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Report of Net Art Theft Draws Lawyer Threats 211

Posted by kdawson
from the you-decide dept.
An anonymous reader sends in word of the well-known artist Todd Goldman, who has been accused of stealing images and ideas from an Internet comic artist/author and others, and profiting from them. Goldman has now threatened to sue the Web page that pointed out the apparent theft to the world.
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Report of Net Art Theft Draws Lawyer Threats

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  • by Ford Prefect (8777) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:15PM (#18861673) Homepage
    Roy [boston.com] Lichtenstein [homestead.com], anyone?
  • Art Thieves (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GearheadX (414240) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:16PM (#18861679)
    Considering the most common example I've seen, Todd's gonna have a very hard time covering his butt in a court.
    • Re:Art Thieves (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sorthum (123064) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:20PM (#18861761) Homepage
      Same text, same perspective, same details, slightly crappier?

      Yeah, good luck suing your way out of this one, dude...
      • Goldman has money (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ackthpt (218170) *
        All that money he's made selling shirts and paintings and stuff, where his assistants brought designs to him and he didn't bother to ask where they got them, well, he's gonna have no problem affording lawyers because he's rich.

        It's the poor saps he's stolen from who are going to take the beatings. Such is the way of things.

        By the way, the 2nd amendment also favours the rich, they can afford to arm themselves better than the poor.

        There seems to be a pattern here.
        • the 2nd amendment also favours the rich, they can afford to arm themselves better than the poor.

          You spelled "favors" with a "u". I know what side of the Revolutionary War you were on. :P

          Anyway, you don't need a nuke or a laser gun or an aircraft carrier to effectively arm yourself. You can get a shiny new pistol for under $200, an arguably more useful hunting rifle for $500, or any other arsenal of weapons you could imagine (in the US, at least.) These prices are well within a month's paycheck for

          • "You spelled "favors" with a "u". I know what side of the Revolutionary War you were on. :P"

            Thank you! Missed that on the initial read. Of course, his side lost.

            The UK pistol compteition teams can't even practice in their own country. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/ sport/2005/12/29/sohoey29.xml&sSheet=/sport/2005/1 2/29/ixothspt.html)

            I expect that the US will eventually revolt and throw off the plutocratic and corporatcratic rulers because arms are owned and available to the masses
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by alshithead (981606)
          "All that money he's made selling shirts and paintings and stuff, where his assistants brought designs to him and he didn't bother to ask where they got them, well, he's gonna have no problem affording lawyers because he's rich.

          It's the poor saps he's stolen from who are going to take the beatings. Such is the way of things."

          SCO can afford really good lawyers too. It isn't doing them any good. The cases I saw (yes, I RTFA) are without a doubt infringement for the ones that are copyrighted. He's going to
          • It looks like Goldman has stolen so much from so many people that they could form a class action suit against him.

            Oh, and while I'm at it, a note for both the copyright goon squad and the information must be free "unauthorized copiers":

            There is a difference between copying a file and claiming someone else's creative work as your own (and profiting handsomely by it).
          • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Wednesday April 25, 2007 @06:09AM (#18867935)

            SCO can afford really good lawyers too. It isn't doing them any good.


            That's because SCO made the stupid mistake of picking on somebody who can afford even *better* lawyers...

            Chris Mattern
          • I'll be interested to see if, in the end, anybody makes any real money but the lawyers.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          By the way, the 2nd amendment also favours the rich, they can afford to arm themselves better than the poor.

          A $99 surplus russian rifle from Big 5, plus a $50 10x tasco scope, will let you kill something at a good distance - and a bullet from a cheap gun will kill you just as dead as a bullet from an expensive one.

    • And "Tom Goes to the Mayor" producers sue BOTH of them for ripping off the plot of their Christmas episode.
  • It's not libel... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by j0nb0y (107699) <jonboy300&yahoo,com> on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:20PM (#18861769) Homepage
    It's not libel if it's true.

    IANAL.
    • by Erioll (229536)

      It's not libel if it's true.

