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

Posted by Tim Ireland at June 3, 2011

Category: Consume!, Old Media, Teh Interwebs, The Political Weblog Movement

This entry was posted on
Friday, June 3rd, 2011
10:30 pm and is filed
under Consume!, Old Media, Teh Interwebs, The Political Weblog Movement.

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”

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.


The Tim Ireland


  1. hangbitch says

    Out and out bullying, and good on you for fighting it like this. Don't think your correspondence is heavy-toned at all.

  2. Gestr says

    Actually, I disagree with Hangbitch. I think that you're letter has the potential to be heavy-toned. Not massively, but its there. You're definitely not wrong to be angry, and its certainly very interesting (and disappointing) that you've found that indication that THE were just lying.

    But, I really don't get the motivation of sending this letter. You sent it at some point between 21.30 and 22.30. I'm almost 100% sure that the THE had taken down bloggerheads before that – or at least started to (something I assumed you would be aware of, apologies for not letting you know). If we take your tank and nail on a board analogy, its as if the tank has started to reverse away from you, and you've charged it. It would have been much better to see what THE were doing first, rather than antagonising them further. Although it would be irrational on the THE's part, it might have have the opposite effect to what your letter intended. Even if you hadn't checked the THE before you fired off your letter (deliberate imagery use), you still should have waited for their reply.

    I'm not criticising your actions for being overzealous in a malicious way, or as some sort of character flaw. I just think its bad tactics. You could easily have waited for a) business hours b) a reply.

    Given that you found this stuff at 9.30ish, and had written the letter within the hour and published it on your site, I do wonder if you give yourself enough composure time before writing these emails. Perhaps a good night's sleep, with the satisfaction that you'd potentially uncovered a lie, would have been more prudent.

    • Tim_Ireland says

      As usual, you're welcome to disagree, Gestr, and I appreciate the input*. I have no interest in running an echo chamber here. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I hoped that after all the stonewalling that had gone on that their lawyer would ate least have attempted to make contact on Friday afternoon. Further, THE have still repeatedly refused to even acknowledge the issue of their use of my name as theirs in print and my request for an apology at least for all of the difficulty they have put me through.

      Also, yes, they may choose to roll their tank back onto my lawn as a result of this post, but this would be a disastrous tactic; it would amount to their visibly using my name and/or otherwise having a go at me out of spite.

      (*That said, keeping the overall theme of your recent comments in mind, I fear at some stage I MAY have to pull you up short on any live discussion of tactics, especially while the tank is still in play.)

      • Gestr says

        Didn't get your asterisk comment – but no worries. People can pull me up on anything they like!

        Now go enjoy your weekend!

    • Tim_Ireland says

      its as if the tank has started to reverse away from you, and you've charged it.

      Quite right. At this stage I have no idea if it's a permanent move, and even if it is, I want the crew to step out, swallow their pride, and fix the damn lawn.

  3. Dave W says

    Cards on table: I work in higher ed and read the Times Higher every week. I also read your blog regularly. I've no personal axe to grind.
    "THEBLOGGERHEADS" is a small column on the pages that covers senior staff movements and an obituary. It's not really a big deal in the context of the paper as a whole. Personal I never noticed the thing until your recent posts. So I can see where they're coming from when the say it's unlikely to be confused with your site. The change to "THEBLOGGERHEADS" is their idea of compromise as "THE" is the logo of the Times Higher which is recognised by the readership. They may well have done a quick Google and concluded that there was no risk of people confusing the 2 sites, hence the history in the logs.
    What they have not understood is the significance of the use of "bloggerheads" in the net community. They certainly will be unaware of your personal situation. To them you will just look like an uppity blogger throwing a strop.
    Perhaps if you were to explain in a less emotive context (tricky I know), with direction to your background posts, exactly why this matters so much they will engage in a less legalistic conversation?
    How about the online THEBLOGGERHEADS has a redirect for people who were looking for your site, an explanation in the column (don't ask for apology, they'll get defensive 'cos they don't think they're in the wrong) and as a "good will gesture" some recompense for your legal costs?
    You've got bigger battles to fight than this one. Let the tank quietly roll off your on the understanding that they won't park there again.
    If they come back with a bigger tank they deserve all they get and I'll chuck you a couple of bob to buy bullets with ;)

    • Tim_Ireland says

      Thanks, Dave. I realise perspective is an issue here. I did try to discuss specifics with Phil Baty in an effort to widen his perspective. He hung up on me, too. I also recognise how the use of 'THE' may have seemed to them initially, which is why I did not take it to heart until Elmes switched it to 'The' at a peak in our dispute. As for what you may not have noticed, I can produce numerous people who:
      (a) saw it in/on the mag/site and at least immediately associated it with me
      (b) assumed Times Higher Education was still a Murdoch property
      (c) all of the above

      • Dave W says

        Good points. I'd still hate to see you get sucked into a fight with a big publisher who will just out gun you with lawyers. Morally and legally (tort) you're in the right. I just think you need to pick your battles. All the best.

    • ejh says

      What puzzles me, though, is that if I ran a paper and started a small column on an inside page, and after doing so somebody wrote to me saying "sorry about this, but I use that name already", I'd change the name. I mean what with it being so obscure and unimportant and all.

      • Dave W says

        So would I and I certainly would not just hang up when confronted. That's just rude no matter what I might feel about the matter under discussion. Given the email exchanges I would have made damn sure of my facts before I started to get all legal about it. But that's just me. Call me old fashioned.
        If the title "bloggerheads" was purely restricted to the print editions THE would have a good case to argue that it was unlikely to be confused with Tim's site given their readership profile. It's when they went on line with the same name that they crossed the line. Couple that with the apparent attitude of management and Tim deserves an apology at the very least.

  4. Carl Eve says

    Sometimes a bit of humility at the right time can be the best and bravest response.

    Holding my breath? National newspaper?


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