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Censorship The Courts

FunnyJunk Sues the Oatmeal Over TM and "Incitement To Cyber-Vandalism" 390

Posted by samzenpus
from the hits-keep-coming dept.
eldavojohn writes "You may recall from last week the news item concerning FunnyJunk's extortion ... er ... threat of defamation lawsuit against The Oatmeal highlighting a fairly pervasive problem of rehosting content — in this case web comics. Instead of expediting a payment of $20,000 to FunnyJunk, Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal decided to crowd source the money (with 8 days left he has only garnered 900% of his goal) and donate it to charity after sending a picture of it to FunnyJunk. Charles Carreon (the man who has FunnyJunk) has made statements of Inman saying 'I really did not expect that he would marshal an army of people who would besiege my website and send me a string of obscene emails.' In an interview Carreon says 'So someone takes one of my letters and takes it apart. That doesn't mean you can just declare netwar, that doesn't mean you can encourage people to hack my website, to brute force my WordPress installation so I have to change my password. You can't encourage people to violate my trademark and violate my twitter name and associate me with incompetence with stupidity, and douchebaggery. And if that's where the world is going I will fight with every ounce of force in this 5'11 180 pound frame against it. I've got the energy, and I've got the time.' Well it appears that Carreon has filed suit over these matters alleging 'trademark infringement and incitement to cyber-vandalism.' Speaking of douchebaggery, Charles Carreon curiously fails to mention that he first incited all of his users to harass The Oatmeal anyway they can which they dutifully did. One last juicy detail is that Carreon is also suing the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society to which Inman's crowd sourced money is going. Luckily, Inman's lawyer appears to be fully competent and able to address Carreon's complaints."
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FunnyJunk Sues the Oatmeal Over TM and "Incitement To Cyber-Vandalism"

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  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by suso (153703) * on Monday June 18, 2012 @08:57AM (#40358213) Homepage Journal

    "Carreon is also suing the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society"

    That can't be good for business

    • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

      by telekon (185072) <canweriotnow@MEN ... com minus author> on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:00AM (#40358233) Homepage Journal

      Neither can being an "Internet lawyer" with absolutely no understanding of the Streisand Effect [wikipedia.org].

      • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

        by durrr (1316311) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:10AM (#40358329)

        He's a run of the mill moron that have an overinflated ego and sense of competence. The Dunning-Kruger effect in play more or less.

      • by TheSpoom (715771)

        The best part is that according to TFA, Carreon (fitting name) is representing himself.

      • Probably, he lives by the idea that all publicity is good publicity. Hey, it worked for SA founder Richard Kyanka, no? Clearly, Commander Taco's unwillingness to engage in such antics are responsible for slashdot's decline in importance.

      • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jythie (914043) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:46AM (#40359157)
        Yeah, looking at the guy's interview he really comes across as not being all that in-touch with the internet. He might know the letter of the law but he is really out of his depth putting any of it into context and seems to lack even basic mechanical knowledge of what he is dealing with.

        Which kinda makes sense, from what I gather he usually represents 'businessmen' who are trying to get IP, so outsiders trying to push their way in to a community that is rubbed the wrong way by them... I doubt he has actually done any cases between knowledgeable parties.
      • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:49AM (#40359183)

        As your client should know, the internet does not like censorship, and does not react kindly to it. Bringing a lawsuit against The Oatmeal is ill advised. Not only are FunnyJunk's claims meritless, FunnyJunk will surely lose in the court of public opinion and cause itself reputational harm. We are also deeply skeptical that a nameless, faceless, business that hosts third party content will be able to demonstrate much if anything by way of damages as a result of The
        Oatmeal’s allegedly defamatory statements. At the end of the day, a lawsuit against The Oatmeal in this situation is just a really bad idea.

        I actually like this lawyer. Now there's a sentence I thought I'd never write.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mitchell314 (1576581)
      Yeah, at this point it's just a publicity stunt. The cynic in me doesn't believe Carreon is dumb; look at all the extra attention and internet traffic this little affair has started.
      • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BenJury (977929) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:24AM (#40358471)

        And if that's where the world is going I will fight with every ounce of force in this 5'11 180 pound frame against it.

        It maybe anecdotal, but I've often found the people who feel the need to mention this sort of metric in an argument like this are actually pretty dumb.

        • by gl4ss (559668) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:45AM (#40358609) Homepage Journal

          yeah, if it was something like 12 feet and 500 pounds.. now that would be impressive.

      • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Saint Fnordius (456567) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:55AM (#40358691) Homepage Journal

        Well, from what we know of this guy, it seems he really is the internet version of an ambulance chaser. He got a lucky break in the sex.com brouhaha, and now like a gambler that won a lottery jackpot he's scratching every card he can buy, desperate for the next big win. After all, look at this line from the Comic Riffs blog report:

        Carreon tells Comic Riffs one of his goals is to become the go-to attorney for people who feel they have been cyber-vandalized or similarly wronged on the Internet.

        Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/comic-riffs/post/funnyjunk-lawyer-suing-the-oatmeal-cartoonist-inman-over-indiegogo-charity-drive/2012/06/18/gJQAbZhDlV_blog.html [washingtonpost.com]

        We can only hope that his hubris will soon make him the disgraced pariah that he needs to be.

      • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mjwx (966435) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:06AM (#40358809)

        Yeah, at this point it's just a publicity stunt. The cynic in me doesn't believe Carreon is dumb; look at all the extra attention and internet traffic this little affair has started.

        Which is why you need a loser pays system. Right now he can hire 1 shmuck lawyer for $100 and tie up (potentially) good companies in the defence of a frivolous suit who have to pay $500 p/h lawyers to debunk the 1 shmuck. Under a loser pays system, FunnyJunk would be liable for the court costs of the people he sues if he didn't have a water tight case (Read: Just doing this for publicity).

        Personally I've never heard of FunnyJunk before a few days ago, but I've just added it to the blacklist of my routers DNS relay, just in case I accidentally visit it.

        • Re:Obligatory (Score:4, Insightful)

          by NevarMore (248971) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:35AM (#40359067) Homepage Journal

          So in a loser pays system, what happens if you're on the wrong end of a lawsuit from one of those $500/hr lawyer teams and you can only pony up for a $150/hour lawyer and you lose?

          • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Interesting)

            by mjwx (966435) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:53AM (#40359221)

            So in a loser pays system, what happens if you're on the wrong end of a lawsuit from one of those $500/hr lawyer teams and you can only pony up for a $150/hour lawyer and you lose?

            Here is where lawyers do something called "no-win, no-fee". If you've got a semi-decent defence (remember that the plaintiff has the burden of proof, they must prove what they say you did, you need only provide enough evidence to cast that into doubt) a high priced lawyer may choose to take on your case on a no-win, no-fee basis as he's got a good chance of winning his high price off the plaintiff. A lot of firms do no-win no fee in Australia.

            No-win, no-fee can be used in the reverse (by a plaintiff of "claimant") but 1. they need rock solid evidence and 2. I'm assuming in your example that the lawsuit is a sham and the defender is innocent.

            Loser pays is not perfect and by far not impossible to game but it's a hell of a lot better then the alternatives. It's been working in Australia and other nations for over 20 years now, if it were that easy to game someone would have done it by now. Instead people who launch frivolous suits like the MPIAA/RIAA are afraid to do so in Australia as they would be responsible for the costs, they tried suing one ISP and are currently trying to get the amount they have to pay for the defendants lawyers reduced.

            Lets try this scenario again except changing the "loser pays" system to the "American rule" [wikipedia.org] where each side is responsible for their own fees.

            what happens if you're on the wrong end of a lawsuit from one of those $500/hr lawyer teams and you can only pony up for a $150/hour lawyer and you lose?

            So what happens here, you can only afford a cheap lawyer regardless of your chances of winning?

            Not only have your chances not decreased because they can afford better lawyers and are at no risk from losing, your chances of being sued frivolously have increased because they will never be punished for it.

          • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Belial6 (794905) on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:08AM (#40359373)
            Yep. That is why we need an equal pay system. Each side pays the other side's lawyer an equal amount to what they pay their own. That way if Super-Mega-Corp want's to bring in $500/hour lawyers to crush Working-Two-Jobs-To-Make-Ends-Meet-Joe, Joe will have just as good of representation as Super-Mega-Corp.
            • Re:Obligatory (Score:4, Informative)

              by astrostl (2524450) on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:39AM (#40359691)

              Yep. That is why we need an equal pay system. Each side pays the other side's lawyer an equal amount to what they pay their own. That way if Super-Mega-Corp want's to bring in $500/hour lawyers to crush Working-Two-Jobs-To-Make-Ends-Meet-Joe, Joe will have just as good of representation as Super-Mega-Corp.

              Actual outcome: $500/hour lawyers get "paid layman rates," while their uncles/children/foreign bank accounts collect the remainder. See college athletes.

        • by jeff4747 (256583)

          "Loser pays" has a lot of issues. For example, not all lawsuits are frivolous. Sometimes there is a genuine dispute on the law.

