Sep 21 2009 9:00am

Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 34 (of 81)


Illustration by Idiots’Books

“There’s litigation specialists at Credit Suisse?”

He was big, Hackelberg, though he often gave the impression of being smaller through his habitual slouch. But when he pulled himself up, it was like a string in the center of the top of his head was holding him erect, like he was hovering off the ground, like he was about to leap across the desk and go for your throat. His lower jaw rocked from side to side.

“They do now, Sammy. Every investment bank has one, including the one that the chairman of our board is a majority shareholder in.”

Sammy swallowed. “But they’ve got just as deep pockets as we do—can’t we just fight these battles out and take the money off of them when we win?”

“If we win.”

Sammy saw his opportunity to shift the blame. “If we’ve been acting on good legal advice, why wouldn’t we win?”

Hackelberg inhaled slowly, his chest filling and filling until his ice-cream suit looked like it might pop. His jaw clicked from side to side. But he didn’t say anything. Sammy tried to meet that cool gaze, but he couldn’t out-stare the man. The silence stretched. Sammy got the message: this was not a problem that originated in the legal department. This was a problem that originated with him.

He looked away. “How do we solve this?”

“We need to raise the cost of litigation, Samuel. The only reason this is viable is that it’s cost-effective to sue us. When we raise the cost of litigation, we reduce its profitability.”

“How do we raise the cost of litigation?”

“You have a fertile imagination, Sammy. I have no doubt that you will be able to conceive of innumerable means of accomplishing this goal.”

“I see.”

“I hope you do. I really hope you do. Because we have an alternative to raising the cost of litigation.”


“We could sacrifice an employee or two.”

Sammy picked up his water-glass and discovered that it was empty. He turned away from his desk to refill it from his filter and when he turned back, the lawyer had gone. His mouth was dry as cotton and his hands were shaking.

Raise the cost of litigation, huh?

He grabbed his laptop. There were ways to establish anonymous email accounts, but he didn’t know them. Figuring that out would take up the rest of the afternoon, he realized, as he called up a couple of FAQs.

In the course of a career as varied and ambitious as Sammy’s, it was often the case that you ran across an email address for someone you never planned on contacting, but you never knew, and a wise planner makes space for lots of outlier contingencies.

Sammy hadn’t written down these email addresses. He’d committed them to memory.

<<< Back to Part 33

Continue to Part 35>>>





As part of the ongoing project of crafting’s electronic edition of Makers, the author would like for readers to chime in with their favorite booksellers and stories about them in the comments sections for each piece of Makers, for consideration as a possible addition to a future edition of the novel.

Doctorow’s Makers will be released in print by Tor Books in October. You can read all previous installments of Makers on on our index page.


1. Elyandarin
“There’s litigation specialists at Credit Suisse?”
“They do now, Sammy.”

Should probably be "They have litigation..." or possibly "There are now, Sammy."

This is a fascinating story, by the way; I'm interested to see where it's going...
Roland of Gilead
3. pKp
Sammy saw his opportunity to shift the blame.
That's his problem, right here. That's why he's a scumbag.

Can't wait to find out who or what he's going to call up, though. New and exciting version of internet baddies ? Botnet ? Trolls-for-hire ? Ninja-lawyer monkeys ?

Can someone who knows about that kind of stuff provide examples of ways to "raise the cost of a litigation" ? (I'm assuming Hackelberg is talking legal actions, not having someone break Perry's arm a second time).

On a completely unrelated note, I can't read Hackelberg's lines without thinking of Mr. Slant, of Morcombe, Slant and Honeyplace (a zombie lawyer in Pratchett's Discworld series).

"Mr. Slant did not, despite what had been said, have the respect of Ankh-Morpork's legal profession. He commanded its fear. Death had not diminished his encyclopedic memory, his guile, his talent for corkscrew reasoning, and the vitriol of his stare. Do not cross me this day, it advised the lawyers. Do not cross me, for if you do I will have the flesh from your very bones and the marrow therein. You know those leather-bound tomes you have on the wall behind your desk to impress your clients? I have read them all, and I wrote half of them. Do not try me. I am not in a good mood."
5. JasonP
Once it's backed by VCs, threatening physical damage won't change the lawsuit. Death won't even change the lawsuit. There's a reason the ride is incorporated, and it's now the incorporation which is suing.

Raising the cost of litigation would involve procedural changes, rapid passing of legislation with the intent of slowing everything down.

Which, from the point of view of the rides, is exactly what they want. Those procedural rules apply on both sides, making it that much harder for Disney to bring suit against copyright violators.

The _cost_ of litigation is why the big content providers want automated systems for reporting online copyright violations. If you put a human in the loop, it gets too expensive to chase.
Marcus W
6. toryx
pKp @ 3:

I don't think that Hackelberg is talking about legal action, otherwise he would have been more specific. I think he was trying to suggest that Sammy needs to find another, perhaps harsher method to turn up the heat on those who are pushing the suit forward so that they'd see it is their best interest to abandon the suit.

We'll see.
7. Frank P.
My immediate thought:
Roland of Gilead
8. pKp
Frank P @ 7 :

I just read the Wikipedia page and failed to see the connexion. Care to expand ?

toryx @ 6 :

Would that really raise the cost of liquidation ? If, for example, Sammy has someone rebreak Perry's arm, apart from the hospital fees, it won't cost the kind of money needed to make a difference in a mega-suit like that. Of course, he may be disheartened and abandon the ship (NOT likely), but it's not the same thing as raising the cost of litigation.

One effective way to raise it, though, would just be to scare the venture capital away. Trolling, spreading false rumors, buying some finance journalists...
9. Onions
And how would firing Sammy (the implied threat) raise the cost of litigation?
Marcus W
10. toryx
pKp @ 8:

I think you're taking it too literally. Old Hackleberg is limited by the law: He can't tell Sammy to break the law and find a way to get the plaintiffs to drop the suit. So he's suggesting that very thing, using legal terms, knowing that Sammy will be able to make the leap in understanding.

There isn't really any way to raise the financial cost of litigation, but if Sammy is willing to stoop to a lower level, he can make litigation too costly in other ways for the plaintiffs to pursue.

Of course, there may be other ways to go about it. Shine the light on the financial contributors in such a way that the attention is too costly to continue. But I don't think Hackleberg is talking about actual financial costs in terms of money so much as personal cost.

IMHO, of course.
11. FrankP
pKp @ 8:

I might have linked the wrong court case, but essentially it's the decision that allowed Major League Baseball complete antitrust immunity.

Considering the direction of the story, it wouldn't be out of the question to argue Disney as a cultural institution and thus immune from trademark/copywright expiration.

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