Extortion is the practice of obtaining, or attempting to obtain, something through force or threats and without sufficient legal right to do so. This definition is based on commonly accepted concepts.
In this article I will continue to address Getty Images, Inc. and U.S. Department of Education extortion practices. I address the relevant topics based on my personal experiences.
Maintaining this StopExtortion website has helped me to explore and find ways to deal with extortionist. I hope that the content of these articles will also be helpful to other people who have to fight extortionists.
I expect to post several more article on these topics, and these posts are expected to form a series of articles. In each article I will address differing but related aspects of how to deal with Getty Images, Inc. or U.S. Department of Education extortion instances. With each article I also expect to post a letter that I sent to Mr. Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education.
The article and the letter sent may contain complementary information. For example, in the article below, I will address copyright related laws. In the letter posted below, I will address the nature of debt. Both of these extortion related aspects are related to the concepts addressed in the next subsection.
In the next articles I will address contracts and promissory notes. These topics will help to assess, whether or not monetary demands are backed with legally valid documents.
As I have stated before, I am not a legal expert and I am not providing legal advice – just recommendations that are based on my experiences and opinions that I have formed based on the research that I have done. However, this information may save time and efforts to people who have to handle unvalidated monetary demands, like I have had to handle for some time now.
Both Getty Images and U.S. Department of Education practice extortion by attempting to rewrite relevant laws. This operating model allows them to practice what some people call legalized extortion.
For example, the U.S. Department of Education insisted that breach of contract occurred and that this gives the government the right to make monetary demands. However, in order to breach a contract, there has to be a valid contract in the first place. When I pointed out the reasons why there has not been any valid contract in place in this case, the references to breach of contract stopped, but the unvalidated monetary demands continued.
Similarly, the U.S. Department of Education insisted that it holds legally binding promissory notes that I had signed in the past. In reality, it holds copies of student loan applications that were used for processing financial aid, such as grants and scholarships. Even these copies of student loan applications that the Department of Education has sent me are of suspicious origin, because they contain parts that apparently have been made by photocopying several documents that have been put on top of each other.
More importantly, there are requirements that legally valid and binding promissory notes must fulfill. Half a page long student loan application does not become a legally valid and binding promissory note simply because couple of paragraphs of legal text are placed on the loan application, above the only place where the applicant can sign the application. Such a statement alone is far from being a sufficient condition for a legally valid and binding promissory note. Accordingly, the copies of my single page student loan applications clearly do not fulfill the requirements set for legally valid and binding promissory notes.
After I stressed the relevant points repeatedly, the people at the U.S. Department of Education apparently got the message and checked out the relevant legal requirements as well. The illegitimate references to holding legally binding promissory notes stopped, but the unvalidated monetary demands continued.
At this point the people at the U.S. Department of Education have run out any arguments to make to support their demands, but the unvalidated monetary demands continue – and so does my battle against the towering indifference of the extortionist bullies that, based on my experience, people at the U.S. Department of Education are.
My FOIA request was handled in a similar manner. On two occasions the U.S. Department of Education refused to process it. Each time the U.S. Department of Education came up with an additional demand. The second time I had to sign a statement under penalty of perjury, certifying that I have provided truthful information about my request.
This second request in particular had absolutely nothing to do with certifying my identity. It seems to me, that the Department of Education simply tried to intimidate me, in an attempt to cover up the fact that the Department of Education has been making monetary demands in a coercive manner based on faulty internal records and without having legally valid documents that demonstrate that the alleged debt and debt obligations actually exist.
(Decide for yourself. A copy of the statement is below, in my letter to Mr. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, in bolded italics. What is it other than an act of intimidation?)
Each time the U.S. Department of Education stated that "This letter concludes our response to your request."
Wrong answer, dear people at the Department of Education! These response letters did not conclude anything. I signed the needed statements and the process continued.
However, these response letters did demonstrate that the Department of Education wanted to find a way to decline processing my FOIA request – for obvious reasons. FOIA request results can help to clarify officially, that the Department of Education does not have the needed legally valid base for making its monetary demands and threats in this case, because the documents that the Department of Education claimed to have simply do not exist. The Department of Education has been relying on its faulty records and does not want to admit it. After all, if it admits being wrong in my case, then who knows how many more cases there are where the Department of Education has been forcing people to make payments, without having the needed legally valid base for doing so.
Finally, after 7 months of waiting, and two complaints to Mr. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, I received a response to my FOIA request, which states that the Office of Business Operations in FSA was unable to locate any records responsive to my request. However, the Department of Education is still trying to conceal information that may help to close this case.
