The Political Weblog Movement

New evidence: Dennis Rice the sole author of @tabloidtroll

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IMPORTANT UPDATE: 2014 post detailing how Dennis Rice reacted to the evidence that he was the author of ‘@tabloidtroll’

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A few months ago, I asked Dennis Rice if he was the person behind @tabloidtroll, a twitter account used to smear a range of witnesses to the Leveson Inquiry.

His response was to deny the allegation, but leave room for some kind of technical/distant association with the account. Just in case.

However… before I asked Dennis Rice about this allegation via email, a DM was sent to the account @tabloidtroll; the recipient of that message (i.e. the account holder) then followed a unique link in that message, and even replied to the DM indicating he had done so. An IP address was recorded during that procedure.

Minutes later, when Dennis Rice replied to my question about allegations, he revealed the IP address he was using to access the internets at that same time

The account holder of @tabloidtroll had precisely the same IP address as that used by Dennis Rice to reply to my email.

I am not inclined to reference/reveal any potentially sensitive data/details, but I can assure you that the odds of these IP addresses being identical by chance are very, very, very, very long.

Dennis Rice responded to this by making false/misleading claims to and on behalf of Thames Valley Police in an attempt to portray my actions/questions as criminal (while simultaneously denying the significance of the evidence and sometimes even demanding that I publish the same evidence that he elsewhere accused me of sharing inappropriately).

Thames Valley Police responded by dragging their heels and “collating papers” for many weeks before finally confirming that I was never a suspect, while neatly avoiding any comment on Dennis Rice demonstrably implying/claiming otherwise on their behalf.

Dennis Rice responded to this by making a further complaint almost immediately, and again making false/misleading claims to and on behalf of Thames Valley Police in a further attempt to portray my actions as criminal that followed exactly the same pattern as before.

Yet again, Thames Valley Police responded by dragging their heels and “collating papers” for many weeks before finally confirming that I was never a suspect, while neatly avoiding any comment on Dennis Rice demonstrably implying/claiming otherwise on their behalf.

Twice now Thames Valley Police have allowed this tabloid hack to carry on like this without challenge; they even refused to accept or discuss evidence of Rice misleading them and/or making misleading claims on their behalf so he might better intimidate myself and other critics (and I may yet publish some of this evidence if Rice denies/downplays the bullying he engaged in while claiming to be a victim of bullies.)

Further, Thames Valley Police offer no comment on some people’s reactions to the false allegations made against me in their name. One man who allowed himself to be convinced by Rice’s lies offered to come around to confront me personally about my ‘cowardice’, to see if I was a “man or a mouse”. Not as any kind of threat, you understand, just so he could know whether to bring cheese. Ha. ha. Ha.

It was during this kind offer of a personal confrontation that I briefly walked away from the matter and blogging/tweeting generally last month, despite having new and conclusive evidence to hand; I was just about to go on holiday, and did not want some weak-minded dimwit turning up at my house while I was relaxing at home with my family (or, worse, away somewhere).

Today, I returned from holidays, announced I was back on deck, then mentioned that further @tabloidtroll evidence was pending.

Dennis Rice reacted by deliberately trying to trigger the same ‘face to face confrontation’ response from the same damn dimwit; Rice also made a range of the usual claims designed to portray me as a fraud and/or otherwise undermine the IP address evidence that confirmed him as the main account holder for @tabloidtroll

It is here that we turn to the new evidence, and balance it against what has already been published:

The evidence I gathered initially (link) indicated Dennis Rice as the main account holder for @tabloidtroll.

Putting aside what Rice’s further public/private reaction(s) have indicated/revealed about authorship, this always left room for the possibility of multiple authors and/or Rice being the account holder and not the main author(s) for some reason; Rice certainly claimed/implied several times that @tabloidtroll was the work of more than one person.

(Here I grant Roy Greenslade a slow handclap for immediately falling for one of these charades and endorsing a day-old site from an unknown author… over an article on the subject of media standards, no less. Roy didn’t correct his idiocy, by the way; he ran away from thread, leaving me/others to deal with the fallout, and repeatedly allowing Rice to pretend that he had been legitimised by the Guardian’s “endorsement”. Thanks, Roy. You started out with a single act of mere idiocy, but then you were so afraid of looking foolish you acted like a complete bastard. I doubt I shall be trusting you again now I know how reluctant you are to admit error and/or correct diary items even when you know you are in the wrong.)

Judging by his outbursts earlier today, Dennis is expecting me to release this same IP data today and/or make reference to further IP data today.

Sorry, but no. Any further IP data would leave us in much the same place as the above.

What I publish today is not IP data or anything to do with it.

What I publish today is professional linguistic analysis of the Twitter output of @tabloidtroll compared to the Twitter output of @dennisricemedia (Dennis Rice’s ‘main’/name account):

Report of Dr Nicci MacLeod: Comparison of tweets from tabloidtroll to tweets from dennisricemedia for evidence of linguistic consistency

My sincere thanks go to Dr Nicci MacLeod (Research Associate) and Dr Tim Grant (Director) at the Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University for their time, effort and expertise.

The main findings of the analysis are as follows:

There are multiple significant points of consistency between the output of Dennis Rice and ‘@tabloidtroll’. There are NO significant points of inconsistency.

The evidence I publish today (link) indicates (a) that Dennis Rice authored the majority of content for @tabloidtroll*, and (b) it is very unlikely that there was ever more than one author.

In much the same way that he hilariously declared that ‘lots of people have IP addresses’, I expected Dennis Rice would respond to this evidence by claiming that ‘lots of people say LOL’, but Dr MacLeod addressed this very same issue in her covering letter…

Nicci MacLeod: ‘it’s quite important that we make clear that it’s not the features themselves that are individuating, but the combinations thereof that indicate possibility of shared authorship – I reiterate this a couple of times in the report but I would say it’s pretty crucial that the message gets through, or we risk the inevitable “millions of people use lol and :)”, etc.’

… and shortly after we agreed on a suitable analogy to put that into context:

Tim Ireland: ‘Would this be an accurate analogy? “It wasn’t the 7 or the 12 or the 25 or 29 or the 36 or the 42 that won me the lottery. Lots of people had those. But I had all six.”…’

Nicci: ‘The lottery analogy is absolutely perfect! There were a few author-internal inconsistencies (no more than would be expected)…’

What this means is that Dennis Rice is demonstrably the main account holder of @tabloidtroll AND the original/primary author. I have forensic evidence to support both control of the account, and authorship of the bulk of the content.

It is also worth stressing that not only has Dennis Rice lied about his authorship of @tabloidtroll, but he’s banked so much on this deceit that his extraordinary distortions form part of two consecutive attempts to have me prosecuted (and others fired or otherwise disciplined) for daring to say so.

The upshot of this is even if you believe Rice/@tabloidtroll has a moral/legal right to smear and bully people anonymously, you can’t trust a damn thing he claims to have witnessed, because it can be demonstrated quite clearly that he is capable of the most extraordinary distortions. Anecdotal evidence from someone like this has no value, even if you do turn a blind eye to undisclosed figure(s) paid to this demonstrable liar by Rupert Murdoch’s News International.

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(*For material up to and including the initial outing and a short period afterwards. It would not surprise me in the least if Rice has convinced others to chip in to a limited extent since then. I can think of at least one person stupid enough to do this.)

