In 2014, the Abbey-Principality published a series of articles responding to attacks by “The International Commission on Nobility and Royalty” and its principals Peter Harradine and Donald Edward Goff. These articles, and a further article addressing comments by George Robert Gair (also known as “Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg”) have now been largely superseded by an extensive study of the theoretical and practical basis of the sovereignty of the Abbey-Principality which can be read here.
Some observations from the original articles are included below.
The Abbey-Principality has recently received unsolicited communications from United States citizens Peter Harradine and Donald Edward Goff, acting under the name of the Nevada corporation “The International Commission on Nobility and Royalty”. In this response, we seek to make clear that we condemn these actions in the strongest terms and further that we believe that they constitute an ongoing campaign of harassment against us. The Abbey-Principality will not hesitate to defend itself against such attacks.
In November 2012, the Abbey-Principality received a copy of a poorly-argued, intemperately-worded and factually deficient article that sought to attack and libel us. The article was circulated under the aegis of the “International Commission on Nobility and Royalty” in the emailed newsletter of that body, but was anonymously authored, which in itself proclaimed it to be suspect. At this point, the Abbey-Principality published a response to this material. Several points from this response are worth quoting. On the subject of “international commissions” in general, we have stated: “The Abbey-Principality notes common factors in all “commissions” that concern themselves with nobility, royalty and chivalry. Firstly, they are uniformly self-appointed organisations, not owing their impetus to any Royal House, but instead to members of various chivalric orders who wish to “protect their turf” from anyone who threatens their establishment. Secondly, these organisations have no standing and no power in law, for all that they assign to themselves grandiose titles and ambitions (always, seemingly, claiming to be “international” in scope). Of course, they may publish their opinions as they see fit, but the only standing those opinions will have is within their own circle of followers. Any claim to scholarly standing that is put forward by such entities is at once quashed by their insistence on anonymous authorship for their pronouncements. It is self-evident that no “commission” can be recognised by the Abbey-Principality as possessing any form of authority whatsoever.”
The behaviour of Mr Harradine and Mr Goff since this time has included acts of provocation and harassment towards the Abbey-Principality. On 3 February 2014, Mr Harradine sent an email to the office of our Royal Patron, H.M. the Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara, in which he made reference to inaccurate and defamatory material which has been placed on the website Wikipedia either by him or by third parties with whom he makes common cause. The Abbey-Principality responded in full to this material in an Official Statement. Mr Harradine by means of his email message sought to exert influence upon our Royal Patron to end his Royal Patronage of our Orders based on this poorly-sourced material which had been selected purely as a means of attacking us. In the view of the Abbey-Principality, Mr Harradine thereby engaged in conduct that amounted to tortious interference in our treaty relationship with the Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara, and has thus laid himself open to action under law. Our Royal Patron has, to his great credit, ignored Mr Harradine’s illiterate communications (it is difficult to take seriously the “scholarship” of a man who cannot use an apostrophe correctly). Indeed, the Royal Bulletin “Royal Decisions” makes it clear that H.M. the Omukama does not enact retroactive changes to his decisions on recognition and related matters.
On 10 August 2014, the Abbey-Principality received an unsolicited email communication from Mr Harradine. Two days later, it received the same communication from Mr Goff. More recently, it has received the same communication anonymously via postal mail. The timing of these communications, being issued less than forty-eight hours after a notice had been published that the Prince-Abbot had suffered the loss of his father, is notable and cannot but reflect poorly on the character of those concerned. In their message, Mr Harradine and Mr Goff made it clear that the publication of our response to the original article that they had circulated was creating major problems for them. The communication threatened that if we did not remove our response, they would publish their original article on their website; an oddly hollow threat given that we have already addressed the matters concerned thoroughly in our response and thereby exposed those issues to the public for the past eighteen months. It is the policy of the Abbey-Principality that where threats are made to us, we will make the matter public and ensure that the perpetrators of such actions are exposed. We also note that the communication sent to us, which includes such sentences as “If you do not respond to us, we must consider that you want us the enclosed article onto the worldwide web” [sic] is illiterate even by a basic standard of English.
