Jay Lee: Local Photographer Threatened With Lawsuit by Woman Who Used Copyrighted Photo Without Permission
When Houston photographer, Houston Chronicle blogger and KPFT tech-talk show co-host Jay Lee found out last month that one of his copyrighted pics of Houston's skyline had been used without permission on multiple Web sites, he sent the Web hosts a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice informing them of the situation. That's when the ghost of Rod Serling stepped in, took a drag off his Chesterfield and informed Lee that he had just e-mailed [pause] The Twilight Zone.
The signpost up ahead...
Why is that, Hair Balls? you ask. We'll tell you why: One of the sites using the pic belonged to a woman named Candice Schwager, who blogs about all the various conspiracies she's uncovered throughout her life, as well as her disapproval of Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. The thing is, Schwager's 14 Web sites were registered via GoDaddy.com, and it's apparently the company's policy to suspend a client's account -- i.e., all of their domains -- even if a DMCA take-down notice only applies to one. When her account was suspended, she threatened to sue Lee for everything from harassment to defamation.
The weirdness blew the minds of techies and photographers in the blogosphere; before long, sites like Slashdot and Petapixel were covering the story.
Schwager believed this to be a conspiracy between Garcia, Lee, and a former Chron reporter named Alan Bernstein to destroy her credibility and abridge her freedom of speech. (Bernstein is a spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office, but Schwager describes him as Garcia's campaign manager). Her allegations, as presented on one of her blogs, are a jumbled, stream-of-consciousness sideshow: "Jay Lee and his outrageous lynch mob media printing lies to smear Candice have gone so over the top, there's simply more to the story. I've never met anyone so masochistic, begging to be smacked, as Jay. Call in the lynch mob! It goes all the way to Scotland! what's really up? [sic]"
Schwager, an attorney licensed in Texas under her maiden name, Leonard, is a self-appointed champion of special-needs children, which she believes make her an especially ripe target for Garcia and his minions: "Why would grown men put on an act like this, assassinating the Character of the President & Founder of Attorneys for Special Needs Children? Jay Lee is a hacker and tech expert and knows everything imaginable about computers. He would certainly know how to take down 14 of Atty4kids' websites with a single accusation. [sic]"
Speaking of masochism, Hair Balls decided to go straight to the source. We called Schwager Tuesday to get more details on this alleged conspiracy, only to be drowned in crayzand, which brave explorers will tell you is the toxic combination of crazy and quicksand indigenous to the dark continent of Kookartica. (We actually spoke with Schwager a few years back, when she sued the Clear Creek Independent School District in federal court for allegedly denying special education classes for her son. She accused the district of, among other things, violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. and organized crime.
Schwager told us she's not convinced Lee actually owns the photo in question. She tendered as evidence the fact that he declined her offer to pay for its use. (Lee and his attorney declined to comment for this story).
"I don't think it's copyrighted. I could never find the owner. He says he's...the owner, but he won't sell it. Why not? Because he can't sell it."
Now, bear in mind that any incoherence in what follows is not due to a typo or forgetting an entire paragraph or two; it's because Schwager speaks almost entirely in fragments marinated in non sequiturs. For example, she told us her sites were suspended after an attorney named Mark Bennett "called Garcia a crybaby because they had, who was it, Bernstein -- he's a creep -- intimidate the paralegal....Next day, my websites, all 14 are down."
Bernstein, she told us, "pretty much owned the Chronicle, and he has a lot of control of the people over there." When we asked what that assertion was based upon, she told us "Common knowledge."
The thing is, whenever we pressed for actual details of this vast conspiracy, she was vague. And then she was just evasive. At one point, she had to cut the conversation short: "I'm sorry. The police just got here and they're taking a report, and the Texas Rangers."