The Film

The information on these pages about Chai Ling and Jenzabar, the software company she runs with her husband, Robert Maginn, contains excerpts from and links to articles about Jenzabar in The Boston Globe, Forbes, Business Week, and other publications, and is intended to provide the reader with additional information about Chai Ling, one of the most well-known and controversial figures from the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. These web pages are the sole responsibility of the Long Bow Group, and are in no way affiliated with or sponsored by Jenzabar, Inc.

About Chai Ling and Jenzabar | News Accounts: Chai Ling and Jenzabar, Inc.

Massachusetts Court Dismisses Jenzabar's Lawsuit Against the Long Bow Group and Affirms Free Speech Rights

In May 2007, Jenzabar filed a lawsuit against the Long Bow Group, claiming defamation and trademark infringement. In August 2008, the Massachusetts Superior Court threw out the defamation claims, while allowing Jenzabar to proceed with the trademark claims, even though "Jenzabar seems unlikely to prevail" (see PDF of the judge's memorandum of decision). In December 2010, the Court dismissed the trademark claims as well, finding that Jenzabar had "failed to allege any facts or evidence in the summary judgment record to support a trademark claim." Furthermore, the Court stated that "the nominative fair use doctrine permits Long Bow to use the mark [Jenzabar] to refer to Jenzabar and further use it to index and describe the contents of their Site about Jenzabar." (See PDF of the judge's decision.) Jenzabar appealed this decision, but it was upheld by the Massachusetts Appeals Court. (For more details on the Appeals Court decision, see Public Citizen's blog, Jenzabar's Trademark Appeal is Denied.) Jenzabar then applied to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts for further appellate review of this case; its application was denied.

Having prevailed in court, Long Bow filed a motion for attorneys' fees in May 2013, stating that "[t]his action was a classic SLAPP suit - a suit that is brought not in any realistic expectation of victory, but in the hope that the very expense of litigation might wear down the defendant and force it to negotiate its way out by promising to refrain from future criticism." In October 2013, the Superior Court of Massachusetts granted this motion, making pointed note of Jenzabar's "abuse of process," its "multiple and shifting legal and factual theories," and its "extortionate conduct." (Read the ruling in its entirety.) The Court awarded fees to Long Bow in the total amount of $511,943.12.

Below are excerpts from independent news accounts about the lawsuit.

The Boston Globe, December 19, 2010: A Victory for Free Speech, by Yvonne Abraham
Last week, Ling Chai - a key leader in China's 1989 prodemocracy movement - was in Oslo to see this year's Nobel Peace Prize awarded to imprisoned Chinese dissident and free-speech advocate Liu Xiaobo. While she was in Norway, a Superior Court judge put a stop to Chai's protracted assault on free speech here in Massachusetts...

The suit is a transparent attempt to shut down negative publicity... It's no fun to have people write negative things about you, and to have those things live forever online. That's a downside of the First Amendment. But free expression is vital to democracy, and it shouldn't be vulnerable to endless legal maneuverings...

Liu, serving an 11-year sentence for subversion, could not be in Oslo to accept his Nobel Prize. In his place, actress Liv Ullmann read his last public statement. It reads, in part: "To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth."

Was Chai listening?
The New Yorker, May 7, 2009: The American Dream: The Lawsuit, by Evan Osnos
Now comes word that Chai Ling, the student leader who appeared on television screens around the world as the picture of fragile, furious idealism, is now suing the makers of an award-winning documentary about the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. "Gate of Heavenly Peace," directed by the filmmakers Richard Gordon and Carma Hinton, is considered, by China scholars, to be a major work on the subject of the demonstrations. But it has been criticized by both the Chinese government and student leaders, neither of which come out looking especially good...

[T]he filmmakers accuse Chai of trying to shut them down with legal bills. They say her company's lawsuit accuses them of being 'motivated by ill-will, their sympathy for officials in the Communist government of China, and a desire to discredit Chai....'

For the record, to anyone with knowledge of the film, the notion that it is sympathetic to the Chinese government is laughable. But, whatever happens with the suit, it's hard to imagine a more acute measure of how far the student movement has faded into memory. Or, how much it's been replaced by more practical priorities. Chai's company's Web site lists its corporate mission as helping to create a "gateway to the American dream."
The Guardian, Nov. 17, 2009: From democracy activist to censor?, by Jeremy Goldkorn
The case claims that Long Bow's use of the word 'Jenzabar' as a keyword or meta tag on its website will confuse and divert potential customers of Jenzabar. One quick look at the websites of Long Bow and Jenzabar will tell you that this is patently ridiculous...