The Abbey-Principality does not seek to suppress historical debate, and accepts fully that such debate may include such matters as the critical consideration of our history and our legal status, since these are matters of legitimate public interest. Research into our history is ongoing and has been highly productive in recent years, and it is our hope that further documents of a historical nature will eventually be made public should agreement be reached with their present owners that will allow us to do so. We have never claimed that our archives are complete, particularly regarding the earliest years of our existence. However, we have presented our history and tradition in good faith throughout and with ample reference to those historical sources both from within and outside our ranks that we have been able to make available on our website. Our history is only one aspect of our work, but it is one that we reflect on with a justifiable pride both in the accomplishments of our forebears and in the values that they supported and that we perpetuate today. Not for nothing have we merited the recognition of, among many others, the de jure Emperor Kyrill of Russia (Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Thorns) and the late King Peter II of Yugoslavia (High Protector and Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Thorns). For us, the 1962 Letters Patent of King Peter, in which he recognizes the Prince de San Luigi, constitute all the recognition that we might require, and render debate on our historical origins entirely moot.
We therefore feel that it is entirely reasonable that we should require that debate on such matters should be undertaken in a balanced and respectful manner, and that it should not be conducted in such a manner as to attack and defame us. Mr Harradine and Mr Goff are clearly not interested in historical debate on these terms, as witness their obvious bias and their failure to confer with us or seek our response to their material in advance of its publication in their newsletter or on Wikipedia.
They even contradict themselves: in a previous publication from 2010, their “commission” said of our Royal Patron, H.M. the Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara, “King Solomon Iguru is a full “de jure” sovereign with all the rights, privileges and royal honours of such, because both he and his ancestors obeyed the international jurisprudence which preserves such rights in perpetuity.” The Abbey-Principality of San Luigi has been fully recognized by H.M. the Omukama as it was by his predecessor, as is the noble Bunyoro-Kitara title of Mukungu that has been held by the Prince-Abbots of San Luigi since 1885. Yet the “Commission” clearly does not accept the decisions of H.M. the Omukama as a sovereign to recognize the Abbey-Principality through formal treaty, confirmation of title and bestowal of his Royal Patronage; all actions that have been fully documented and made public via our website. A sovereign does not need to seek the permission of a self-appointed “commission” before he acts; his decisions are the law whether that “commission” likes them or not.
It is quite clear that the intent of the “Commission”, whether in their own communications, or on “free-for-all” websites such as Wikipedia where such material is accepted anonymously and without question, is to attack us and indeed any other party who is perceived to threaten their commercial interests or their high opinion of themselves.
The phrase “commercial interests” is used in a very specific context here. Reference to the website of the Secretary of State of the State of Nevada shows that an entity called “The International Commission of Nobility and Royalty” was registered as a corporation in Nevada on 21 June 2005. This registration was as a for-profit domestic corporation. The reader may reflect on the credibility of an “international commission” that is structured as a profit-making commercial entity in a well-known corporate haven. The President, Director and Treasurer positions are all listed as the same individual, Donald Edward Goff, while the Secretary is Peter Harradine. It would appear that far from being “international” in its organization, this is in fact a two man outfit, both of whose principals are American citizens. Moreover, it is now a defunct outfit, for on 2 June 2014, its directors made application for its dissolution, that act becoming effective on 30 June. What purpose can its principals now have in writing to us and threatening action by a non-existent corporate body?
The legal and financial structure employed by the Abbey-Principality is that of a charitable trust organized as a non-profit and tax exempt organization under English law. No individual can derive personal profit from its income, which is devoted entirely to meeting the running costs of the organization, supporting the practice of our religious beliefs and supporting the relief of poverty. The contrast with the position of the “Commission” will be noted.
It is interesting that the website of the “Commission”, as downloaded on 23 August 2014, states that it is still an active corporation in Nevada. The same can be confirmed by reference to a capture of the site in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine as of 14 August 2014 (https://web.archive.org/web/20140814175159/http://www.nobility-royalty.com/id66.htm). Reference to the Secretary of State’s website will show that this claim is false. If an organization cannot even be truthful about its corporate status, how much else about it can bear scrutiny?
