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W. Barret Versus Neil, The Shopkeeper

by Gwyn

Starring Neil

Co-Starring Ranger1138, Susie Q. Franklin, Gwyn and Eclipse
Also featuring the work of Reebo

All Babylon 5 names and references are the exclusive property of J. Michael Straczynski, TNT and Warner Brothers.  All rights reserved.  They are used here for private entertainment purposes.


    Neil straightened the sign as he unlocked the door to the shop and looked around in satisfaction.  The renovations were going well and he hoped that they would be finished soon.  At least he did not have to worry about losing customers, who were patiently waiting for the shop to reopen.  His shop was the only Booji Shop on Babylon 5.  In fact, his shop was the only Booji shop in the galaxy!  All the more reason to get it renovated as quickly as possible.
    He set about straightening out the Boojilon 5 tapes.  Darn construction workers had knocked them off the shelves, so now he was up to his knees in mixed up videotapes.  He was so intent on his work that he did not see a man in a dark suit slip into his room.  The man poked around, lifting furniture covers, examining photos and art work, and scrutinizing the Boojilon 5 tapes, finally tripping over Neil in the process.
    "What are you doing in here?" Neil asked suspiciously, remembering what had happened the last time a Suit had been in his shop.  (Neil was still having nightmares about the polka dot bow ties.)
    "I'm looking for Blockbuster Video," the man said with an oily smile.  Neil pointed out the door.
    "Go right and it is on your left, right next to the Babylon 5 Emporium.  Now, the shop is closed . . . do you need help finding the door?" Neil asked pointedly.  The man thanked Neil and left without further comment.  Neil tried to return to his work, but he could not shake the feeling of foreboding.  Something wasn't right . . . there was no way someone could have mistaken his shop for Blockbuster, especially a Suit.  Suits did not just wander places.  Giving up on work, Neil went to find Ranger.  Something wasn't right.

    "A Suit?  Around the shop?"  Ranger growled, just as suspicious as Neil was.
   "Yep!  I had Reebo, the used to builder now turned artist, draw up this sketch from my description.  I was hoping that you could use it to find the guy, maybe keep an eye on him, just in case he is up to no good."
    "I think I can manage it!  Never waste a chance to spoil a Suit's plan!" Ranger said cheerfully, taking a copy of the sketch.  "Have you run this by Susie Q. Franklin?  She is sort of a Suit . . . at least, she wears them for work.  Maybe she will recognize him."
    "Yeah, I stopped by her place on the way over.  She doesn't know who he is and she checked with her office back on Earth.  They didn't recognize him either."
    "I'll catch this guy, don't worry," Ranger assured Neil.  "You go back and keep an eye on the shop and I will let you know as soon as something turns up."

    The first thing Ranger did was run the sketch by security . . . sort of.  He broke into the customs files and had the computer cross-reference the sketch with the passport photos, which turned up a name - William Barret.  His travel log stated that he was on the station to conduct "business" and when Ranger ran the profile against the Earth Force database, he discovered Mr. W. Barret was a member of the Earth Bar Association.  Specialty - Copyright Law.

     "Hey, Neil . . . you look kind of down.  Grab a table and I will fix you a cup of hot chocolate," Gwyn said when she saw Neil come into the coffee shop.  "On the house," she said, setting down his cup.  "What's wrong?"
    "I'm just worried.  Some Suit has been snooping around the shop and I just have a bad feeling about it."
    "Maybe I can help. . . what did he look like?"
    Neil showed Gwyn the sketch.
    "I've seen him!  He came in last night and stopped for a Turkish coffee.  He said to credit it to quarters in Red section."  Gwyn flipped through her order pad for a moment.  "Level 1, Room 15."
    "Thanks, Gwynie!  I have to go find Ranger.  Thanks for the choccy!" Neil called on his way out.

    Barret's quarters were some of the nicest available for rent and Ranger thought he detected the faint smell of fresh dry cleaning.  The guy was definitely a Suit.
    "May I help you?" Barret asked when he opened the door.  Ranger stepped through.
    "Yes, you may.  I represent an interested party who would like to know exactly what you were doing sneaking around the Booji Shop this morning.  Now, we are both adults and I am sure we'd like to be civilized about this, so why don't you answer my questions before I am forced to shove you through that observation window you're paying an extra 30 credits a day for," Ranger said in his most congenial tone.  The Suit gave an unruffled smile.
    "Certainly.  I was investigating a claim for my company.  We had reason to believe this shopkeeper is infringing on my company's copyright privileges and I was sent to verify the evidence.  Having verified it this morning, I have just completed filing a suit with the station ombudsmen.  Your friend should be receiving notification of the charges very soon.  If you have further questions, you may address them at the hearing.  Good day to you."  Barret opened the door and stood back, his eyes cold.  Ranger wanted to reach out and strangle the smug bastard, but figured one lawsuit was enough.  No need to have to face charges of assault and battery as well.

