The latest bizarre Internet story combines two large and seemingly growing trends: addled copyright maximalism and pure lunacy.
Apparently, a bad poet named Shaun Shane has set up bots to hassle anyone on Twitter, or who has a publicly readable Facebook page, who quotes a short poem attributed to him. The poem in its entirety:
If only our tongues were made of glass, how much more careful we would be when we speak.
The poem is only slightly longer than its title, "Tongues Made of Glass."
Shaun Shane is at least a pseudonym, and the whole thing might be a joke -- though if so, it's one that Mr. Shane is unusually dedicated to. He's been at it since last year, when that poem was used in the Invisible Children/Kony 2012 campaign.
Tim Cushing at TechDirt has the remarkable details of this whole thing, including his interactions with the bots that somebody (Shane?) set up to respond automatically to anyone quoting the poem. Responses from the many accounts run by whomever is behind all this tend to be sub-literate. Such as this one directed at Cushing: "copyright infringement is a crime and Twitter will have to terminate your account or they are libel."
What makes all this even more entertaining is how close it is to reality. Just in the past couple of weeks, a very real person named Teri Buhl first threatened to sue a lawyer for publishing her public tweets, then threatened to sue TechDirt for writing about it, then threatened to sue media blogger Jim Romenesko for using her public Twitter photo after he had -- at her request -- written about the whole thing. The lawyer, she claimed, violated her copyright, which she had claimed in her Twitter bio where it says "No tweets are publishable."
Buhl, the reporter, seems no more literate than Shane, the poet. She opens her defense of her bizarre behavior this way: "I have a small group of bloggers really really mad at me for asking them to remove a copyright photo I own from online stories they've been writing about me."
Sadly, we are now in a situation where we have to deal with people like this. Whereas before the Internet, they were relegated to talking to themselves in dark rooms or sending nutty but harmless letters to the editor, now they are able to easily make public spectacles of themselves. We have always had litigious crazies clogging up our courts, but now they're clogging up our communications channels, too.