We note that the Statutes of the State of Nevada, specifically NRS 78.047, make it illegal to do business as a Nevada corporation without filing articles of incorporation,
NRS 78.047(1). Every person, other than a corporation organized and existing pursuant to the laws of another state, territory, the District of Columbia, a possession of the United States or a foreign country, who is purporting to do business in this State as a corporation and who willfully fails or neglects to file with the Secretary of State articles of incorporation is subject to a fine of not less than $1,000 but not more than $10,000, to be recovered in a court of competent jurisdiction.
Furthermore, NRS 78.585(1) provides that a corporation may not continue the business for which it was established after it has been dissolved. Any service contract or subscription service with such a corporation would also appear to be terminated by the act of corporate dissolution.
Moreover, NRS 598.0915 (2) provides that
A person engages in a “deceptive trade practice” if, in the course of his or her business or occupation, he or she: Knowingly makes a false representation as to the source, sponsorship, approval or certification of goods or services for sale or lease.
A cursory search reveals some interesting information concerning Goff. A lengthy report has been commissioned from Oracle International, a Florida-based firm of private investigators, by Goff. The contents of this report show that Goff, in or around the year 2000, attempted to purchase via an Internet “title broker” for substantial sums of money the “feudal title of Prince of Halberstadt…from the Imperial and Royal House of Hohenzollern of Germany” as well as the title of “Knight Grand Collar” in the “Knights of Malta” and an unspecified dignity from the “Most Noble Patriarchal Order of St Mary of Palastine [sic]”. It is stated in the report that after subsequently reading an article on the Internet about the commercial brokerage of nobiliary and chivalric titles, Goff came to the conclusion that he had been deceived and defrauded. We cannot disagree with such a conclusion.
The position of the Abbey-Principality, which has never engaged in the commercial brokerage of nobiliary or chivalric titles, and which has consistently advised any who may approach it to avoid those who claim to deal in such commodities, is that an individual who has previously attempted to purchase nobiliary and chivalric titles on the Internet is unlikely to be an unbiased arbiter on the legitimacy of such matters. While we sympathize with Goff’s unfortunate experience, this cannot serve as a justification for online vigilantism against parties that have nothing whatsoever in common with those who have defrauded him, and indeed which in our own case have good cause to regard themselves as adversely affected by the activities of the very same persons with whom he has had past contact.
Indeed, the Abbey-Principality has been extremely critical in the past of individuals who have been engaged in schemes to persuade various regnant and ex-regnant Royal Houses to sell titles in return for financial commission and the bestowals of high titles of nobility and grades of knighthood upon themselves, and has openly stated that it regards those who engage in such practices as thoroughly disreputable. We have already commented on this with particular regard to Bunyoro-Kitara. We suspect that some of the individuals concerned are not unknown to the principals of the “Commission”.
The same critical viewpoint pertains regarding for-profit entities, whether calling themselves “international commissions” or not, that have clear vested interests in matters of this kind that would immediately throw into the severest doubt any claim that was made as to their expertise. Expertise would certainly not appear to rest with those who have previously believed that the House of Hohenzollern and the Order of Malta would sell dignities via an internet title emporium.
We are interested to note that the “International Commission on Nobility and Royalty” invites individuals to apply to it for “certification” of noble or royal status, or indeed of knighthood, which certification apparently necessitates annual renewal against a fee. It is not clear as to why the holder of a genuine title should feel the need to obtain a “certification” from an American for-profit corporation consisting of two named officers that lacks the slightest authority to certify anything. By contrast, holders of dubious honours are often eager to seek legitimation from any source.
Cutting to the chase, the “Commission” has advertised that, “Members who contribute large sums of money will be given the designation of diplomates and fellows of the Commission–our highest non-royal, non-noble status if they contribute $2,500 or more. All contributing $5,000 or more will be given the status of high diplomates and fellows. To remain…only requires the yearly payment of continued membership fees.” This speaks eloquently for itself. The sale of titles is still the sale of titles, whether the transaction is for dukedoms or “high diplomates and fellows”.
