I hate to deal with negative energy in the world, but sometimes it rears its ugly head and throws up on you, completely unsolicited. You see, there's another blog documentary in the works, this one called Fifty-nine Bloggers. 2-minute interviews with each blogger, many of whom I've interviewed or chatted with. But the here's the thing: The "former Hollywood producer" refers to his film as Blogumentary, or a blogumentary, AT LEAST as often as the actual name of his film. I wrote him a nice email saying, best of luck with your cool project, and by the way it might be confusing to say things like "Blogumentary Sponsors" and "Bloggers in the Blogumentary" [Those pages are gone - here are screenshots] on your site. You know, since I already made a blog documentary by that name.

Well. I got a very nasty, wrong-headed email in return.


Yep! Thank you, and goodnight. Remember to tip your waitstaff! I managed to be polite in my response to him yet again, and asked him not to belittle my legitimate concern, but apparently he doesn't give a rat's ass. Keep in mind, I've poured my heart and soul (and time and money) into Blogumentary since 2002, so you might say I'm a bit protective. Not overly-protective, I don't think. Do you? Anyway, I'm ready to move on now. Several Blogumentary fans came out of the woodwork in my defense. I count my lucky stars for them, and of course for my comfortable Google presence.




. . . . . . . . . .


Since all the links lead to this post, I'll post my response to Mr. Hart's rantings here.

Amidst all the cataclysmic drama (best read while listening to Carmina Burana) there are a few accusations that are factually incorrect. Here's a simple timeline:

PART ONE - I emailed him this:

Subject: world famous blogumentary ;-)
Date: June 2, 2005 4:19:25 PM CDT

Greetings John,

Several bloggers recently pointed me to your documentary project,
59Bloggers. Looks like a great project! You've probably heard about
my feature blog documentary by now, called "Blogumentary":


Our projects are documenting the same subject, but with a different
approach of course. (My doc is first-person, for example.) I've interviewed
a number of the same people, although many didn't make it into the
final product. I am slowly releasing the entire interviews, however.
I know of one other blog documentary in production too, which started
at BlogNashville and was linked by Glenn Reynolds.

Anyway, I'm writing because I think your web site's use of "Blogumentary"
will cause confusion with my project. Particularly, sections of your site
called "Blogumentary Sponsors" and "Bloggers in the Blogumentary".
I'm less concerned about casual lower-case references, such as
"59bloggers blogumentary" -- it's conceivable that Blogumentary has
Kleenex syndrome: The proper noun becoming the genre.

I'm don't mean to be a thorn, and I wish your project all the
success in the world. But I hope you understand that I'm protective
of all the work I've put into Blogumentary since 2002
and don't want our projects to be confused.

Chuck Olsen


PART TWO - His response. I won't publish his entire email here, but he did *not* state anything about the email being a private correspondence. Most of his email went in circles stating, incorrectly, that I can't trademark "Blogumentary" and that he'd checked with the USPTO. Then there was the nasty bit at the end.

PART THREE - My response. Trying to still be nice.

Subject: Re: world famous blogumentary ;-)
Date: June 2, 2005 6:22:17 PM CDT

Really? That's your response?

I'm honestly not trying to cause you any trouble,
or infringe on your project in any way. I'm not interested
in lawyers, or any of that jazz. I'm just an independent
filmmaker who made a film called "Blogumentary" about
the same subject as your film. What would you do in my

(By the way, try doing a Google search on Blogumentary.)

I know your film has a different title. I'm merely asking that
you try to refer to your film by that title. Because yes, calling
your film "Blogumentary" is potentially confusing. Please don't
belittle me or my legitimate concern.


PART FOUR - A few hours later I sent him this email, with a screenshot from this blog post to demonstrate potential confusion:

From:   CHUCK OLSEN Subject: Example of "Blogumentary" confusion Date: June 2, 2005 9:09:41 PM CDT To:   JOHN HART

Here's one example of why it's confusing. Here's a blogger saying "Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You -- Blogumentary." But obviously they're not referring to my film, they're following your use of "Blogumentary" which actually appears more times on your home page than "59 bloggers."

[screenshot from this blog]

PART FIVE - After not hearing from him and stewing over the situation, I posted about it here early June 4.