Psst! It was while I was sitting around waiting for Thames Valley Police to do their damn job that I decided to investigate their own web conduct. Unsurprisingly, a lackadaisical attitude to online bullying is evident in this series of anonymous Wikipedia edits and their response to my complaint about it.

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UPDATE (7pm) – Dennis Rice has, through his @tabloidtroll site, made several ‘straw man’ arguments in an attempt to undermine the report by claiming the source data is flawed. For example, he claims the researcher’s data is undermined by their saying there are 600 tweets in their data set while there are less than 400 tweets currently listed/apparent in the live account. But no tweets were ‘invented’ for the data set, despite what Dennis Rice might imply; the difference in two numbers is perhaps likely due to RTs not being counted, or perhaps some vast conspiracy. Maybe (just maybe) someone has been deleting some old entries. I’d check it out if I thought this was anything other than the flailings of a desperate liar. The question Dennis Rice really wants to ask is how I got my hands on this data during the period when he had rendered the @dennisricemedia tweets inaccessible to the public or any publicly-accessible cache/archive. Right now he’s too busy trying to goad me into publishing sensitive/IP data. Again.

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IMPORTANT UPDATE: 2014 post detailing how Dennis Rice reacted to the evidence that he was the author of ‘@tabloidtroll’

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Dennis Rice and the @TabloidTroll Twitter account

From the outset, I would like to make clear that I have both a legitimate personal and public interest argument for outing the author of the Twitter account @TabloidTroll (aka ‘tabloidman’) in that the account has been used (a) to libel me, and (b) to engage in abusive and circumstantial ad hominem attacks on a series of witnesses/contributors to the Leveson Inquiry, including Richard Peppiatt, Tom Watson, Hugh Grant, and those attached to the Guardian, the Media Standards Trust, and the ‘Hacked Off’ campaign.

The author of the @TabloidTroll account portrays himself as an ‘industry mole’ and this kind of behaviour as ‘whistle blowing’, even to the extent of claiming that outing him would be a criminal offence under something he calls the ‘Whistleblower Act’. This is a risk I am willing to take, not least because the Whistleblower Protection Act only applies in the United States, and though here in the UK we do have something called the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, it has no bearing on my position, or what I am about to disclose.

Last Sunday, a Direct Message was sent to the registered account holder for @TabloidTroll. It contained a unique URL leading to a page on my website. The recipient visited that URL, and my site, and replied to the DM confirming that he had done this.

Very soon after this, I emailed Dennis Rice of Dennis Rice Media Limited (Twitter: @DennisRiceMedia, Site: moneyforyourstory.com, Company No: 06646525) and asked him for his response to the already-public allegations that he was the author of @TabloidTroll.

The IP address of the person who received the Direct Message for @TabloidTroll (and subsequently visited my site) was exactly the same as that used by Dennis Rice to read and respond to my email.

Here we turn to key extracts* from the relevant correspondence, and I will remind you that at this stage, Dennis Rice is only responding to the already-public allegations that he is the author of Tabloid Troll:

(*There were further questions put to Dennis Rice that I choose not to publish at this time, mainly to keep this article focused on the core evidence, and not what I may or may not suspect about motive, or his involvement in further anonymous accounts.)

Tim Ireland:
Dennis… Do you have any comment to make about your alleged involvement with the Twitter account ‘@TabloidTroll’? On what basis would you claim/imply that the anonymity of someone behind an account like @TabloidTroll is protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act?

Dennis Rice:
Dear Tim – I am of course aware of Tabloidman, as I follow his/her tweets. I certainly am not, nor have ever been, him/her. Any suggestion that I am would be both untrue and damaging to my freelance employment in the national press and to my personal reputation. As regards the Whistleblower Act I have to confess I am unaware of such an Act – though I am prepared to take you on your word that such an Act exists. I have not the faintest idea how one could apply it to Twitter… Hope this clears this up for you. Best Regards, Dennis.

Tim Ireland:
Thank you, Dennis, for your reply. I would like to be very clear on your denial, if you don’t mind… Would you consider it correct and accurate to say that aside from following the account on Twitter using @dennisricemedia, you have NO connection to the @TabloidTroll account at all? That it’s not run by you, or anyone close/known to you? That’s it’s not an account you have any access to in any way?

Dennis Rice:
Dear Tim – I am not Tabloidman, or whatever he/she is called. I repeat that stating I am would be profoundly damaging. That is all I am going to say on the matter. My lawyers will deal with anything anyone would be foolish enough to print – alleging or otherwise – that I am. Thanks for your time.

Note that the second denial pulls up short of denying a connection to the @TabloidTroll account that might include a claim that an unnamed ‘friend’ runs the account (i.e. in much the same way that Andrew Gilligan claimed that an unnamed “partner” was behind a sock puppet using the name ‘kennite’ to praise his work and attack his enemies).

Note also that at this stage, Dennis Rice has no clue that the IP data he has just provided indicates that he is the main account holder for @TabloidTroll when it is balanced against the Direct Message to that account and the subsequent visit to a unique URL on my site.

So on Monday I emailed Dennis Rice, as per my obligations as a publisher, in an attempt to disclose and discuss not the mere allegation of his connection to the @TabloidTroll account, but the evidence tying him to it:

Tim Ireland:
My apologies for bothering you with a further question, but my website statistics show a visit from your IP/device yesterday. Would you mind awfully confirming which page(s) you visited, when you visited them, and how you came to be aware of the URL you visited first last night?

The email was read, but Dennis Rice offered no reply.

However, soon after this, the @TabloidTroll account was used to make contact with the Twitter account that sent the Direct Message containing the URL/visit that Dennis Rice had just been asked about; this message from @TabloidTroll requested the phone number of the sender of the Direct Message (!) and when this was refused with a counter offer of email correspondence, contact ceased.

So on Wednesday I contacted Dennis Rice again by email:

Tim Ireland:
Dear Dennis – Let us both acknowledge the reason why you have no ready answer for your visit to my site on Sunday and simultaneously cut to the chase: I intend to publish an article naming you as the person behind @tabloidtroll on Twitter and would be grateful if you could answer the following questions… [snip questions]… I require a response by 5pm on Thursday 27th April 2012.

The email was read (this time from three vastly different locations in the UK), but there was no reply.

By this time, Richard Peppiatt and Tom Watson had been advised of my findings, and my intention to publish them.

On Friday, the @TabloidTroll account was used to have yet another anonymous pop at Tom Watson, and Tom responded with a probing question based on his knowledge of an undisclosed settlement paid to Dennis Rice by News International. Key tweets from the relevant exchange appear below.

(If you are a regular here at Bloggerheads, you are about to experience a glorious pay-off. Pun intended.)

tom_watson ‏ – @tabloidtroll when did you last receive a payment from news international?

tabloidtroll – @tom_watson saying I am in the pay of News Int is also actionable. Whatever happened to the days when our MPs had brains? Deep sigh.

tom_watson – @tabloidtroll Did you not get your settlement for appearing in Glenn’s notebooks? No need to answer.

tabloidtroll – @tom_watson @dennisricemedia Ha, not you too? Ricey told me about the loon stalking him. Be careful of the company you keep.

tabloidtroll – @tom_watson Think Thames Valley Police will want to talk to you. They are currently investigating your (clearly unchecked) source.

