Author Topic: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting  (Read 15431 times)

Offline Jake Freivald

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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.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 01:37:24 AM by Jake Freivald »
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Offline Jake Freivald

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Re: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2013, 10:48:45 PM »
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Offline westorangevoice

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Re: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2013, 05:54:05 AM »
The honest taxpayers of West Orange deserve an answer as to who authorized this letter and for what reason(s).   Clearly there is an agenda behind this and the public deserves to see what is going on at 66 Main Street in addition to the recent porno abuses.

Offline Bert Peronilla

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Re: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2013, 09:35:17 AM »
Why not email a copy of the letter to the Town Council and Mayor Parisi.   I have found them very responsive in the past.

Offline Jake Freivald

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Re: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2013, 10:11:36 AM »
Bert,

Last night I sent a copy of my statement to the mayor and the council, but I'm not sure that's what you mean. Let me say why I've taken this approach. 

Someone in the administration or the Trenk law firm chose the tone and mechanism of the discussion: formal communications methods and particular demands.

For them, that means a lawyer sends me a certified letter; since I won't dignify that with a response to the lawyer, the formal communications method I chose was a statement to the council. (It's rather unfortunate that the mayor wasn't there yesterday.)

While I could do all of this via email and the telephone, I think being public about it provides a few major advantages:

* Others who may receive similar letters, whether it be about web sites or something else, will be able to see the results of this process. They'll be better able to see whether they should assume that they should immediately comply with similar demands, or whether there might be situations in which they should ignore those demands.

* I had to talk to a variety of people about this situation, including lawyers, some of whom I wouldn't have spoken to if not for the fact that it was publicly viewable. There's a fair amount of combined intelligence behind my response. By doing things this way, that information is publicly available.

* The town can see how its administration is working. I think they very foolishly overreached, and based on their response, they can show that they have the character to withdraw or the stubbornness to proceed. In a similar way, if people think I'm doing the right thing or being foolishly stubborn, they can judge my character for better or for ill as well.

Whatever happens, it's all in the open. I think that, especially in government, that's a good thing.
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Offline Bert Peronilla

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Re: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2013, 10:33:15 AM »
Sending a copy of your statement to the Council and the Mayor is even better than my suggestion of just emailing a copy of Trent's letter.  This way, they will also see where you are coming from.   One does not need a PhD to conclude that Mr. Trent did not compose that letter.   Somehow, this case seems to be a local version of the scandal that Eric Holder, the Attorney General finds himself in, against the Press.   As the saying goes, you give a fool enough rope, and eventually, he will hang himself with it?

Offline Jake Freivald

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Re: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2013, 01:02:08 AM »
I received a response from the mayor this morning. He sent it to the council; Jack Sayers, the town Business Administrator; and Richard Trenk, the town attorney. It read as follows:
Quote
Good morning... the Administration authorized the sending of the cease and desist letter at the request of members of the Public Relations Commission that believe the sites and the confusion they arouse, undermines the efforts of the Commission and the work they do in promoting the Township.  As the Commission is officially sanctioned and funded by the Township, the Administration respected their concerns and agreed to send the letter.

Here is my response.


Mr. Mayor,

This is a beginning, but doesn't answer the specific questions (1-1.b.ii) that I laid out in my statement. (I'll start the numbering at 2 in this document for continuity.) I look forward to receiving those answers as well, because they relate directly to how we, collectively, should proceed to a resolution surrounding the cease-and-desist letter I received.

To address your initial response, I have to say that this raises as many questions as it answers.

---

Let's start with a clarification. The commission is composed of eight appointed members, as defined in Ordinance 2-52.2: not volunteers, not employees, not contractors. I read the phrase "at the request of members of the Public Relations Commission" to mean that this letter was requested by more than one member of the PRC as defined in the ordinance.

2. Is that interpretation correct? If not, please clarify.

2.a. Were there other people who requested it as well, and if so, who?

You may, understandably, not want to reveal who made the request, but you sent a letter demanding that I give up my property: People who drive you to such a bold demand should not be allowed to lurk in shadow.

---

I note that in your justification, you speak of the PRC as a body: "the Commission is officially sanctioned and funded by the Township", so you "respected their concerns". However, there was no discussion among the PRC members at a meeting, nor a vote to determine the consensus of the PRC as a whole. I know this because I am also a member of the PRC, and the first I heard about possible concerns was the letter itself.

So, to be perfectly clear:

* You sent a cease-and-desist letter to one member of the PRC because of a request by other, currently unnamed, members of the PRC.

* You acted on behalf of a few members, without a discussion or vote by the PRC as a body, but you justified your actions based on the power of the PRC as a whole.

This is startling.   