I now filed a complaint with the Office of General Counsel, U.S. Office of Special Counsel. I intend to pursue this matter further until the Department of Education has provided the requested information and explained why, and based on what legal rights, did the Department of Education refuse to process my FOIA request without my signing several statements under penalty of perjury.
I will address these topics in more details in the next articles. Below I will address how Getty Images, in a similar manner, is trying to rewrite U.S. copyright laws.
In the cases that I am familiar with, when Getty Images makes monetary demands for alleged copyright infringement, Getty Images fails to provide conclusive proof that copyright infringement has actually occurred.
Getty Images also fails to provide verifiable proof that the entities that they claim are the authors of the given images are indeed the authors of these images. Getty Images also fails to furnish copies of the registered copyrights that apply to the images in question.
Getty Images also fails to provide written copies of contracts between Getty Images, Inc. and the alleged author or authors of the images in question.
Getty Images also fails to provide verifiable proof that the images in question have been available exclusively through Getty Images from the moment the images were first used by any other party than the original author. It is well known that many images are available from different sources.
Thus, Getty Images fails to provide verifiable proof that this company has the legal right to make any monetary demands at all.
As far as the amounts of Getty Images monetary demands are concerned, then it seems to me, that from legal perspective we want to examine 17 USC § 504 - Remedies for infringement: Damages and profits.
17 USC § 504 differentiates between actual damages and statutory damages.
In the U.S., when Getty Images contacts an individual or a company or organization with alleged copyright infringement claims and related monetary demands, Getty Images can legally request only actual damages. Getty Images can request statutory damages only through the legal system, that is, through a court case. Getty Images does not have any legal right to demand statutory damages from any person directly, and, especially, without providing conclusive proof that there are sufficient grounds for such demands in the first place.
If Getty Images would be able to provide the necessary proof that it is entitled to make any monetary demands at all, without proven infringement, at the most Getty Images could request the actual cost of renting the images in question from Getty Images.
However, instead, Getty Images makes monetary demands that amount to statutory damages. Further, the demands are made as if Getty Images had already proven infringement, and as it the case had went to court, and Getty Images had won the court case.
So, Getty Images assumes (wishfully) what they are trying to prove, before they have actually proven anything at all. This fallacy of logic forms a bubble that can easily burst if you poke around and investigate the underlying logic and assumptions, and in the process ask the right questions and request relevant information.
To put it differently, given that Getty Images provides the required proof that they can make any monetary demands at all, most likely legitimately they could make a request for actual damages, that is, actual cost of renting the image(s) in question for the time period in question. However, in the cases that I am familiar with Getty Images proceeds by requesting compensation for some sort of imaginary damages that they have cooked up and have very little to do with reality.
As I pointed out in the previous article, am pointing out in the letter published below, and will continue to address in the articles that will follow, the U.S. Department of Education operates in a very similar manner.
A copy of the letter published below was delivered to the following people and institutions:
I also filed a complaint with the Office of General Counsel, Office of Special Counsel, regarding the FOIA request handling related problems. For the same reasons I filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Regulatory Information Management Services. I will publish the relevant correspondence in separate articles.
Mr. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue S.W.
Washington, DC 20202
Dear Mr. Duncan,
Thank you for your letter dated 03/12/14 that your assistant sent to me on your behalf regarding your coercive demands for payments of a nonexistent debt that the Department of Education does not own, your purposeful usage of unqualified documents, misleading statements and threats, and your usage of unpaid forced labor for handling debt validation case that the Department of Education should handle with its own labor resources.
Please note that this is an open letter that I will publish on the Internet, on StopExtortion.org so that it is accessible to the general public and to other institutions.
Mr. Duncan, under your management the Department of Education is trying to redefine, at its convenience, what constitutes debt and debt obligations, what are legally binding promissory notes, and what are legally binding contracts. In a similar manner, the Department of Education has also twice refused to honor my FOIA request without referring to any legal right to do so, and has failed to provide information identified in my FOIA request.
I have requested that the Department of Education validates that (1) I received the alleged student loans and that the relevant debt exists, and (2) that the Department of Education holds relevant valid legally binding promissory note debt instruments, and (3) that the Department of Education is the legal owner of the relevant alleged debt.
Throughout the over two years long debt validation dispute, the Department of Education has failed in all three areas.
The Department of Education is not exempt from debt validation, and the Department of Education does not have the legal right to force a past student loan applicant to make payments on an unvalidated debt.
