A blogger who posted email addresses for movie studio agents, producers, and executives has drawn the ire of Universal Studios, while setting off debates about what constitutes spam and whether 4 email addresses are public.
Gerard Jones, a 63-year-old retiree living in Oregon, explains on his site that he has been trying to get people to read a book he wrote. He said that after years of hard work he created a website to help others send their ideas to editors, publishers, and movie studio decision makers.
Jones said NBC Universal Vice President and Litigation Council Carolyn Hampton (who he calls a "corporate chick lawyer") complained in October to the web hosting company Dotster and ISP Charter Communications about thousands of spam emails from people, including those pitching their ideas. He said Charter cut off his email account and Hampton agreed to drop the complaint if he removed the email addresses.
Jones said he removed the email addresses but left a list of names and titles with instructions for following a formula, using first and last names, to determine email addresses. Instead of dropping the complaint, Hampton renewed it a few days ago, he said. Sunday, Jones filed a complaint against Hampton with the California State Bar Association.
In addition to drawing traffic to everyonewhosanyone.com, the dispute has gained coverage on a cinema blog site. A dozen responses to the news were split among supporters and critics of Jones' actions. Some saying the movie industry should welcome ideas given the quality of recent films. One respondent said emails are like phone numbers. Another said the industry has to protect itself from claims of theft by people whose ideas could be similar to those in upcoming releases.
Hampton did not immediately return calls for comment. A letter attributed to her on Jones' website states that the company disputes his claims that the addresses were posted on the Internet for Jones' personal use.
"Since your site was created, we have seen a marked increase in the amount of spam emails regarding unsolicited screenplays being sent to our executives," the letter reads. "The spam serves no purpose, does not have the desired effect of creating an entrée into the film business, and is usually sent to lawyers or financial people (all listed on your site) who have no input on the creative side of the business. From our perspective, it is a huge nuisance, and takes away from the productivity of our people."
Hampton goes on to describe the emails as a constant, daily irritation, which waste time.
Jones, who once sold computers, argues that names and titles can easily be found through a Google search and Universal employees' email addresses are no big mystery.
"If Bob Wright saw that he could realize a profit of hundreds of millions of dollars by making the best movie ever made, he would be doing the shareholders of GE a disservice by ignoring that opportunity," Jones countered.
"If some law gets put into place where I don't have to hear advertisements for King Kong, then I would reciprocate by not trying to sell them a project which would make a way better movie than King Kong, and they obviously need new scripts," he said during a phone interview yesterday.
Jones said that even his personal emails to Universal have been reported as "spam" to his ISP.
The Federal Trade Commission governs email and prohibits spam, generally defined as fraudulent or deceptive and unsolicited bulk or commercial email. There is also a looser definition of unwanted bulk email under certain conditions.
Jones said he believes the farthest Universal will get is to shut down his website --and that's only if Dotster decides he violated its terms of agreement.
"That's the beauty of not having any money," he said. "When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose. They have no leverage. If they can figure out a way to put me in jail, they can cramp my style a little, but, outside of that, I'm judgment proof."
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