This is the full text of my remarks to the Town Council tonight, June 11. It's word-for-word, or very close. The letter to which it refers is here
Update: There is a response from the mayor and my response to him further down in the thread.
Update: There now video of my response further down in the thread.
Update: I now have an attorney, who sent a letter to Mr. Trenk, the town attorney. Linking isn't working right, so here's the URL directly: http://localforums.org/westorange/forum/index.php?topic=101.0
Jake Freivald, 10 Ridgeview Ave.
That's J-A-K-E Freivald.
Council President, Council members, staff members:
I'd like to take a moment to talk about an Internet domain I just registered. For a variety of reasons that I can discuss if you'd like me to, I registered westorange.info a few weeks ago. It contains a series of links to various resources of information about the town: The locations of forums, including one that I created (anyone can read it, you only need to register if you want to post); local news sources; information resources specifically about the town, including westorange.org
, which, as you know, is the official town website, as well as westorangegrassroots.org
, which is councilman Krakoviak's site; and more.
I was surprised to get a certified letter from the town attorney shortly thereafter — actually, "Jeff" Freivald received the letter, but I presume it was really for me — demanding that I "cease and desist from use, ownership and maintenance of" westorange.info; that I withdraw it from the current registrar; and that I "cease all current and future use of" westorange.info. I was advised that using the town's name was likely to cause "confustion" [sic in original letter], that "the township interprets this action as an effort by [me] to confuse and conflate the Township's official domain name and Web site with" westorange.info, and that at a minimum, my registration of westorange.info "has been taken with constructive knowledge of the Township's name and Web site, and constitutes bad faith use of" the domain, westorange.info.
If anyone would like to read a full copy of the letter, they can find a link to it at — you guessed it — westorange.info. That URL again is west-orange-dot-I-N-F-O.
Now, several questions occurred to me upon reading this letter.
First, do the administration and town attorney know that you can't legally copyright a place name? Corollary questions include, Did they know that there is an NYC.gov as well as an NYC.com, as well as myriad other websites that include placenames in them?
Second, do the administration and town attorney know that there are other websites with West Orange in the name, such as westorangenj.net and westorangeinfo.com?
Third, do the administration and town attorney know about the .gov domain? Specifically that, if they really wanted to avoid confustion, they could use westorange.gov or westorangenj.gov, which only government organizations are allowed to register?
Fourth, if the real concern were the prevention of confustion, why didn't they call me and ask for a prominent disclaimer on the site?
Fifth, if the real concern isn't the prevention of confustion, why did they send me this letter? Who was involved in making the decision to do so? Mr. Trenk doesn't even know my name, as his letter shows, so he wasn't the cause of the letter: Who was?
Sixth, do the administration and the town attorney know so little about both the Internet and the first amendment that they would waste their time sending such a letter? And am I missing something, or is this preemptive strike against the supposed confustion I'll allegedly be causing a form of prior restraint?
Now, I don't really expect answers to all of those questions, though if the administration would like to address them, I'm happy to hear the answers. But I believe that the following questions demand answers:
1. Have the owners of westorangenj.net, westorangeinfo.com, and other West Orange-related domains been sent cease-and-desist letters?
1.a. If so, why are they still operating? Should I expect the administration to take action against me after they take action against them, considering the fact that they have been defying administration demands for a longer period of time?
1.b. Or, if these other domain owners have not been sent cease-and-desist letters, why not?
1.b.i. Will the administration send them a cease-and-desist letter such as the one I have gotten?
1.b.ii. If the administration does not send them a cease-and-desist letter, then it would be unequal treatment under the law to maintain their demands against me. When, therefore, will the administration formally retract the demands in their cease-and-desist letter?
The letter I received told me to "Please be guided accordingly," and I have done so. Given the nature of this letter — a step taken by a town attorney when a simple phone call would have sufficed — my first inclination is a drive toward complete transparency: I would like the council and the citizens of West Orange to know about the letter, my questions, and the administration’s responses to my questions. If I'm wrong, I will be proven so; if the administration is wrong, as I believe they are, and badly, then that will be demonstrated. But at the least, what we do will be in the open.
I hope that the township will be guided accordingly.
The Mayor wasn't present tonight, so I didn't really expect answers at the meeting. Several of the Council members said they hadn't heard of the letter, and that doesn't surprise me, either. I'll wait for the administration to respond, hopefully with a simple "we retract our demands" letter.
Also, I should publicly apologize to Council President Vic Cirilo: When he was making his comments, he mentioned that he hadn't seen the letter. I called out from the public area that there was a link to it on westorange.info, for which he correctly chastised me; I was out of order.