Accordingly, I request that the Department of Education ceases and desists making any further monetary demands and states in writing that the Department of Education will not under any circumstances take any actions and will not make any further demands regarding the specific previously claimed alleged debt, and will not authorize any individual, company, organization or institution to take any actions or to make any kinds of further demands regarding the specific previously claimed alleged debt.
Mr. Duncan, if you choose to continue this dispute, you must validate the existence of debt and debt obligations, and the existence of legally binding promissory notes and contracts that are in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations. You do not have the authority to define these concepts the way that happens to suit you.
I have not asked you to validate the existence of your internal records or financial aid applications. Mr. Duncan, you have consistently failed to validate the existence of any debt and debt obligations from my part to the Department of Education for the simple reason – in accordance with the existing laws and regulations, absolutely no debt exists that obligates me to pay anything at all to the Department of Education. THESE ISSUES MUST BE ADDRESSED AND RESOLVED.
You can "validate” existence of your internal records, and existence or financial aid applications, and then call it "debt validation.” By doing so, you are making mockery out of debt validation, but your mockery does not validate that debt and debt obligations exist. WE JUST KEEP ENDLESSLY SPINNING IN THE SAME PLACE. Existence of internal records and financial aid applications is not in any way equal to existence of debt and debt obligations.
Similarly, you have failed to demonstrate that any laws exist that
Of course, you have also failed to demonstrate that your internal records are accurate.
Mr. Duncan, do the Department of Education employees believe that a legislative body of this country, or any other entity has granted the Department of Education the legal right and the authority to demand debt payments, either directly or through usage of collection agencies, based on Department of Education’s internal records and financial aid applications, without providing conclusive proof that debt and debt obligations exist?
If so, please specify the law or laws that grant the Department of Education the right to demand debt payments without providing conclusive proof that any corresponding debt and debt obligations exist.
I have internal records showing that you owe me over $110,949 (and growing). I also have what I believe to be very good reasons for insisting that you do owe this debt to me.
Does this mean, that you automatically owe this money to me? If so, when can I expect the payment in full?
Without existence of laws that grant the Department of Education the right to make monetary demands based on internal records, what exactly makes your internal records any more authoritative or valid than mine?
Both debt and debt obligations are regulated. The Department of Education does not have the authority to make up debt and debt obligations, based on internal records, without conclusively demonstrating that the debt and debt obligations actually exist, as commonly understood.
To put it differently, the Department of Education does not have the authority to re-define, at its convenience, what does and does not constitute debt and debt obligations and relevant legally binding documents.
I will repeat below portions from my previous correspondence. I will start with the basics here, and in the next letters will address Uniform Commercial Code (UCC).
In this specific case that we dispute, without borrowing and lending, there is no debt.
Without debt, there is no debt obligation.
These are basic, simple enough concepts. Yet, somehow we cannot come to an agreement here.
Let’s take a look at the relevant definitions. What is debt? Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of debt: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt
A debt is created when a creditor agrees to lend a sum of assets to a debtor.
Further, Wikipedia’s definition of loan states that (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loan):
In finance, a loan is a debt evidenced by a note which specifies, among other things, the principal amount, interest rate, and date of repayment. A loan entails the reallocation of the subject asset(s) for a period of time, between the lender and the borrower.
In a loan, the borrower initially receives or borrows an amount of money, called the principal, from the lender, and is obligated to pay back or repay an equal amount of money to the lender at a later time. Typically, the money is paid back in regular installments, or partial repayments; in an annuity, each installment is the same amount.
Do we have evidence that borrowing and lending of money took place, where debtor borrowed money, after creditor had agreed to lend a sum of assets to the debtor, supported by a note which specifies, among other things, the principal amount, interest rate, and date of repayment?
No, we do not have such evidence. Instead, we do have evidence that extortion is taking place.
Mr. Duncan, if anything about this is unclear to you and your colleagues at the Department of Education, please state so, and I will continue to explain these topics to you until you understand and acknowledge them, or until you leave the office, whichever comes first.
Similarly, in our upcoming correspondence, I will explain other relevant legal aspects to you until you acknowledge them, or until you leave the office, whichever comes first.
However, it seems to be the case that the people at the Department of Education are making monetary demands simply because they believe that they can do so, using the special powers granted to this governmental institution.
Mr. Duncan, I received a letter from the Department of Education, dated 03/11/14, regarding my FOIA request stating that my FOIA request first "was forwarded to the appropriate office within the Department to search for documents that may be responsive to my request,” and then the Office of Business Operations in FSA was "unable to locate any records responsive to my request.”
I requested "Copies of signed documents that validate my receipt of grants and/or student loans in the past.” I specified further, what documents I was seeking.