There was also an email exchange between John Hart and vlogger Michael Verdi. Verdi posted a comment on 59bloggers.com, they had a few email exchanges, then Hart threatened to post Verdi's credit report online.

PART SIX - I got the legal threat email. I can't post that email because it *did* have the "privileged communication" language.

PART SEVEN - After getting the legal threat, I put out a call for help in this blog post and to the videoblogging group. That's when word about the situation really started spreading, and a lot of people were very angry at Mr. Hart. However, I have never wished ill of his project. I have never condoned or encouraged anyone to say or do anything bad to Mr. Hart or 59bloggers. Please understand that I am not in charge of the blogosphere. I sadly lack the power to raise my hand to the sky and direct what bloggers should or shouldn't do.

I'd like to state here, now, that I don't want any bloggers harassing Mr. Hart. I'm not a fan of angry mobs, and that behavior can only make things worse for me and for the situation. I've also never asked anyone, including Nathan Peters, to contact the 59 bloggers or ask them to consider withdrawing. One of the 59 bloggers is a good friend, and I didn't even ask him to withdraw. I think there should be more blog documentaries, because there are so many interesting stories to be told. I've said that many times before.

PART EIGHT - Kent Bye, an amazingly astute and fair-minded open source documetnary filmmaker, attempts to mediate the dispute with this post: We Need Teachers -- Not Revolutionaries. I responded there. Kent then asked for Mr. Hart's side of the story, and advised us to try to find some middle ground to put this behind us.

Wishing to avoid legal action myself, and very very much wanting to put all this nastiness behind us, I sent Mr. Hart an email, subject: "an olive branch." I told Mr. Hart I was willing to do whatever it takes to find a resolution amicable to both of us, without involving the courts. I offered to remove his email excerpt, this entire post, apologize for posting the email excerpt, and throw my endorsement behind 59bloggers so he could be off and running again. I told him many bloggers were willing to give him a second chance. All I asked from him was an apology for his uncivil email, and to not refer to his film as "Blogumentary" (capitalized) since that is the title of my film.

PART NINE - Against all reason, Mr. Hart. publishes this rant, spitting on my reputation and outright lying about this entire situation. I feel very sorry for Mr. Hart, as he seems intent on destroying his own documentary and making me the scapegoat.

As the saga spreads in the allmighty blogosphere, here are my latest thoughts.

PART TEN - John Hart is interviewed on euphoricreality.net and is finally appearing reasonable. The only parts I'm concerned with, and very happy to read, are his apology to me and his intent to take down the "demon drama" page and continue his project. I, in turn, have apologized for posting part of his email and took it down. Details of our emerging truce here.

June 4, 2005 at 02:34 AM in Blogumentary | Permalink


Wow, what an asshat. I'm so sorry Chuck.

Posted by: Sharyn at Jun 4, 2005 7:10:03 AM

This makes my blood boil. It is one thing if he didn't know about your Doc (which if he did a Google search I find hard to believe) but his response is so pricky.

My guess is he treats everyone that way. He'll get his in the end.

Let's go to a screening and heckle him. Then take lunch!

Posted by: starfire at Jun 4, 2005 10:58:44 AM

what's funny is he claims he hadn't heard about Blogumentary until I emailed him, but I know for a fact at least one of the people he contacted for an interview told him about it.

what's funny is he's also responsible for... this!

Posted by: Chuck at Jun 4, 2005 11:11:51 AM

This former Hollywood shmuck is just a "wannabe-hip-blogger"! He's just embarrassed about his lack of research and he's trying to cover his ass. Of all people, he should know about copyright. There's some extreme envy goin' on here...

Posted by: beavela at Jun 4, 2005 11:32:17 AM

What kind of legal action, based on what? This guy is just a blowhard. And a dick. And he blows talentless dick. Hard.

Posted by: Jonathan at Jun 4, 2005 6:51:19 PM

Legally, wouldn't you have the right of way?

Posted by: dvd at Jun 4, 2005 8:44:27 PM

Ain't no damn legal action. Fuck this guy. It's a bluff. He can eat a bowl of dicks with a spoon. That sounds so unprofessional on my part doesn't it. Gosh, I hope it doesn't ruin my chances of being in his highly original documentary. I alway hoped someone would make a "blogumentary."

Chucky, I got your back all the way. Remember, I've got a beard and I'm not afraid to use it.