We are told, furthermore, that all “donations” for such services are non-refundable, and the website, which seems latterly to have been devoted in large part to the sale of books, also contains one of the lengthiest legal disclaimers that we have yet seen. Yet it appears that we need have no concern, for the “Commission” tells us “there is nothing sneaky in it” [sic]. In the course of this spiel, we are told that the “great cause” of the “Commission” is to “make the world safe for democracy” – a decidedly incongruous neoconservative stance for an organization that is supposedly monarchist in character, though not a great surprise for one that has been initiated by Americans.
The acceptance of such a disclaimer is stated to be obligatory if one wishes to transact with this peculiar organization; the experienced reader will remember similar disclaimers and non-refundability of services as being a feature of most Internet title-sellers. Another common feature that may be observed is the unauthorized use of a royal crown in the logo of the “Commission”, which, in contrast to the Abbey-Principality, enjoys no Royal Patronage, and the copious use of portraits of royalty, national and personal coats of arms and the insignia of chivalric orders throughout their website, none of which parties have in fact endorsed this for-profit corporation in any way whatsoever.
Possibly our experience is salutory; it seems that if you do not pay up for the “recognition” of the “Commission” and submit to its judgements, its response will be to attack you. That sort of behaviour is both all too familiar and very far from “noble”. Indeed, one does not have to look far on the internet to find the “Commission” described openly by others as a scam (see, for example: http://is.gd/uTMVQt).
We find it difficult to know exactly what to make of Mr Harradine. If his published photograph is reliable, he is a young man, and in our view displays a number of the follies of youth. It would appear that he believes not only that he is right and anyone opposing him is wrong, but that if only we would enter into discussion with him he could convince us of his rectitude and persuade us to abandon those elements of our organization that he so objects to. When it becomes clear to him that we have no interest in indulging him in his conceits, he resorts to threats and spite alongside pious lectures on what he understands to be “Christian principles”.
Mr Harradine seems to forget that he, his colleague Mr Goff and their defunct Nevada corporation are the aggressors against us. It is they who have chosen to circulate a “newsletter” attacking us and placed or supported the placing of inaccurate and malicious material on Wikipedia that defames us. It is they who have attempted to tortiously interfere with our treaty arrangements with our Royal Patron. It is they who have attacked a member of our organization for his association with us. It is they who have contacted us through unsolicited email and mail communications, and in their course, made ongoing threats and accusations against us. Now they have published material on their website that likewise attacks us. These actions entail the forfeit of assumptions of good faith or the benefit of the doubt. It is clear beyond any ambiguity what these men stand for, and exactly what they are. We have endured their behaviour for over two years now, and we have had our fill of it.
For our part, we have simply defended our own sovereign position, which has been unchanged for over a century now, against these men and the bile that is their stock-in-trade. It is possible that it may now be slowly dawning on them that we take our nobiliary and chivalric responsibilities extremely seriously, just as our predecessors did, and that we are not about to be bullied or threatened by anyone into any position of compromise.
The study of nobiliary and chivalric traditions draws upon two main academic fields; history and international law. These are highly complex areas, and this complexity constitutes much of the attraction of studying this subject. Much of international law, for example, is theoretical in nature, whereby some rests upon the consent of its subjects, while other aspects are subject to ius cogens. Just as with history, there is much that is subject to interpretation.
An experienced scholar is aware that different authorities may reach widely different conclusions on the same subject, and that there may be extremely subtle distinctions of emphasis and the weighing of particular sources that can produce a variety of possible outcomes, even extending to distinct and competing academic schools of thought. It is with this in mind that scholars generally express themselves in a measured manner, aware that they are contributing to a field of knowledge in which their work both rests upon past sources and forms the groundwork for future scholars in turn.
We do not know whether Mr Harradine has had the benefit of a college education, still less whether he has undertaken any formal study of history or international law. We suspect not, since his writing is full of elementary spelling and grammatical errors. But this can be said: on the evidence of his communications to us, he is no scholar. His writings are polemical; they use sources only when they are convenient to the case being made, and even then with little regard for their relevance; they expound themselves with a certainty that is crudely expressed and leaves no place for subtle distinctions, and they reflect all too clearly the intemperate tone that sadly characterizes much of Internet discussion. In short, they are base attacks upon us and deserve no higher consideration.