In a country that calls itself free, money should not be able to buy silence or the alteration of historical records. Intellectual property laws should not be used to suppress free speech.
The Boston Globe, June 7, 2009: Beijing Lesson Unlearned, by Yvonne Abraham
Jenzabar sued the filmmakers' company, Long Bow Films, for defamation - just for directing readers to the articles Chai and her company say are offensive and inaccurate. A Suffolk Superior Court judge wisely threw the defamation charge out. The First Amendment guarantees the people's right to say - and cite - even things you don't like, after all. But the case has dragged on because Jenzabar is also contending that just by using the company's name as a tag on its website, Long Bow is guilty of trademark infringement - that somebody googling Jenzabar might land on the Long Bow site and get confused. 

That's bosh.

'The idea that somebody would be confused is so remote as to not pass the giggle test,' said Harvey Silverglate, a lawyer who specializes in First Amendment cases. Even the judge said Jenzabar is unlikely to win. And yet Chai perseveres....

"Long Bow has gratuitously maligned Ling Chai for decades, '' said Rob Gray, spokesman for Jenzabar. "And now that she has the resources to fight back, they don't like it."

But the problem isn't that Chai is fighting back. It's how she's fighting back. She's using the justice system to attack the very freedoms for which her fellow students gave their lives.
See also:

The World (from the BBC, PRI, and WGBH), June 4, 2009: A Legal Dispute Over Remembering Tiananmen

The Times of London, May 4, 2009: Tiananmen activist Chai Ling sues makers of film about 1989 protest

On June 9, 2010, The South China Morning Post ran a misleadingly titled article, June 4 Leader Drops Film Lawsuit:
Chai Ling, known during the Beijing protest days of 1989 as the fiery "commander-in-chief of the Defend Tiananmen Square Headquarters", has spent years pursuing the makers of The Gate of Heavenly Peace, a controversial documentary that examined the student movement of that year, with a flurry of legal action. But after becoming a Christian late last year, she says she's dropping her case.

"After thinking it over, I instructed my lawyers ... to make an offer to Long Bow's lawyers to withdraw the suit," she said. A Christian leader instrumental in her conversion said it was the proper thing to do, she said. "My decision is motivated by my desire to see God glorified through this, so that more people may come to know him."

The Long Bow Group said it had no knowledge of an offer to withdraw the lawsuit.

[Note: in fact, Long Bow did not receive any communication from Chai Ling or her lawyers indicating that they would drop the lawsuit.]

Prior to Jenzabar's lawsuit against Long Bow, much of the press attention given to Jenzabar focused on Chai Ling’s role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, and how that experience informed her new role in leading an internet company. The following are excerpts from a few articles that reported certain concerns third parties expressed with respect to Chai Ling and Jenzabar.

For example, a 1999 Boston Globe article details a dispute between Jenzabar and the Harvard Business School over a claim on Jenzabar's website that "its 'core application' was 'developed by the technology leaders who also developed the award-winning Harvard Business School intranet system.'"
That's quite a stretch, business school officials say. 'It's a collection of half-truths that ultimately portray something false and mislead the public,' a business school source said.

… A Jenzabar spokesman said the company acted promptly to correct any misimpressions, but business school officials said it was not until a few weeks ago - nearly two months after Harvard lawyers objected - that the questioned claims were removed from the company's Web site.

[Source: "Harvard Wars with Firm over Web Site," The Boston Globe, 25 July 1999, James Bandler.]
In a 2003 column, Steve Bailey, The Boston Globe's business columnist, wrote:
Is there a trend here? In 1989 Ling Chai, an unknown 23-year-old graduate student in Beijing, became an international heroine overnight as the most visible leader of the Chinese student rebellion in Tiananmen Square. She was the face of the dissidents, the 'chief commander,' a small, frail young woman in a T-shirt and jeans who rallied the students and taunted the soldiers as the world held its breath and watched the historic standoff unfold day after day on television.

Over the years the image of Chai as heroine has become decidedly mixed as onetime allies have blamed her and other student leaders for the deadly end to the protests, painting them as power-hungry and willing to sacrifice others for their cause. The harshly critical documentary The Gate of Heavenly Peace captured that emerging view best in an interview that Chai gave in a Beijing hotel room: 'My students keep asking me, 'What should we do next? What can we accomplish?' I feel so sad, because how can I tell them that we actually are hoping for bloodshed, the moment when the government is ready to butcher the people brazenly. Only when the square is awash in blood will the people of China open their eyes.'

