Friday, May 6, 2005

Getting Out the Heavy Lumber

One would think that a multimillion dollar corporation (with offices around the country) would have better things to do than go after one solitary blogger out of Salem, Oregon. However, it seems I've riled up the big wigs at Linda Christas, a company that offers online tutoring services to middle and high school students.

THEY approached me about a job. I did a bit of online investigating and decided their offer looked like a scam. So, I wrote about my investigation on this very blog under the heading, "A Few Good Saps".

This made them very unhappy. It seems they don't like any dissent or criticism. They bombarded the comments for this post. (Interestingly enough, my tracking software indicates that the only way they seem able to FIND this entry on my blog was to conduct searches with Google and Yahoo. One would think that once they had arrived here, someone would think to add it to their favorites or bookmarks.)

In fact, various representives of Linda Christas (maybe just 1 or 2 people "posing" as a lot of people?) posted so many comments that this entry rose in the Google standings for searches for "Linda Christas" and "Linda Christas scam". Currently, the latter is ranked 5th.

In one of my comments, I pointed out this fact. I wrote that they were unwittingly doing more damage to their self-defined reputation than if they merely ignored my blog. Still, they left MORE comments. (Maybe Linda Christas doesn't teach analytical reasoning skills.)

Because THEY were making the "Saps" entry so popular, more and more people have read it. So, they decided they needed to devise a strategy to try to remove my criticism from the internet. They decided to file a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA) complaint against me for supposedly using copyrighted material.

Did I plagarize their web site? Have I violated the law?

What they are alleging was a copyright infringement was merely my quoting their website and saying I quoted their website. According to the Anti-DCMA website,
Copyright, in the United States, is an attempt to maximize the intellectual resources available to all. People who create works - literature, art, software programs, music, and others - are given a limited right to keep people from making unauthorized copies of their work. This allows them to sell copies for a profit and provides a financial incentive to create more works.

In exchange for this, the public demands a number of concessions, primarily the following three:

1. Fair use is the right to make unauthorized copies of works for certain protected purposes - mainly for academics, reporting, or criticism. When a student quotes a book in a high school paper, she is making a fair use, and can't be stopped by the copyright owner.

2. First sale is the right to sell a copy over and over again, once it is made, as long as you don't make any new copies. When you read a book, then sell it to a used book store to be bought and read by someone else, you're exercising your rights under first sale.

3. Limited time - copyrights are granted for a limited time. After that time expires, the work goes into the public domain - it can be copied and used by anyone, for any reason.

Since my post was a critique of their published work (I wasn't using it to make a profit for myself), it SHOULD be covered under exception #1. I'm sure Linda Christas is well aware of this fact, but why should law matter to be a big corporation? As the anti-DMC website states,
Unfortunately, this law is very poorly written, and is now regularly used by corporations to restrain the three primary concessions of copyright and otherwise prevent free speech activity.
In order to fight such a complaint, a blogger must file a counterclaim. Google provides an explanation of the process and, it should be noted, it can cost a pretty penny! Since I'm a cash-poor blogger and Linda Christas is a multimillion dollar corporation, they've basically decided to try to squash me with their economic might.

They may regret that decision.

Addendum: To read even MORE on this topic -- admit it, you just can't get enough -- go here.

23 comments:

  1. Wow Trey - a sure sign that your blog has arrived, but I'm sure a hassle you don't exactly relish. Still, as erik says "go get 'em"!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I hope you guys are having fun.

    I just went through the practicum with Linda Christas.

    I took the Tier II at my local university, and Linda Christas reimbursed me. What a scam, eh.

    I have now established a small mall office and am serving my community.

    You know there really is a need for a student first service in this Country.

    May the Lord bless you, but being destructive of an organization that is attempting to help children seems childing in itself.

    Go Get Em!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. For persons interested in content regarding Linda Christas, I would encourage reading the blogs posted by Linda Christas faculty at:

    www.lindachristascf.blogspot.com

    I am a teacher with Linda Christas, and, of course, dislike seeing the net used to abuse the School, especially with so little provocation.