1. ‘Ricey’. Because they’re mates. Not the same person, but mates. (rolls eyes) On that note, here’s one of my very favourite tweets; ‘Ricey’ bigging it up for his old mate @TabloidTroll (in reponse to a series of tweets about ‘Hacked Off’ including ugly insinuations about the Guardian and the Scott Trust, the Financial Times and Pearson, the Media Standards Trust, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs):

dennisricemedia – I think @tabloidtroll is raising some interesting questions tonight. We shouldn’t have a body asking for more accountability yet not itself

2. I immediately checked with Thames Valley Police and I can confirm what most regulars will already suspect, given the reliable patterns of behaviour exhibited by those who seek to gain personally or politically from the use of multiple/false identities:

a) Yes, after initially denying it, when confronted with hard evidence linking him to a web account used to bully people anonymously, Dennis Rice went to police and accused me of criminal behaviour. The exact nature of the allegation is unknown at this stage, but it would appear to centre on harassment, and not the phantom Whistleblower Act.

b) Yes, Dennis Rice also declared there to be a police investigation in progress (implying some level of guilt on my part) when all that had happened at that stage was he had contacted police, and his complaint had been logged by police.

Should an officer be assigned to the matter on the basis that a potential crime is suspected, I look forward to discussing the matter with them and inviting them to investigate the matter so fully as to determine the likely authorship of the @tabloidtroll account for themselves… assuming that Lord Justice Leveson doesn’t take an interest before then.

Well, I’ve kept you long enough already. Those who are uncertain about the full ramifications of Dennis Rice being intimately involved with the @TabloidTroll account (if not the sole author of same) are invited to search for ‘tabloidtroll’ using Snapbird (which will give you access to some 2000+ tweets much faster than Twitter will) and comparing the output to that of ‘dennisricemedia’.

You may also choose to balance this against the kind of material Dennis Rice produces and the publications he sells this material to.

On a final note, touching for but a moment on my own chosen profession, you are also invited to witness the first tweets by Dennis Rice and gaze in wonder at the emergence of an SEO and online marketing genius (link):

Dennis Rice tweets

Cheers all.

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UPDATE – The twitter account previously at @DennisRiceMedia has been renamed and rendered private, robbing the public of the capacity to balance that output against that of @TabloidTroll. Aw.

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UPDATE (24 May) – Near to a month has been wasted while I have patiently waited for Thames Valley Police to respond to a complaint from Dennis Rice, but I rather suspect that this was the point of the exercise. Through @tabloidtroll, Dennis even declared there to be an investigation in progress when there was no investigation (i.e. as if his call to police triggered an immediate response that somehow established my guilt). Here’s a sample of relevant tweets:

Tabloid Troll making untrue claims on behalf of police

Technically, an investigation did take place very recently (and very briefly), but in the words of Thames Valley Police I was “not a suspect” and they had “no intention of interviewing me or anything like that”. So, now that Thames Valley Police have established what any experienced reporter should have known all along, I present to you the complete and unedited contents of the email from me that Dennis Rice portrayed as a ‘nuisance message’ before pretending that police suspected my acts to be criminal in nature:

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To: Dennis Rice
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Dear Dennis,

Let us both acknowledge the reason why you have no ready answer for your visit to my site on Sunday and simultaneously cut to the chase:

I intend to publish an article naming you as the person behind @tabloidtroll on Twitter and would be grateful if you could answer the following questions:

1. Have you received payments from any subsidiary or associated companies of News Corporation in each/either of the last two years?

2. You were named as a target for Glenn Mulcaire. Have you received any out of court settlements from News Corporation or subsidiary or associated companies? If yes, did you sign a confidentiality agreement?

3. Have you been commissioned to write articles, provide commentary or produce content for social media regarding the hacking scandal and the people involved with the investigation?

4. Have you been contracted to work for any PR companies who are contracted to News Corporation or any of its subsidiary or associated companies?

5. Is there anything else you would like to say regarding your decision to establish a pseudonymous twitter account?

6. To what extent were you inspired by Glen Jenvey in your ‘sell your story’ initiative, which you must recognise is very similar to his?
(Note: Jenvey began sellyourstory.org in July 2008, I reported that initiative on my site in January 2009, and moneyforyourstory.com was registered in February 2009)

And, finally:

7. Would you care to clarify or retract your remarks – published through the @tabloidtroll account – about my “sinister” conduct as a blogger, the “little dodgy stunts” you claim to have seen evidence of in multiple copies of Private Eye, and my behaviour toward Patrick Mercer in relation to what you describe as the “manipulation” of an unnamed “far right activist”?

I require a response by 5pm on Thursday 27th April 2012.

Regards,

Tim Ireland

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For the record, the only answer Dennis Rice has offered to any of these questions is; “Help! Police!”

Well, police don’t think it’s any of their business, despite what Mr Rice claimed through the ‘Tabloid Troll’ account, so he is invited once again to answer any or all of them.

(Sorry it’s in public this time, Dennis old bean, but you brought this on yourself. If you want the luxury of private questions or advance notice of anything I intend to publish about you in future, the onus is on you to either clarify your position regarding your willingness to accept correspondence, or provide me with contact details for a lawyer or equally appropriate third party. You know how to reach me.)

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MessageSpace cannot be trusted with your personal data

I’ve recently had cause to submit a subject access request to the advertising network MessageSpace. After spending weeks dodging the issue, Jag Singh finally issued a cursory response, but ultimately refused to disclose the data he had earlier acknowledged I was due under the Data Protection Act. Jag Singh also failed to disclose paperwork involving my ex-directory home address and how he came by this sensitive information.

When first confronted about the source of this address, which was not readily accessible by any legitimate means, Jag Singh claimed that he “forgot” how he came by it.

When compelled by law to produce any and all paperwork that included that same address, Jag Singh claimed that it had been “thrown away”.

So please be advised that you would do well to avoid sharing any personal data with MessageSpace, because if you find yourself on the wrong side of Jag Singh or anyone involved in the offshore company that operates out of his open-plan office (see: Global and General Nominees, the contraceptive device used by gossip bloggers Paul Staines and Harry Cole), then there is a very good chance that those personal details will be handled inappropriately, if not used against you in a needlessly intimidating manner.

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[Psst! Click here to see Paul Staines complaining about someone handling his personal details inappropriately.]

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UPDATE (16 Feb) – I can confirm that Jag Singh has no comment to make about any of the above. Instead of facing up to serious questions about their handling of sensitive data, MessageSpace choose to avoid the issue, and for as long as this post remains live without a further update, that’s the way it stands. I mention this last bit because Jag Singh has an unfortunate habit of pretending matters have been settled when they have not.

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News of the World: a wake-up call for certain Conservatives

Some people in politics can be really funny about evidence… Westminster/media groupies especially so. It is not unknown for some ‘commentators’ to be so far into the role of propagandist that they will accuse personal/political enemies of criminality on nothing more than hearsay while refusing to even acknowledge solid evidence against those they support personally/politically.

(I’m sure I don’t need to name names, but I will say that, no, some apologies will never satisfy… but only while they remain half-hearted and self-serving because you’ve still got your head up your arse, you great big lumbering dipshit.)

That said, I would like to make it clear that the following is only an indicator of guilt, but it is a strong one that follows an emerging pattern; News of the World stories that claim/imply that ‘friends’ or ‘pals’ are the source of a story, when in fact the source of the story is intercepted/illicitly-accessed messages from mobile phones.

