor after the door had recognized my biometric signature.
From soberness, the smell of rubber and the dust of grey concrete I stepped into a world of marble, wood, golden lining and ceramic flooring covered with soft sand colored carpet.
The boy behind the desk was blond and imported from Holland. His French slightly colored by the limitations of her verbal heritage of a different language with a different use of her breath, mouth and tongue.
He still studied. This was one of his jobs. I discarded most of the info I got on him, except his name.
This was old school corporate: “we have money and traditional values” bullshit.
When Alexander arrived I stood up and shook his hand. He seemed uncomfortable. Especially at my age.
“Do not worry,” I said. “Whatever is going on, the office is backing me up. And I did not pass their audit by just being pretty.”
Yes: it was my first assignment. Yes: I was nervous. And yes: I pretend to be a smartass when not at ease. After the third I no longer felt the need to defend myself.
We went upstairs and to the back, where the decorators probably had decided to go home as the walls no longer had this marble / gold / fake old colonial houses type of finish. Instead it was sober and straight to the point.
This was his domain.
“I might need you at the plant as well,” he said. “You drive?”
“It is outside Paris.”
I said “OK.”
Then we went down to business.
The letters he had received were the standard cease and desist – pay or we kill you – type of letters. Vague, unclear and unspecific. Made to drive you up to costs. Made to make you make mistakes. Made to make you offer the unforeseen weak spot of the belly when you think they are aiming at the chest.
At the end of the morning we had a standard reply, in the line of: “Piss off. We are not aware of any infringement of anything. If think you have something concrete on us, then show us. Otherwise we start a counter-claim for hindering and harassment.” But then in nice, neat and legally fluffed up type of wordings and sentences covered with sugar and honey and closing with a loving: “with kind regards”.
We ran several simulations, scrutinizing the befores and afters and running their first, second and third line of patents against whatever was going on in this company.
No clear matches were met, that were not already paid for in legal licenses.
“Either they have nothing on you, or there is a hidden trump card somewhere,” I told Alexander at the end of the day.
“I asked the home office for advice and they gave a ‘good to go’ to the letter. The alternative is that we burn an extra 100.000 euro to cross-match the forth and fifth line of patents they have. Which is something home office and your sponsor did not advice for now.”
With that we closed the day.
“Come to the plant tomorrow,” is what Alexander sent me later. “Change of plan led to change of schedule.”
Home Office advised: “OK,” so the next morning I got out of bed at 07:00 to take a cab that brought me to the plant in 30 minutes air time.
I arrived with 10 minutes to play.
Without the receptionist, Alexander dropped out of the office immediately. “I will show you around,” he said, starting to walk without pause.
It was some setup to store energy more efficiently. Made specifically for the solar plants in the Sahara. I had briefly studied the official documents and did not get anything of it. Bottom line was: solar energy was used to separate seawater into hydrogen, oxygen and some other components and oxygen and hydrogen were stored in their pure form for later use. Since we still had not cracked Tesla’s dream of instant and lossless wireless transportation of energy, doing it this way to get it form “S” (Sahara) to “E” (Europe) made some sense.
It was nice to see the plant where prototypes were tested and real people working on it. It also bored me after a few minutes. Had seen the movie, the animations, the simulations, the photos and read the blog post by that one guy who was really funny.
In the end Alexander lost about half a million to some vague claims, as a fuck-off and get off my back kind of settlement where both parties bound themselves to the standard: “we will respect what is written here, leave each other in piece and pretend this never happened to anyone who might ask”.
It was added to his debt.
If you ever wondered if there is justice in my line of work: there is none. There is just law. The bully usually gets something of what he wanted when he started pestering you in the first place. Like your lunch money. But taken it from the bright side, thanks to our intervention: at least it was not your bike.
At the Home Office we evaluated the project. All recordings were analyzed (measured from the moment I stepped into their office and started my work to the moment I closed the day) and run through alternative simulators for alternative scenarios.
All in all I did not bad.
I landed the firm some extra thousands that I could have missed if I would have been less alert. I also kept the “rip-off your client” levels within the green limits.
Five of these in a row and I would get my banana. If I did extra well, I would also get my orange and some raisins to boot.
Almost eighteen months after my first assignment for Alexander it was time to pick up my legal sniper rifle and brush the dust from my copy of: “How to be a Legal Assassin”. I had received my first license to kill. The targets were a set of four companies out of a portfolio of sixteen.
Home Office allowed only a limited set of ways to take out a target. All thoroughly researched for legal repercussions, effectivity and cost / benefit.
Most of them focus on driving up the cost on the other side, to such levels that they either have to budge or bust. Others take the very structure of the opponents company under fire and are meant to kill and destroy.
I chose that second set. No threats. Have a gun? Be prepared to use it.
I discussed with Home Office. Went through strategies. Run simulations, found their weak spots, set up the drones that would pound on their structure until it would collapse on at least three different places. The damage too great to repair before all went down.
This is the list of questions I used:
- Do they have any debts?
- Did they make mistakes in contracts that can be used against them?
- Is there any lead to child-pornography or illegal downloads or distribution of copyrighted material?
- Did anyone in the company something illegal in the past?
- Did they make procedural mistakes when registering domain names?
- Do they have enemies waiting to enter and wreak havoc when the walls fall down?
- Did they make any mistakes when they created their legal entities?
- Did they infringe any intellectual property?
Item number one is the low hanging fruit if you find the right tree to pluck it from. Item number eight takes most effort and resources as the judgment might be quick, but it takes a lot of effort to prove you are right and they are fucked the legal repercussions take a lot of time. It is kind of a last resort. Anything in between is faster and cheaper as you go up the list from eight to one.
In most cases you can save over 50% of costs if you do it well, increasing the margins due to costs not made and making the client happy as you did not go over budget.
Some companies plant evidence. Fabricate material. It might be a quick short term ride, but it will fuck you up on the long run as law firms tend to attack each other from time to time as well.
Usually I score 3 out of eight and do not get below item 6. People are sloppy. And when they start, they usually save on everything that is still far beyond the horizon. After that, patches are added and holes remain that can be used by me. In most cases starting a case for infringement of IP is not required, even though that is usually where the request starts.
As I said: there is no justice in my line of work. Just law.
I took two months to prepare the fall of the four. Three went down in a satisfactory cloud of smoke before the third month was over. The fourth got away with an amputated leg. I had to call for assistance to land the final kill shot two months later.
All in all not a bad result.
We offer psychological guidance and trauma coaching afterwards to the victims of the companies that received the kill shots, via services that we and other offices sponsored.
Home Office had established after years and years of experience in the older days that suicides of the people whose companies and dreams were ruined had a negative effect on our own morale, as we tended to sympathize with the victims.
Yeah: duh! Unless you are a cold blooded psychopath, you will get affected by the deaths of other people caused by the work you did. Even if you have never met these people and it is not directly your fault that the person affected could not deal with his fate.
It is in our wiring.
What also helped were new laws, marking suicide as murder.
[Here ends about 8000 words of rough draft. Another 4000 at least is to be written]