    We are doing our very best for children, and would hope to be supported in that effort.

    Until that day..........


    Bobby Schiller, Teacher
    www.lindachristas.org

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is getting rather humorous. In response to one person (among billions) who dared to question the veracity of Linda Christas' claims, the enterprise has beseeched its followers to inundate this blog with comments AND it seems to have spurred them to create their own blog.

    As I've stated several times before, the very fact that so many of the Linda Christas faithful keep visiting this blog and leaving comments has resulted in the one thing you people say you don't want -- bad publicity. Your continued participation in this discussion has fueled my rise in the Google search rankings to near the very top. Why is this observation so difficult for you folks to comprehend?

    Why don't you give it a rest? One of the great beauties of freedom of speech is the RIGHT to DISAGREE. You can believe that Linda Christas is God's gift to the world. I don't have to share your opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear Mr. Smith,

    It is not that you have expressed opinions that is upsetting.

    It is the fact that you were given the proper information before writing anything and chose to ignore it that is of concern to parents and students at Linda Christas.

    Since Linda Christas is a web based school, every prospective family does a Google search under Linda Christas as part of their due diligence.

    IF LINDA CHRISTAS were NOT concerned about the lack of balance in this writing, Mr. Smith, I would be worried.

    My name is Beth Ambrosini. I am an established Community Academic Advisor with Linda Christas.

    I am willing to write to anyone reading this site. I have obtained copies of the materials that Mr. Smith was given by the School initially, and which he chose to ignore for the sake of exercising his "journalistic" rights.

    Make no mistake, Mr. Smith, is doing harm to the spirit of Linda Christas and its students.

    There is no separation in the public's mind between "the business side" and "the education side" of things.

    What Mr. Smith has done is the equivalent of any reader of this site taking a local business, and without checking BBB records, trade references, consumer protection agencies or state licensing agencies, writing negative advertising about that business.

    That is not freedom of expression. That is libel, and there are laws protecting individuals and businesses from libel in the United States.

    (Even Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin took legal action against individuals who had libeled them. And, there is a long history of costly judgments in the United States against persons who believe that their rights include harming others carelessly.)

    In other words, if it costs a private individual or business money, whatever damages are involved with that libel in the opinion of the court are collectable from the individual making the original charges. If a person has no assets, an attachment is made on all future earnings.

    We'll see where this goes.

    It wouldn't take much for me if asked by the School to volunteer to file in Oregon.

    Sincerely,

    Beth

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sorry,

    I forgot to leave my e-mail address:

    That's Beth Ambrosini:

    betham@lindachristas.org

    I would also be interested in hearing from anyone who has been personally contacted or influenced in a negative way by Trey Smith.

    Sincerely,

    Beth

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear Trey,

    Actually you haven't riled the big wigs at all.

    I am a small person, a student at Linda Christas and very grateful for the experience.

    However, speaking from one small person to another,Mr. Smith, I think you're a sad individual who needs to see a professional for help.

    Any one of the students I know would tell you that you have no right to try to hurt our school.

    You should just take this stuff down. I mean why make us crazed.

    Did anyone ever write bad things about your high school in the newspaper and not get punched?

    Holly

    ReplyDelete
  8. Trey,

    Linda Christas is not a multi-million dollar corporation as you are characterizing them.

    All Linda Christas administrators, including the Deans, are volunteers.

    Only teachers, counselors and advisors receive money from the tuition paid by parents and guardians.

    In addition, Linda Christas receives no money from the government or foundations and still provides 100% credentialed one on one student-first teaching for about a third of the bill being charge by the public schools for classes of thirty or more.

    I would counsel temperance here, Trey.

    If the United States is going to pull itself out of the educational doldrums, we need more efforts like Linda Christas, not fewer.

    And, yes, I am a parent of a student at Linda Christas, and, as has been pointed out to you, being a web based school, your blogs hurt our feelings, especially because they are inaccurate and negative.

    Now, if they had been inaccurate and positive, I'm sure none of the students and parents would have objected.

    If you can find it in your heart, I would ask you to support Linda Christas.

