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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Poetry in Motions

The Internet just gets weirder and weirder. Apparently, this is what happens when it's easy to communicate with everyone.

Latest case in point: a Supreme Court of Georgia ruling last week called Chan v. Ellis that introduced me to a species I hadn't heard of before - poetry trolls.

Alleged poetry trolls.

I was astonished to hear that this concept existed.

There's another fascinating issue: Can you stalk someone without ever contacting them? Why would someone think you could?

Read the opinion. Notice how vague the details are. And, no, the term "poetry troll" does not appear.

This required some research because the ruling was so vague I had to have answers.

Why would a poet have to go to great lengths to enforce the copyright on her work? What sort of irresistible, sublime volumes of verse could this be?

And why would someone be so provoked by this poetry that he'd resort to stalking (allegedly, but not really)?

The poem is not quoted in the ruling. This may be because the Georgia justices were a tad afraid of the poet.

It turns out that it's just one poem - something called "The Dash." You can find it on the plaintiff's website, where it says "please enjoy The Dash poem."

But don't enjoy it too much. According to a surprising number of people on the Internet, if you copy any of it and post it, you could be faced with a demand for money and/or a threat of litigation.

I'm not sure which is more amazing - the alleged money demands or the fact that anyone feels compelled to copy this literary work. Read it - it reads like someone's ninth-grade English homework.

I didn't feel inspired. I felt sleepy.

Maybe it's meant as an insomnia cure. The author should have it patented, not copyrighted.

But I suppose that's just me being cynical (my primary job here). Someone must have liked the thing because according to the court ruling, the defendant published almost 2,000 posts complaining about the poet's "copyright enforcement practices."

There's no mention of posts complaining about the poem. I think that's called love the sin, hate the sinner.

Be that as it may, the poet sued the website operator for stalking her because he posted criticisms even though none of them were sent to her and she didn't have to read them. A lower court agreed that was stalking. The Georgia Supreme Court disagreed.

Now go back to the ruling and check out the allegedly offending website: http://defiantly.net/. Anything strike you as strange?

I'll let you think about that for a minute.

The answer is that the website owner and anti-troll crusader in the court battle is one Matthew Chan. On his website, he's Matthew Valor.

Unless you put your cursor on his picture: then he's Matthew Chan again.

It's the worst-kept secret identity ever.

By the way, "The Dash," if you haven't already read it, is not about a track meet or rules of punctuation.

Those topics might have been interesting.

No, this is about the dash between the years of birth and death on a tombstone.

The lesson of the poem is that the most important part of your life is the part during which you're alive.

This is profound stuff.

Now consider whether you'd want to spend that important part of your life in court arguing about poetry.

Ah, the irony.

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