The item about Prince William that led to the conviction of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire was just such a story, and the mistake Goodman made was to print something that could only have come from illicit interception of phone messages.

Many other such stories had earlier escaped attention because of a lingering doubt about ‘friends’ and the widely-recognised need to protect sources. On this point, I refer to the words of Gordon Brown:

“… News International who took the freedom of the press as a licence for abuse, who cynically manipulated our support of that vital freedom as their justification, and who then callously used the defence of a free press as the banner under which they marched in step, as I say, with members of the criminal underworld.” – Gordon Brown, 12 July 2011

Basically, if the newspaper claimed or implied that the source was a friend/pal and there was potentially more than one source, all the newspaper had to do was refuse to name the source, and the target was left with nowhere to go. In other words; a blatant abuse of freedom of the press to disguise criminal activity conducted by newspaper staff.

The repeated success of this defensive rampart appears to have led to a situation in the News of the World newsroom especially where confidence was so high that ‘journalists’ would make overt reference to phone calls and text messages in articles resulting from illicitly-sourced leads. This article about Danielle Jones is a stark example, and this Liz Hurley item is typical of the celebrity articles I’ve seen that appear to follow this pattern.

(Psst! A WHOPPER of a celebrity example will follow later today. Think big. No, bigger. OK, now multiply that by three.)

So, with all of that in mind, I hope that this is the moment that some especially pigheaded Tories finally start to come around on this to the point of admitting that they didn’t just get it a little bit wrong because they weren’t aware of recent evidence, but that they got it very, very wrong because they wilfully turned a blind eye to available evidence and didn’t bother looking for further evidence:

News of the World James Major exclusive, 27 November 2005

That challenge may seem odd to the casual reader, but there are some people in this world who are so tribal that even when innocent victims are involved, they won’t come fully on board until one of their own is involved.

I mean, FFS, all of this stuff is just sitting in there in the British Newspaper Library, just waiting to be found, and even now there’s only me and maybe two or three newspapers showing an interest in the material. Where are all these Conservative bloggers who brag about leading the way every chance they get? Instead of asking where the evidence is, perhaps now some of these Tories might finally be convinced to start looking at it… or start looking for it.

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[Note – As with other items recently published on Bloggerheads, this article does not appear in the database of NotW articles recently released by the Telegraph. This is the first time this article has seen the light of day since it was originally published by News of the World in November 2005. This story results from original research I conducted into the friendship between Andy Coulson and Andy Hayman and associated ‘hacking’ issues, and if you would like to fund more independent research into this story and others like it, please open your virtual wallet and click here.]

John Elmes and why you can’t trust Times Higher Education

Recently, staff at Times Higher Education surprised a lot of their readers and supporters by seeking to promote themselves in blogs with the name ‘bloggerheads’, and acting both arrogantly and dishonestly when it was pointed out to them that someone (namely, me) had already been using the name for 10 years:

Ann Mroz: patronising, unpleasant and dishonest
The Times Higher Education correspondence
THE tank on my lawn (and how/when it got there)

John Elmes claimed that editors senior to him came up with the ‘bloggerheads’ name for his “round-up of the scholarly web”. Editors senior to Elmes then claimed it was the work of editors junior to them.

Me, I dare to assume that because it was John’s baby, he at least had some say in naming it. He certainly sought to retain the use of ‘bloggerheads’ in a thoroughly unreasonable fashion; it was Elmes who initially asked me if I had “copyrighted” the name (i.e. before I was passed on to senior editors who asked if I had trademarked the name) and it was Elmes who, at a peak in our dispute, took to naming the feature ‘The Bloggerheads’.

That said, the arrogance and dishonesty I encountered went right to the top; Editor Ann Mroz initially pretended that I had no rights under law because I had not trademarked the name, and then changed her position when I called her bluff. The Deputy Editor (Phil Baty) claimed that Times Higher Education were not aware of my site before using the name ‘bloggerheads’, but my site tracking says otherwise, and a week after I confronted their lawyer with this finding, no-one at Times Higher Education has offered any kind of answer to this.

While I am pleased that THE have finally removed all references to ‘bloggerheads’ from their site, I am greatly disappointed by their refusal to investigate/explain this discrepancy, their general dishonesty, and their apparent last-ditch effort to pass the following off as a condition of that removal:

“I must ask you to please remove your blog post header describing our editor as “dishonest” and the picture of our employee from your website immediately.”

I was even more disappointed to later discover that no explanation or apology of any kind was in the offing (especially after I had produced evidence suggesting that it was not quite the innocent mistake Times Higher Education had made it out to be).

I was, however, entirely unsurprised to see that the new name Elmes/THE had chosen was entirely lacking in invention; John Elmes’ round-up of the scholarly web is now named… ‘THE Scholarly Web’:

John Elmes: genius

(slow hand clap)

Unlike certain MPs, I am not sniffy about those who have been educated at university, but I reserve the right to point and laugh when it is clear that such an education has been wasted.

To close, for those who have some degree of faith in Times Higher Education, it is my sad duty to inform you that the magazine is staffed by the type of people who do not admit to mistakes, and instead seek to erase them, while bullying anyone who dares to make a noise about it; i.e. in one very important respect, they are no better than your average tabloid. I am sure that media-watchers especially understand what this means about taking anything THE claim at face value; they will know what a veneer of perfection usually hides.

Regrettable, but there it is. There is no getting away from the fact that Times Higher Education were entirely dishonest in their dealings with me, and then sought to erase their mistake rather than admit to any of that. They certainly don’t have any intention of acknowledging their error in print. How can you trust anything they commit to print if that’s their attitude?

THE tank on my lawn (and how/when it got there)

The following is a copy of a letter I have just sent to the lawyer that Times Higher Education referred me to earlier this afternoon. I did not hear from this gentleman before close of business today, so I did what I normally do in these situations… I continued to dig around in an effort to find out just what the hell these people were playing at.

The letter will reveal what I found about an hour ago. Monday may reveal if it is of any significance of not.

Until then, I leave you with this…

Dear Mr [lawyer's name snipped],

I think it only fair to warn you that I have just isolated the Service Provider for Times Higher Education (THE) in my site tracking, and have found evidence that contradicts their claim not to have known about my site before May 13 (i.e. when I first emailed them, taking issue with their use of my name).

We were not aware of your blog and I assure you that there is no attempt to hi-jack.
(Phil Baty, May 13, via email)

As you can see here, their first mention of the name on their site (as an upcoming feature) was on May 5:

“Starting next week, Bloggerheads – what the blogs are saying”
http://www.freezepage.com/1307137423LHYVOYNNTI

This, BTW, makes it clear that the feature was originally meant to be a blog about blogs from the beginning, which is something Baty et al later tried to downplay/deny (a lot), but I digress.

My point is that I am detecting a visit from before May 13. From before May 5, even.

This is an important issue, as I still have every right to be upset about how THE reacted after the fact if they had merely blundered in initially without looking, but it strikes me as a strong indication of bad faith if THE were indeed aware of my site before using the Bloggerheads name. In fact, it might be taken by some as an indication of outright dishonesty.