    Frankly, I think you weren't wise to turn Linda Christas down when they contacted you to investigate the possibility of employment with them. (I would have been thrilled.)

    You probably wouldn't be among the poor now if you had taken them up on their offer to you to interview.

    Dot
    Linda Christas PTA

    ReplyDelete
  9. I send a hearty thanks to Beth, Holly & Dot. Because of your continued vigilance, I'm sure my ranking on the Google Search engine has strengthened.

    If people such as you would merely quit visiting this site, very few potential students would ever see it. There are millions upon millions of web pages and blogs on almost every topic. Most such pages/blogs are seen by very few people.

    The pages/blogs that ARE visited frequently are those that others have visited frequently in the past. Consequently, you and every other person in the Linda Christas family represent the engine that causes more and more people to view my critique.

    Mind you, almost all the recent comments have refused to deal SUBSTANTIVELY with anything I've written on the topic to date. You each make general statements of being "insulted" that someone, who researched the issue, might come to a different conclusion than you have.

    As I noted before, it seems odd to me that almost every person from LC who has left a comment on my blog has arrived here via a Google search. Since this seems to be a coordinated effort, wouldn't it be easier to simply send out the web address for this blog or is that too difficult a concept for you folks to wrap your head around?

    Finally, to Beth, according to your definition of free speech, the "free" part doesn't mean much. Obviously, for you, there is only ONE opinion that is correct and anything else is illegal?

    Isn't that the way Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia operated?

    ReplyDelete
  10. All I know is that you are attacking my school, and you have no right to do that. They never did anything to you.

    That's like attacking my house.

    So, you think it's OK for you to attack others, but then turn around and get all ragey when someone calls you on it.

    A school is not like attacking a business.

    Linda Christas is where I live in my heart. And, that's so for a lot of my friends. Whatever you get you deserve.

    I read the thing about Beth Ambrosini.

    My Mom who is a lawyer says that you are all wet. That you don't make any difference in your thinking between opening your mouth to exercise your tongue,and hurting a school with a false opinion which is called libel. (People want to think of their school as AAA all the way. Our school spirit depends on it. Linda Christas is part of my family.)

    Why you are taking your punk rage out on my school, I don't know.

    I bet you're a real coward too, Trey. I know a couple of guys who talk like you do. Real sissies both of them. Me and my buddy are thinking about thumbing up to Salem and finding out about you. We're not too far away.

    Billy

    ReplyDelete
  11. Here are some other sites in which some people have questioned the veracity of one of Linda Christas' endeavors:
    Absolute Write Water Cooler
    FIB Scams 101 #1
    FIB Scams 101 #2
    FIB Scam 101 #3
    What Works for Parents

    Now, just because several of the people on the above sites seem to agree with my assessment of LC, that doesn't make it a correct assessment. All I ask is that you read the various comments and make your own decision.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Gee Billy, I'm really concerned about the so-called "education" you're receiving from Linda Christas.

    For starters, you seem to have confused the concept of "attack" with the concept of "criticism". Believe it or not, there are some definite distinctions between the two. Why not grab your handy dictionary and look up these two terms?

    Second, according to you, it's okay to "attack" a business but not a nonprofit? What do you have against businesses? (By the way, nonprofits are businesses, so to speak.)

    Third, you state my opinion is false and therefore libelous. While you may state my opinion is wrong, you have no grounds for stating my opinion is false. You aren't me and so you don't have any say in what my opinion might on any given subject.

    Finally, one of the things that Linda Christas likes to advertise is that their service supposedly helps troubled students like you. You have unwittingly indicated the exact opposite.

    You are threatening me with implicit violence bevause we have a difference of opinion. It's painfully obvious that, in this singular case, the extra attention you've received from Linda Christas personnel has not helped you reign in your anger problem.

    Besides, beating up someone who might happen to disagree with you doesn't make YOUR opinion right. If, as you grow into an adult, you threaten and/or beat up each person who disagrees with you, you're apt to spend a great deal of time in prison.