      IANAL.
      I thought it was? Or rather, I thought that as long as your lawyer was good enough, anything you didn't like that another said was slander(if spoken) or libel(if printed)?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by king-manic (409855)
        Only in non-US locales. In the US truth is enough to defend yourself. That is why there is so much negative campaigning. The truth can be paraded around even if it's unrelated and humiliating (facts like "I really like naruto, a targetted kids show" or "I enjoyed kinky sex").
      • by Rix (54095)
        Unless by that you mean the defendant hasn't enough money to mount a defence. In most jurisdictions, truth is a defence and the burden is on the plaintiff to prove untruth. Given that, statements of opinion can never be libel, because they can never be disproven and are easily proven.
    • by umStefa (583709) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:32PM (#18861949) Homepage
      The purpose of this lawsuit may not be to actually recieve damages, it is probably simply to try and shut-up the source of the negative publicity.

      You do not need to win a court case for it to be advantage to you. If your goal is to stop a source of negative publicity, a lawsuit may casue the other party to simply shut-up instead of incurring large legal bills on a matter of principal. Of course, if the other party calls you on it and is willing to fight in court you end up getting MORE negative publicity.
      • by j0nb0y (107699) <jonboy300&yahoo,com> on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:47PM (#18862203) Homepage
        I would agree with you, except that this instance of plagiarism is fairly well known at this point.

        A quick google search for his name brings up many pages repeating these allegations, and many of them back it up with image comparisons that are very damning.

        This man's reputation as an artist is already ruined.

        This legal threat is a desperate and foolish measure. The goal is to get rid of the allegations, but instead, the allegations will only be further spread.

        And worse, if the threat is followed through to a lawsuit, the website's author will have a chance to prove the allegations in court. A quick look at the evidence reveals that this would likely be a slam dunk for the defense.

        IANAL
      • by Christoph (17845) <chris@cgstock.com> on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:53PM (#18862279) Homepage Journal

        Yes, I called their bluff and they sued me. A photo from my website was published in the Twin Cities phone book inside cover. The corporation that used it refused to pay a licensing fee, and I wrote about it on my website. They threatened to sue me for defamation, arguing the photo was not mine, but taken by Michael Zubitskiy (a fictional person). I have a certificate of copyright registration for the photo, and did not remove the webpage. They sued me for defamation, and it's safe to say it's blown up in their face.

        I later brought my own action for copyright infringement in federal court, trial is set for November. They first sued me in August of 2005, and I was in court just yesterday (I'm litigating "pro se", representing myself). Yesterday's hearing was because they wanted email between myself and an attorney I hired to get legal advice from, which is obviously protected by lawyer-client confidentiality.

        The full story is here:
        http://www.cgstock.com/essays/vilana.html [cgstock.com]

        • by crossmr (957846)
          Your page completely and utterly fails in firefox. Shows up blank. Works in IE.
        • by fm6 (162816)
          Well, I wish you luck. But I hope you're in it for the money, because you're not establishing any kind of principle. You've only got this far because you've been willing to devote a lot of effort to this battle, and because you've been lucky enough not to trip over any legal land mines. Most people would have given up by now, or made a mistake that would have ended the whole shooting match. Which is why the kind of abusive litigation Vilenchik is throwing at you almost always works. That's not going to chan
    • by fm6 (162816)
      Yeah, yeah. We all know that. The problem is, when somebody's suing you, you can't just say, "Oh, that's obviously wrong!" and ignore the situation. You've got to hire your own lawyer to straighten things out. If it's a weak case, a good lawyer can probably make it go away after spending a few thousand bucks of your money. If it's at all difficult to prove that "It's not libel because it's true" then you could easily spend more on legal fees than you'd spend making a settlement.

      Folks who have been around Sl
  • Warhol he aint (Score:5, Interesting)

    by L. VeGas (580015) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:25PM (#18861831) Homepage Journal
    It's an interesting case.

    Tod Goldman is, without a doubt, a total jackass, but what he does is extremely common. Fine art has generally gotten a pass when it comes to copying from various sources. It's not as widely known, but it's also very common for comics to copy panels from other comics. It's considered kind of a jerky, lazy thing to do, but it happens all the time.