Posted by: jmj at Jun 4, 2005 10:15:04 PM

Disclaimer: First of all I'm no lawyer so take this as you may, but I hope you find it helpful.

Now then:

a) He doesn't have ANY legal grounds against you Chuck. NONE. You haven't done anything but send him a polite letter and post his outrageous response, which was clearly not disclaimed as something "in confidence". He does not even have the slightest on you for defamation, which btw, there's plenty of bloggers who would defame him and he can spend his life chasing them if he likes, he's clearly going to get a heaping self-serving of such for going on record with such ass-hat remarks. Do be careful what you say publicly in the mean-time though. I'll explain specifically what I'm talking about later after I reiterate contact a lawyer first several times.

b) I believe the fact that you already made a film called Blogumentary and the fact that it IS widely published automatically preempts him from using the name regardless of wether you trademarked it or not. Especially since he's using it to refer to a nearly identical project and for an nearly identical marketplace. It might be another thing if it was not a film or not about blogging, but it very much is. He even intends to show it to the exact same markets as you've shown yours. Clearly this would create confusion. Four title and film should be protected under standard copyright, but you should definitely contact a lawyer ASAP. Also a lawyer very well might make recommendations for further protecting your work by listing it with film organizations such as anything from IMDB to some of the governing organizations such as the MPAA, but that's well beyond my understanding.

BTW, In the meantime don't make any offensive moves against him without contacting a lawyer first or at least be very careful if you do. Most lawyers would advice against this flat out. It is an at your own peril thing. You don't want to give him any grounds for defamation. Remember you're in the power position here, nothing he can do can hurt you because your facts already stand, however you can hurt yourself or weaken your case. One obvious example is personally contacting the a-list bloggers on his list. Definitely do not do that. Though you cannot stop others from doing so at their own discretion, just the same as you cannot reasonable discern that someone reading my advice to you and might act upon it, and for that fact neither can I.

I'm a huge fan of yours and clearly you've been wronged and are being wronged. I don't think there are many clearer cases than this. I'd say this guy needs a huge lesson taught to him about what blogging and humility are really about, but also he is so far as I can see (on top of being an ass) completely violating your rights.

His tone is so rude I personally wouldn't loose any sleep if he got hit in his pocket book through good legal means, but doing so would probably cost you time and money to peruse. I do know a copyright and trademark lawyer or two, but they are not specialists in film. Perhaps that detail doesn't matter, but if it's all the same i'd recommend contacting lawrence lessig or someone of that sort.

It looks right up their alley (ESPECIALLY IF YOU RELEASE BLOGUMENTARY UNDER A CC LICENSE) and they may be able to resolve it amicably BEFORE any more damage is done. I.E. A written apology and agreement by this guy not to use the term blogumentary in the future. Such a resolution is nearly always better than going to court where no matter who wins you're both already out time, money and energy. Even if you win it may not cover your court costs.

Anyway, the biggest irony here is I don't care what kind of big wig hollywood guy he thinks he is, his subject matter, the blogosphere itself, and indeed the a-list bloggers he intends to include will not stand for such heavy handed and ass hat threats and remarks. Perhaps if he doesn't get that he should go back to hollywood because he's clearly not qualified to do a documentary on blogging. Oye!

Anyway, that's my two cents. I hope you find it worth the read and perhaps others will find it helpful in some small way too.


Posted by: Michael Meiser at Jun 5, 2005 1:55:32 AM

Please note, while the sig on my previous post may not declare it, these are my personal comments and represent noone else.

Chuck, I'd appreciate it if you could fix my sig, it defaulted to a url unassociated with this topic.

Thx and good luck, keep us posted.

-Mike - http://mmeiser.com/blog/

Posted by: Michael Meiser at Jun 5, 2005 1:59:43 AM

Registering on IMDB is a good idea. You've got enough press, it shouldn't take too long for them to get it up there.

Posted by: dvd at Jun 5, 2005 2:12:36 AM

I've decided to leave this post as-is, for now.
I will not cave in to this guys' bullying tactics unless I have to.
I really have nothing of value, so I have nothing to lose by standing up to this madness.
I haven't said anything slanderous or bad about him. I'll leave that to every other reasonable person in the universe. :-)
Thanks Eric Rice, Michael Verdi, David Lowery, Michael Meiser and all my beloved bloggy friends. I deeply appreciate you, more than I can even say. I believe justice will be served.