If you are now stating, that the Department of Education does not have any records on my receiving student loans in the past, you must also explicitly state so.
I also requested "Any information that you have on my receipt of financial aid (not loans) and grants.” This includes my receipt of Pell Grant, work-study financial aid, Rhode Island College Honors Scholarship and other Rhode Island College grants. (Instead of Rhode Island College Honors Scholarship I erroneously used the word "grant.”)
I also requested "Total cost of the in state tuition and fees per school year that was applicable to my attending Rhode Island College from 1990-1996.”
Mr. Duncan, in your previous correspondence, your assistant, who responded and signed the statements on your behalf, has stated that the Department of Education does have records of my receiving grants. These statements are in clear contradiction with the FOIA request response.
If the Department of Education claims, that it does not have any information regarding any of the parts of my FOIA request, the Department of Education must send me the relevant response in writing, itemizing each part of my FOIA request and so that the following statement is included and signed:
Before processing my FOIA request, the Department of Education requested that I sign a similar statement under the penalty of perjury, and refused to process my FOIA request without my signing such a statement. After I had signed a statement under penalty of perjury, I made requests for a similar statement regarding the documents that the Department of Education claims that it has in its possession. Accordingly, I expect the Department of Education employees who handle this case to explain:
Please note, that I have filed a complaint regarding these issues with the Office of General Counsel, U.S. Office of Special Counsel. I intend to pursue this matter further until the Department of Education has provided the requested information and explained why, and based on what legal rights, did the Department of Education refuse to process my FOIA request without my signing the above statement under penalty of perjury.
I will contact any other needed institutions regarding this case. At this point we are only starting this process.
Once we have the relevant information and we compare it to the cost of attending the state owned Rhode Island College between 1990 and 1996, it will be abundantly clear that (a) the grants and work-study that I received well exceeded the cost of attending the college, and (b) your "internal records” simply are incorrect.
Publicly accessible sources state that the in-state cost of tuition to attend Rhode Island College from 1990 to 1996 ranged from $1,703 to $2,838 a year. The grants and work-study that I received did exceed those amounts. Further, you claim that in addition to grants and work-study I also received $46,354 in bank loans, to attend school where the full-time tuition did cost a fraction of that amount a year, and which I attended so that I did not live on campus. The monetary amounts that you demand from me without any debt validation are totally out of proportion. Obviously, your demands are based on faulty records.
It is a shame, that you are refusing to provide the relevant information voluntarily, yet you continue your unvalidated monetary demands.
Enclosed is the latest invoice that also includes past due amounts. The total outstanding balance is $110,949.69. You have not disputed the validity of this debt, and you have not showed why this debt is not owed. Thus, in accordance with our previous correspondence, I conclude that this debt is valid. As long as this dispute continues, you will continue to receive debt validation requests and relevant invoices.
The Department of Education does not have the legal right to demand that a past student loan applicants must prove that he or she does not owe an unvalidated debt. Despite of that, the Department of Education has forced me to work for a prolonged period of time against my will on an alleged student loan validation case. I have informed the Department of Education in the past that I will invoice the Department of Education for having to work on this case.
I hope that this information will be helpful to you. For more information visit StopExtortion.org
Mr. Duncan, in my previous correspondence I have already stated that I will not communicate with any of your business partner-collection agencies regarding the nonexistent debt issues. Once again: you do not have the legal right to demand that I must contact a collection agency regarding unvalidated student loans that may exist in your records, but for which you have not provided proof that I ever received the bank loans in question.
Mr. Duncan, in your previous correspondence you stated that the Department of Education has in its possession the original legally binding promissory notes. Because this is false, and no legally binding documents exist that demonstrate when and how I supposedly received the alleged loans, you have been running your operations and making monetary demands without any legally acceptable proof of validity. Please explain this. Unless you provide a thorough explanation, supported with evidence, I will continue to ask you to explain this.
Mr. Duncan, our communication process so far has shown in detail the following:
Apparently, the Department of Education has difficulties with coming to terms with the above. Further, it seems that despite of having substantial resources at your disposal, you simply do not know how to solve this dispute.
If you and your colleagues at the Department of Education are unable to specify what further clarification you need on the above, feel free to send me yet another response where you state that in your opinion you have already provided sufficient proof on the existence of debt, and that I should contact a debt collection agency. Such responses demonstrate, that you are still trying to evade your responsibility to validate your monetary demands and to solve the problems that you have created. As a result, I will have to continue to explain to you the same topics again. If you choose not to resolve the issues addressed here, for you this dispute will continue at least for as long as you are in the office, and on the Internet I will have to continue to document your failure to solve the problems that you created.