Karin Spaink on Thu, 4 Jun 1998 14:32:17 +0200 (MET DST)

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nettime-nl: Unbiased columnism #7 (Infringing)

De laatste uit de serie. Alles staat gewebbed op


Wednesday, 4 June 1998

True to my copyright terrorist instincts and traditions, I
am happy to serve you the last UC of this bunch: a fake
one, written by me in the absence of Karin, meant to ruin
her reputation as a writer.

Today was the last day of the hearings. Somehow I couldn't
believe it would be. I had told Magnusson (and the court)
that I would be in Holland tomorrow no matter what, and
that I would not come to court, even if the hearings
weren't finished. I was absolutely sure that Magnusson
would do everything he could to take up all day today, in
order to force me to leave without pleading. 

I also had double-crossed him and booked a flight that
would allow me to to plead tomorrow anyway. This way, I
estimated, he could make a fool of himself by taking up
time and yet be disappointed at the results. Did he then?
Of course he did. You press the button and he reacts as
expected time and over again. Never fails. There's a man you can trust.

But I must admit he started off nicely. "In flagrant
violation... total disrepect of the law and
courts...continued infringements..." steady pouring, good
pace, firm tone. One hour. One and a half. Then he noticed
the time, slowed down a bit. And a bit more. By 11.30 he
was glancing at the clock on the wall every some 10
minutes, reducing his pace every time. He ended up spelling
the words, just like last Thursday and Friday. Body
language in court indicated a spreading unrest, irritation,
boredom, disgust. I was affected the worst: waiting for the
second boot kills me. 

I was wondering how far the situation would go. I could
protest, but it would be to no use. At worst, the chairman
could propose a break, which would give Magnusson the
opportunity to waste yet more time. Twice I saw Magnusson's
aide yawning. The chairman is a master of masters in
keeping a stone face through anything, but even his
irritation was somehow transpiring, although I couldn't
pinpoint how. At some point I grabbed my cigarettes and
started making a move out. One more second and I would have
left the courtroom in the middle of Magnusson's plea. I
controlled myself. I saw Magnusson himself trying to
suppress a yawn. Then I realized that we were not going to
have a lunch break before Magnusson decided to finish. The
lunch break is usually at an appropriate moment in the
proceedings around 11.30-12.00. It was 11.50 and Magnusson
was going on. The chairman looked less irritated. 12.10.
The chairman begun to look almost relaxed. It might be just
my imagination - I was looking at *very* slight changes of
face and posture - but I think I'm right. I think the judge
decided to let Magnusson delay everybody's lunch for just
as long as he pleased, and let him feel that he was doing
so. Around 12.20 Magnusson was still slowly leafing his
papers, pronouncing a word per minute, desperately looking
for either something more to say or a decent way to close.
He failed with both. At 12.25, almost in the middle of a
sentence, he gave up. Ready. Lunch. I was shaking.

At 13.45 we resumed and it was my turn. It seems I can't
get anything done except under pressure. I started working
on the case late last Monday evening, on the eve of the
hearing, trying to go through and sort out some 2 thousand
pages which by then were still in disorder in a carton.
Tuesday evening I put them in binders and started going
though them, finishing at eight in the morning and going
straight to court. I didn't learn my lesson. I relaxed
during the weekend, wasted most of Monday, run a million
errands on Tuesday and began to preapare my plea  around
nine on Tuesday evening. It was ready at six in the
morning, whereafter I slept for one hour and went to court.
The question now was, was there any logic and coherence in
the plea I had prepared in my half-ruined state at night? I
hadn't reviewed it. 

It turned out there was plenty, but just a bit short of
enough. The final touch, the polishing of the arguments,
their correct order, it all could have been better. Yet, I
think I made my points quite clear. It's not easy: RTC's
case is one pile of legal shit, where all energy has been
put into cheap rhetorics and none in sorting out the causes
and effects and legal conditions and consequences of
things. Typical CoS litigation, simply. If you clean out
the irrelevant and sort the mess, what is left is just a
few very simple issues that can be decided just as
correctly in one way as in the other: matters of opinion.
Which in turn means that there is no way of knowing - or
even guessing - what the ruling will be. Due to holidays
it's expected on August 31. 

