Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · INTERNET LAW
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Robert Downes - October 17th, 2011  
Enrico Schaefer brings legal and detective skills to the Wild West of cyberspace

Attorney Enrico Schaefer brings a knowledge of the technical side of the Internet to his law firm in order to track down online pirates, scandal-mongers and rogue websites. Photo by Robert Downes.

Some people thought that attorney Enrico Schaefer was making a bad career decision when he launched a practice in Internet law in 2005.

They were so wrong. Because today, Internet legal issues have exploded to include everything from online defamation that can wreck your reputation, to the theft of your website’s domain name or on-line infringement of your intellectual property, such as trademarks, copyrights and patents.

At a time when everyone is connected, an online attack can literally destroy your career or business and live on forever in cyberspace unless you can find an expert like Schaefer to take down a harmful webpage.

“Today, it doesn’t seem so revolutionary, but back in 2005 people said being a global technology lawyer based in Traverse City was a crazy idea and would never work,” he recalls of his career choice. “I was told that no one would ever hire an attorney over the Internet; and people wondered, why would you share your expertise for free by blogging it on the Internet? These things were considered pretty far out, but today everyone googles to find out how to solve their problem, and that’s where we come in. The vast majority of our business is not only outside of Traverse City and the state of Michigan, but all over the world.”

From modest beginnings as a one-man office, today, Schaefer has two partners, his brother Mark Clark, and Brian Hall. Their staff at Traverse Legal, PLC, receives an average of 240 prospective client inquiries per month. In addition to Traverse City, they have offices in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, with other office openings planned in the next six months.

And that doesn’t include their network of partnering law firms in many other countries. “China, India and the United Kingdom tend to drive a lot of business our way as well,” Schaefer says. “Those tend to be high-tech areas.”

Nor does it include the sheer excitement of working in what is the Wild West of legal issues on the Internet, prowled by bad guys with web servers and the highly-specialized attorneys who must hunt them down online.

“I’m probably one of the few lawyers who loves my job, but I deal with cool people and fascinating issues,” Schaefer says.


Blessed with a leonine head of hair that any movie star would envy, Schaefer is quick with a smile and has the energy and enthusiasm of a man who is exploring a new world of possibilities. He and his wife Nan have three sons and divide their time between homes in Traverse City and Glen Arbor.

His Traverse Legal, PLC firm occupies the sub-floor of one of the former cottages at the Grand Traverse Commons. The forward-looking firm went ‘paperless’ from the get-go in order to be eco-friendly, and judging by the smiles on the faces of its staffers, Traverse Legal looks like a pleasant place to work.

Equal parts attorney, cybersleuth, and tech nerd, Schaefer, 47, is in the vanguard of the ‘idea economy’ that is reshaping America. And being at the forefront of one of the hottest fields of law has its rewards.

“There are only about two dozen of us globally who do what we do above and beyond the pretenders,” he says. “So what percentage of the global market do I need to succeed with this kind of practice? Only a fraction of 1%.”


Schaefer had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time. “The market for Internet law really exploded and came to us,” he says.

But back in his college days, graduating from the Detroit College of Law in 1989, the Internet was still mostly a theoretical concept, virtually unknown outside of military circles and Silicon Valley.

Schaefer grew up on the east side of De troit, where his youthful passion was sailing on the Great Lakes. “I followed my wife up here in ‘93,” he recalls. “She was a teacher in Dearborn and had summers off, so she waited tables in Leelanau County in the ‘80s. I grew up sailing, and had never been up north in Michigan in the summer.

“I literally had just met her, and came up to visit while she was living in a one-room, 8-by-12 cabin on a 30-acre parcel with no running water, and I never left -- we were engaged 20 days later.”

The couple also fell in love with Northern Michigan and got married in Northport.

In an act of love that few husbands would even consider, Enrico also took Nan’s last name to carry on her family name. “She’s one of seven sisters, so her family line was likely coming to an end,” he notes.

Soon after, he got involved in the ‘Net during its earliest days.

“After Nan and I got married, I had two friends from Albion College who wanted to start an Internet company back in 1994 at the beginning of the Internet,” he recalls. “One had a background in hardware and the other in software. I became the president and general counsel to help run things. So I began writing code and ended up getting a de facto Ph.D in the Internet on the ground, learning everything there was to know about it.”

