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IWA Local 3-469

Chapter 29 : Swimmin’ Cross the Rio Grande

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Corporate Timber’s strategy for defeating popular resistance on the North Coast, whether union organizing, environmentalism, or citizen ballot initiatives depended heavily on keeping its would-be watchdogs and critics pitted against each other, or focused on a specific scapegoat. As the minutes of 1989 ticked away into 1990, the timber corporations were finding this an increasingly difficult prospect, and sometimes all it took to fracture whatever consensus they could muster was a perfect storm of indirectly related events. The arrogance of Louisiana Pacific in particular undermined Corporate Timber’s ability to keep an increasingly fearful workforce focusing their blame for all that was wrong on “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs.” In spite of all of the footwork done by Pacific Lumber with the help of TEAM and WECARE to manufacture dissent against the environmentalists’ campaign to block THPs and draft measures like Forests Forever, the catalyst that lit the opposing prairie fire was Louisiana-Pacific’s plans to outsource productions.

In December, the Humboldt and Del Norte County Central Labor Council, representing 3,500 union members from over two dozen unions in both counties rented billboards imploring the L-P not to move to Mexico. [1] Suggesting that the unions were forced to look beyond mere bread and butter issues, some of the billboards read, “Please don’t abuse our community and our environment.” L-P, who routinely paid for full page ads in the local press claiming to be “a good neighbor” touting their alleged pro-worker and pro-environmental policies, responded by claiming in their latest such entries that they were not exporting logs to Mexico, just green lumber for drying and planning. Although the handwriting should have been on the wall seven years earlier when L-P had busted the IWA and WCIW in the mills throughout the Pacific Northwest, there were several other unions which had a relationship with the company in various capacities. Hitherto they had been unwilling to bite the hand that fed them, and many wouldn’t have even considered making an overture of friendship to Earth First!, but now, all of a sudden, the leadership of various AFL-CIO unions based in Humboldt and Mendocino County finally awakened to the possibility that their enemy wasn’t, in fact, “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs.” [2]

Syndicalism, Ecology and Feminism: Judi Bari’s Vision

By Jeff Shantz - January 12, 2001 [PDF File Available]

According to the late Wobbly organizer and Earth Firster, Judi Bari, a truly biocentric perspective must really challenge the system of industrial capitalism which is founded upon the ‘ownership’ of the earth. Industrial capitalism cannot be reformed since it is founded upon the destruction of nature. The profit drive of capitalism insists that more be taken out than is put back (be it labour or land). Bari extended the Marxist discussion of surplus value to include the elements of nature. She argued that a portion of the profit derived from any capitalist product results from the unilateral (under)valuing, by capital, of resources extracted from nature.

Because of her analysis of the rootedness of ecological destruction in capitalist relations Bari turned her attentions to the everyday activities of working people. Workers would be a potentially crucial ally of environmentalists, she realized, but such an alliance could only come about if environmentalists were willing to educate themselves about workplace concerns. Bari held no naïve notions of workers as privileged historical agents. She simply stressed her belief that for ecology to confront capitalist relations effectively and in a non-authoritarian manner requires the active participation of workers. Likewise, if workers were to assist environmentalists it was reasonable to accept some mutual aid in return from ecology activists.

In her view the power which manifests itself as resource extraction in the countryside manifests itself as racism and exploitation in the city. An effective radical ecology movement (one which could begin to be considered revolutionary) must organize among poor and working people. Only through workers’ control of production and distribution can the machinery of ecological destruction be shut down.

Ecological crises become possible only within the context of social relations which engender a weakening of people’s capacities to fight an organized defence of the planet’s ecological communities. Bari understood that the restriction of participation in decision-making processes within ordered hierarchies, prerequisite to accumulation, has been a crucial impediment to ecological organizing.[1] This convinced her that radical ecology must now include demands for workers’ control and a decentralization of industries in ways which are harmonious with nature. It also meant rejecting ecological moralizing and developing some sensitivity to workers’ anxieties and concerns.