Posted by: chuck at Jun 5, 2005 4:06:29 AM

I must add something: This knuckle-dragging shitbeast has nothing on you, so ignore him. He clearly wants to intimidate you by using the threat of legal action, and most schlubs would waver and eventually give in.
Unfortunately for Mr. Intellectual Black Hole, he doesn't realize he has pitted himself against someone with a brain. He'll shut up eventually, and I hope his miserable attitude causes his movie to fail horribly...

Posted by: Chris Koehn at Jun 5, 2005 5:57:09 AM

i've just picked up on this thread, and while i would agree with all the flaming of this idiot i think mr. meiser has the best advice.. him threatening you with legal action is based in nothing.. just him hoping you would cave in.. is american film/copyright law similar to uk? i'm going to ask around after the weekend.. i know quite a few people from the bristol documentary industry who may have better legal info.

Posted by: duncan at Jun 5, 2005 6:11:01 AM

I say lets SQUASH Mr John Hart and his documentary. Now is the time to swing that big stick bloggers carry around!! It's called power of the people. BTW Mr Hart is NOT a director he is a producer best I can tell. I came up with three movies he has produced the last being several years ago.
Doug Bradley
The Southern Video Blog

Posted by: Doug Bradley at Jun 5, 2005 6:16:34 AM

First off, Happy Birthday!

Then, this issue.

In short, this guy is just making a fool out himself, I am afraid. His reply to you is a perfect example of him not having really understood what blogging is about.

Oh, yeah, he understands the HYPE of the blogging, he has a wordpress blog, but apart from that, I don't see much of him grasping what the blogosphere is about.

We might be in our little echo chamber here, but your work still has some legal rights, I suppose. Besides, even if he does use "Blogumentary" in the end, we all know what the real stuff is. Heh, let a thousand blogumentaries bloom. Just make sure you don't delete your blog again, Chuck ;)

Once again, Happy birthday!

Posted by: Raymond at Jun 5, 2005 6:28:13 AM

More power to this guy if he wants to make a documentary about blogging, but he shouldn't refer to it as a "blogumentary." And that letter was...well someone should call his parents up and schedule a conference with them over his rude behavior. Very, very, naughty.

Posted by: jonny goldstein at Jun 5, 2005 9:12:04 AM

You are right Chuck. Because yours was posted before his, you have the right to the name. Its an automatic copyright granted by simply publishing your work.

Posted by: Nathan Peters at Jun 5, 2005 11:59:20 AM

I didn't like the way he co-opted the name of your work in the first place, but I assumed it wasn't malicious. Now it's clear this guy is not part of the blogosphere that I know. It should be hard for him to find 59 legit bloggers who will go along with this stuff -- props to Dave Weinberger for saying no.

Posted by: Mike at Jun 5, 2005 12:39:20 PM

I just found this in Google's cache. It looks like something he wrote to get funding a couple of weeks ago. By the sound of it, Chuck, I wouldnt worry. What blogger is going to think this guy gets it?

"The soon-to-be world famous blogumentary, “59Bloggers,” needs a sponsor or partner or underwriter.

Here’s how you can jump in.

As my crew and I travel the U.S. this summer of 2005 interviewing bloggers for the “59Bloggers” blogumentary, thousands of people will see and meet us. Your sponsorship would include your brand name splattered on our vehicle, t-shirts that we wear would have your brand on it as a sponsor, our blog would feature your logo, and most importantly, a 15-second message from your brand representative would be at the top of the blogumentary, as well as a credit at the end of the movie. If the movie finds its way to theatrical distribution, we’ll do everything we can do get your brand on the campaign materials.

In this model, you become an investor in the project, sharing in all the revenue. The amount of investment is very modest, since we own the gear to produce the project and the gear to edit the project. Basically, we’re asking for travel expenses. Of course, a gallon of gasoline is now, what, $400 an ounce?
As a former Hollywood producer, I will open my black book and get this project on television, or into theatres, or on the web. The bottom line here is I have a working relationship with VitalStream and we could easily put this blogumentary on their network and the whole world could watch. Of course, there are DVD’s, too.

