TBI’s ‘Legal’ Letter: A Shoddy Embarrassment

We have said that the TBI legal letter is very interesting in a number of ways. Yesterday we argued that it shows the authoritarian side of TBI, where anyone who disagrees with them must be silenced or even crushed. This is how they have always dealt with dissenting views inside the company at a senior level. Ibu Mariam, the vastly incompetent TBI Director, has long been known for her autocratic management style where she ritually humiliates and denigrates her own staff. Intolerant of dissent within its own walls, TBI is now apoplectic with rage when former teachers and managers tell the truth about them online: really, it isn’t so surprising. Accustomed to being able to crush anyone who speaks out against them, they are now irate and outraged that their authority doesn’t reach outside Indonesia. But their authoritarian style is far from the only thing which emerges from this letter. We would argue that the letter is also further proof (were any needed!) of their cheapness and lack of professionalism. As an attempt at a legal document, it is an embarrassment on multiple levels.

What Are They Even Talking About?

Frankly, we don’t even think their legal argument makes sense. They claim that we have infringed their trademark or copyright but they do not provide any supporting evidence at all. There are no documents to prove they own the name TBI, let alone tbilanguageschool. In fact, most of their letter focuses on the issue of defamation/slander, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue of copyright infringement. This makes their whole argument seem confused and unfocused. Are they arguing that our site should be closed due to slander or due to copyright infringement? They don’t even seem sure what their real grievance is. Look at the following passage, for example:

The content of the website contains a form of a smear campaign against our institution, current and former employees. In addition, it has also misrepresented so many of what we do in our organization. Not only do they write bogus and unreliable information about us. Lately, they seem to have escalated their efforts into writing bad reviews of other organizations as well.

You what now? How does this relate to copyright infringement at all? I understand how it relates to defamation allegations but what on Earth does “a smear campaign” have to do with a trademark? Furthermore, what on Earth are they talking about other organizations for? Has Frendy Horas from Rumah Bahasa popped in and asked them to sound off on his behalf too? In short, they have made a confused protest which claims to be about trademark infringement but soon moves onto their true concern: we are saying nasty things about them!

The Miserable Cheapness of TBI

This brings us to a very important point. This letter is further proof that TBI is a miserably cheap and unprofessional organization which just isn’t “premium”. Look at how badly this letter is written. Not only do they drift off on tangents about “abusive language” in what is supposedly a complaint about trademark infringement, but their letter is riddled with grammar mistakes too. Here is an example of Tasim Akbar’s grammar in what is supposed to be an official document:

One of the greatest issue of the website relate to the use of a name of website which can confuse and have confused our potential clients.

Tasim doesn’t know that ‘issue’ should be in the plural form. Further, Tasim doesn’t know how to join third person subjects with verbs either. The word ‘relate’ should be ‘relates’ and the word ‘have’ should be ‘has’. Therefore, we have three grammar mistakes within a single sentence in a legal letter. Is this really how a professional company represents itself in a legal dispute? The answer is clearly no. I mean this is supposed to be an English school, for goodness sake. Could they not have got one of their teachers to edit it before sending it off? Perhaps they decided it was just too expensive to pay a real lawyer to represent them, so they saved $100 and got Tasim to knock off a cheap imitation instead!

So what we have here is a legal letter from an English school which is riddled with grammar mistakes. They have over 50 English teachers at their disposal but none of them were asked to check it. So when we call them incompetent, lazy and unprofessional because they can’t even send grammatically correct legal letters, that isn’t defamation, it’s a cold hard fact. We have long had the sense that what TBI considers “abusive language” is simply speaking the truth about them. But even in Indonesia defamation relates to the speaking of untruths. Saying that they are too lazy to produce properly written letters is a fact: Tasim’s letter is Exhibit A. It isn’t defamatory to point out that TBI has low standards in the writing of letters when we have provided innumerable examples. The real issue here is clearly TBI’s failure to take responsibility for their sloppy standards.

Was a Real Lawyer Too Expensive?

That brings us to the final point about TBI’s cheapness. TBI could have hired a lawyer to draft this letter. I am sure that if a lawyer had drafted this letter, it would have looked a lot more professional than the mess which arrived in our inbox. Surely a proper lawyer would not be adding that we have “escalated our campaign against other companies” when he/she had no legal standing to represent those companies. Surely a proper lawyer would have presented documents to prove that TBI had in fact registered the TBI trademark. He/she presumably wouldn’t have alleged we infringed on their trademark as their main claim and then devoted most of their letter to talking about slander/abuse. That’s sloppy, unfocussed and unprofessional. Are we really unjustified in calling them cheap and unprofessional when they get some guy from PR to write legal letters for them who has no legal training? Again, it is just stating the awkward truth.

Conclusion

In the end, it is no surprise that WordPress dismissed TBI’s claim that we had somehow infringed on their copyright. They wrote a letter which was confused and off-topic, focusing more on their sense of hurt feelings than anything. There was no proof that they have even registered TBI as a trademark (we heard as of 2012 that they hadn’t) and talking about ‘abusive language’ relates to defamation not copyright law. They didn’t even specify which claims they thought were false, but that’s an issue for another day. Ironically, this poorly worded letter from someone who isn’t even a lawyer is actually strong evidence to support our claims that their work practices are shoddy. Do they really think that “premium” companies leave the drafting of legal letters to someone without a law degree? Do they really think that professional language schools represent themselves with letters riddled with grammar mistakes? Once again, they have merely ended up with egg on their faces.

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