Maybe it's karma. I have been posting a lot of articles about "life story rights" lately. Questions of copyright, trademark, rights of publicity and privacy seem to affect every film, play, and television series I advise. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that there's some dude out there that's pretending to be me.
As far as I know (and I've done a lot of digging), I am one of two Michael Pryweses in the world. The other one is a really great guy (and distant cousin) on the other side of America who is a realtor at West and Praszker in San Francisco. But in the past few months, I have become aware of another Michael Prywes, a fictional journalist who lists the Prywes Schwartz website as his own and links to the @MichaelPrywes twitter handle, my little-used personal handle.
He publishes articles under my name in online publications such as AllBusiness.com and LifeHack. One bio (that has been since taken down) reads: "Michael Prywes is a self-styled entrepreneur and legal expert with a specialism [sic] in online media law."
Another claims that I am "...a digital marketing expert, MBA, and serial entrepreneurial [sic]. When not in front of his computer, he can be found beekeeping, knitting, and being as Brooklyn as humanly possible." Someone is clearly having a good time using my good name.
There are so many wrinkles to this story. For one, I first started thinking something was fishy when my rarely used @MichaelPrywes handle started getting shoutouts and virtual high-fives over articles that were related to subject matters about which I advise regularly: startups, terms of service, personal branding, etc. These articles were actually not so poorly written. I tried to contact allBusiness multiple times, to no avail. I was under the impression that this impostor limited himself to allBusiness.com, until I received this copyright request email all the way from Japan:
The funny thing about copyright in the U.S. is that authorial attribution is not required in U.S. Copyright law. This is the reason I am able to use licensed photography on my sites without attribution; it is my understanding that, in other countries, proper attribution for copyrighted work is a necessary component of "moral rights." Our country has little use for moral rights and is more obsessed with fair use and open source--Creative Commons itself has an open license that can still require proper attribution. So, I find it interesting that, with my oft-mentioned passion for modern-day soft intellectual property matters in the United States, I have been, in some ways, a beneficiary of mis-attribution.
Lawsuits and controversies for things like this seem to drive a whole cottage industry. A Fox News anchor is suing Hasbro over the use of her name on a one inch plastic hamster. The Fake Steve Jobs account sent the whole Internet into a tizzy once-upon-a-time, and it only took a year for Fake Steve Jobs to be unmasked as comedy writer Dan Lyons, who writes for one of my favorite TV shows and also wrote an exposé on HubSpot, a marketing company Prywes Schwartz, PLLC unceremoniously stopped using earlier this year because of our dissatisfaction with... hey, wait a minute...
Look, the concept of identity and identity-theft is multi-layered. We are more than our names and our professions. The police and federal authorities have better things to do than to go after someone publishing decent SEO-driving content under my name. I am not a tech CEO or news anchor, and, while my name is rarer than a white humpback whale, its misappropriation seems to be more a part of clever journalistic experiment than an attempt to deprive me of everything I hold dear. So, until the day that Fake Michael Prywes tries to destroy me, I have just a few more words for that beekeeping, knitting hipster in Brooklyn: double-check your work and i before e except after c.
Update (11/11/15): David Hennessy from AllBusiness.com has contacted me and informed me that they will deal with the situation appropriately. This type of identity theft was a first for him as an editor.