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'My apologies to the Internet'

A man who forced Web sites to remove a photo of him by falsely claiming he owned the copyright to the image has videotaped a slightly less-than-contrite public apology "to all bloggers, Webmasters and other individuals" as part of a court settlement.

Michael Crook, a resident of New York state, created a number of controversial, now-defunct blogs that made him the target of other bloggers and media. One of his blogs allegedly espoused racism. On another, he criticized U.S. military personnel as being overpaid and pampered, raising the hackles of Fox New's Hannity & Colmes, whose hosts grilled him on it in a broadcast interview in 2005. And for another blog,, Crook created a fake personal ad on Craigslist posing as a woman soliciting sex and then publicized the responses he got from the various men.

Webzine 10 Zen Monkeys posted an article about Crook's antics in September 2006 and included a screenshot of Crook's appearance on Hannity & Colmes. Crook sent notices to 10 Zen Monkeys and other blogs that used the image, claiming he owned the copyright and invoking the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in ordering them to take it down.

Jeff Diehl, the editor and publisher of 10 Zen Monkeys, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sued him in November and a settlement was reached last week. In the settlement, Crook admits to falsely claiming copyright protection and abusing the DMCA. Among other things, Crook was ordered to videotape an apology for 10 Zen Monkeys to approve and produce.

"Essentially, I stepped on his (Diehl's) free-speech rights while attempting to protect my image," Crook says in the video before asking rhetorically: "Who knew you can't control your own image."

A detailed history of the situation can be found here.