    I suggest you ask your mom to help you make an appontment with a counselor who can help you devise healthier strategies for your anger management problem.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am going to kindly ask that all Linda Christas personnel, parents and students refrain from engaging this person.

    Whether we know Mr. Smith to be incorrect in his opinions or not, that is immaterial.

    The kind of rhetoric that is being encouraged by these blogs is symptomatic of every war since the beginning of time.

    In every age and in every place, someone, somewhere is subject to what is perceived to be unwarranted or unprovoked attack.

    How we deal with the resulting emotions is a reflection of who we are.

    In order to prevent tragedy, someone must forego their right to respond. Let that someone in this case be us.

    Ronald F. Bernard
    Academic Dean
    Linda Christas

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yes, PLEASE listen to the Dean. Of all the comments left here by Linda Christas volunteers, families and staff (?), Mr. Bernard's is the most rational and cogent one among them. I tip my hat to him for that.

    P.S. If some of you feel you must persist despite Mr. Bernard's request otherwise, could we at least discuss substantive disagreements?

    I mean, if you believe a point, contention or interpretation I've reached is in error, point out SPECIFICALLY what it is and offer rebuttal analysis and/or facts.

    Believe it or not, I'm a reasonable person. I accept the fact that I'm not always correct in my thinking. I've actually been known to change my mind when presented with a well-thought out and cogent argument.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dear Mr. Smith,

    At the risk of violating my own order, please let me see if I can clarify the initial concerns you had (We are conducting an evening Asian session. They are seven hours behind us, so the time factor allows me to write to you at 3:55 A.M. Pacific Time.)

    What you seem to have been concerned about was the credentialing requirement for advisors.

    We as a school ask our personnel to earn appropriate credentials when those are expected by society as formal symbols of full professional competence.

    In the case of the advisors, we encourage former secondary and middle school administrators to apply for those positions because they frequently have previously earned the necessary Tier II certificate.

    For those people who have not earned the Tier II, but who our volunteers believe would be sound additions to the advisory corps, we reimburse up to $400 plus $50 for books for their commitment to the Tier II.

    The Tier II can be taken at a university or we can arrange for a private contractor to deliver an abbreviated version of the Tier II, since many local colleges will not admit Tier II applicants in a manner timely for the needs of the candidates themselves. (Our preference though is that the Tier II be taken at an accredited institution, and we help with the tuition for that.)

    Once a Community Academic Advisor is situated in an area, it is our goal to work with existing organizations within that area in an effort to assist in realizing the targets set by the No Child Left Behind legislation. (The only time we encourage enrollments of students into our own permanent pilot program is when the public schools in an area simply do not have the wherewithal to care effectively for the numbers of children assigned to them. (For example, the current counselor to student ratio on most public middle and high school campuses is approximately one counselor for every eight hundred students. With that kind of ratio, proper guidance is simply not possible.

    Over 80% of our enrollments at Linda Christas are for the counseling and reading programs.

    Linda Christas is primarily a 501C4 PAC. The counseling and teaching segments are permanent pilots which we hope some day will be adopted wholesale by state and federal governments. (If that happens, our staff will do very well financially, including advisors.)

    We never press for enrollments. That is not the role of our advisors at all. They are perfectly free to recommend whatever resources within their communities they choose based on the needs of the family with whom they are meeting, even if the family initially became aware of Linda Christas through one of our many advertising mailers.

    Naturally, our student body, who fortunately and tellingly have grown fond of our student first approach to education, has attempted to respond to what they perceived as attacks from your quarter, Mr. Smith.

    I have specifically given instruction to the Help Desk, and made an announcement to teachers, counselors, advisors and students to forego any further conflict with you.

    We understand from the comments on the net that are skeptical of what we do at Linda Christas that some persons have difficulty accepting a new educational model. That may be our failing at Linda Christas, and something that I sincerely hope you will help us remedy, Mr. Smith.

    At this juncture, it is hard for me to see what more we could say to the public in explanation of our permanent pilot that is not already posted on our three web sites.

    Students who have been involved with Linda Christas programs are being accepted by the most selective colleges in the United States at approximately a 36% rate, as opposed to a 9% rate for the most outstanding public school graduates.

