Do Not Hire John Brown Advertising

I’ve been plagiarised by an advertising company. John Brown Advertising are plagiarists.

So if you want to hire an advertising company, don’t hire John Brown Advertising of 820 Eastbrooke Lane, Rochester, New York 14618. They have no creativity (and so will be useless for coming up with ideas for your campaign) and no regard for the intellectual property of others (and so may well lead to an expensive court case for you).

Here’s how I discovered this:

I saw a link in my referral logs today from somewhere called I am not providing a link to this site — although I nearly did. Because when I clicked on this link, it looked like something I would definitely recommend — a glossy, well-put-together site, with tons of information on the album Watertown, which is one of my favourites, as I’ve written before.

The only thing that seemed odd was a link at the bottom to an advertising company, the plagiarists John Brown Advertising.

There’s a ton of stuff on there — interviews, session musician listings and so on. But then I clicked on the link to the “songs” section, and what I read was very familiar.

I am not going to link to the site in question, but I’ll post their article here, and bold the sentences and phrases that also appear in my Watertown post:

In all of Sinatra’s concept albums, the order of the playlists was carefully assembled, though not crucial to the total enjoyment. In Watertown, the order is significantly more important, at least for your first few playings. This is a love story with a beginning, a middle and an end; the sequence of events makes it a very powerful listening experience. Part I, his disbelief; Part II, his desperation; Epilogue, her story.

1) Watertown is the only song on the album not sung from the perspective of our narrator, the establishing shot before the main story starts, but even here, the narrator’s voice breaks in, and is singing to someone – “It’s gonna be a lonely place/without the look of your familiar face,” and immediately after we get hints that maybe the narrator isn’t to be trusted (“But who can say it’s not that way?”) before woodwinds, bass and arpeggiated guitar take us out over a train sound that is immensely sad and portends what’s to come.

2) Goodbye (She Quietly Says) is a wonderfully sparse, distanced description of a relationship breaking up: “Sitting in a coffee shop with cheese cake and some apple pie / She reaches out across the table, looks at me and quietly says goodbye.”

3) For A While is, in the context of this album, almost a cheerful song. Musically, this sounds quite a lot like some of the waltzes Brian Wilson was doing around the same time, like Time To Get Alone – all light and breezy. Sinatra genuinely sounds like he means lines like “Days go by with no empty feeling/until I remember you’re gone.” It’s also the first song to be addressed, as most of the album is, directly to his lost love.

4) Michael & Peter is quite poignant – a letter to Elizabeth about their two children and about the mundane details of everyday life (“I think the house could use some paint/you know your mother’s such a saint/she takes the boys whenever she can/she sure needs a man” – and what does THAT say about the relationship, that the mother-in-law is still helping out her son-in-law, while her daughter is God knows where. There’s a sense that quite some time has elapsed since she left.

5) I Would Be In Love (Anyway) is one of the most conventional songs on the album. The main message is that even though their marriage has ended, it was worth it (“If I lived the past over/saw today from yesterday/I would be in love anyway”) and once again we have the recurring themes of the lack of communication between them, the narrator’s unreliability and general inability to talk. “If I knew then, what I know now/I don’t believe I’d ever change, somehow.” She changed, and grew up, and he didn’t. And the poor man doesn’t even realize it.

6) Elizabeth is a fairly standard song of lost love sung to the person lost, one of the comparatively less stirring songs on the album, although the narrator’s view of his wife as a fantasy, a dream, and the utter lack of detail about her other than her name, is telling. And “Dressed in memories/you are what you used to be” is simultaneously beautiful and disturbing.

7) What A Funny Girl (You Used To Be) says far more about his wife’s character. “You’d fall for lines so easily, whatever they were selling, you’d buy three.” Suddenly, the ex-wife is a character, and we can see that someone so full of life and energy could never, ever have stayed with someone so fundamentally conservative (not to mention patronizing – he sounds a little more like her father than her lover. This is especially worrying when you factor in the lines a few songs earlier about how her mother ‘needs a man’). He’d never understood that the things he loved most about her were precisely those things that meant they could never stay together.

8) What’s Now Is Now is most astonishing. The song is all about him forgiving her for her adultery – and assuming that the reason she’s left is just because she thinks he won’t forgive her or that people around will disapprove. He thinks she’s run away from him, rather than having grown away from him. He’s talking about how much he understands, how much he knows, but he doesn’t have a clue.