To critics this emphasis on the concerns of workers and the need to overcome capitalist social relations signified a turn towards workerist analysis which, in their view, undermined her ecology. Criticisms of workers and ‘leftist ecology’ have come not only from deep ecologists, as discussed above, but from social ecologists, such as Murray Bookchin and Janet Biehl, who otherwise oppose deep ecology. Social ecology guru Bookchin has been especially hostile to any idea of the workplace as an important site of social and political activity or of workers as significant radical actors. Bookchin repeats recent talk about the disappearance of the working class [2], although he is confused about whether the working class is ‘numerically diminishing’ or just ‘being integrated’. Bookchin sees the ‘counterculture’ (roughly the new social movements like ecology) as a new privileged social actor, and in place of workers turns to a populist ‘the people’ and the ascendancy of community. Underlying Bookchin’s critique of labour organizing, however, is a low opinion of workers which he views contemptuously as ‘mere objects’ without any active presence within communities.[3]

Earth First! in Northern California – Interview with Judi Bari

By Douglas Bevington, Summer 1993 – reprinted in The Struggle for Ecological Democracy

Douglas Bevington: Please describe the region in which you are organizing and that region’s key players. How far do your activities and influence extend?

Judi Bari: The area is the northern California red-wood region, which at this point is mostly Mendocino and Humboldt counties. It’s a big, sprawling area, rugged and sparsely populated. There are only 80,000 people in Mendocino County, where I live, and there are no large towns, no urban centers. Humboldt is a little different be-cause they have a university, Humboldt State, and a large town, Eureka. Both counties are rural impoverished areas. Our county governments are broke. They are closing down libraries and cutting back on police. Because of this, and because of the lack of urban influence, there is kind of a “wild West” mentality. There are some towns—Whitethorn and Covelo come to mind—that are virtually lawless areas, over two hours’ drive from the nearest sheriff’s deputy.

There are three main corporations in the redwood region. Louisiana Pacific (L-P) is the biggest redwood landowner, with 500,000 acres spread over the entire area. Tied for second are Georgia-Pacific (G-P), which owns 200,000 acres in Mendocino County, and MAXXAM, which owns 200,000 acres in Humboldt.
L-P has been around since 1975, and they’ve been liquidating ever since they’ve been here. Last year, they even admitted that 90 percent of their marketable trees in this county have already been cut. They are a cut-and-run company and they are almost done. G-P has been here a little longer. G-P has just one big sawmill and it’s still running. But most of their timberlands have been clearcut. They are about 70 percent done, so it’s just a matter of time.

MAXXAM is probably the best known of the three companies, mostly because of its outrageous financial practices. The 200,000 acres now owned by MAXXAM used to be owned by Pacific Lumber Co. (PALCO), a 120-year-old locally owned company, one of the oldest in the area. PALCO didn’t clearcut, and they had the closest thing to sustainable logging practices around. Because of this, they have the most old growth left. They have the best of what is left in the world. But in 1986, MAXXAM Chairman Charles Hurwitz, a corporate raider from Texas, took over PALCO in a forced junk bond buy-out scheme and then tripled the cut of old-growth redwood to pay off their junk bonds. This area has had pretty much a singular economy based on timber. Many of the logging families here go back five generations. Everybody knows each other, everybody grew up together and often are related to each other. It’s hard to understand the phenomenon of the company town until you live in one. King Timber controls all aspects of the society—the jobs, the schools, the hospital, the newspaper, and the police.

This singular economy and isolated rural culture got interrupted around 1970, when the back-to-the-land hippies moved in with their politically sophisticated, radical urban culture. What the hippies do for a living is grow the best marijuana in the world. In the mid-1980s, they actually included marijuana in the agricultural report of Mendocino County and found that it was the biggest cash crop, bigger than timber. This gives people a way to live in this area without being economically dependent on timber. Because timber is such a fluctuating market of booms and busts, during the low periods it is the marijuana money that keeps the towns going. Garberville, in southern Humboldt County, is probably the best-known local town built up with marijuana money. Many early growers used their money to open “legitimate” businesses. As the hippies gained economic influence, they also gained political influence, including passing voter referendums on local issues and electing candidates to the Board of Supervisors.