    Godman is recontextualizing the images, and that, in and of itself, can make new and unique works, but instead of honoring the source (or at least owning up to the fact that he copies), he avoids the issue and sends threatening letters.

    He's painted himself into a corner. Instead of taking the high road, he has instead presented himself as a no-talent imitator.
    • by FatSean (18753) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:28PM (#18861889) Homepage Journal
      Please explain how the praying bunny example exhibits recontextualizing!
      • by ePhil_One (634771) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:33PM (#18861971) Journal
        1) It was a squirel
        2) He clearly removed the "bow" on the praying squirel's head, making it a boy squirel.
        3) He added his name, TODD, in big letters
        4) His is in color

        Be sure to check out TODD's next series of books, Where's Wanda? where you will be challenged to pick out the girl in a white and blue striped shirt from a crowd of people. An idea he came up with entirely on his own, because he doesn't have time for books.

    • by Mike1024 (184871)
      Godman is recontextualizing the images, and that, in and of itself, can make new and unique works,

      Does Goldman do bumper stickers? Because if not, I might have to do a little "recontextualising" of my own.

      If copying someone else's t-shirt [threadless.com] and selling it as your own [davidandgoliathtees.com] is acceptable, what's to stop me copying Goldman's designs and selling them as my own?

      Michael
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Goobermunch (771199)
        Perhaps the fact that, ironically, copyright law protects derivative as well as original works. Thus, while he may be on the hook for infringing on others' works, you'd still be liable for infringing on his works. --AC
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by VGPowerlord (621254)
          While copyright law does indeed protect derivitive works as well as original works, if the derivitive work itself is illegal than you have no stand upon which to claim copyright over it.

          In other words, the original person could sue you, but Goldman suing you would be illegal, as it is not afforded copyright protection due to it itself being an illegal copy.
      • Re:Warhol he aint (Score:4, Insightful)

        by L. VeGas (580015) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @06:09PM (#18862487) Homepage Journal
        See, that's exactly what makes this interesting. If Goldman had only created a single work, instead of mass-producing t-shirts, people might say, "Hey, that's copied from this other place!" and let it go. Now suppose it was hanging in a museum, and the gift shop sold t-shirts or post cards of the copied work. Now, it's copyright infringement.

        Goldman tries to pass his violations off as "fine art", when it's pretty clear he's actually about the merchandising, and that crosses the line.
  • What are the grounds of the suite? If it's untrue then I can understand slander, but this is obvious theft.
    • I'm sure if it ever made it to court, the case would be thrown out. The point of this is to frighten the sites that point this out into submission. There's no way in hell that he actually wants this to go to court.
  • penny arcade (Score:5, Informative)

    by MyDixieWrecked (548719) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:26PM (#18861853) Homepage Journal
    Gabe at penny-arcade mentioned this earlier today. Apparently, Mr Goldman called Dave Kelly a "pedophile" in the same forum that he's trying to sue for slander.

    The text of Gabe's post:

    You might remember Tycho mentioning [penny-arcade.com] Todd Goldman [davidandgoliathtees.com] and a story about him stealing some artwork from a web cartoonist. We covered it in a comic and a post and our point of view was essentially “yeah it sucks but you can’t sue the guy for being a douche bag.” I would have left it at that except, well the latest development in the whole ordeal is actually super funny. It’s important to point out that Todd’s initial response to the article about his thievery was to call Dave Kelly a Pedophile [fleen.com]. I’m not joking here he actually said “Here’s my inspiration! Every month I paint the works of a pedophile.” The letter goes on and it’s obvious that he’s just being a smart ass and blowing the whole thing off. Honestly I chuckled at the letter when I read it because (being a professional asshole myself) I thought it was a funny way to respond to the accusations. However, if you call someone a pedophile in a public forum you can’t turn around a few weeks later and threaten to sue that same forum for slander.


    Todd’s lawyers sent Fleen a mail [fleen.com] last week that threatened legal action if they didn’t pull down all the stuff about Todd. The letter actually said “We have acquired articles posted on your website which contain defaming, derogatory and malicious statements about Mr. Goldman.” Yeah no shit, the guy isa thief what the hell do you expect.