I shan’t tell you the exact date/details just yet. Why not have their IT people have a peek at the relevant http records first, and find out what this reveals from their end? This simple investigation should take a few minutes and may reveal someone from a different department, or perhaps even a different office in the same building accessing my site, which would leave us mainly with the reaction after the fact to deal with. Of course, I’d probably have to take your/their word for some of what they say they have found, but right now I have the added insurance of withheld details (i.e. not only the date) so in the unlikely event that THE are foolish enough to pull a fast one, there is a good chance that any fiction will be found out, if you’ll pardon my alliteration.

By the way, this is an open letter, and it has been published on my site (minus your name/details, as you’ve shown no sign of requiring exposure so far). I hope that does not strike you as too confrontational, but the fact of the matter is that THE parked a tank on my lawn and tried to claim ownership of my humble board with a nail in it.

So, please, I beg of you; don’t be moaning about my board with a nail in it until you get that bloody tank off my lawn and repair the damage to my grass.

Cheers

The Tim Ireland
www.bloggerheads.com

The Times Higher Education correspondence

(Psst! If you are new to this issue, please read this first.)

The following is the guts of my correspondence with staff from Times Higher Education after they tried to claim ownership of the name ‘bloggerheads’, the name I created in 2001 (see screen capture below).

John Elmes and 'THE BLOGGERHEADS'

The correspondence clearly shows that their argument switches from a question of copyright to one of trade mark, and that they begin to seriously stonewall from the moment I called the latter bluff and registered the name as a trade mark. These key points have been highlighted (by me) in bold.

The overall exchange has been edited for brevity, and one individual email has been subject to a minor edit to remove details that should remain private for personal security reasons. As usual, any such edits (and/or corrections of minor typos etc.) are marked [like so]. The exchange up until the point they accuse me of bad manners is complete and unedited so you might make a judgement about my manners for yourself.

I’d like to think I showed considerable restraint when they offered to re-label it ‘THE Bloggerheads’. I made the mistake of assuming good faith, and I was confident the issue would make itself apparent almost immediately. I was wrong, obviously. John Elmes made a particular point of switching his use of the name to ‘The Bloggerheads’ at a key point in this dispute.

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: john.elmes@tsleducation.com
Date: Fri, May 13, 2011 at 11:38 AM
Subject: ‘bloggerheads’

Please consider a [using] new name. This one’s taken.

Cheers

Tim

-

From: John.Elmes@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Date: Fri, May 13, 2011 at 3:08 PM
Subject: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Tim,

Thanks for your email, I appreciate your concern.

I just wanted to know if you had any copyright to the name. I only ask because my column is a small addition to a specialist higher education magazine, and the subject areas tend to differ drastically from yours.

I was having a look around the net and found this:

http://www.abeano.com/bloggerheads-new-for-2011-transparent-dummy-mag-tropical-waste/

It seems as though we aren’t the only ones to have utilised the expression ‘Bloggerheads’.

Kind regards,

John

John Elmes
Editorial Assistant
Times Higher Education
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: +44 (0)203 194 3315
www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: John.Elmes@tsleducation.com
Date: Fri, May 13, 2011 at 3:27 PM
Subject: ‘bloggerheads’

I raise the issue as a matter of manners. I am aware that others have shown poor manners, thanks.

Will you consider using your own, unique name?

T

-

From: John.Elmes@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Date: Fri, May 13, 2011 at 4:55 PM
Subject: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Tim,

I will raise it with my editors, but their view (they are the ones that came up with the name) was your site is distinctive enough to my column to remove any conflict. It is certainly different in terms of aesthetics, font and motivation, so we believe it won’t be an issue

Best,

John

John Elmes
Editorial Assistant
Times Higher Education
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: +44 (0)203 194 3315
www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: John.Elmes@tsleducation.com
Sent: 13 May 2011 15:27
Subject: Re: ‘bloggerheads’

Please advise your editors that if you intend to promote yourself through Twitter, any hashtag you use will be the same as my username. We will most definitely intersect in a way that is an issue for me, and I will ask you again if you (or your editors) will seriously consider using a unique name of your/their own invention instead of hijacking the one I have been using since 2001.

T

-

From: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Date: Tue, May 17, 2011 at 3:44 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Tim,

Thanks for your emails to John Elmes.

We were not aware of your blog and I assure you that there is no attempt to hi-jack.

Times Higher Education (THE) is a specialist higher education magazine, and our “bloggerheads” is dedicated entirely to scholarly/higher education policy debates on line, covering blogs and social media. It is quite clearly distinct from your blog, with a clearly separate audience.

It is clearly labeled with the strap: “A weekly round up of the best on the scholarly web”.

We have no intention to promote this column on Twitter using the “bloggerheads” hashtag.

As a courtesy to you, we have also added the THE logo to the name, which is now: “THE BloggerHeads”

Kind regards,

Phil Baty

Deputy Editor, Times Higher Education
Editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: 0203 194 3298

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/THEWorldUniRank
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimesHigherEd

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Tue, May 17, 2011 at 4:07 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Thank you for that at least. I would prefer there is no room for confusion, and I reserve the right to protect the name ‘bloggerheads’ should it become an issue. I really would prefer that you consider changing the name to a unique name of your own invention, though, and think it would be wisest in the long run.

Tim

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Tue, May 31, 2011 at 7:26 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Phil, despite your assurances, the predictable has happened and users in Twitter are referring to you as ‘bloggerheads’ and not ‘THEbloggerheads’ as promised. I also note that you continue to bill yourself as ‘bloggerheads’ on your site, and this is turning up in the top ten for searches for my website, crowding out other web presence[s] in my name:

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=416093

I once again request that you create your own unique name instead of using the name I have been using for over 10 years.

(Please don’t embarrass yourself by citing others’ use of the name; this use emerged in the middle of a campaign of harassment, and I fully intend to take the issue up with this other web user, as soon as I am able.)

Bloggerheads is a unique name of my own invention. You have no business using it. I ask you again to stop using it.

Instead, try inventing your own name. Like I did.

-

From: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Cc: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 9:12 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Mr Ireland

Please forward me your trademarking documentation and I’m sure we will be happy to comply.

Kind regards

Ann

Ann Mroz
Editor
Times Higher Education
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: 0203 194 3326

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/

Follow THE on Twitter: http://twitter.com/timeshighered
Follow Ann Mroz on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AnnMroz

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: “Mroz, Ann”
Cc: “Baty, Phil”
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 9:31 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Why not say what you mean? You are happy to trade off a name that I invented if I cannot defend myself with costly legal muscle, and you care nothing for the inconvenience it will cause or the lack of respect it shows.

I can easily prove that I created the name and have been using it on the web for 10 years. That has until recently been good enough for others and it should be good enough for you… unless of course, you are the type of organisation that likes to stamp on the little guy.

Even the New York Times had the good sense to modify their use of the name to ‘bloggINGheads’. They understand that marketing yourself on the web requires some sensitivity to others inhabiting the relevant community.

I will ask you one more time to show me a modicum of respect and engage your mind(s) just long enough to come up with a unique name of your own invention.

Please, show me the respect I am due. You would not like it if someone seized control of your name.

Tim Ireland

-

From: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Cc: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 9:33 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Mr Ireland

No, I would not like it if someone seized control of our name which is why I took the trouble to protect it by legal means.

I always show respect to people who are polite.

Kind regards

Ann

Ann Mroz
Editor
Times Higher Education
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: 0203 194 3326

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/

Follow THE on Twitter: http://twitter.com/timeshighered
Follow Ann Mroz on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AnnMroz

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Cc: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 9:37 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Please do not pretend that everyone is in a position to defend themselves in this way, and please do not insult me further by calling my manners into question after the way you have treated me.

