Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 29 (of 81)


Illustration by Idiots’Books

They didn’t leave the house until suppertime, freshly showered (she’d been a delightful help in scrubbing those spots where the cast impeded access) and changed. Perry took a painkiller after the shower, which kicked in as they went out the door, and the autumn evening was crisp and sharp.

They got as far as the corner before the man approached them. “Perry Gibbons, isn’t it?” He had an English accent, and a little pot-belly, and a big white bubble-jacket and a scarf wound round his throat.

“That’s right,” Perry said. He looked at the guy. “Do I know you?”

“No, I don’t think so. But I’ve followed you in the press. Quite remarkable.”

“Thanks,” Perry said. Being recognized—how weird was that. Cool that it happened in front of Hilda. “This is Hilda,” he said. She took the man’s hand, and he grinned, showing two long rat-like front teeth.

“Fred,” he said. “What an absolute delight running into you out here of all places. What are you doing in town?”

“Just visiting with friends,” Perry said.

“Wasn’t there some kind of dust-up at your place in Florida? I saw what they did to the ride here, what a bloody mess.”

“Yeah,” Perry said. He pointed at his casted arm. “Seemed like a good time to get out of Dodge.”

Hilda said, “We’re getting some dinner, if you’d like to come along.”

“I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

“No, it’s no sweat, we’ve got a whole bunch of people associated with the ride meeting us. You’d be more than welcome.”

“Goodness, that is hospitable of you. How can I refuse?”

Luke and Ernie were there with their girlfriends, and there were more kids, midwestern and healthy even if they weren’t necessarily all Scandic, some Vietnamese kids, some Hmong, some desis descended from the H1B diaspora. They had a gigantic meal in a student place that was heavy on the potatoes and beers the size of your head, which Perry resisted for a couple hours until he figured that he’d metabolized most of the painkiller and then started in, getting just short of roaring drunk. He told them war stories, told them about Death Waits, told them about the co-op and the plan to fight back.

“That just doesn’t sound right to me,” said a friend of Luke’s, a law-school grad student who had been bending Perry’s ear all night with stories from his law-clinic work defending university students from music-industry lawsuits. “I mean, sure, go after the cops because they roughed you guys up, but how much money do the cops have? You gotta target some fat cash, and for that you want to go after Disney. Abuse of trademark, abuse of process, something like that. The standard’s pretty high, but if you can get a judgement, the money is incredible. You could take them to the cleaners.”

Perry looked blearily at him. He was young, like all of them, but he had a good rhetorical style that Perry recognized as something born of real confidence. He knew his stuff, or thought he did. He had a strawberry mark on his high forehead that looked like a map of a distant island, and Perry thought that the mark probably threw off the kid’s opponents. “So we sue Disney and five years from now we cash in—how does that help us now?”

The kid nodded. “I hoped you’d ask me that. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Here’s what you need to do, dude, here’s the fucking thing.” The room had grown silent. Everyone leaned closer. Fred poured Perry another beer from the pitcher in the middle of the table. “Here’s how you do it. You raise investment capital for it. There’s a ton of money in this, a ton. Disney’s got deep pockets and you’ve got a great case.

“But like you say, it’ll take ten, fifteen years to get the money out of them. And it’ll cost a mil in legal fees on the way. So what you do is, you create an investment syndicate. You can maybe get thirty million out of Disney, plus whatever the jury awards in punitives, and if you keep half of it, you can deliver a fifteen-x return on investment. So go find a millionaire and borrow sixteen million, and turn the defense over to him.”

Perry was dumbstruck. “You’re joking. How can that possibly work?”

“It’s how patent lawsuits work! Some dickhead engineer gets a bogus patent for his doomed startup, and as they’re sinking into the mud, some venture capitalist comes and buys the company up just so it can go around and threaten other companies with real businesses for violating the patent. They ask for sums just below what it would cost to get the US Patent and Trademark Office to invalidate the patent, and everyone ponies up. Venture capitalism is the major source of funding for commercial lawsuits these days.”

Fred laughed and clapped. “Brilliant! Perry, that’s just brilliant. Are you going to do it?”

Perry looked at the table, doodling in the puddles of beer with a fingertip. “I just want to get back to making stuff, you know. This is nuts. Devoting ten years of my life to suing someone?”

“You don’t have to do the suing. That’s the point. You outsource that. You get the money; someone else does the business stuff.” Hilda put her arm around his shoulders. “Give the suits something to occupy themselves with — otherwise they get antsy and stir up trouble.”

Perry and Hilda laughed like it was the funniest thing they’d ever heard. Fred and the others joined in, and Perry scrawled a drunken note to Tjan and Kettlewell with the info. The party broke up not long after, amid much chortling and snorting, and they staggered home. Fred gave Perry a warm handshake and treated Hilda to a lingering, sloppy hug until she pushed him off, laughing even harder.

“All right then,” Perry said, “home again home again.”

Hilda gave his groin a friendly honk and then made a dash for it, and he gave chase.

<<< Back to Part 28

Continue to Part 30>>>





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.




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