    This sort of legal bulldogging is especially lame after Todd’s initial reaction to the story. If you want to play the arrogant asshole and call people pedophiles I respect that. I really do. I’ve been overcompensating for my low self esteem by calling people names for twenty years. I know how it works and the only rule is if you can’t take it, don’t fucking dish it out.

    • Re:penny arcade (Score:5, Informative)

      by Richard McBeef (1092673) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:35PM (#18862015)
      here's another humorous writeup [encycloped...matica.com]
    • Gabe at penny-arcade mentioned this earlier today. Apparently, Mr Goldman called Dave Kelly a "pedophile" in the same forum that he's trying to sue for slander.

      I thought people around here were supposed to be computer-savvy? I thought the guys at Penny Arcade would understand this point, too.

      The E-mail came from someone who had Goldman's E-Mail address in the E-Mail's "FROM" field.

      Now, the above statement does not rule out the answer everyone's assuming - that Goldman sent the e-mail. It's possible. But nevertheless there is a very real possibility that the e-mail was just sent by someone else. On Fleen they acknowledge this possibility but assume the sender

  • ...develop browser-extensions:

    i guess an automated website-sue-tool would be handy at these times and i could even make some bucks of it. just enter the URL and the sue-o-mat[tm] will look up the entries at the appropriate NIC, fill out all required forms and send the completely autogenerated charge to your local court. man, that would save time for a lot of folks.
    • by tomhath (637240)
      I own the rights to the name "sue-o-mat". It will be contacting you, and your little pedophile dog too.
         
  • by hurfy (735314) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:28PM (#18861887)
    "was inspired from a drawing he received unbeknownst to him belonging to..."

    So he didn't know he recieved and looked at the drawing and then duplicated it nearly line for line...he's obviously got better drugs than we do :O

    -or-

    He didn't know who it belonged to....so he assumed he did it and put his name on it :O

    oh wait...that doesn't explain a darn thing ;p
    and i love the 'inspired from'
    • by MoxFulder (159829)
      Actually, according to the article, Todd Goldman has a bunch of underlings who come up with ideas and sketches and bring them to him, where he tweaks them a bit to produce a finished product.

      Pretty pathetic as far as creative art goes, but it does provide some plausible excuse for the blatant copying of the "Dear God..." drawing. Basically, he blames the underling for stealing the bunny drawing. In any case, it suggests that Todd Goldman gets the credit although his underlings do most of the work, evident
    • by spun (1352) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {yranoituloverevol}> on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:39PM (#18862065) Journal
      You forgot the part about him calling the artist he stole from a pedophile in the very same forum he's now suing said artist for slander!
    • by radtea (464814) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:45PM (#18862161)
      So he didn't know he recieved and looked at the drawing and then duplicated it nearly line for line...he's obviously got better drugs than we do

      Well, if the U.S. Attorney General can assure us that nothing he can't recall had anything untoward about it, I see no reason why Todd Goldman can't assure us that he innocently copied drawings he didn't know he'd seen.
      • And in a dazzling display of irony, you just plagiarized Jon Stewart's Tonight Show from last night, word for word.
    • by taustin (171655)
      "My intention was not to copy Mr. Kelly."

      Then who was it your intention to copy?
  • by mandelbr0t (1015855) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:35PM (#18862007) Journal
    So many people in the big leagues steal ideas.

    That's why I support GPL to the death.

    As an artist who has been completely ripped off, I'm glad to see someone with the opportunity to expose the fraud. There's absolutely nothing to fear from Mr. Goldman if their citing of the 2001 web comic is correct. In fact, I'd hire a particularly expensive lawyer just to make sure the legal fees being sent to Mr. Goldman's office are as high as they can possibly be. I don't think there's a more dispicable trait in this world than to claim someone else's work as your own. You simultaneously prevent the real creator from benefiting himself through his work while creating a false image of your brilliance.
  • My response to that kind of threat....