Do you intend to continue using the unique name that I created, despite my very clear objections?

T

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Cc: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 9:52 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Allow me to explain the situation to you:

I will repeat that I have been subjected to an extended campaign of harassment, targeting myself and my family, causing great distress and considerable financial difficulty. I have never had cause to invest in a trade mark before, as for many years previous to this, simple respect within the web community was enough. I am certainly not in a strong position to rush out and do it now.

You risk compelling me to undertake this expense, and I do not think I am giving anything away by revealing that you may be able to swoop in an register it in your own name, despite your knowledge of my moral claim to it.

Neither move casts you in a good light, and I fully intend to make this dispute public if you refuse to be reasonable. I would remind you that you are seeking a brand to promote yourself in the blogging community, not distance yourself from it by charging in with a steamroller.

I will ask again: Do you intend to continue using the unique name that I created, despite my very clear objections?

T

-

From: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 10:19 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Tim,

We adopted the name “Bloggerheads” for a small column on page 24 of our magazine, without any awareness of your blog.

We note that the name is not protected by you, and is indeed used by others on the Internet.

We note that the content of the THE column is entirely unrelated to your blog – we look exclusively at social media on higher education issues, a very narrow field.

Our distinct content is clearly marked in a sub-heading to the column: “A weekly round-up of the best on the scholarly web”.

When you alerted us to your blog, as a courtesy, we immediately agreed to re-design the column masthead and change the name of the column to “THE Bloggerheads”, incorporating our protected brand “THE” (Times Higher Education”), to make the clear differences even more explicit.

The website now displays the column as “THE Bloggerheads”: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=416254&c=1

We have also agreed, again purely as a courtesy, that we will only promote the column as “THE Bloggerheads” on Twitter and other social media.

We have been courteous and considerate throughout, and have made these clear concessions as a matter of good will, without any obligation on our part at all.

We feel these concessions are quite sufficient and entirely reasonable.

I trust that in the event that you decide to make this “dispute” public, you will reproduce this response in full.

Thank you for your correspondence,

Phil Baty

Deputy Editor, Times Higher Education
Editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: 0203 194 3298

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/THEWorldUniRank
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimesHigherEd

-

And, as you will note, that is exactly what I have done. I have reproduced their response in full. In fact the full exchange above is entirely unedited, and I am really pissed off about being compelled to have to take it to this step because it necessitates a public acknowledgement of specific difficulty my stalker has caused me. Normally, this is something to be avoided with people engaging in this type of harassment, as it tends to encourage them.

Unfortunately, to protect my sole source of income, a site I have invested 10 years of my life in, the point must be made publicly that both Ann Mroz and Phil Baty were made aware of the issues surrounding an immediate investment in a trade mark registration.

Back to the correspondence:

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 10:41 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

How am I back talking to you now, Phil? Is it because you were the person who claimed to have invented the name, thereby causing this dispute?

I have already explained that I was in no position to protect myself from the small number of two-bit operations who also sought to capitalise on my name. I have been in contact with these other parties since you sought to capitalise on my name yourself and use their hijacking as an excuse. Please don’t embarrass yourself further by using these people as cover (or by excusing your ‘mere’ use of it in the back pages of your magazine). You already admit that you chose to use the name to promote your web initiative without first determining if someone else in the web community was using the name (a simple search in Google would have alerted you to my blog and the various other web presences in my name using this same name) so you cannot now defend its continued use by pretending that you were always aware of this.

I am bloggerheads. It is my creation, I use the name to blog about blogging, and I have done so for 10 years.

Specialised arena or not, you seek to blog about blogging, and despite your assurances/concessions, people are already using my name to refer to your web round-up.

Oh, and we are most certainly in dispute, despite what your scare quotes might imply, and I would welcome the opportunity to air this matter in full, as well as your earlier correspondence and the arrogance it reveals:

I trust that in the event that you decide to make this “dispute” public, you will reproduce this response in full.

Despite your tangential defence about what may appear in page 24 of your magazine, you are using my name, you are using it on the web as well as in print, you did not even have enough regard for the web community to check if someone was using the name ‘bloggerheads’ before committing to it, and you have been stubborn, evasive and unreasonable since I called you on it.

I have repeatedly stated that I would much prefer it if you created your own name. This challenge appears to be beyond you, or perhaps you are the type of person who refuses to back down even when they know they have made a mistake.

I will ask you again:

Do you intend to continue using the unique name that I created, despite my very clear objections?

T

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 10:56 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

I might also add this [snipped for security reasons]

In short, you compel me to commit to considerable expense and inconvenience at a time of great difficulty.

I would really rather that you were reasonable about the matter. Why not use a name of your own invention? Where is the problem here? Have you foolishly invested money in use of the name without doing so much as a Google search for any other instances of it? Is that why you compel me to commit to considerable expense and inconvenience? Or are you merely being stubborn because of the arrogance this suggests?

T

-

It was at this stage I considered the only way to end the matter without wasting days/weeks of my time was to meet the trade mark challenge. We had a lonnnng discussion about it in this house. We couldn’t really afford the expense, but Bloggerheads was a vital source of income. How could we not protect this asset from someone who was so obviously hostile in their seizure of it?

After the trade mark registration process was completed and relevant documentation secured, I called their bluff:

-
From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 12:28 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Congratulations. You have compelled me to undergo the expense or registering my unique name as a trademark at a time when we can ill-afford it.

Now, are you going to be so difficult that you continue to use the name in the ~6 months it will take to process the application, or are you going to finally decide to play-act at being reasonable now you’ve put us through this major inconvenience?

Tim

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 1:09 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Well? I’ve called your bluff. What’s your response?

T

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 1:27 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

To be clear; I expect a response this afternoon.

Putting aside the patronising way you dismiss my moral claim to this name, you gave me the impression that if the name was protected as a trade mark you would comply with my wishes. I have today begun the registration process, and now you refuse to budge from your existing position, even though you appear to have NO CLUE about the circumstances in which the name came to be used in your magazine and on your website. You can’t even name the sub-editor you imply presented the name as an original piece of work.

Did you mean what you said about trade mark, or was it merely a bluff? I have cause to be upset with you either way, but I will be especially upset if it is the latter, after I explained my circumstances to you.

Do you intend to continue using the unique name that I created, despite my very clear objections?

Tim

-

From: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 2:18 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Tim,

Can you please direct all further correspondence (and phone calls) on this matter to our Information Assurance Officer, Arshid Bashir.

He is on arshid.bashir@tsleducation.com
Or 020 3194 3384

Thank you.

Phil Baty

Deputy Editor, Times Higher Education
Editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: 0203 194 3298

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/THEWorldUniRank
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimesHigherEd

-

After offering a summary of the issue that was complete bollocks, Arshid Bashir refused to engage on the matter of trade mark (and tort, as raised in the email that followed his summary):

-
Bashir, Arshid Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 4:36 PM
To: Tim Ireland

Dear Mr Ireland,

If I can first of all very briefly introduce myself: I am responsible for independently assuring to the TSL board that all functions and activities comply with all legal and regularity requirements and obligations.

Looking at your concerns expressed over the exchange of emails, can I suggest that we limit ourselves to the core issue and not become embroiled or distracted by side-issues or assumptions and conjecture.

