The Coming Lawyerclysm
Column written by on Wednesday, September 29, 1999
There are hordes of serious-minded people who insist that the legal system is driving us towards a Lawyerclysm, when humanity becomes overwhelmed as it tries and fails to cope with the increasing complexity and absurdity of laws and legal arguments.
Even now, nobody can really keep up, and only a few can even fake it. Everyone is frantic, stressed, tethered, broke or worn out trying to manage. We are bombarded by patents, and copyrights, and bonehead laws, and lawsuits we certainly do not need or understand, that move more quickly and do more unpleasant things than we want, that we can barely grasp, let alone deal with.
The complaints and alarms are piling up.
Author James Keite in "Speedier" complains that the judicial system is forcing everything to move too quickly. In his new collection of essays, Arthur Z. Lark writes "I have seen the future and it's patented."
The typical twenty-first-century person's day, he predicts, will include: "Checking email, phone, and fax to see if any legal notices have arrived; skimming the news to keep track of new laws, regulations, and rules that were enacted; conferring with overpriced lawyers about pending lawsuits; attending court either in person or via closed-circuit holographic projection; talking with insurance adjustors to reduce future liabilities; exploring the Microsoft HyperWeb for tips on how to beat the IRS (12 million tax laws and counting)..."
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Anti-Lawyer Patrick Buyer goes further, warning in his books that lawyers are destroying the world. He wants us to kill all the lawyers to save the planet -- and ourselves. In his apocalyptic new dirge "Staring Into The Gavel," author Bob Labeller proclaims that western civilization itself is coming to an end.
Believe me, these predictions are not bullshit. The ongoing legal battle between Humorix and Microsoft is proof of this proposition.
You've no doubt been following the exchange of legal verbiage between the two parties over the last few weeks. It gets worse. Here's the certified letter that arrived from the bowels of the Microsoft Empire earlier today:
Dear Mr. Morals, et al,
Your challenging of the Microsoft GPL (Grossly Private License) by referring to the Humorix ClosedHumor Public License is not valid, because we in no way agreed to this license.
- By opening Port 80 of the Humorix website, you agree to these terms. If you do not agree to the terms, return the electrons you have received and immediately close your browser.
We did not open port 80 of your website. We have accessed your website through www-proxy1307.aol.com, so by your own terms, AOL agreed to the Humorix ClosedHumor Public License. Microsoft is not bound to any agreements AOL made with you or anyone else.
Even if we had accessed your port 80 directly, your license would be invalid, because we could not read it before accessing port 80. You, on the other hand, you can read the Microsoft GPL (Grossly Private License) without opening the envelope: remove the stamp and use a microscope with a magnification factor of at least thousand (1000) where the stamp was.
Also, I consider myself forced to point out that your license violates another Microsoft patent.
- You agree to purchase at least ten (10) shares of Humorix stock (Nasdaq: FAUX) within one (1) week and to hold said shares for at least one (1) year.
Microsoft owns a patent on "the concept of using one product to force people to use another product". Previous usage includes putting Internet Explorer in Windows, the fact that WindowsUpdate.microsoft.com cannot be accessed with Netscape, and our placing of MSN icons on the desktop of all computer users.
If you are a member of the Microsoft PBN (Patent Builder Network), you can check all Microsoft-owned patents online via the Microsoft Network (IE required). To sign up for a PBN account, you need to be a MSCL (Microsoft Certified Lawyer). Membership is $50,000 p.a., with a free trial period of twelve (12) seconds.
Thank you for your attention.
C. A. Pitalist
Chairman, Microsoft Legal Department
Pat N. Twar, Esq.
Deputy Under-Secretary, Patent Protection Division, Microsoft Legal Dept.
T. H. Eft
Under-Sub-Lawyer, Microsoft Patents & Innovations department
This is sickening. But not as bad as the reply that Mr. Noah Morals, Humorix lawyer, just sent back:
Dear Microsoft Legal Department,
Thank you for reporting the bug in the Humorix ClosedHumor Public License. My legal assistants have prepared an upgrade -- version 1.1 -- that fixes this and other known issues, and adds new features and usability enhancements. The text of the upgraded license is 1.2 MB in length.
The upgraded license states, "You may not read, copy, distribute, disseminate, laugh at, or modify any Humorix content unless you have accepted the terms of this License. Any usage of Humorix material without accepting this License is illegal and will be prosecuted as 'portal piracy'. If you decline to accept this License, (a) immediately delete any Humorix material you may have inadvertantly downloaded, and (b) reboot your computer.
We must inform you that Humorix has just applied for -- and received -- the following patent:
- The construction of a device that enables the user to fully read the contents of a folded paper container [envelope] without breaking the seal on said container.
We have used such a device extensively at Humorix; indeed, we just used it to read your previous correspondence without opening the envelope, which means that we have not accepted your poorly-worded Grossly Private License. Sorry... thanks for playing.
Finally, after extensive research we have uncovered that Microsoft's patent claim on "the concept of using one product to force people to use another product" in null and void. We have found extensive prior art in this field.
For instance, McDonalds has used hamburgers to force people to buy French fries for the past several decades. The question "Do you want fries with that?" is an obvious implementation of this concept. In addition, gun manufacturers have employed this concept to force consumers to buy ammunition, scopes, targets, and gun safes. Humorix is not in violation of this patent, which has clearly been a part of the public domain since the dawn of Capitalism. As stated before: Sorry... thanks for playing.
Thank you for your time.
Mr. Noah Morals,
Official Humorix Lawyer
Ms. Ava Rice,
Secretary for the Lowe & Morals Law Firm
The two lawyers focus on trivial, picayune details that are completely irrelevant to the original conflict (a patent on portal websites). And yet these two parties are arguing about every tiny detail as if it's a life or death struggle. Mr. Morals acts as if he wants Microsoft to swoop down and file the Mother Of All Lawsuits against Humorix.
This is insane. If this trend of rampant lawyerism continues, every person in the western world will spend every waking moment engaged in a struggle against opposing lawyers. The ancient Romans had colisseums for gladiator fights; 21st century America will have courtrooms for fight-to-the-death legal battles.
We're headed for a Lawyerclysm (I just made this term up), a catastrophic collision between people, lawyers, judges, politicians, and the so-called judicial system. We won't be consumed by evil aliens or runaway nanotech machines, as sci-fi futurists have long predicted. Instead, all progress and evolution will stop as we find ourselves sinking into the quicksand of the Paperwork Age, where the lawyer's pen is mightier than the sword.
That leaves most of us holding the bag, confronted with two noxious choices: to fall back to an anarchistic State of Nature, or to attend law school and hope to become a bona fide lawyercrat and participate in the runaway LawyerBinge.
Write me at jonsplatz [at] i-want-a-website [dot] com