    Bring it on!
    Bullies tend to back down when confronted. Take a look at happens when David Linhardt [calspam.com] realizes that Mark Ferguson was going to fight back. http://www.spamsuite.com/node/82 [spamsuite.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The image for which Goldman attracted a substantial amount of press and fame and upon which he built his profitable David And Goliath Tees company--the "Boys Are Stupid, Throw Rocks At Them" work--appears to have been partially copied from the portfolio of Chip Wass:

    http://chris-san.livejournal.com/49035.html [livejournal.com]

  • I've seen a number of articles like this pop up on /. recently. Generally, the topic is something like "XX tawdry action occurs... lawyers threaten to sue".

    While legal threats do carry weight of their own in our society, there's a BIG difference between threatening to sue and filing a legal document. The main difference is the consequences to the petitioner.

    If I threaten to sue someone and don't have sufficient grounds to do so, there's no consequence to me for making that argument. (other than PR and re
    • I've learned the threshold is soo high, courts will essentially do nothing. I'm in the second year defending myself against a defamation lawsuit over a webpage I wrote saying one of my photos was published without my permission. The party suing me (Vilana Financial) filed (with their complaint) a sales agreement showing they bought the photo from Michael Zubistkiy, who they claim under oath is the true photographer.

      I have proof the photo is mine, including the certificate of copyright registration. Also, there is no Michael Zubitskiy. They claim they paid him in cash, but did not get his contact information and lost the photo he gave them (and all copies). My investigator and their investigator cannot find anyone in the USA by that name -- no address, credit record, work history, or even welfare history or an unlisted phone number.

      I have a certificate of copyright registration, the original digital file, out-takes from the same photo shoot, proof of prior publication on my website, and proof I sold the photo to a local magazine prior to their use of the image. They have nothing but this sales agreement with a signature. Knowing all this, the other party claimed, under oath, that the photo is not mine, but Michael Zubitskiy is the true photographer.

      They supposedly met him at a health club, and upon subpoena, the club said they have no record of Zubitskiy. It's clear this is a fictional person, but what's more, even if he did exist, he did not take the photo -- I did. So I filed a motion for sanctions with all of the above evidence 15 months ago; the judge cancelled the hearing, saying it was premature and should wait until after the trial is over. Full story: www.cgstock.com/essays/vilana.html [cgstock.com]

      So I would not count on the courts to spot even an obviously absurd and improper claim. Everyone knows it's my photo, yet I'm 18 months into this litigation.

  • Already slashdotted! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Announcer (816755) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:47PM (#18862199) Homepage
    Here's the Coal link to it: http://www.miketyndall.com.nyud.net:8080/todd_gold man/ [nyud.net]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:54PM (#18862291)
    I thought you guys would find this amusing - FreeBSD daemon on the left, "Todd"'s "art" on the right:

    http://img140.imageshack.us/img140/5980/goldmanthi efcm2.jpg [imageshack.us]

    Check the odd pattern on the sneakers - matches up exactly with the pattern the pixels make when you blow up the image. The daemon head is from another Wassco piece:

    http://img170.imageshack.us/img170/6038/devilhp1.j pg [imageshack.us]
    • Direct overlay [imageshack.us]; the lower body and tail matches up exactly
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nuzak (959558)
      I think the BSD thing is a bit of a stretch -- yeah it's extremely derivative, but it's also different enough, adds elements, and mixes them in from other works. If pop art is your bag, this is actually decent.

      But since maestro Goldman is all about "recontextualization", I too will put that work in context, as just another bad-faith effort by a ripoff artist.

      • by seebs (15766)
        Tracing, line for line, two separate things, and clipping them together, generally doesn't pass for original art, and certainly requires credit to the sources.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by samwichse (1056268)
      He didn't steal it, he's just using it under the BSD license!
  • by esampson (223745) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:54PM (#18862293) Homepage

    Maybe he's suing for Definition of Character?

    This is obviously a clear cut example of prior art.

    In all seriousness, I really just can't understand at all what he thinks he's doing. Either he is completely ignoring the advice of his lawyers or else he has got some incredibly bad ones. Just like most of the posters here I am not a lawyer* but I'm pretty sure that to be guilty of libel or slander the accused has to knowingly make a false statement and the statement has to be done with the intent of causing harm to the subject's reputation.