9) She Says… he’s actually received a letter from herand she says she’s coming home. So why is the song all minor chords, and why do we have a haunting chorus of the children singing “So she says” at the end of each verse? The children seem more cynical, or at least more realistic, than he is.

10) The Train…and we’re back where we started at the train station, except much time has passed since the first goodbye. He claims “I wrote so many times and more/but the letters still are lying in my drawer/’cause the morning mail had left some time before.” Despite many hopes, he’s standing there in the rain waiting for her because of a reply he got to letters he never sent. In the end, he walks off to meet his kids as indicated by the back cover art, and the train pulls out in the fade.

If you compare what’s been done there by the plagiarists John Brown Advertising, who have clearly put this site together as some kind of SEO thing, with my original post on Watertown, you’ll notice a few things:

Firstly, as you can see from the bold, this has been plagiarised wholesale from my piece. The changes they’ve made are, firstly, to put numbers in front of each song to make it look more like an essay by a schoolchild, secondly to take out all reference to the alternative interpretation of the lyrics (that Elizabeth is dead), and worst of all to remove various bits of character from my writing.

Thus “What’s Now Is Now is… Christ, this is just the most astonishingly upsetting song ever.” becomes “What’s Now Is Now is most astonishing.”

I’m not claiming my original piece is a masterpiece of literary art or anything — looking back at it, as with almost everything I’ve ever written, I cringe — but this rewrite has been done by someone with no love of, or feel for, language at all.

Now, I am not that bothered about my copyrights — I don’t get too stressed if people want to share stuff I’ve written, or music I’ve made, or whatever. But if you’re going to repost my stuff, it’s actually the law that you have to ask me. And there are also my *moral* rights, and those I *do* care about. I care about my right to be identified as the creator of the work, and even more than that I care about the integrity of the work — I posted that article in order to get ideas across to other people, and if you repost it somewhere else that’s not so bad, but if you repost a neutered version, that makes me angry as hell.

So, if you’re a client looking for an advertising company, do not hire the plagiarists John Brown Advertising.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Do Not Hire John Brown Advertising

  1. I’ve had this sort of thing happen to me and to other people I know online — it’s utterly disgraceful, and you have my sympathy.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Yes, I remember you mentioning at the time. Infuriating, isn’t it?
      Like I say, it’s not the blatant plagiarism that’s the *really* annoying bit — it’s the fact that they’ve gutted the piece. I seriously considered legal action for a whole two minutes, until I remembered that I have a sense of proportion.

      • Adam says:

        You could pretty easily send them an evil DMCA takedown request, which will probably spoil their day. Or perhaps just write them a polite letter naming your fee for use of your work? There ought to be some material consequences for them.

  2. john brown says:

    I write to you three times and left messages twice to use and credit your words. I noticed you didn’t try to contact me before these flames. Or call 585-729-7026. I’ll either give you credit on the page or take the descriptions down and write my own. Your choice.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      First, that is just a fucking *lie*. You have not emailed me, and nor have you left a message on this site anywhere. This is the first and only time I have ever heard from you. I just searched my email in case I’d missed anything, and this is the first and only contact I’ve ever had from anyone using the name John Brown or at the domain.

      Secondly, even if you had done that, not getting a response *does not give you permission*. You have no legal right to just take other people’s work and use it without payment, permission, or credit.

      It is not *my* responsibility to contact *you* if you plagiarise my work. If you don’t want bad publicity for being a plagiarist, don’t plagiarise other people’s work.

      And since you’ve decided to lie about having attempted to contact me, and given me an ultimatum with regards to *your* use of *my* work, rather than showing the slightest honour and decency and just saying “sorry”, I’ll tell you what you will do. You will remove all of my work from your site, *and* you will post a public acknowledgement that you plagiarised my work, *and* you will pay me a fee for the so-far unauthorised use of my work. The standard pay rate for professional writing is five cents US per word minimum. You used approximately 870 words of my work. Doubling that for the fact that the use is unauthorised, then doubling again for the fact that it was uncredited, then doubling again for the fact that the work was torn up in violation of my moral rights, that means $348 would be a reasonable fee for the use you have already made of my work illegally. That money can be paypalled to andrew @

      If you don’t take all these steps within forty-eight hours, I will assume that you are deliberately and maliciously infringing on my work, and will take legal action.

      Note that I had no intention of taking any further action until you decided to turn up on my blog and lie in a desperate attempt to save face. The fee will be donated to charity.