    These colleges realize that our student first model really does make a difference in keeping a student engaged during the middle school and high school years.

    None of our administrators are paid, including me, so we are relatively free of the burden of attempting to make a living through the School. (Fortunately our lives have been blessed with fruitful businesses, so we are now in a position to give something back to this great Country.)

    On the other hand, it saddens us in administration when we see our permanent pilot, which we believe to be the academic salvation for entire generations of students, being abused in any way. (I say "abused" not "questioned" here because rightly or wrongly our people have viewed your comments, Mr. Smith, as involving a good deal of negativity. I really don't see how they could have interpreted the wording of your essays in any other way. This may be my failing. Perhaps what you wrote was tongue in cheek or satire. It's hard for me to know.)

    I would ask you, Mr. Smith, if you have a good heart, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, that you consider temporarily removing the material you have written regarding Linda Christas from the net, and joining with us to further the Linda Christas pilot.

    Let me make you a career offer.

    I will sponsor you for the Tier II program, in other words, I will pay that bill, if you will temporarily remove any negative material you have posted on the net regarding the Linda Christas permanent pilot, AND also help the School address other problems with net exposure. (For example, your blog got to be on the first page of Google searches from the first day it was posted. We'd like you to help us accomplish that with our blog site, as well as help promote a new site that we will shortly be christening, The Educator's Nightly Reader, which is the cozy name for our soon-to-be completed staff training center.

    We know certainly that you have a gift for imaginative expression. If we can channel that into helping us at Linda Christas help children, we would, of course, be delighted.

    If, after you have taken the Tier II, you wish to re-post your blogs, then at least you will have full knowledge of what the Tier II is all about and the reasons for that requirement. (In the meantime, our advisors, teachers, counselors, students and parents will be happier, and school spirit won't be dampened.)

    You can contact me directly at rbernard@lindas.com or Otto Benchley at obench@lindas.com to make the necessary Tier II arrangement.

    I do hope we can work together to help others promote themselves and achieve things that before they may have thought impossible.

    If you wish to speak on the telephone, our Messaging Center number is (916) 798-1304. Leave a message there, and I or Otto will call you at the number you indicate

    Kind Regards,

    Ronald F. Bernard
    Dean
    Linda Christas
    www.lindachristas.com
    www.lindachristas.org
    www.lindas.com

    ReplyDelete
  16. What a long comment! However, again, I'd like to tip my hat to Mr. Bernard for presenting a reasoned defense as opposed to most of the others which have been emotional and rhetorical responses.

    That said, I don't plan to remove anything. It must be understood that almost anything I or someone else writes might be insulting to someone, somewhere. If we used the criteria of trying not to insult someone each time an opinion was written, then nothing would be written.

    None of the great literary classics would have been penned. Newspapers would be blank.

    I still find many things questionable in what you've written. However, out of respect for your approach, I will make one concession. I will address my concerns to you PERSONALLY in an email and not on this forum.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dear Mr. Smith,

    I appreciate the token of respect.

    Also, I appreciate the integrity of the press and creative writing license you are attempting to preserve.

    On the other hand, I do not believe that it was the choice of derogatory terminology about which parents and students were specifically complaining.

    If I am interpreting their reactions appropriately, having spoken with several of them by telephone, it is the distance between their experience of the School and your presentation that was upsetting to them. The pieces were inaccurate.

    If the material had been remotely close to their reality, the reactions would have been different. (Surely in the name of accurate reporting, and the integrity of the creative writing process, you would not want to be guilty of false witness. Professional reporters hold themselves to a high degree of accuracy: Dan Rather apologized to the Country because of the questionable sources he used for the Bush military service story, and Jayson Blair was fired by the Times for his creative reporting. Neither of them attempted to defend their work based on the integrity of the press or artistic license. They both understood that they had damaged a person or institution unfairly, and both were gracious and professional enough to admit that.)

    When we combine inaccuracy WITH insulting tone, however, we have a presentation eminently worthy of deletion. Why would a high quality reporter want such material associated with his or her name?

