I am the Ironic Victim of Intellectual Property Theft By a Site Called Honestylaw.com
As a writer, I don’t own much in the way of tools, or working assets, in fact, the biggest thing I’ve got is my brain. Oh, sure, there’s my laptop, full of unpublished work and ideas, and you are welcome to it, with its hodgepodge of open source software and free trial apps, I doubt anyone but me could make any sense of it anyway. It is a reflection of my imagination, my “intellectual property”.
My one marketable skill as a writer, the thing that makes me valuable enough that groups like Honestylaw.com want to hire me, is my ideas. And that is exactly what got my foot in the door. I was combing ads for writing gigs when one caught my eye. I write quite a bit in Libertarian circles and this one was right up my alley, a group wanted to pass a law to force state workers and elected officials to be honest.
Sounds too good to be true, and in at least one way, it is.
From the beginning, I was told my prices were excellent, I had quoted to do work by word, and given them a proposal on a social media campaign and a few other components that needed to happen to get them launched. Honestylaw.com had a plan to raise the bulk of the money they needed for an initiative petition campaign in the state of ohio in eighteen months, and they liked my work.
The founder of the group seemed like a nice guy.
He said a lot of things I liked. He was a Christian, as am I (although this is incidental, I only mention it as a point of commonality) but was not overly enamored with much of the organized American practice of said beliefs, nor am I. He was liberty minded and had what I thought was a great idea. Honestylaw.com, or as it was originally known, before they stole the name from me, TheTruthLaw, was a law that would make it illegal for those in the public employ, elected or otherwise, to lie to citizens in the course of their work, with exceptions for undercover work and state security secrets.
Honestylaw.com was proposing to remove anyone that did lie, on the testimony of a citizen tribunal, from their professional position, without pay or severance, cut benefits, and prevent them from returning to public service, even as a contractor, or lobbyist for ten years. As my fifteen year old put it, why is Honestylaw.com not already the law. And I thought the same thing. But there was a problem.
So, for three months, I worked on various consulting projects, including coming up with the domain, Honestylaw.com, which, I was assured, I would be paid for before the site launched. That was not to happen, since it launched at Midnight, April 30th, ironically, on NATIONAL HONESTY DAY! Without a single red cent having changed hands.
So, here is my assessment of where I went wrong with Honestylaw.com.
- I became too altruistic to admit to myself that things were fishy after the first month. Because the founder was donating his time, I felt guilty about wanting to get paid. (stupid, I know)
- I believed everything I was told. First, it was, “we need an attorney, then that’s it” then it was, “Our accountant quit, as soon as we replace him, I’ll get you covered”, then, “Well he hasn’t set up a bank account yet” **Side note, if you hire a freaking CPA and he can’t set up a damn checking account after two weeks, you failed!**
- I broke my cardinal rule, NEVER, EVER, EVER, start work on any project for a new client that is more than $250 worth of work without a cash deposit, or having the payment in some type of escrow system.
- I didn’t leave when the terms changed and my writing agreement was incomplete. Part of the work was pay for hire, part was contingent on traffic and donations.
So, here I am 90 days in on the Honestylaw.com project, 60 hours poorer and nothing to show for it. Although I was promised the site did launch with my stolen intellectual property as its masthead. Learn my lesson and share this tale. If they approach you, tell them freelance isn’t free and walk away. Do not give them any money. Trust me, it's a waste, if they can't get their crap together in 90 days to get started, they'll never finish a petition drive.