      • john brown says:

        You’re wrong, I did try to contact you. On September 14, 2012 at 5:51am and on September 20, 2012 at 9:37am. Both emails were addressed to, the only email address I could find for you. Both emails went through and we’re not returned to me so I assume the address was correct. They were sent from my Apple mail account, Check your inboxes.

        I’m trying to be nice about this. I’ve taken your song notes down from the site and publicly apologized right on my site. I’ve also set up a link to your original notes so that others can enjoy them. As far as the $348 is concerned, afraid not. Your work is not copyrighted. I think an apology is adequate. I therefore will ask you to refrain from any further lambasting of my business. The Watertownology site is my labor of love with no profit expected for itself. The tagging of my agency on the site is standard practice, no different than the DONATE button you’ve put here on your site.

        Now that you understand I’m not a liar, and you see that I apologized for using the notes while I waited for your reply, I sincerely hope we can put this behind us. Perhaps in the future we can communicate privately.

        • Andrew Hickey says:

 is not my email address. It is an email address to subscribe to a google group to be informed about my books. The only thing emailing it does is subscribe you to my list. No-one sees the emails and they’re not stored.

          “Your work is not copyrighted. I think an apology is adequate”
          You are wrong on both counts. I suggest you look into copyright law *right now*. And when someone has done wrong, it is not up to the wrongdoer to decide what counts as making amends.

          “I therefore will ask you to refrain from any further lambasting of my business.”
          No. You’re a plagiarist, and you are also trying to weasel out of your legal responsibilities. I see absolutely no reason why I should make your life easier by one iota.

          “The Watertownology site is my labor of love”
          A labour of love involves labour, not just reusing others’ work.

          “with no profit expected for itself. The tagging of my agency on the site is standard practice, no different than the DONATE button you’ve put here on your site.”
          And the whole point of that donate button is so that I can make money.

          “I sincerely hope we can put this behind us”
          We can, as soon as you make the proper payment for the use of my work.

          “Perhaps in the future we can communicate privately.”
          I would rather have no communication at all from you, frankly. However, should you fail to make the required payment — which you have now publicly stated you’re refusing to do — you *will* be hearing privately from the courts.

          • john brown says:

            You will never see a penny; Your writing wasn’t worth even that much. You’re the liar who’s sticking your neck out for $348. Therefore, you’re a CHEAP liar at that. You got my emails. You just ignored them. I acted in good faith. I have MANY supporters of my website who will agree. Should we include them in this dialogue? This, everyone, is Andrew Hickey’s desperate attempt to make a few bucks because no one in their right mind would hit his insipid DONATE button. Hear that sound? That’s my heel scraping off the horse shit you’ve been feeding all of us. You’re right. Don’t contact me. You make me sick. And trust me, I can make your life a lot more difficult than you can mine. A lot more. I’m done.

            • Andrew Hickey says:

              Here are some basic facts:
              I have three email addresses. None of them is the one you claim to have used.
              Even had you sent an email to me, merely asking permission does not grant you that permission.
              Copyright infringement is a criminal act. The law provides for fines of up to $150,000 per case of infringement, plus full legal costs. In merely asking for the appropriate word rate of forty cents per word, I am being *extraordinarily* reasonable. And I wouldn’t even have asked that had you not had the enormous chutzpah to turn up here acting as if you were the one who had been wronged.
              I have already said that any fees paid would go to charity — specifically, they will go to the Against Malaria Foundation. I have enough money.
              By all means, send as many people over to read a blog post titled “do not hire John Brown advertising” which shows you making threats and hurling abuse because you’ve been caught plagiarising other people’s work.
              You have, from the start, been in the wrong legally, morally and factually.

              • john brown says:

                Oh, please. You have redefined the meaning of douche bag.

                • Andrew Hickey says:

                  You know, if I’d commited a crime against another person, and was trying to persuade them not to take legal action, I don’t believe that hurling personal abuse and making vague threats would be the way I’d go about it.

                • Wow. It’s clear to me that Andrew is in the right. John, you took his work and used it without attribution. It’s hard to believe that you could have possibly honestly thought that that Google group address was a real email address for him. But even if you did, asking for permission is not the same as getting it (as Andrew pointed out multiple times). If you email someone that you’d like them to give you money, and they don’t respond, does that mean you can, in clear conscience, take money from their bank account?

                  This makes me sad, because I loved the Watertown site when I saw it.

              • Leave it, Andrew. He’s not worth it.

            • If his writing isn’t even worth a penny, why did you use it on your site?

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          Also, I don’t see your supposed public apology.