    Making a true statement (It appears that he stole another artists work, I think he stole another artists work, He has created something a great deal like something someone else has created, etc.) or erroneously making a false statement (for example, saying Goldman's work was created second if it were to turn out that Goldman's work was actually created first) don't pass the standard to legally be considered libel. Of course since libel is a civil case rather than a criminal case he would only need a preponderance of evidence to win rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but even then I have a really hard time believing his lawyers think there's any chance of winning, and of course as people avidly point out whenever Mr. Thompson files a suit or even threatens such a thing, filing a suit that you have no reasonable expectations of winning opens you up to a counter-suit and just the act of threatening a suit that you have no reasonable chance of winning opens you up to charges of barratry.


    *I wrote the abbreviation first but decided I really didn't like the sentence "Just like most of the posters here IANAL..."

  • What he did was clearly plagiarism of the worst kind. No-one in their right mind would try to defend taking another person's work and claiming it so blatantly to be their own. Of course, I have seen the odd designer stealing code from other websites and it seems to pass without comment... Is their a difference in taking someone's art without attribution and taking code that creates art without attribution?
  • He says this whole fiasco is libel to ruin his career.

    *rimshot*
  • OK, do you think that kdawson refers to it as "stealing ideas" in order to try start yet another flamewar about whether you can steal an idea or not, or is he just oblivious?

    And while we're at it, could we get an editor who doesn't treat punctuation like a game of Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey?

    • steal, v., stole, stolen, stealing, n. -v.t.
      1. to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, esp. secretly or by force: A pickpocket stole his watch.
      2. to appropriate (ideas, credit, words, etc.) without right or acknowledgment.

      Note definition number two.
  • The first thing this will cause is a demand that he stops saying this (someone might have the legal term at hand, I don't know enough English legalese). And that's pretty much what he wants: To shut up the person who spreads the news that he supposedly steals his content.

    By the time that suit is finally settled (or retracted), he will have found some sort of agreement with the original authors (or sued them into oblivion as well), and it can't be spread anymore either 'cause then it would be slander.

    That's
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The page about Todd Goldman on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] was "Office Protected" for a while, apparently after Wikipedia received similar lawsuit threats. Wikipedia's hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida, is 1/2 hour drive away from Clearwater, where Goldman's company is based - so they may be especially sensitive to lawsuit threats from him because they'd be a convenient target.

    Clearwater is the home of the Church of Scientology, which has ties to a great many businesses located there. The Church of Scientology is also th
    • by wellingj (1030460)
      Maybe we should burn Todd Goldman at the stake to see if he is a scientologist or not.....
  • Mencia (Score:3, Funny)

    by h4ck7h3p14n37 (926070) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @08:15PM (#18863663) Homepage
    Wow! This guy's a bigger rip-off artist than Carlos Mencia!
  • It gets worse - there's been some Myspace identity theft of people that are critical of him going on and this nasty piece of work or somebody assocated with him is filling the accounts with porn or an image saying TODD WAS HERE (actually hosted on Goldman's website - this guy is an idiot or thinks everyone will back down). Does a social engineering attack on a company to get access to other peoples acounts come under hacking laws? Perhaps he'll annot enough people to come to the attention of law enforceme
  • by Tweekster (949766) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:35PM (#18865439)
    You can sue anyone for anything in the US, but you cant go around using lawsuits as a threat.

    For a lawsuit to be legit it has to be the last resort not the first threat you pull out of the bag. not to mention it can never be and idle threat but a step by step escalation where legal action is warranted.

    He just put himself in an actionable position
    • Can you please provide a citation to some case law or a statute that says that you can't threaten immediate legal action for a legitimate complaint about someone's behavior in the United States?

      Of course you can't...because there is no such law. There is no law which states that in order for a lawsuit to be legit that it has to be the last resort. There is no law which states that you can't threaten to sue somebody for a wrong done to you. Or that there has to be a step by step escalation.

      Sorry to tell y

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