So far so well. The next chapter deals with legal costs.
These are generally fairly low in Sweden compared to other
European countries and cannot be compared with what is
awarded (or not awarded) in the US. The basic rule is that
who loses a case pays his counterpart's legal costs, within
reason. To give you an idea, the lawyer that represented me
from October 1996 to October 1997 and did a very good job
at it, was paid by the state for about 120 hours of work
some SEK 150.000 (USD 19.000). 20% more would still not
have been unreasonable, but that's about it. Plus necessary
and reasonable costs. In her case it was another SEK 4.000
(USD 500). If the parties partly win and partly lose, they
carry the legal costs proportionally to their gain and loss.

Now, hold your pants. RTC has only demanded SEK 25.000 (USD
3.125) in damages and I have all along expected that it was
with the backthought that by trying to win the entire
amount, they could aim at hitting me much harder with legal
costs. I was expecting a bill of half a million and I was
well prepared to dispute it. But when the time came,
Magnusson's aide got up and handed the bill to the chairman
and to me without a word. I leafed past the introduction
and looked at the figures. Fees SEK 4.500.000. Costs SEK
345.326. USD 562.500 and 43.000 respectively. I started to
laugh. I tried to stop, to no avail. The amount is so
absolutely ridiculous, so utterly absurd, so completely
ludicrous, that you begin to wonder about your own sanity:
no-one can be that insane as to ask for such a sum,
therefore you must be hallucinating yourself. I looked up.
The chairman was pronouncing the figures as if he was
tasting every one of them and - first time - he had lost
his stone face. A second judge had evidently a hard time to
stop himself from looking too amused. I looked down again
and turned the paper. It carried on. RTC's costs for work
and expenses: SEK 2.122.992 (USD 265.000). Legal opinions
SEK 190.009 (USD 23.700). Notary public SEK 116.010 (USD
14.500). Witnesses SEK 181.115 (USD 22.600). Among them,
Mikael Nyström, the computer expert, was billed with SEK
17.000 (USD 2.125) for one hour on the stand. Grand sum SEK 7.684.581. 

Discussion ensued. Magnusson defended the bill. I was still
laughing, but I felt very tired. What is the point in
spending so much time and energy in a case, if you are
going to ruin any impression of seriousness you might have
made, with such a bill? What is the point of spending two
years in court against someone who ridiculed you, if the
last thing you do to crown your case, is to ridicule
yourself? How is Magnusson ever going to face a judge or a
collegue in that court without thinking that they know him
as "the famous bill"? Is this what Hubbard does to people,
or are they born this way? Somehow I could neither pity
Magnusson, nor despise him. The chairman said some words in
a deliberately explicit low calm tone that reminded of his
tone when he was trying to make us settle, and the hearing
was closed. Tomorrow I'll be back in Holland.

To sum it up, it was all a waste of time and money and
legal resources. To begin with, we had a case that could
have been refined to set some of the important
delimitations between contradicting legislation; to
determine where one right ends because another right
begins. There won't be much of this. RTC deliberately
derailed the case into confusion, showing all too plainly
that it neither believes in the legal system, nor in its
own case. But if they don't, why then bother to sue? The
net result of this lawsuit and its offsprings is an
irreparable damage to the CoS' reputation in this country
for all overseeable time. Why spend millions on that? I do
dislike the CoS profoundly, but I still would like to
understand what goes on in the heads of its heads, what
makes them self-destruct in the way they do. I had a chat
with McShane, and found it far easier than trying to talk
to any low-level scieno I have met so far. I might be very
naive, but I get the feeling that the top and the bottom of
the CoS are mutually completing and equally mislead by
their own total lack of independent critical thinking.
Somehow I get the feeling that the entire CoS, top and
bottom, is an asylum for people that should have been helped elsewhere. 

Anyway, this is not the end. As soon as the ruling comes,
RTC will appeal against it. They are bound to lose on some
point at least (if only on their amazing bill) and we all
know they always appeal. In the meanwhile I have invited
them to sue me in Holland. I might feel sorry for them
sometimes when I'm tired, but that is no excuse that they
can use. If there is any chance that they really have spent
half the amount they asked for in this lawsuit, I'll gladly
see to it that they spend another as much on a second
front. That will keep them from using the money to more
destructive ends (and keep providing amusement to ars). 

oracle@everywhere: The ephemeral source of the eternal truth...

- K -

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