The key danger of “commissions” such as that which Mr Goff and Mr Harradine have established is that they seek to reduce a complex subject to a set of more-or-less arbitrary precepts. Because the general public does not understand the complexity of the subject, it is all too easy for “commissions” to offer simple-sounding solutions that seem to be helpful or well-intentioned. However, the precepts employed in the process of simplification are not neutral, but instead serve the agenda of a particular group or establishment. Nobility and chivalry did not come into existence with the aid of a single rule-book, nor was there any common consensus among the crowns of the world that their actions should be subject to any externally-imposed authority, still less one established by private individuals. Intervention on the grounds of “consumer protection”, the sorting of nobiliary sheep from goats, or similar crusades against “false claims” may sound laudable, but the reality is that such actions are rarely based on the kind of evidence that would withstand scrutiny in a court of law and indeed tend to leave the most egregious title-sellers well alone. Rather, they serve as a convenient vehicle for the exposition of prejudices, particular historical theories and aggression against particular groups and individuals who for whatever reason are deemed to be suitable targets. They can also be a convenient mask for groups whose activities behind the scenes would not withstand the kind of examination that they seek to impose upon others.
In his attacks against us, Mr Harradine returns to a particular idée fixe; he believes that the Abbey-Principality was a usurper in the act of its establishment in the Fezzan in 1883, and that usurpation cannot produce sovereignty. This demonstrates his ignorance at its most galling. If Mr Harradine had studied history, he would surely have come across the person of Napoléon I, Emperor of the French, whose sovereignty was gained by an act of usurpation twice over. Mr Harradine may wish firstly to familiarize himself with the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire, whereby Napoléon overthrew the Constitution of year III and established himself as First Consul, five years later crowning himself as Emperor. He may then look to the Hundred Days, when Napoléon regained the throne by deposing the rightful Bourbon King Louis XVIII. Let us now ask the questions: were the legal acts of Napoléon recognized and honoured by the French state, both during his life and subsequently? Were the 2,200 patents of nobility issued by him regarded as authentic and effective, and their holders duly registered in the Annuaire de la noblesse and the Almanach de Gotha? Was the Legion d’honneur created by Napoléon recognized and awarded by his Bourbon successors during their restoration? Is the head of the Imperial House of Bonaparte today recognized as among the pretenders to the throne of France? The answer to all of these questions is yes.
For that matter, we could then direct Mr Harradine’s attention to the manner in which Louis-Philippe became King of France in July 1830, following a revolution which overthrew the rightful Bourbon King Charles X. Were it not for a further act of usurpation, that of William of Orange in 1689 (when he overthrew the rightful King of England and Scotland, James II and VII), the Hanoverians and indeed the present Queen Elizabeth II would never have ascended the British throne. We could cite many more examples, but the point has already been made with sufficient force.
So Mr Harradine’s pleading of this case does little but reveal the weakness of his position. We do not necessarily accept his thesis that the Abbey-Principality was an usurper – there is no evidence of any effective or settled government in the Fezzan as of 1883 that could have been usurped, and Mr Harradine can only produce vague murmurs of Arab tribal structures that he argues were extant a century before that – but even if we were to do so, his complaint falls at the first hurdle. Mr Harradine appears not to know of the autonomy of Christians under the Ottoman rum millet during this period, and we will discuss that historical position more fully elsewhere.
Moreover, the Abbey-Principality has taken specific action that negates any debate over our origins. It has sought and gained the full recognition of both reigning sovereigns and Heads of ex-regnant Royal and Imperial Houses. The de jure Emperor Kyrill of Russia, King Frederik IX of Denmark, Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, the kings of Greece and Bulgaria, and many more of their peers are counted among our past members. It is a list that many might well envy.
