"Never miss a good chance to shut up." "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." "It's not the crime, it's the cover-up." "First, do no harm." These familiar sayings all carry the germ of the same simple but true idea: when you're in a jam, it's easy to make it worse, so try not to.
Plano, Texas attorney Carl David Ceder ought to familiarize himself with that rule.
Carl David Ceder, a criminal defense practitioner in the Dallas area, has a web site, and that site has a blog, and that blog has posts, and one of those posts was a straight unattributed rip-off of Dan Hull's list of 12 Rules of Client Service. It's off Ceder's site now — he's replaced it with a wordy (even by my standards) and mostly unreadable meditation on the subject.
Copying someone else's blog content and presenting it without attribution on your own site is called scraping. Scrapers — whether they are crazy or profit-motivated — are justifiably held in low esteem by anyone who blogs or enjoys writing. Scrapers often defend themselves with some variation on "you ought to be flattered" or "you ought to be ashamed for making a big deal of this."
When Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice called out Carl David Ceder for scraping — first taking the courtesy to email him — Ceder came roaring in with a jaw-dropping display of popped-collar douchebro bluster, Joycean rambling, and defensiveness in the comments. What struck me was how closely the reaction matched that of an angry spammer who once showed up in the comments here after I wrote about his feckless SEO spam. I've culled some highlights from Mr. Ceder's multiple appearances in Scott's comments, which typify responses from angry defensive people whose scraping is called out. Follow the links and consider the full comments yourself. Thematic highlights:
The statement of butthurt: "I just found this and take major offense."
The statement of I-do-real-work-unlike-you, with bonus regional flag-waving: "I don’t know how you Yankees practice here up North, but I spend my time actually practicing law IN THE COURTROOM." "My record speaks for itself. I can send you an entire book full of acquittals and dismissals. I get these these results by actually practicing, and not pretending to be a lawyer by “blogging” about the law."
The Insulting-Bloggers-As-Geeks-Or-Losers: "I don’t hide behind a computer, scrunching over a desk all day critiquing others I know nothing about. To me, that says something about the way you practice." "Perhaps I’m not a true “blogger” and realize practicing law involves more than sitting hunched over a computer nitpicking other lawyers I know nothing about."
The statement of I-don't-know-why-I-scraped-it-because-it-sucked-anyway: "My paralegal found this, and to be honest, I did not think any of the content was worthwhile, except for the Rule of inundating clients with correspondence."
The Blame-The-Staff: "My content supervisor presented it to me." "And to make my point certain, I didn’t rip content. And yes. I do have a content editor. And it’s precisely why I don’t have time to do it myself." "I do not spend much time on the internet, and do have someone who maintains my website content."
The Blustery Suggestions of Manly Violence: "If you want to meet in person to discuss this in person, I’d be happy to oblige. But I can assure you that you won’t like the results." "If you agree to not being a coward and hiding behind your computer all day, I can promise you that you may want to bring a first aid kit." "Again, if you want to meet, be sure to bring a first aid kit. In Texas some of us settle things the old fashion way. Similar to in a courtroom, but in a slightly different fashion I’m sure you can surmise." "And one last suggestion, if we ever meet in person, I wouldn’t only bring a first-aid kit, I’d bring other people other than yourself. Because I can imagine you yourself would rather hide behind a computer, than settle a dispute in person."" Again, remember to bring a first aid kit. And to bring more than one." "I will either fly to NYC to discuss with you, in person, outside, or I will invite you to come here. And again, my advice to this is to A) Bring a first-aid kid; and B) Bring more than just yourself. You will need more than just one person to discuss this matter."
The He-Ought-To-Be-Flattered, Possibly, Bad Diction Makes it Hard To Tell: "I can’t fathom whoever Dan Hull being flattered." [sic] "I don’t even know who Dan Hull is. I would think if anything he would be flattered . . . ." "I would think whoever made these Rules would be flattered."
The Even-Though-I-Am-Responding-At-Great-Length-And-Am-Very-Angry-I-Don't-Care-What-You-Say: "At any rate, I could care less what anyone else here has posted about me, or about any of my aforementioned comments." "My main goal is to achieve maximum client satisfaction and success, period. It is not to spend all of my time worrying over what content is on my web pages. Honestly, things like this to me, are trivial, and should be a non-issue and are an utter, and complete waste of time."
The There-Wasn't-That-Much-Taken-Anyway: "And I apologize to Mr. Hull if he did take offense to this, I was not trying to take credit for his 12 rules (which I believe were only one sentence each, so it was not like he wrote a novel on the subject)."
The I-Will-Murder-Your-Brand: "Again, I plan to write comments about you blog on every blog I can find. When someone googles your name, what I write regarding how you like to attack insults at attorneys trying to do their job, without merit or any investigation, that is all people will find. Please know that."
Having thoroughly beclowned himself in the comments on Scott's post about him, Mr. Ceder sent some emails. In the first, to Dan Hull, Mr. Ceder rambled at great length, and established that Scott Greenfield's last name is very funny:
. . . The main problem for lies with Mr. Greenman or Greenfeld or whatever his name is. . . . My frustration lies with Mr Greenbaum, or whatever he goes by. . .