If I can summarise your position:

1. It is your contention that you have prior rights on the title ‘Bloggerheads’ which you have used on your website for a number of years, but which had not been registered as a trademark.

2. And, although an accommodation was mutually and informally agreed a few weeks back by prefixing our use of the word ‘Bloggerheads’ with the word ‘THE’, you have subsequently became dissatisfied based on search engines results ranking our content too highly, relative to yours.

3. You are also unhappy we may use ‘Bloggerheads’ as a Twitter hashtag as this is your Twitter user name. We have clarified this is not our intent.

Whilst I can appreciate your views on ‘ownership’ of this word and subsequent discontent that your web presence may have been impacted; it is clear that TSL is not, and has not been in breach of any trademarks or any other proprietary rights.

I am sorry that our position may not be one that you would like, however TSL has neither sought nor would wish to seek to undermine the rights of others. In my opinion I also think it is highly unlikely that consumers or visitors to our respective content would confuse either web site with the other and therefore unlikely to be detrimental to you or us.

Can I also advise you that all future communication from within TSL will be by myself.

Yours sincerely

Arshid Bashir

-

From: Tim Ireland
To: Arshid.Bashir@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com, Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 4:50 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Your summary of my position is rife with assumption and conjecture, but happily I do not have to explain myself any further to protect my rights.

I have now approached an experienced intellectual property lawyer and I have been informed that it appears that the THE is committing the tort of “passing off” in respect of “Bloggerheads” and that it appears you would not have a sensible defence to a claim. I have a substantial and prior trading reputation in respect of my expertise of blogging and web-related matters that pre-dates your entire website by many years.

Accordingly, please remove the references to “Bloggerheads” from your site immediately.

Tim Ireland
www.bloggerheads.com

PS – Both the Editor and Deputy Editor have been CCed, because it was they who (a) gave me the false impression that I needed a registered trade mark to protect my rights, and (b) gave me the false impression that they would cooperate were such a trade mark registered. With all due respect, this matter has been needlessly complicated by these organ grinders playing lawyer, and I have every right to inform them of their error and expect an apology to go with their immediate cooperation.

-

Arshid Bashir answered this challenge… by refusing to address it in any way. In a phone call (that I recorded) I asked Bashir if he had a response to the tort issue. He replied; “we do not have to answer every email you send us”. I pressed him further, and he responded; “I do not think it would be productive for us to debate the matter”. Then he hung up on me.

Arshid Bashir now refuses to answer my emails or take my calls. Any attempt to reach Ann Mroz, Phil Baty or John Elmes results in my being referred to Arshid Bashir (who now refuses to answer my emails or take my calls).

I think it’s safe to interpret not only the copyright and trade mark challenges as a bluff, but the ‘concessions’ also. Here I will remind you that the ‘concession’ of referring to themselves as ‘THE Bloggerheads’ (i.e. T.H.E. Bloggerheads) quickly changed to their use of the name as ‘The Bloggerheads’ (i.e. the one, only and original accept-no-substitutes bloggerheads) at a peak moment in this dispute.

As for some of what they claim in mitigation, most of it is laughable and contradictory in places (e.g. senior editors blamed an un-named junior editor for the decision to use the name, the junior editor I spoke to blamed senior editors), plus it clearly paints a picture where the matter is mainly insignificant from their point of view. If this were the case, then it would be an insignificant matter for them to stop using my name.

However, they refuse to stop using my name, and I think this correspondence includes several instances revealing bad faith on their part. Key to this was the stark bluff from Ann Mroz that she would respect my rights if I went through with the trade mark paperwork.

After compelling me to reinforce my ownership with trade mark, they now appear to be waiting for me to engage lawyers, at further expense they know I will have difficulty meeting.

(Instead of using a rude word here, I will let you choose your own, but I ask that you not repeat it under comments. Let’s not do these people any favours.)

-

UPDATE (2pm) – Times Higher Education have just emailed to say that they “can confirm we have decided to change the name of our column in THE”. Unfortunately, they offer very little detail beyond this apart from some apparent conditions (!) so I have responded to the relevant requests, and will let you know of any outcome in due course.

-

UPDATE (damn near 5pm) – Times Higher Education have ignored my response to their conditions/requests, and have instead referred me to their lawyer, who has not yet been in touch. It looks like they mean to leave me hanging all weekend. Charming.

-

UPDATE (11:45pm) – Their lawyer might not have managed to make contact today, but Times Higher Education have late this afternoon removed from sight every page on their site that used the title ‘bloggerheads’. So we’re on our way to a resolution at last.

By the way, you may note in this correspondence that THE claimed to have been unaware of Bloggerheads before May 13 (i.e. when I first emailed them, taking issue with their use of my name). About an hour ago, I looked into my site tracking data and detected a visit from before May 13:

Bloggerheads – THE tank on my lawn (and how/when it got there)

I’m a guy who likes to be positive right down to my blood cells, so I am hoping this is not the indication of bad faith it appears to be.

-

Ann Mroz: patronising, unpleasant and dishonest

[MINI-UPDATE (03 Jun) – THE object to my use of the word ‘dishonest’ in this headline. I stand by my use of the word, but as a courtesy, I have placed this prominent and immediate link to the relevant correspondence so readers might better judge for themselves.]

Regulars of Bloggerheads will be aware that my family and I been through some difficult times recently. During the rolling crisis, several two-bit operations have sought to hijack the ‘bloggerheads’ name that I created, but my priority has been those attempting to associate this unique name (and mine) with paedophilia, stalking and what have you.

Recently, I complained to staff at the magazine Times Higher Education about their use of ‘bloggerheads’ – a unique name that I created to title my blog about blogs – to title a web round-up feature (i.e. their blog about blogs). I repeatedly made it clear that I wanted them to come up with their own name, especially when they clearly planned to use it to blog about other weblogs. They pretended there was no room for confusion, offered to put ‘the’ in front of it as a “concession” and left it at that. Almost immediately references to their magazine started turning up in Twitter and Google in searches for my unique name.

I complained again. They gave me the very clear impression that, were the name protected as a trade mark, they would immediately comply with my wishes.

Several times I pointed out to them that I had a significant and demonstrable moral claim to the name dating back many years, but they dismissed this notion in the most patronising way possible. I also pointed out that if they seek to market themselves on the via web/blogs, then there are far better ways of going about it than hijacking an existing name, which is one good reason why the expense of a trade mark has never been necessary before now in the decade I have been using the name ‘bloggerheads’.

I also pointed out that I was busy battling an ongoing campaign of harassment, and their position compelled me to spend money we could ill-afford at the moment, but they stood firm on their position (along with the ridiculous implication that they had searched the trade mark database but not Google when they decided on using this name as their own).

Ultimately, Times Higher Education Editor Ann Mroz left me with no choice but to trade mark the name so I might call their bluff and take further steps to protect it from recent misuse and/or appropriation by their organisation and others.

But now I have begun the trade mark registration process, they have changed their position, and plan to continue using the name as they have before!

That’s a class act, all the way. After compelling me to trade mark the name, now they’re going to compel me to await the completion of the registration process (and then, presumably, take them to court) before they will be in any way reasonable about this.