        • Rankersbo says:


          That’s like an 9 year old’s idea of how copyright works- not the understanding you’d expect of a professional who makes money by working in advertising. Copyright resides with the creator of a work until they declare otherwise (say through a licensing agreement).

          You don’t need to declare copyright in order for it to exist.

          Are you a competitor of John Brown impersonating him in order to make him look even more of an idiot?

  3. Andrew Hickey says:

    I have blocked Mr Brown from commenting here further.

  4. Pingback: What You Can Get Away With (Nick Barlow's blog) » Worth Reading 85: Tie your tie

  5. lucidfrenzy says:

    After reading of other bloggers facing similar problems, I finally added a note on reproduction to my sidebar. (I went for the fully-fledged copyleft option, but there are other variants.) While of course that alone wouldn’t stop some plagiarising your work, it immediately counters any arguments along the lines of “well I thought you wouldn’t mind.” Entirely up to you, of course, whether you want to do something similar. But I can’t imagine a scenario where it would hurt.

    • Jennie says:

      Yeah, I have a creative commons standardly-worded thing on my blog too. It’s never been an issue for me personally, but I’ve seen it happen to enough others.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      I’ve considered it.
      The problem is, I want to make money from my writing — ideally, I want to make it a full-time job. And I simply don’t know what rights I may need to retain. As a reductio ad absurdum, say I used a blanket copyleft license on this blog, and then some film-maker wanted to pay five million quid for the rights to the Doctor Watson short story I wrote last year. I have a basic understanding of copyright law, but not enough to know which rights someone may wish to license from me in ten years’ time — and copyleft licenses are, pretty much by their nature, irrevocable.
      I *am* planning, probably tonight, to write a post telling people what kinds of use will probably not annoy me, rather than giving a license.
      In fact… yeah, I’ll write it now.

      • lucidfrenzy says:

        I don’t think it needs be a blanket copyleft notice, that’s just what works for me. It could be a blanket copyright notice.

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          Ah, but likewise I don’t want to be an arsehole about it. I’d be perfectly happy to use a CC-BY-NC license, for example, if I knew that the rights conveyed wouldn’t end up being important, and don’t want to explicitly prohibit people from what I consider perfectly reasonable uses. I wish “don’t be a dick about it” was not so open to interpretation…

          • lucidfrenzy says:

            I know what you mean. A blanket copyright license appended with “but we can always talk”, which would allow you to negotiate individual exceptions? I believe people can argue against the right of copyright if you’re seen to not have policed it, like you’ve let the whole thing slide. I’m afraid I don’t know copyright law enough to say if that could still be argued for agreed exceptions. Common sense would suggest not, but common sense and the law don’t always get on.

            It’s so much easier if you’re a godless Commie who thinks all property is theft to start with, and doesn’t think they’d ever make a living from writing anyway!

            • Andrew Hickey says:

              You’re confusing copyright and trademark law with the policing thing — trademarks lapse if they’re not policed, copyrights don’t.

              I’m actually very, very dubious about the whole concept of ‘intellectual property’, and don’t like that it’s currently how people doing intellectual work are meant to ensure they get paid. But it’s the system we have, unfortunately.

              And I would never have imagined I could make a living from writing — and I’m still very far from doing so. But I’ve realised over the last few months that with a lot of work and a bit of luck it’s just about possible.

              • lucidfrenzy says:

                “You’re confusing copyright and trademark law with the policing thing — trademarks lapse if they’re not policed, copyrights don’t.”

                Ah, then that adds to my point!

                “I’m actually very, very dubious about the whole concept of ‘intellectual property’”

                Me too, needless to say. But of course, while I don’t like money, I don’t think the solution is to give all my savings to a rich corporation.

          • My suggestion would be to put either a CC-BY-ND-NC or an CC-BY-NC-SA licence on.

            The NC should stop anyone making money off it, and the ND or SA should stop it getting reformatted for profit.

            Remember that you can always make a commercial licence available later if there is a commercial use. Especially with the ND case, no-one can make a movie without your permission anyway.

            • The problem isn’t the rights I’m granting other people — it’s what exclusive rights someone else might later want. If some publisher wants exclusive reprint rights on something, and I’ve already granted non-exclusive rights to anyone who’s looked at the site, that would cause problems.

  6. Pingback: Albums You Should Own: Watertown, Frank Sinatra « Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

  7. jimw says:

    Andrew, you may be interested to know that your blog post is currently the number four search result for ‘John Brown Advertising’ on Google. A few more backlinks and you could be #1!

Comments are closed.