    Please remember the great (and paraphrased) words of Samuel Johnson, "If an author recognizes a line of his own writing that he is particularly pleased with, he should strike it out. It isn't worthy."

    That said, I do not wish to do exactly as others have done in this forum or elsewhere, i.e. fencing with you, Mr. Smith.

    I would prefer to encourage you to use your talents to build rather than its opposite; to inspire rather than depress. We have so much of the latter in our society, and so little of the former.

    My offer to you stands as is, Mr. Smith.

    Should you wish to join the Linda Christas family and contribute your talents to the public good, to add to our Country's health rather than its maladies, we at Linda Christas are here for you.

    In the meantime, as you know, our blog site is:

    www.lindachristascd.blogspot.com

    If there is anything you can do from your side of things, not being a technical person myself, to increase its visibility, please do not hesitate to send that information to pgeorge@lindas.com or to do it yourself. I hereby grant you that right.

    If you wish to consider the offer I've made to you, please write to me directly at:

    rfbernard@lindas.com

    In the meantime, our School's best to you and to those you love.

    Ronald F. Bernard, Dean
    Linda Christas

    ReplyDelete
  18. Correction:

    The blog site is

    www.lindachristascf.blogspot.com

    Dean's Office

    ReplyDelete
  19. If I am interpreting their reactions appropriately, having spoken with several of them by telephone, it is the distance between their experience of the School and your presentation that was upsetting to them. The pieces were inaccurate.

    I would say that neither the students nor parents would be in a position to understand my perspective because THEIR interaction with LC and mine are coming from different directions.

    Parents/students are engaged with LC in regards to the delivery of educational services. They come into contact with educational personnel.

    I, on the other hand, was approached by a "human resource manager" LC volunteer about a business proposition -- a potential job.

    To put this another way, parents/students see the PUBLIC face of Linda Christas, while I've investigated the behind-the-scenes face.

    Consequently, even if both the parents/students and I agreed on our overall impressions of LC, they would still originate from wholly different perspectives.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Mr. Trey,

    I am the parent of two minority children who are enrolled with Linda Christas School(They gave both my kids scholarships, and I voluteer sometimes to help out.)

    I called the school and they told me you were a person with a good heart, that your intentions are noble.

    I respect your right to your opinion, but, if you really have a good heart, I want you to know that both Lavel and Mercy have been discouraged from school by your words.

    They are just kids, and I have had to struggle to find a school that would interest them.

    They want to be proud of their school, and they are, but, your words have hurt their school spirit, and that I don't need.

    In this day and age, anything discouraging kids from school is very bad for the United States.

    If you can find it in your heart to get rid of this stuff, and keep the rest of your opinions on the machine, as a struggling minority single parent, I would sincerely worship that act.

    I can tell you that Linda Christas School is as pure as the year is long.

    The Best to You and your family.

    LaTracy

    ReplyDelete
  21. To Lavel & Mercy,
    You will find it hard to live your lives if you judge your own actions solely by what you think others believe, write or say. The most important things in life are 1) To stand up for what you believe in; and 2) To be true to yourself.

    If you genuinely believe that Linda Christas is a great place for you, then what I or anyone else writes should not cause YOU to lose school spirit.

    Be true to yourselves!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I appreciate all of you that did the research regarding Linda Christas. I was approached about a job earlier today and as I read about the program, I became more and more confused as to why they had approached me. I work as an educational consultant and meet regularly with families who are unhappy with their childs educational situation. The difference is, I am paid through grants or districts, the family never has to pay. I work in an affluent part of Scottsdale, so it is not that the families can't pay, but that they should not have to. If I parent is seeking a private education for their child, then there are many wonderful private schools that can be found through the local department of education web sites. Otherwise, between public schools, charters, and homeschooling, there are many options where students can receive the education they are entitled.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want. We may respond...or we may not. It depends on the mood and preferences of the specific author of the post. Ta-Wan generally responds in a timely manner. Trey responds some of the time and Scott rarely replies (due to limited internet access). You can be assured that all comments are read by this blog's two administrators: Ta-Wan & Trey.