    The use of a bucket to denote deification is the exclusive property of William Barret Legal Consulting, Inc.  Any use of a bucket to denote deification must be approved by the aforesaid copyright holder and appropriate royalties paid.  A person identifying himself as "Neil, the Shopkeeper" has been manufacturing and selling a variety of merchandise, including but not limited to tee shirts, videotapes, and two and three dimensional art work featuring the image of a deity referred to as "Booji" who is identified by a red bucket worn over the head.  As no permission has been obtained to use a red bucket, this is clearly an illegal use of a bucket to denote deification.  Additionally, William Barret Legal Consulting, Inc., owns the copyright to the deity "Yooji," who is also identified by a red bucket worn over the head.  It is clearly evident that "Booji" is an illegal parody of "Yooji," further infringing upon the legal rights of William Barret Legal Consulting, Inc.
    In light of the merchandising which has been created, from which the aforementioned has received no royalties, William Barret Legal Consulting, Inc., is asking for an immediate cessation of all manufacture, display and sale of Booji merchandise; confiscation of said goods, and three million credits of royalties due.

    Susie Q. Franklin handed the legal papers back to Neil.  He and Ranger had come to her quarters for advice.
    "This is bad, Neil.  As far as I can tell, the lawsuit is legally feasible.  Unless we can find a way to prove that we were using the bucket first, I don't think we can win.  It's an us versus them type case and they have all the legal clout."
    "Can you help?"
    "Maybe.  I have taken a few law courses over the years, but I'm a P.R. officer, not an attorney.  However, I have some contacts who might be able to do something.  I will make some calls and see what I can do."
    "Thanks, Susie," Neil said glumly.
    "I'm sorry, Neil, I wish I could offer more hope . . . check back with me tonight, okay?" Susie said, frowning pensively as she watched him go.

    "Computer, access StellarCom . . . open a channel to the Earth . . . number . . ."
    Eclipse looked up from his most recent computer animation sequences and glared at the StellarCom screen.  "Receive," he sighed, hating to be interrupted.  Susie's face blinked on the screen.
    "Hi, Eclipse . . . we've got a little problem up here on Babylon 5.  I was hoping you could help."
    "Sure!  What's going on?"
    "It's about Neil and the shop . . ." Susie ran through the story as succinctly as she could and Eclipse listened incredulously.  When she was finished, Eclipse was so angry it was some moments before he could speak.
    "That is absolutely the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!" he fumed.
    "I know!  I have contacted one of the best lawyers in Earth Dome and he has agreed to take the case as a favor to me.  But he needs information . . . we need proof that we were using the bucket first.  That is where you come in.  We were hoping you could search through and find out exactly when the copyright was filed.  The legal papers claim that they have held the copyright since earth year 2000, but that cannot possibly be right.  I am sending you the file.  It's got all the information."
    "No problem!  I'll get right on it!"
    "Thanks Eclipse!  I'll keep you posted!"

    Eclipse's first move was to hike it down to the local university and sort through their law section.  He had had his own copyright dust-ups in the past and was pretty familiar with the staff, who showed him exactly which books he needed.  He spent the afternoon pouring through legal manuals.  When he had finished sorting through the last one, he smiled.  Things were looking up.  Time to call the Better Business Bureau!

    "Hey, Neil!" Eclipse said when Neil answered the phone.  "I have got some very good news for you!  Turns out Mr. W. Barret does own a copyright after all, but it was filed within the past 12 months, which means that we can prove you were using the bucket first!  I spoke to the lawyer Susie got you and he is busy filing a libel suit against Barret as well as copyright application for you.  I have also reported Barret to the Better Business Bureau and it turns out he has been running scams like this for years!  Picking on people who don't think to secure copyright and then suing them for millions!  They are working on obtaining a warrant for his arrest."
    Neil's face brightened and he grinned.
    "That is great, Eclipse!  So what happens now?"
    "Barret will probably take an out of court settlement . . . I figure you can get at least 100,000 credits from him.  If he does insist on a hearing, then it will come before the local ombudsman.  Your lawyer has all the details . . . you can't lose this one!"

    Barret stormed into Neil's shop.
    "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded, waving an envelope in front of Neil.
    "Oh that?" Neil asked innocently.  "It would appear to be notification of lawsuit.  Libel, I believe.  I'm only asking for 50,000 credits in damages and 50,000 in punitive awards.  That's not so terribly bad, is it?" he asked sweetly.  Barret growled.
    "You have crossed the wrong man, Mr. Shopkeeper!"
    "We will let the ombudsman decide that.  Now, if you will excuse yourself, I believe you are trespassing.  Please leave before my friend is forced to escort you."
    Barret glanced at Ranger, who was tossing his unextended pike casually from hand to hand.  Barret growled, but turned on his heel and stormed out.

    "Hey Neil, you made the front page of the Station Enquirer!" Gwyn said as Neil came into the coffee shop.  She tossed him the weekly magazine and Neil settled down to read.

    Neil, proprietor of The Booji Shop, recently announced the grand reopening of the new and improved shop.  The renovations were completed on schedule, despite his entanglement in a lawsuit.  W. Barret, a con artist from Earth, working for a Legal Consulting company under the umbrella of Interplanetary Expeditions, attempted to sue Mr. Neil for copyright infringement.  An investigation proved the claim to be fraudulent and he successfully filed a countersuit asking for damages he received from Mr. Barret's libelous claims.  100,000 credits were awarded to Mr. Neil after Ombudsmen Reno ruled in his favor.  Mr. Barret is facing charges of copyright fraud and will face trial before an Earth Dome grand jury later this month.

All is well that ends well, no?  But all is not as quiet as one might think.  New technology in the wrong hands can be most dangerous . . . be sure to read the next installment of Gwyn's follower stories!