So, we basically have a bipolar social situation, with the hippies and the loggers. Of course, there are other social/cultural groups in our community, including Mexicans, Indians, fishermen, etc. But the main players in the Timber Wars are the hippies, the loggers, and, of course, the big timber corporations.

The Foundations of Future Forestry - Interview with Judi Bari

There are two, slightly different versions of this interview, neither of which are complete, so we are treating them as separate documents. The other version, The Shit Raiser Speaks is also featured in this library.

Interview by Chris Carlsson and Med-O - Industrial Worker, December 1992.

Judi Bari was bombed by persons unknown just prior to the beginning of Redwood Summer 1990 and is currently. plaintiff to a case against the FBl for their lack of effort regarding her attempted assassination. This interview was conducted by Chris Carlson in April '92 at Judi's home in Mendocino County, California.

Chris Carlson: one of the things we like to talk about a lot is the question of identity. How many people, when you ask them "who are you?" will tell you about their jobs, or how many will tell you about something they really care about?

Judi Bari: Most people tell you their job, I think.

Chris Carlson: Yeah I guess most people assume you are expected to answer with what you do for a living. But I find that almost everybody that I talk to for a little longer actually has something else that they do. Whether they're an organizer, a musician, a wind surfer, they define their life with an outside activity. And that's really a healthy response to the work-all-day life. Why should you put your identity and your soul into this godawful miserable experience? It's already bad enough getting this measly shit money out of it.

Judi Bari: Well I guess I did when I was working because I proudly identified with the struggle. I had a bumper sticker that said "POW: Post office Worker." I proudly identified both with the job and the fact that we were resisting on that job. I think that's one of the ways for people to identify with the jobs even in a shitty society.

Chris Carlson: As a resistor?

Judi Bari: Yeah I never had a bumper sticker that said "Kiss me I'm a carpenter" but I did have one that said Post Office Worker...

Chris Carlson: Isn't there a spontaneous critique of capitalist "efficiency" in various forms of sabotage? Can you see thatleading to a broader vision of a world worth working for?

Judi Bari: I think that the machinery to a factory worker is just so alienating, that it's just a natural instinct to destroy it. It would take a lot more than destroying machinery here and there, it would take political organization, that's the problem. People are always gonna trash machinery though, no matter what. If you work on machinery like that, it's really a natural experience, this isn't a question of "are you an evil radical in your factory, and do you sabotage--" Any industrial job I've ever worked at, I imagine it's the same in the technocratic-industrial jobs, people spontaneously fuck things up. It's like the only rebellion you have. It's not organized resistance, it's just gut level rejection. Sometimes it's a way to get a break, like if you throw pieces of pallet into the conveyer belt, the thing will break and they'll have to come fix it end you can wait.

Last Ditch Logging

By Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, July 10, 1991, Reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press.

One thing about working in the woods in Mendocino County is that there just isn't much wood left. The once mighty old growth is gone, and even decent second growth is getting hard to find. You can see how a logger in Humboldt or Del Norte could be fooled into believing there is enough forest left to sustain this logging assault. But here in Mendo(cino) County, the land of the baby redwood, it's getting harder and harder for the loggers to ignore what they're seeing with their own eyes.

"I can't live here anymore. I've seen too much of the woods destroyed," a twenty-year veteran Mendo(cino)logger told me. "It's a paradox. You love the wood, you're with it all day, and you're killing it." A younger woods worker, born and raised in Mendo(cino) County, says he's "fed up with doing the damage. It's not right. That's why so many loggers are drunk. It's not natural to whack up that much shit in one day."

It's not easy for a logger to admit that his job is destroying the forest, and the fact that a few are beginning to come forward and do so is an indication of how bad things really are out there. Unlike mill workers, and unlike most industrial workers, loggers have a legendary pride in their occupation. "The whole idea of being a logger," says one of my sources, "is that it's not something you do, it's Something you are. While you're out there, your cursing it. It's 100°, there's flies, there's mosquitoes, there's dust and dirt all over the place, and those chokers are heavy. But it's a good job for someone who likes to work."