Later, while working for another firm in the region, Schaefer had a revelation that his technical knowledge could be useful in starting his own law firm that would be niche-oriented and global in its reach.


But even Schaefer had no idea back then as to how fast his firm would grow, or if it would even succeed.

“When I first started in 2005, my theory was that I would specialize in Internet law and technical issues in Traverse City and blog my expertise in the hope that people from all over the state would contact me,” he says.

“The first year I had a client or two; the second year a lot more; and by the third year I was hiring people to handle the demand from 25 different countries. It turned out that people were googling their problems and finding my blog posts and articles online. Either they, or their attorney, would contact us and say ‘hey, can you help us out?’” Since few attorneys were up to speed on Internet law -- much less on how to track down web servers and handle the technical side of things -- Schaefer quickly became an expert in demand from clients all over the world.

“We’d get calls from people who’d say ‘someone stole my domain name,’ or ‘someone defamed me on a blog,’ and they wouldn’t know what to do until they found our articles on these subjects.”

Schaefer also resolved to “recreate the practice of law from the ground up,” eschewing ‘legalese’ and the kind of costly run-around that plagues the clients of many law firms.

“Our theory is that once a traditional lawyer gets the client in a fancy conference room and pushes the retainer across the table, that client is toast,” he says. “The firm may know just a little more than they do, but what alternatives do they have?

“Well, the Internet changed all that,” he continues. “So we try to run our business like Google runs their business. We’re customer-service oriented. We give clients a list of 6-10 ‘deliverables,’ we give them a flat-fee price, and let them choose: if we do these 10 things for this price, does that make business sense on a return-on-investment basis?”


Imagine trying to track down and deal with a rogue website that’s slamming your good name or stealing your idea in faraway India, Russia or Africa... Doesn’t Schaefer have to be something of a cyber detective?

“Absolutely,” he says. “The value we bring to the table is we understand the Internet governance, the history of its governance, how the domain name service works, how to track things, and how to identify people.

“We understand the technical side of the Internet. We get lawyers all the time on the other side of problems who are working for mega, silk-stocking law; but once you start working with them, you realize they don’t have even a basic understanding of how the Internet works.

“So what is Internet law? Traditional legal problems that occur on the Internet and require back-end technical knowledge.

“The other thing is there are special laws that govern the Internet. The Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act which protects domain names which are trademark protected; the Can-Spam Act -- there are all these laws that are Internet-specific that drive a lot of our business. These are new laws that we understand which most attorneys never even encounter.”


If all of the above sounds a bit over your head, rest assured, there’s much more to Internet law and its issues -- enough to fill a hefty book.

But often, handling a client’s problem comes down to simply writing a ‘cease and desist’ style email and knowing where to send it.

“Let’s say someone has posted a defamatory article about our client on a website, and let’s say the web hosting company is in Africa,” Schaefer says. “And that hosting company has a Terms-of-Service posting on their site that says we don’t tolerate defamatory statements or things like child pornography. We would then write a letter for our client, noting that this item online is defamatory, and have it removed.”

Similar threat letters and take-down notices can handle trademark and copyright problems, avoiding the need to take a case to court. But if and when court action is necessary, Schaefer and his firm are prepared to partner with law firms in other countries to do battle on a transgressor’s home turf.


Closer to home, you’ll find Schaefer and Traverse Legal involved in pro bono (free legal service) work with local nonprofit organizations, such as TART Trails and the Traverse City Film Festival. They also perform trademark registrations and brand protections for 47 firms in Northern Michigan, including the likes of the National Cherry Festival, M-22, Right Brain Brewery, Yen Yoga and Trigger Boxing.

“We like to do pro bono work for the really cool people and companies in the region because we like what they do and want to give back to the community.”

Ironically, that local close-to-home connection runs completely opposite to what Traverse Legal is doing online with its global customers.

“It used to be that clients felt secure having an attorney who lived down the block,” Schaefer says. “Now, they feel secure having an attorney who’s written an article about their problem, no matter where he or she is from... The reality is that clients want answers, not lawyer-speak or disclaimers. They want business solutions and to real advice about how to proceed.”

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