In 1885, the then-Prince-Abbot was recognized by the Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara, an absolute monarch, who granted him the Bunyoro-Kitara title of Mukungu of the Ancient Abbey-Principality of San Luigi (Fizzan). That title was reconfirmed to the current Prince-Abbot in 2012 by the reigning Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara, King Solomon Iguru I, now a constitutional monarch. Moreover, a full treaty of friendship is in existence between the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom and the Abbey-Principality of San Luigi, and His Majesty the Omukama is a Royal Patron and Royal Protector of the two chivalric orders of the San Luigi foundation. What has Mr Harradine’s “commission” had to say about His Majesty? In a document issued by them on 1 May 2010 we read,
“King Solomon Iguru is a full “de jure” sovereign with all the rights, privileges and royal honours of such, because both he and his ancestors obeyed the international jurisprudence which preserves such rights in perpetuity.”
In 1962, Prince-Abbot Edmond II of San Luigi was accorded full recognition of the title of Prince de San Luigi by King Peter II of Yugoslavia, in addition to receiving a Royal Yugoslav marquisate from the King. The King had previously accepted the Grand Cross and the High Protectorship of the Order of the Crown of Thorns, with the latter office being left perpetually vacant in his memory after his death. King Peter was a formerly reigning sovereign who had never abdicated and retained his rights in full, including the concession of titles of nobility motu proprio. Titles conceded by King Peter II during his period of exile have been recognized, inter alia, on the diploma of a Spanish national order, on a diploma of the Constantinian Order, and on a Grand Cross diploma of an order of the House of Savoy, and those holding such titles have been admitted to other recognized Orders of Chivalry.
Mr Harradine’s website is devoted in part to the advertisement of a book by Dr Stephen Kerr y Baca. Clearly, Mr Harradine has not yet had the opportunity to discover Dr Kerr y Baca’s illuminating article “King and Constitution in International Law” in Chivalry, vol. IV no. 1, no. 13, 2001, pp. 48-54 (reprinted from The Augustan, vol. XVIII, no. 4, no. 80, 1977, pp. 125-132). This article discusses in full measure the various constitutional and other points concerning King Peter’s acts during his period in exile and concludes fully in favour of the validity and recognition of those acts.
These facts stand upon their merits and the documentation that supports them has been made public by the Abbey-Principality. In consequence, Mr Harradine can only make his case against us through a process of wilful neglect and the contradiction of his own previous statements and associations.
We note with interest Mr Harradine’s statement to us that his “commission” has terminated their connection with the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom because the Kingdom has ignored the advice of the “commission” and chosen to recognize what the “commission” describes as “false claims”. Nowhere is Mr Harradine’s agenda laid bare more patently than this. He has acknowledged openly that His Majesty the Omukama is a reigning sovereign. But in Mr Harradine’s world, a sovereign is only allowed to do what his “commission” approves of. It seems to have escaped Mr Harradine’s notice that if a sovereign recognizes a claim, whatever the antecedence of that claim, such a claim has ceased to be “false” by virtue of the act of its sovereign recognition. That is what sovereignty means in practice.
His Majesty the Omukama does not need to involve himself with the far from impartial agenda of any “commission” against particular groups or individuals. As a monarch, he decides what he will do himself, and his decision is not subject to interference from outside parties. Mr Harradine is interested, it seems, only in having a “tame” monarch at his command – and in this regard we recall our previous comments concerning certain individuals well-known to Mr Harradine who during June 2010 were prevailing upon His Majesty to sell Western-style titles of nobility with themselves as middlemen. Our view is that ending any contact with these people has been a most wise decision for His Majesty.
Mr Harradine perhaps forgets that the power of the sovereign is such that even error can be codified in law if the sovereign decrees it. If he looks to the peerage of the British Isles, he will find that the Earldom of Mar and Kellie, and the baronies of Percy, Strange (1628), Clifford (1628), and Wharton, were all created by mistake, in the light of erroneous conclusions that had been drawn as to the descent of particular dignities, and yet their creations were fully valid nonetheless. He may also look to the case of the Angeli Flavii Grand Masters of the Constantinian Order, whose family was never sovereign but was erroneously recognized as having the historic right to appoint Counts Palatine by two Papal Bulls and several other sovereign instruments. If he looks to France and Italy, the number of titles that had an obscure or even semi-legendary origin but were later recognized by various monarchs is legion. Moreover, there are several very familiar chivalric orders whose origin is likewise legendary rather than establishable as historical fact and that have subsequently acquired Royal Protection. Once the sovereign confers recognition, the matter is regularized and closed, whether Mr Harradine likes it or not.