I can blow blue sky revenue at you if you want to get a taste of what it’s like to be hyped, but I’d rather not. It’s plainly obvious that high-definition television is in demand, and our final product will be digital high-definition. So there you have it. Call me, or email me, and let’s do lunch. Sorry. Old Hollywood habit. Let’s chat. Email below.

John Hart: john.writer at gmail.com "

I wanted to re-pste my favorite part:

"I can blow blue sky revenue at you if you want to get a taste of what it’s like to be hyped, but I’d rather not. It’s plainly obvious that high-definition television is in demand, and our final product will be digital high-definition. So there you have it.

Posted by: Drew at Jun 5, 2005 1:11:08 PM

p.s. here is a perma-link to the above publishing by Mr. Heart.

Posted by: Drew at Jun 5, 2005 1:35:15 PM

Hey just to add to the list of shitting things this guy has done, after I called him an asshole for his response to Chuck he emailed me with this:
"Michael Verdi: [address, phone #, ect.] We'll run a background check in a moment and have the rest of the data and credit history. I'll let you know where I post it online."

Posted by: Michael Verdi at Jun 5, 2005 1:35:45 PM

what a dick.
I couldn't find anywhere on 59bloggers.com to comment. Has he disabled them?
One of this fool's many obvious mistakes was quantifying his film with the #59.
As his bad karma spreads, that number will start to dwindle.

If he posts Verdi's personal info, he's not only breaking the law, but calling an enormous shit storm upon himself. [REST OF COMMENT DELETED BY CHUCK - SORRY! I DON'T WANT ANY THREATS POSTED BUT THANKS FOR THE SENTIMENT ADAM. -Ed.]

Posted by: adam at Jun 5, 2005 2:22:15 PM

verdi: yeah, that was really... something!

so it seems he's taken most of his site down. thanks for posting that cached page Andrew! i've got screenshots as well. hopefully we can move on from this soon.

please note i'm not asking anyone to not appear in the film, or have any opinion either way. but i really appreciate folks who've emailed me saying they're now declining to be in the film.

THANK YOU!!! I'm so amazed at what a force for justice we can be, the power of people in the electron flow. You guys are awesome.

Posted by: Chuck at Jun 5, 2005 3:43:29 PM

Here is the list he has up there as of this time. He definitely makes it clear that all of the names on the list have agreed to the project though I'm starting to hear that some of the people on the list never agreed. I wonder if that guy on the list named "Slashdot" did. My goodness.

Posted by: Drew at Jun 5, 2005 4:54:16 PM

Huge F-ing Thanks to Eric Rice for kicking this off... . You can donate here, if you're so inclined:

The Blogumentary Trademark Fund


Posted by: Chuck at Jun 5, 2005 7:15:12 PM

What a wonderful birthday present :-)

Posted by: Sharyn at Jun 5, 2005 7:42:00 PM

Wow. What a jerk. You'd think he'd be wise enough not to go pissing off the blog community when he's trying to work on a documentary on blogs. If just one of his listed interviewees posts about this, within a day all 50 or so of them will be fully aware of this guy's issues.

Posted by: Darrel at Jun 6, 2005 9:20:01 AM

Lesson #1 (for me): Don't EVER look away from Chuck's blog. That's when something usually happens.

Lesson #2 (for everyone): Don't mess with Chippy. He's got lots and lots of friends.

Lesson #3 (for Chuck): Chuck, your "prior art" and PR certainly supports your claim, but it always helps to plop a "TM" onto anything you intend to "own". It doesn't cost anything, but certainly indicates your intent to use as a trademark. Registering the trademark (getting a "circle R") does involve some searching and filing costs, but also might be worth your while once your use takes on more commercial significance.

Posted by: adam sellke at Jun 6, 2005 9:40:46 AM

yes, i am now learning these things. :-)

trademark registration now in process...

Posted by: chuck at Jun 6, 2005 2:14:00 PM

Phew, glad he put down the Blogumentary references. Have you accepted an apology, though?

I think this whole situation has been very interesting. Shows the power of a community.

Posted by: Raymond M. Kristiansen at Jun 7, 2005 4:16:59 AM

i'm not going to get an apology.
for all i know i'm still getting a bogus law suit!
so it remains to be seen, still.

but YES it does show the power of the community.
i am still amazed and humbled.