In the absence of consensus from the PRC, I wonder how you decide which members of the PRC you should listen to before invoking their authority as a body. As a vice president of marketing for a software company, I'm currently the only member whose professional life centers on marketing, branding, copyright, and related issues; this is a marketing, branding, and copyright issue; perhaps you could have consulted me before authorizing such a letter.

I could have told you that you can't copyright a place name.

I could have shown you the many commercial and informational sites that use placenames in the domain.

I could have proposed a variety of actions which, though unnecessary, would allay the fears of other PRC members regarding the confusion of my little web page with westorange.org.

I could even have proposed ways in which westorange.info could be a net positive for the town, improving the awareness of the town's official resources. Two ways spring immediately to mind: reciprocal links could improve search results, and widgets with the official town Twitter or Facebook feeds could be posted (clearly marked as official, of course) for better coverage. (Those things can still happen, by the way: We got off on the wrong foot, but I would be happy to go farther to promote town resources on westorange.info.)

Of course, if you had consulted me, I still wouldn't want you to claim that "the Commission" requested something if you had only spoken to me -- that obviously should wait for a vote -- but at least you might have avoided some of the core tomfoolery of this situation.

---

Finally, although you authorized the letter and are taking responsibility for that, there was ample reason for counsel to warn you of pitfalls: the lack of copyright on place names, case law from domain name suits, and the prohibition against prior restraint.

3. Did Mr. Trenk notify you of any potential issues with sending this letter?

Very sincerely,
Jake Freivald
Ridgeview Ave
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Offline westorangevoice

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Re: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2013, 07:05:03 AM »
The incompetence of Mayor Parisi is extremely troubling.  Everyday in WO more and more residents are victims of theft, attacks, assaults, and murders and the Mayor Parisi's sole response has been to reduce the police force and public servants needed to protect the good citizens of WO.  Yet a supposed couple of rogue PRC members who are confused on how to find the township website casues Mayor Parisi to take immediate legal action.  Common sense tells us the more appropriate repsonse would be to question why any member of the PRC would be confused on how to find the township website and why they were even members of the PRC, but the incompetence of Mayor Parisi manifests in him calling for immediate legal action, unless of course there is some other agenda going on that Mayor Parisi has not disclosed, in which case he is just lying again.

2014 will bring a new dawn upon WO as we will elect a new mayor who is capable of leading our township and serving the good people of WO in a competent and fair way.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2013, 09:35:19 AM by westorangevoice »

Offline Jake Freivald

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Re: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2013, 11:42:28 AM »
Gary Englert's brain reacted to this post, as did Gary himself. Both are moved to Garyville, in separate topics.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2013, 02:37:15 PM by Jake Freivald »
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Offline Bert Peronilla

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Re: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2013, 12:27:58 PM »
Jake, I interpret the response of Mayor Parisi to you to say that he authorized the sending of Trent's letter to you as a "courtesy" to the PRC.  I do not see him exerting executive powers to implement the "cease and desist" letter.  I believe that you have presented your case sufficiently to just ignore the letter.  I am not that familiar with who and what the PRC do.  However, it is now clear to me that some of the PRC members who were behind this letter seem to have their own agenda (we all do) and I believe they lost on this one.

Offline Jake Freivald

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Re: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2013, 02:33:18 PM »
Bert, I'm also on the PRC, and nobody talked to me about it -- and I'm the owner of the site in question!

Therefore, if this was done as a courtesy, it was done as a courtesy to particular people who happen to be PRC members.

It is impossible for this to have been done as a courtesy to the PRC. The mention of the PRC therefore appears to be confusion on the mayor's part at best, or a smokescreen at worst.
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Offline Jake Freivald

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Offline Raymond Helfrich

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Re: My statement re: westorange.info at the June 11 Town Council Meeting
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2013, 07:46:52 PM »
Quote from: Jake Freivald
... 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?

Yeah, what's up with that?  I thought that the whole purpose of the .gov domain is to reserve it for/know that the registrants are actual government entities!
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Offline Raymond Helfrich

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Re: The Mayor's statement about the C&D letter he authorized
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2013, 09:57:18 PM »
Quote from: The Mayor of West Orange
... the Administration authorized the sending of the cease and desist letter at the request of members of the Public Relations Commission that believe the sites and the confusion they arouse, undermines the efforts of the Commission and the work they do in promoting the Township.  As the Commission is officially sanctioned and funded by the Township, the Administration respected their concerns and agreed to send the letter.
So how many/which members of the PRC requested that the mayor instruct the town's attorney to send a cease & desist letter to a resident and member of the PRC?  How often does the mayor act on requests from individual members of the PRC?  Shouldn't the PRC discuss such things in their meetings?  And then take a vote, perhaps?  So that either The PRC suggests that the mayor to do something, or anyone who does (who might also be on the PRC) is simply acting as an individual resident, and not a PRC member?
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Offline Jake Freivald

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