 A choker setter is the perfect example of that, After the trees are felled, his job is to scramble up and down the hillsides carrying up to 100 pounds of metal cables, which he wraps around the cut trees so they can be hauled in to the landing. He has to dodge moving equipment, trees and cables to do it. For this he gets paid $9 or $10 an hour, and most local gyppo companies work a ten-hour day. Equipment operators get up to $13 an hour, and fallers get paid piece work, usually amounting to $150 or $200 a day, out of which they must buy and maintain their own equipment.

L-P has never had union loggers in this county, but G-P loggers used to be covered by the IWA union contract. "Back then we did pretty good," said an ex-union faller. "We got an hourly wage plus a production bonus." But in 1985 IWA union rep Don Nelson agreed to a contract that cut out the woods workers from union protection, and now all the loggers in Mendo(cino) County work for gyppo firms. L-P and G-P contract out to the gyppos, and the job goes to the low bidder who is willing to cut the most corners. Competition among the gyppos is intense, and the corners they cut include quality of logging, equipment maintenance, wages, and worker safety.

Logging is the most dangerous job in the U.S., according to the U.S. Labor Dept. The death rate among loggers is 129 per 100.000 employees, compared with 37.5 for miners. Charlie Hiatt's father, Kay Hiatt, was killed in a logging accident when a stump rolled down a hill and crushed him. His son-in-law had his back run over by a loader. "I've been hit over the head by trees four or five times, twice without a hard-hat," one choker setter told me. "once I got hit in the face by a cable," says a logger, "I woke up two days later."

Jobs vs Ecology, a Dilemma Manufactured by the Profit System: Part 2

By Andrea Bauer - Originally published at Freedom Socialist, May 1991

Part One of "Jobs vs. Ecology" discussed the debate over the spotted owl, the state of the forests, and the corporate timber barons. This concluding installment looks at conditions for timber workers, the environmental movement, and what action can be taken to preserve both jobs and nature.

‘Owl vs. Man' was the headline for Time magazine's multi-page spread on the bird's listing as a threatened species last year.

'Owl vs. Man.' Them vs. us. Polluters and exploiters like to see environmental issues framed this way, as if a sound ecology were inimical to human interests. If we accept this view, they profit. Meanwhile, we suffer.

Why? Because the "environment" doesn't just include plant and animal subspecies few people have even heard of until their survival is in question. "Environment" also means everything from where toxic waste is dumped to the fact that our immune systems are weakened by the degradation of the planet’s ozone layer.

The environment's quality means life or death for working people. Ecology is our issue, and we need to claim it in order to turn things around.

Cutting forests, squeezing workers. It is big business, not ecology, that is hostile to most human interests. Nowhere is this truth more stark than in the timber industry.

Harry Merlo, CEO for timber giant Louisiana-Pacific (L-P), summed up the corporations' attitude to natural resources in these words: "We log to infinity. Because we need it all. It's ours. It's out there, and we need it all. Now."

The companies consider workers in the same way-as a resource to be purchased as cheaply and exploited as thoroughly as possible. L-P is the outfit which closed a California mill in order to reopen it in Mexico, where they pay the employees 87 cents an hour. They are also willing to murder their workers to keep profits high.

In September 1989, at the L-P sawmill in Ukiah, California, a worker named Fortunado Reyes was mangled to death when he climbed onto a conveyor belt to clear it of jammed lumber. The machines were supposed to be turned off before a jam was cleared, but workers were bullied into disregarding safety rules in order not to slow production down.

The way L-P operates is the norm. In February 1989, at a Georgia-Pacific (G-P) lumber mill in Fort Bragg, California, a pipe burst in Frank Murray's face, causing him to swallow oil full of carcinogenic PCBs.

At the hospital, the company tried to prevent his stomach being pumped, claiming the substance was just mineral oil. The spill area was not closed off, and sixteen people were contaminated and three shifts of workers endangered before the G-P stopped stonewalling.