Posted by: chuck at Jun 7, 2005 4:28:59 AM

One of the people that were supposed to be interviewed by Mr. Hart told me that the only way she would do it is if he made this whole situation part of the film. I guess that idea is shot for now.

I think it's interesting too, that this new world we live in can so easily expose people for who they really are. Mr. Hart has a lot of venom for other people, but deep down he is his own worst enemy.

People like him should steer clear of the blog world, lest they enjoy being exposed for the people they really are.

Posted by: Lee LeFever at Jun 7, 2005 7:37:07 PM

I can't post that email because it *did* have the "privileged communication" language.

Why not? Just because he makes an assertion doesn't mean that you are bound by it. Sure, private communications between friends, loved ones, or even coworkers ought to be held in confidence-- even without an explicit request. My girlfriend doesn't have to tell me which emails to keep to myself, I can figure that out from the context.

This is different. Hart is interfering with your work, perhaps inadvertently at first, but later willfully. He can put whatever assertions of confidentiality he wants into his communications with you, but you are not bound by those assertions unless you agree to be.

Posted by: mkb at Jun 8, 2005 4:36:11 AM

I think it'll be pretty clear at the end of the day about who was more transparent and honest throughout this whole affair.

I don't think Hart has taken a good look in the mirror to realize the extent that his own uncivil actions towards you has helped bring his project down.

Being a documentary filmmaker myself, I know that there is quite a lot of work that goes into producing enough paperwork and a business plan in order to secure investors. Considering these circumstances, I have to question whether Hart ever did any of this legwork or ever even had any committed investors. If he did, then I'd like to see the proof.

I'd like to know who these investors were and ask them why they bailed from the project.

Was it because Chuck Olsen or John Hart's response to Chuck Olsen?

You may have been the symptom Chuck, but I think the illness goes much deeper.

I can honestly say that I don't know what's going on with this man's life, but I have a hunch that there is a lot of other stuff that's been piling up.

Anyway, I'll doubt that Hart will ever disclose the names of these "investors," and I don't know if we'll ever really get the whole story for what really happened here.

Hart obviously didn't seem willing to engage dialogue, and his vision of justice was to try to take you down with his sinking ship.

Posted by: Kent Bye at Jun 8, 2005 6:24:27 AM

My original intention with my blog post was to bring up some of the issues that this conflict has to do with citizen journalism -- not to pick one side over the other, but to start a broader discussion on some of the potential lessons.

1.) There is a delicate balance between transparency and e-mail privacy.

2.) It highlights some of the difficulties that independent citizen journalists may face when trying to gain access and trust to sources with privledged information. Sources don't want to be affiliated, embarrassed or have their reputations damaged by citizen journalists who turn out to be loose cannons; And

3.) Transparency can be used by citizen journalists in order to culitivate trust with sources -- it protects both sides.

This was what I was originally trying to point out, and I think it's especially true after what has since developed with this whole drama.

Posted by: Kent Bye at Jun 8, 2005 9:07:57 AM

I have to side with Kent. This guy is looking less and less like a legitimate film maker. His latest 'update' is hilarious.

Or maybe he is legitimate. Do most film makers insist on insulting folks with Jnr. High name calling tactics?

Posted by: Darrel at Jun 8, 2005 3:22:46 PM

Screw 59 Bloggers!!! When I first saw mention of it, I told my girlfriend who is a very thought- provoking writer to sign up. She was one of the first to sign up and never was invited into the circle. I saw some of the ones that they did pick. Obviously, no accounting for taste. What crap they chose. Now, to read this whole episode, I can understand a little more of what a sleazy person this John Hart is. I guess if we've learned any lesson from all this, it is that there will always be assholes on the net. Blog on....

Posted by: Rev. Dr. Spyder X at Jun 8, 2005 4:42:38 PM

Right on. I do feel badly for the bloggers that were chosen and excited to be in a documentary, though.

To those bloggers, I say: Start a videoblog and interview yourself! Or interview each other. Look, you don't need to wait for a filmmaker to get your stories out there. "We are the media" isn't just an empty mantra. You could even edit those together into... a documentary film. Release it online, or (if you're ambitious) try for the festivals.

Posted by: Chuck at Jun 8, 2005 4:53:27 PM


Sorry about the link spam, but since there's an apology in there, I thought you'd want to see it.


Posted by: Kit Jarrell at Jun 9, 2005 4:05:18 PM