Greenblatt? Greengold? Greenstein? Oy! Again with the name references. (Note: in a subsequent email, Mr. Ceder says he has Jewish friends and totally wasn't making Jew-Jew-Jew references by sneering at Scott's last name. This is entirely plausible; rather than a casual anti-Semite, Mr. Ceder may simply be, to use the legal terminology, a huge bag of dicks.)
Anyway, Mr. Ceder also offers these gems:
" I am currently driving to court and will try and respond more later." (This reminds me tonally of the infamous "I am heading to the gym in 26 minutes.")
"A law grad waiting for bar results about a year or toe ago was in charge of my web content. I was having trouble with a new paralegal, who while doing a great job, was not copying or cc’ing our clients enough. She cut and pasted the rules , and put them up there. I have never taken credit for them, shown them to a client, obviously care very little about blogs, and do not even know how to take the content down as of now even if I wanted to." Hey, what's that on the underside of that bus over there?
"I have a policy to shut bad karma and attitude out of my life, ignore it, and only partake in dialogue with those who approach me with respect." Other than threatening them with interstate violence, of course.
"I can honestly say I did not try to steal your content. If I did it would be in another section of my site."
"Again, my frustration lies with the guy in NYC. If he would agree to take down all the disparaging remarks about me, I would have whatever content he is referring to down ASAP." I AM NOT REPEATING THE FACEPALM IMAGE. STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME REPEAT THE FACEPALM IMAGE. ALSO: STOP TALKING.
Finally, as inevitably as the dawn, came Carl David Ceder's feckless libel threat, again delivered to Dan Hull, but pointed at Scott:
The "Still Blaming Staff": "They were presented to me, probably around a year or two ago, by a law grad (who was waiting on her bar results) who was helping me write and edit web content. In reality, I was trying to help her out because she needed work. I did not know where it came from, and I didn’t think to ask."
The Threat: "As of now, and this is true, I plan to sue the owner of the blog who has disparaged, and impugned, my character and intellect, in such a way." Carl David Ceder, please meet Texas' new anti-SLAPP law. Y'all are going to get along great.
The Sort-of Explanation: "I suggest that he read and review about how one can be sued for writing libelous content in such a way, especially when it is promulgating information that he did absolutely no research on before posting (about me, about my ability to practice as an attorney, about my character, my integrity, etc." I feel confident in saying that Scott Greenfield has read far more about libel law, and knows it far better, than Carl David Ceder. For instance, Ceder fails to cite what statements of fact Scott allegedly got wrong. Ceder has repeatedly conceded in writing that he had up on his web site Dan Hull's 12 rules, without attribution. Scott is absolutely free under the First Amendment to impugn Ceder's ethics, ability, and integrity based on that fact. That's a classic statement of opinion based on disclosed facts.
The Waving of the "I Have No Idea What I Am Talking About" Flag: "Perhaps the most baffling to me, however, was how he wrote information that he had absolutely no knowledge of, that was false, which eventually led to other comments that are also libelous (because he manages the content of the website, he is also liable for the comments posted by others)." "To this, I would direct him to the following regarding internet defamation laws, what constitutes being able to sue a blogger for libel, and being the moderator who is responsible for not only posting the material, but all the comments that stems as a result from it . . . ." This is, of course, the exact opposite of what the law is. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects Scott from liability for what his commenters write, even assuming that Ceder could show that they had written false and defamatory statements of fact as opposed to opinions. A minimally sensible or competent lawyer would have either known that already or would have researched the issue before making blustering threats.
The closing threat: "One glance at the libel and defamation laws for the owners of internet blog sites would seem to make this very clear and evident." Glance harder, dipshit.
Carl David Ceder, like angry spammer Jamie Spottz before him, seems to belong to a cult of pseudo-masculinity that requires him to respond with ignorant, long-winded, and ineffectual bluster when someone comments upon his online bad behavior. His I'm-from-Texas posturing and threats of violence suggest he thinks of himself as a "man's man," a John Wayne or Clint Eastwood sort of figure. That's not what he is. He's the anonymous and faintly buffoonish black-hat that John or Clint absent-mindedly shoots in the second act.
If Ceder is fool enough to file a malicious and frivolous defamation suit against Scott, he won't just face the Streisand Effect, which he is already courting. (Courting? He's got it bent over the end table.) He'll face a vigorous and brutally effective First Amendment defense. I doubt I'd even have to put up the Popehat Signal for Scott; Texas has a stable of excellent First Amendment attorneys who will likely leap at the chance to smack Ceder down. It would be an exciting opportunity to take Texas' anti-SLAPP law out for a spin.
Ceder could have done this right. He could have said "I'm sorry, my team put that content up without attribution. I take responsibility. I've shortened it to a quote and a link to Dan Hull's site. Of course you have the right to criticize me, but I would appreciate it if you'd add my apology to your post." Instead, he responded with bluster, threats, insults, and suggestions that he would not take down the plagiarized work unless Scott took his criticism down. If Carl David Ceder's reputation has been harmed, he is the sole and unplagiarized author of that harm.
Edited to add: This is one of his YouTube advertisements. Angels and ministers of grace defend us.
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