In the further threats that Mr Harradine has made to us, he seems woefully out of his depth. He claims that our previous response to him, which contained several screen captures of archive copies of his website, violates his rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and thereby United States civil law. We shall leave aside for now the fact that United States civil law does not apply to non-United States entities such as the Abbey-Principality. We shall also leave aside the fact that the ownership of the material in question was until very recently attributed to a Nevada corporation which has as of several months ago been dissolved.
Mr Harradine would do well to educate himself on issues of copyright and he could do no better than to read the guidance provided by our webhost, wordpress.com, and its owners, Automattic. WordPress.com is robust in its defence of fair use under the DMCA, which is a major reason why we have chosen them as our webhost. At http://en.support.wordpress.com/fair-use we read,
“Using content for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research is usually fair.”
Our position is that we have indeed used this content for the purpose of criticism and comment. We do not require Mr Harradine’s permission to use his content in this way. Moreover, his threat to file a DMCA takedown notice against us should be reviewed in the light of Section 512(f) of the DMCA, whereby any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity is infringing is liable for:
“…any damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees, incurred by the alleged infringer, by any copyright owner or copyright owner’s authorized licensee, or by a service provider, who is injured by such misrepresentation, as the result of the service provider relying upon such misrepresentation in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing, or in replacing the removed material or ceasing to disable access to it.”
Our webhost, WordPress.com, has a history of filing lawsuits against those who commit such misrepresentation and specifically warns those thinking of filing DMCA takedown notices to consider these consequences in the event that the complaint concerns material that is found to be being used fairly. Mr Harradine advises us that one of his “board members” is “a practising U.S. patent attorney”, and one might hope that if Mr Harradine were to consult such a professional before writing to us, he might receive the advice that he should not issue such ill-considered threats.
Unabashed, Mr Harradine advises us in his email of 11 September that “we have made an official complaint against you with your internet privacy company for violating copyrighted material, which is an abuse of the law”. We have no “internet privacy company” to our knowledge. We do have a webhost, WordPress.com, and they have confirmed to us that they have received no DMCA takedown notice from any party to date. There is little more guaranteed to engender our contempt than a man who issues fake legal threats.
Mr Harradine asserts that he is “offended” by our treatment of him. This is a curious response from one who has previously insulted us, defamed us and falsely accused us of various forms of illegality. The truth is that Mr Harradine and his associates are very happy to play the Internet vigilante, particularly when they believe their activities to be hidden from view, but when their victims show that they can and will fight back, their response is to squeal like little girls. It may come as news to Mr Harradine that we are not interested in his “commission’s” approval or in buying a “certification” from him. We regard his appeal to Christian ethics as laughable given the patent evidence of his past behaviour. Nor are we overly troubled by his threat to publish further inaccurate and defamatory material about us on his website. His readers are not the sort of people who we seek to reach or whose opinions we care about. Our people are quite capable of reading both sides and making up their own mind as to who to believe. And, as Mr Harradine will know by now, we are more than capable of responding robustly to him and defending ourselves.
Indeed, the central problem with Mr Harradine seems to be that he has come to believe his own hyperbole. In his recent correspondence, Mr Harradine continually refers to the position between his party and ours in terms of a war. This perception is telling. He has convinced himself that he is the warrior for truth and justice and that anyone who opposes him is thereby “self-deceived”, fraudulent or otherwise on the side of evil. Seeing the world, and particularly the world of nobility, in terms of black and white is a dangerous delusion, particularly when the subjects at hand are committing no crime other than transgression against the ill-founded opinions of a particular party which is far from unbiased.
If this is, nevertheless, a war, Mr Harradine and his associates seem to have lost. Barely hidden behind the bluster of those recent communications is the truth that we have already struck far more effectively at them than they could ever do at us.
Prince-Abbot of San Luigi
Mukungu of the Chieftainship of the Ancient Abbey-Principality of San Luigi (Fizzan)