The union, International Woodworkers Association (IWA), refused to represent the contaminated workers. IWA later tried to cut a deal with G-P that would have reduced an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) fine for "willful poisoning."

Jobs vs Ecology, a Dilemma Manufactured by the Profit System: Part 1

By Andrea Bauer - Originally published at Freedom Socialist, February 1991

Two endangered species of the Pacific Northwest are front-page news these days — the northern spotted owl and the logger. Portrayed as irreconcilable antagonists, they are in fact ecological kin, dependent on the same environment. Their existence is threatened by the same voracious predator — the timber industry.

The ancient forests which once covered the greater part of the U.S. have sustained both the logger and the owl. Now these forests are nearly gone, with most of the remaining old-growth stands concentrated in an ever-thinner and spottier strip running along the western Cascades through Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

The fates of owl and logger are indissolubly bound up with their habitat — which is disappearing at the rate of nearly 70,000 acres every year.

This isn’t the case for the corporations whose chainsaws are leveling the forests. The whole planet is their “habitat,” and the redwood or the Douglas fir just another commodity.

When corporate raider Harold Simmons is through clearcutting the old growth he acquired in 1984 near Butte Falls, Oregon, for example, he will still have another means of survival: a two-billion-dollar empire in sugar, petroleum, chemicals, and fast-food restaurants.

The immediate fact is that protecting the owl will mean the loss of between 25,000 and 50,000 timber jobs in the next decade. But the bigger truth is that the timber companies’ feeding frenzy has already brought about a sharp, continuing decline in the number of industry jobs — as well as the near-annihilation of an irreplaceable resource, the ancient forest, which is a vital part of the planet’s overall life-support system.

Owl, forest, earth. The spotted owl is an unlikely candidate to have gained such notoriety, attracted so many champions, and earned so many enemies. Mostly nocturnal, the owls stand two feet tall or less and weigh little more than a pound. They claim territory in pairs, staying in the same home areas for as long as they can.

After years of foot-dragging and resistance, the Fish and Wildlife Service in June 1990 listed the spotted owl as a threatened species. This means that the government is required by the Endangered Species Act to guard the owl’s survival — and for its survival it needs extensive quantities of very old forest. It thrives in the unmanaged forest, with its variety of tree species and types of wildlife, many standing dead trees, and, on the forest floor, messy natural litter.

The owl is an “indicator species” for the ancient forest ecosystem. It’s the canary in the mine. The health or precariousness of the forest and its other inhabitants mirrors the owl’s status.

The old-growth forest provides a home for thousands of species, many of whom cannot survive in any other type of environment. For humans, it provides a home away from home, a refuge and renewal. For scientists, it is an incomparable data bank and laboratory.

Even more fundamentally, the kinds of life that exist on earth today can not exist without the forests. Almost all of the water we use flows ultimately from forests, and forests help prevent flooding and erosion.

In The Middle of Run Away History: Judi Bari, Earth First! Organizer – Mississippi Summer in the California Redwoods

Interviewed by Beth Bosk – New Settler Interview, Issue #49, May 1990

Judi Bari: Tomorrow I’m going to Oregon. There’s an Environmental Law conference up there. I was invited to speak on a panel about labor and the environment.

Last week, I received a call at my home, at night, from a nasty­sounding man who identified himself by name and said he was from the Western Council of Industrial Workers, which is the AF of L union which represents mill workers up there.

He warned me that I better not set foot in Oregon. And he said that if any of his union members talked to me they’d be out of a job—and various other vague threats.

He also called the conferences organizers and the university, telling them I shouldn’t be allowed to speak there. This panel, on labor and the environment, is made up of me—I somehow got on it—a university professor of physics, and the owner of a company who makes fancy yuppie houses out of old growth wood and doesn’t want the old growth eliminated. This is their idea of a “Labor” panel.

I gave the organizers the name of a rank-and-file mill worker one hour from them, but they never contacted him. He called them, and they wouldn’t let him be on the panel. And this is a union man who has spoken out in public for the spotted owl and against the yellow ribbon campaign in Oregon.