Bailey also describes some of the problems Jenzabar was facing at the time:

In its press releases Jenzabar, a private company, boasts of record financial results. '2002 was a break-out year for Jenzabar and 2003 is shaping up to be the most successful in the history of our company,' Maginn said in a release just this week.

Here is what Jenzabar does not want you to know. While the company was polishing its image in public, its chief financial backer was trying to oust Chai and Maginn and saying that Jenzabar had defaulted on its loan agreements. That backer, Pegasus Partners, a Greenwich, Conn., private equity firm, was also pushing to sell Jenzabar, according to court documents.

A lawsuit filed in March is the latest in a series of suits against the company… Jenzabar has denied the claims and resolved some of the disputes.

This Globe column was written in 2003, and goes on to state that “Five former executives have sued Jenzabar…” However, in two letters sent to the Long Bow Group in February and March 2007, the Assistant General Counsel of Jenzabar informed us that they "are aware of four suits brought by former executives, not five,” and, "Only one suit, brought by Joseph DiLorenzo, the former CFO of Jenzabar, accused Ms. Chai and Mr. Maginn of illegal actions. Mr. DiLorenzo later voluntarily dropped his claims against Ms. Chai and Mr. Maginn without receiving any settlement payments to do so, admitted that he had no basis for them, and issued [an] apology." Furthermore, Jenzabar states the Globe article "falsely and misleadingly suggests that [three other proceedings involving former executives] had merit."

In his letter to the Long Bow Group, Jenzabar’s Assistant General Counsel also included a copy of Mr. DiLorenzo’s letter of apology, which was dated September 22, 2006. In the interests of full disclosure, we are including copies of these letters and our responses in their entirety. We are unaware of any retractions or corrections printed by The Boston Globe with regard to their reporting about Jenzabar’s legal problems.

The Globe column concludes:

After Tiananmen, Chai detractors said her hero's image did not square with her hardball tactics. Now her critics are saying much the same again, this time about her corporate life. Meanwhile, Chai continues to sell her story of the Tiananmen heroine-turned-American-entrepreneur. 'Today, I am living the American dream,' Chai told Parade magazine in June.

With Ling Chai, distinguishing the dream from the reality has always been the hardest part of all.

[Source: "American Dream," The Boston Globe, Aug. 8, 2003, Steve Bailey.]
A article reported:
Chai Ling has spent years trying to cash in on her heroism at Tiananmen Square. But so far her web company has brought in little money and lots of lousy karma.

Chai Ling would like total control over her biography. In her version, she risks her life leading student protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, escapes China stowed in a crate and is twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Then she moves to America and marries a millionaire venture capitalist who bankrolls her promising internet startup. Alas, the market crashes before the company can go public, and it is unfairly besieged by lawsuits from former executives….

"You're not going to write about that, are you?" Chai says, when asked about the suits. "Do you really have to mention those things?" Chai's seeming naiveté is a little out of character. She has frequently scored points in the press by recalling her glory days as onetime "commander-in-chief" of rebel students in Beijing.

With respect to Jenzabar’s launch in 1998 by Chai Ling, Forbes reported:

Jenzabar's mission was to develop internet-based portals that college students could use to register for courses and check homework assignments. By early 2000 a few colleges were testing its software, but nobody was paying for it.

So Maginn, 46, and Chai, 36, who were engaged in 1997 and married in 2001, cooked up a new plan in which Jenzabar would gain customers by acquiring them. In April 2000 Maginn quit his job at Bain and joined Jenzabar, raising $40 million from investors, including his own New Media Investors. Jenzabar bought four barely profitable companies that made administrative software for colleges. Yoking them to Jenzabar's portal, Chai reckoned she could offer a single vehicle to handle all aspects of campus life.

As the market for internet companies crashed, managers of the four acquired outfits bickered over which products would survive. "We had a lot of upheaval," says Chai.

... Where does this leave Jenzabar? Depends on whom you ask. "It's been a little chaotic," says Chai. "But 2002 was our turnaround year. In 2003 we have our house in order and will start to grow and take market share." Perhaps. But nabbing new clients isn't easy in the $2.7 billion market for higher-ed software, which is growing at only 2.7% annually, reports IDC.

Recently Maginn and Chai hired an investment bank, a move that prompted rumors of a sale. "If a giant company were to come along and make a great offer," he says, "we would consider it." In 2000, Chai says, investment bankers told her that Jenzabar could be worth $1 billion in a public offering. In those days a good story could go a long way. Today it might get you just enough money to pay off your debts.

[Source: "Great Story, Bad Business,", Feb. 17, 2003, by Daniel Lyons.]

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