Their Deputy Editor can’t even name the sub-editor they claim ‘invented’ the word, but Times Higher Education staff are unwilling to admit that they made a mistake by using this unique name without first researching it. They even have the audacity to minimise the significance of its use from their point of view (e.g. it’s ‘only’ on page 24 of their magazine), but surely if it’s no big deal to them and a bloody big deal to me, then that’s even more reason for them to back off and do what they should have done in the first place; come up with a unique name of their own invention.

-

[Other, smaller, organisations who have recently sought to appropriate this name have also been contacted about this matter today. I am hoping that they will be more reasonable. I certainly can’t see how they can top this response from Times Higher Education. I realise THE are in the education sector, but surely they’ve grown out of playground games by now.]

-

UPDATE – Check the comments for a contribution by ‘Malcolm Kent’. It was submitted using false details, and is an obvious sock-puppet.

-

OpenTech talk (extract): #Outpost

The following is an extract from a talk I have just given at OpenTech. I’ll put some audio and vision of the complete talk together shortly. The tag for discussion on twitter is #outpost.

… Some MPs get up to a lot of questionable stuff that simply isn’t recorded or reported anywhere. In fact, a significant information vacuum exists around many serving members of Parliament.

In the current Parliament there are 650 MPs, many of them are not adequately covered in the Information Universe, and some of them are actually sources of poor if not entirely false information.

I propose that a group of like-minded publishers research, evaluate and then selectively populate this information vacuum using a series of purpose-built MP-specific websites – or “space stations” – supported by a loosely networked group of independent publishers, in small teams of two or more.

I further propose that we use as a foundation for each project a bi-monthly report on that MP’s expenses; data that is available through the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority website, but not widely or reliably visible in the Information Universe. These screen captures display how this published expenses data is invisible to search engines; a search for one MP by name on the one site that IS partly indexable only turns up single passing mention, and no expenses data.

It would be foolish to expect anything but a handful of visitors to most sites of this type, but once you publish this particular data and make it more visible, the website only really needs an audience of one person to be of any relevance; the MP themselves.

There will be no need to chase or capture a constant audience by populating the sites with churnalism and/or mere opinion, but they can easily expand into some occasional fact-checking about what is reported about or published by that MP; crucially, only when there is a need. In this way, the demands of the individual sites are kept to a minimum, and speciality skills (writing, analysis, research, data crunching) can be shared across the network according to demand.

And, ultimately, you will be competing for relevance for a single name, not a series of names or a party name or politics generally. For most backbenchers, the only time you are likely to be crowded out of the top ten is when your adopted MP is finally getting some mainstream coverage. Here, we see The Nadine Dorries Project displaced to 8th place by all of the fuss about her latest poorly disguised campaign on behalf of religious fundamentalists. Normally it ticks along in third place, just as it is doing in Yahoo today.

Also, over time, because each publishing body attracts traffic specific to a single MP, people with an interest in this MP will eventually begin to feed it new information based on their own experiences, research etc., and this process remains entirely sustainable long before you approach anything like some of the sillier visitor claims that people have been throwing around. So long as that site is accumulating sufficient relevance to command high search results for that MP’s name and associated queries, starting with expenses, it is playing a valuable role, and requires minimum upkeep.

That said, if you do plan to confront your own MP with anything of substance, please be warned that it can lead to a situation where you are effectively cut off from local politics as a result, and not in a position where you can lobby your MP. The project I describe shouldn’t cost any money, but this can be a hell of a price to pay. I’m not just talking about myself here; the organisers of a certain hustings at Flit-ick were accused by Dorries of being part of a conspiracy against her, and she refused to engage with their group as a result.

For this reason I think potential participants should seriously consider targeting an MP other than their own, even if it does leads to cries of “they’re not even a CONSTITUENT!’

On that note, I would wish to remind you good people that taking on liars is not for the faint-hearted. You often get lied about as a result. You may even get smeared as a stalker. I Am Not A Lawyer, but I can tell you from experience that the law does not regard scrutinising an MP to be stalking or even harassment. However, you will appreciate having team-mates and a wider support network should this false accusation or any other be used against you in response to valid and fair scrutiny.

Also, if you have any interest in media watching at all, you will have noticed by now that MPs with an agenda often serve as hot spots for bullshit, as they are often the origin of lies, if not the source of ill-informed opinions used to sell or perpetuate them.

This information vacuum is a largely unexplored and poorly exploited region on the frontier, it is in the public interest that we have someone manning it, and it has a glorious sweet spot for those in the know; a place where many small publishers can have a significant impact on politics with very little effort, without surrendering their independence, and without falling into the old pattern of surrendering to gas giants and the passing garbage they attract.

In my opinion, pursuit of a mass audience is a fallacy, a false ideal for bloggers that discourages many talented publishers from fulfilling their true potential. If you are reaching any of your target audience, you shouldn’t have to worry about your audience size any more than boys should worry about penis size, PLUS I have just given you a short manual on knowing how to use it.

There it is. That’s my thought. It’s for you to determine how relevant it is.

If you’d like to chat about it on Twitter in coming days, the call to action from this talk will be live on my blog shortly and the tag for discussion is #outpost.

I look forward to manning the frontier with you. Thanks for your time.

Related link: Dave Cross – Watching the Press – Notes

Jeremy Hunt approves of all sorts of odd things

CCC11-02 – Jeremy Hunt rhymes with something

The latest edition of Conservative Change Channel is (finally) out and it includes two special moments from Jeremy Hunt (recorded just prior to the 2010 General Election):

1. The first is classic Hunt. He once again brushes right over the significance of two local Conservative activists who smeared an opponent as a paedophile, as if it’s of no significance. The look on his face at the time was ‘yeah, so what… get to the point’. He has repeatedly dismissed the importance of this smear campaign and repeatedly endorsed the MP (Anne Milton) who turned a blind eye to this campaign and involved herself personally in a further smear campaign against me. Hunt’s wife once gasped in shock when hearing about it, and Hunt shushed her loudly right there in the street, lest she make the fatal mistake of expressing any kind of alarm about it.

(I often wonder what he told her after making his excuses and hurrying off, as he so often does. I doubt it was the truth.)

2. Jeremy Hunt rather rashly weasels his way out of his practice of deleting past entries from his weblog and Twitter feed by claiming he is accountable after all… but only because of measures that corrupt liars like Iain Dale and Nadine Dorries describe as ‘stalking’ (when their mates are not doing the same or worse to people they don’t like).

So over the coming days and weeks – knowing that I have the blessing of the Minister of Teh Internets – I am going to encourage others to hold their MP to account via a weblog, starting with some simple tasks you will find surprisingly manageable and effective. I even have a plan for sharing the load on some of the more specialised/work-intensive tasks (e.g. journalism, research, data analysis, etc.). I will also be making recommendations* designed to minimise the risks I’ve exposed myself to, and you certainly won’t find yourself standing alone if some scumbag fights back with lies or smears.

I ran a similar (and successful) campaign for people to blog on behalf of MPs in 2005, but we have a much busier online village now, with better tech at our disposal, and this effort is going to be a lot less forgiving; we have a whole new gang of liars in charge, and they’ve been making all sorts of promises about transparency that they probably never expected they’d have to live up to.

(*On this note; you do NOT have to be a constituent of any given MP to take part. In fact, it’s probably better if you’re not; I found myself cut off from democracy at a local level because I dared to scrutinise my MP, and I’d hate to see that happen to someone else. Take your time. Choose your target. I’ll be on deck with Lesson One shortly.)

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