I’m going to Oregon to cede my spot on this panel to this courageous man. The panel is called “Labor and the Environment: Bridging the Gap.” Yet they can’t even bridge the gap enough to let a single rank and file worker speak on the panel, so I’m going to cede my spot to him.

Earth First! Replies to Critics

By Judi Bari – Santa Rosa Press Democrat, April 10, 1990

Charges against Earth First! have been flying lately. Spearheaded by Louisiana-Pacific, state Sen. Barry Keene, and International Woodworkers of America union representative Don Nelson.

They accuse us of being somehow responsible for L-P’s recent decision to lay off 195 workers because of the “hostile political climate” we have supposedly created on the North Coast, and they accuse of us provoking violence with our call for a “Mississippi Summer” of mass nonviolent protest to save the redwoods.

This type of doublespeak seriously misrepresents the very real and intense struggle that is going on in the redwood region. It is time to set the record straight.

First, the L-P layoffs. It’s getting harder and harder to convince the people up here that environmentalists are to blame for the cruel business practices of the timber corporations. When L-P opened its redwood milling operation in Mexico it showed us how little it cares for employees or our community. If L-P officials can get people to work for $85 cents an hour in Mexico instead of the $7 an hour they pay at the Ukiah mill, then that’s where they’re going to send the trees and jobs.

But this latest round of layoffs reflects an even more disturbing trend at L-P. If you drive the back roads of Mendocino County and see the miles of clearcuts you will know the truth—L-P has overcut the forest and destroyed the timber base.

According to the Mendocino County Forest Advisory Committee, L-P is cutting at more than twice the rate of growth in our county’s forests. This area was once the heart of the redwood ecosystem. But there is almost no old growth left in Mendocino County, and the second growth is going fast.

In 1975, the Oswald Report predicted that, if harvest rates continued, a sharp fall-down in saw-timber supply would hit in 1990. Young stands would be growing but there wouldn’t be enough mature trees to keep the area’s mills going. This prediction was right on target, but no one predicted L-P’s unconscionable response to the problem.

Rather than slowing down to save the trees and jobs, L-P kept cutting at full throttle. And instead of letting the remaining young stands mature, L-P’s President Harry Merlo began a policy of “logging to infinity,” or taking all trees regardless of size. Those that are too small to saw are chipped up and sent to pulp mills.

IWW Defends Millworkers

By Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney - Industrial Worker, March 1990

“You better not think that you can come to Oregon because you won’t find a welcome,” warned Paul Moorehead of the Western Council of Industrial Workers (WCIC). Moorehead made his threat against IWW Local #1 organizer Judi Bari upon learning that she had been invited to participate in a Labor and the Environment workshop at a Public Interest Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon. In recent months rank and file mill workers (at Georgia Pacific’s mill in Fort Bragg) have expressed an increasing reluctance to listen to their union bosses when they tell them that wage cuts are OK, or that clearcutting the forests and destroying the earth is in workers’ best interests. No doubt Moorhead and his buddies intend to spread the word about “outside agitators” who are disturbing the profitable arrangement that the WCIC, In-ternational Woodcutters of America (IWA) and other business unions have worked out with the timber companies. “If any member of my union talks to you they’ll be out of a job,” Moorhead told Bari.

Yet Moorhead’s union, the WCIC, no longer represents workers in Mendocino County, California. The union was busted there in 1986, and now only 560 of the counties’ 3,000 workers have any union “representation” at all. Most of the 560 are “represented” by IWA Local #3-469. Despite Moorhead’s general disdain for his workers, he (and others, including the IWA, and many environmentalists) have been effective stooges in the lumber companies’ manufactured conflict between the workers and environmentalists. As a result most of the timber companies’ public support comes from the union itself.

However, not all of the workers have been fooled. With the help of the IWW, mill workers are starting to talk to each other and are coming to realize that they don’t need union bureaucrats to speak for them, and that only they can defend their jobs. “People came to the IWW because their union wasn’t representing them,” said Bari.

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