Bagism: Library

Cease & Desist -- My Letter to Yoko Ono

This is a copy of the letter which I sent to Yoko Ono along with all the other letters submitted via the Dear Yoko page.

Ms. Yoko Ono
1 West 72nd Street
New York, NY 10023

December 17, 1996

Dear Ms. Ono,

My name is Sam Choukri and I am a graduate student at the University of Missouri. For the past two years, I have operated a site on the World Wide Web called "Sam Choukri's John Lennon Web Page."

In case you are not familiar with the World Wide Web (or just "web" for short), let me quickly describe to you it's main features. The web is a world-wide network of computers containing information about almost any topic imaginable. The information can be in many different formats including text, pictures, sounds, and movie clips. Areas of the web that are dedicated to a single topic are generally referred to as "sites" or "pages." Some examples of the different types of sites available on the web include companies trying to sell products, museums showing works of art, and individuals writing about their hobbies and interests. The number of people who currently have access to the web is approximately 30 million and rising fast.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the web is that one doesn't have to be a large, wealthy corporation to set up a site. Individuals can also set up sites with little or no expense and they will have access to the same world-wide audience as do the corporate sites. It is a very empowering medium when compared to the normal means of mass communication such as television and newspapers because for the first time in history, normal individuals can be active producers of widely-disseminated information rather than simply being passive consumers.

It was the ease of publishing on the web and the culture of sharing it fostered that inspired me to create my own site over two years ago. At that time, there was very little information about John Lennon on the web outside of his work with the Beatles and so I became determined to create a site focusing mainly on his solo career. I have been a fan of John's solo work for a long time and I felt I had some knowledge that I could share with other fans. I began slowly at first, but little by little, I created a site which I hope both you and John would have been proud of. It was a celebration of John's work as an artist, musician, film maker, writer, actor, and last but not least, peace activist. There was nothing on my site that could be considered disrespectful to either John or yourself. Furthermore, I took great pride in making it as professional as I could and I received many awards for it's design and content.

The main goal I had for my John Lennon site was to share my enthusiasm and knowledge of John and his work with other fans. I felt it was important that I didn't focus only on John's musical talents, but rather present him as a whole. In order to do this, I covered all phases of John's work by dividing the site into many sections which I describe below:

photos from all stages of John's life and even included an original slide show which I created
small reproductions of some of John's lithographs
short 10-30 second clips from either live performances or interviews
short 30-45 second samples of some of John's rare songs such as those from the "Lost Lennon Tapes" series and also some interviews
Web Chat
forum for fans from all over the world to converse with each other about John and his ideals in real time
Web Board
forum for fans to post messages and questions about John that others could respond to up to a week later
chronology, original articles, letters, interviews, etc.
album covers and lyrics for all of John's solo albums; fans could also submit reviews of John's albums

I'd like to explain the Web Chat in a little bit more detail to give you a better idea what it was all about. In essence, the Web Chat was a perfect realization of yours and John's concept of "bagism." Here was a place where people could come together and converse with each other without having any preconceptions based on color, race, age, gender or sexual orientation. The only information the Web Chat participants knew about each other was what each individual chose to share. It was very liberating to be able to speak freely without fear of being ridiculed for one's ideals based on preconceived notions. People from all over the world participated in the Web Chat on a regular basis, including some from Australia, Russia, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Mexico, Canada, the United States, and many, many other countries. Many people on the Web Chat became close friends and sometimes even met in real life. One such meeting took place on Dec 8th, 1996 at the Strawberry Fields memorial.

I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on my John Lennon site without ever trying to earn any money as a result of it. It was simply a labor of love to help keep John Lennon's spirit alive. In spite of this, I received a letter from lawyers representing the estate of John Lennon stating they would seek legal recourse against me unless I immediately stopped using "artwork and various trademarks" on my site. In response, my university immediately removed the entire site instead of allowing me to determine and then remove the specific portions in question.

While I can understand your desire to protect John Lennon's image from unauthorized use for financial gain or in ways that are slanderous, I do not believe for one second that my site was in any way harming the Lennon estate. In fact, I believe that it was beneficial. For example, in the "Albums" section, visitors to the web site could contribute reviews of John Lennon's albums as well as read what others had submitted. This undoubtedly encouraged some people to purchase the albums. I even provided a direct link to a retailer which sells John Lennon's albums on the web. In the "Artwork" section, which seems to be the main focus of the letter from the lawyers, I listed the names and contact information for art dealers who sell official John Lennon lithographs. This resulted in the sale of at least one lithograph I am aware of and probably many more that were not reported to me. Looking at it strictly from a financial standpoint, my site was a free promotion of John Lennon products and did nothing but help to increase sales of such products.

I've included many letters addressed to you from people who were visitors to my former site and who would like to see all or part of it restored. I hope that my letter and those of all my supporters will help convince you that my John Lennon site was beneficial, not harmful, to the Lennon estate. I am requesting that you grant me a license to use some copyrighted items like artwork, photos, sounds, etc., for inclusion on the new site I am building in John Lennon's honor. If there are specific items that you do not want me to use, I will respect your decision but I hope that you will allow me to use at least some items so that I may have the opportunity to continue something I've worked so hard on. If there are any plans in the future to create an official John Lennon site, I hope that you will consider allowing me to work on it based on my experience and obvious dedication to my own John Lennon site during the past two years.

Thank you very much for your consideration and I wish you and Sean a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Sam Choukri


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Last updated on Jul 5, 1998