          A better system is to let the judge award attorney's fees to the defendant when they dismiss a case with prejudice.

          From what I'm told, in the current system you have to continue the suit to win attorney's fees even when the original case has been tossed for lack of merit. Meaning the defendant has to continue the suit and rack up more fees in the hopes that eventually the plainti

      • by Max Threshold (540114) on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:28AM (#40359579)
        Negative publicity is only good if it's only viewed as negative by people who are not your customers or potential customers. Negative publicity that is viewed as negative by just about everyone is, well, negative.
    • by Koreantoast (527520) on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:06AM (#40359359)
      One would think that organizations as large as NWF and ACS have their own in-house legal teams as well as powerful law firms on retainer who, just because of the level of money they operate with, are used to battling much larger and more dangerous legal threats than these jokers. Carreon may have just picked a fight with entities possessing legal firepower and political capital far beyond what he's capable of battling against, especially for a bs case like this.
    • by Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:11AM (#40359409)

      No, but it's GREAT for taking a substantial lead in this year's "Jack Thompson's Legal Career" Memorial Award for Bad Legal Interaction with an Website, Online Forum, or Service Provider.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:00AM (#40358237)

    I see what you did there! Nice.

    captcha: excites. Lol.

  • by Rei (128717) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:00AM (#40358245) Homepage

    You can't encourage people to ... associate me with incompetence with stupidity, and douchebaggery.

    No, only you can do that. ;)

    • Re:Associations (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ancientt (569920) * <ancientt@yahoo.com> on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:30AM (#40358507) Homepage Journal

      That doesn't mean you can just declare netwar,

      I guess I missed that part... maybe it depends on what you define as 'netwar'

      that doesn't mean you can encourage people to hack my website,

      Oh, that. Well, I'm pretty sure he didn't do that so I don't see the relevance.

      to brute force my WordPress installation so I have to change my password.

      Seriously? That's a terrible example of hacking. I might disagree with the term use generally because it ignores the honorable history of the word, but I can accept modern usage. That's not hacking by either definition. Seriously, shouldn't you use a good password anyway?

      You can't encourage people to violate my trademark

      Has anyone done this? Now that I think of it, actually he could, couldn't he? I don't think it would be illegal to encourage other people to take that action.

      and violate my twitter name

      Somebody violated your twitter? Shocking! Outrageous! Somewhat humorous!

      and associate me with incompetence with stupidity, and douchebaggery.

      Well, technically that's freedom of speech. There are some limits on it but I'm pretty sure you can call someone stupid, incompetent and a douchebag. Lets try it: You, Charles Carreon, are a stupid and incompetent douchebag.

      Note that I didn't say anything about bravery. I think it takes an amazing level of bravery to set yourself up as the target instead of your client for the rage of a good old fashioned flame war. Bravery and stupidity are not exclusive, in fact, I think they may have a very open relationship. (I do see that there is a tempting reference there to Kodiak romance, but I'm not quite willing to make it.)

      • This very post, and all of the clicks behind it, are just kerosene to pour on the flames. Carreon isn't a twit, he's getting lots of free stuff from the crowds that go Fight! Fight! Fight! in the lunchrooms of their high schools, where their maturation process stopped.

        Bravery? Douchebaggery? This is the Internet, where World==Dog. He's manipulated you, and a jillion others into clicking over truly stupid stuff. His lawyer==PR manager. Just by foisting/hoisting the argument, look at all the ostensible do-goo

      • You can't encourage people to violate my trademark

        Has anyone done this? Now that I think of it, actually he could, couldn't he? I don't think it would be illegal to encourage other people to take that action.

        Actually, that's the only one that would be legitimate*... Intentionally inducing infringement creates liability.

        *But there's no evidence that Inman did induce anyone**.
        **Plus, he's claiming his name is the trademark, but people using his name are (a) not using it in commerce, and (b) even if they are, it's nominative fair use.

  • by f3rret (1776822) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:01AM (#40358249)

    Where everything always turns into a complete shitstorm.

    fun place.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:02AM (#40358259) Homepage
    I'm not a fan of the American Cancer Society. They are a highly inefficient charity and very little of their money goes to things like research. But, really suing a charity that's at least trying to fight cancer? I thought FunnyJunk was engaging in really poor PR but that's even worse. I can't even begin to think of a legal argument for why they should sue the ACS in this context, and even if they had a marginally plausible argument that didn't immediately invite Rule 11 sanctions ahref=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_11%23Chapter_III_-_Pleadings_and_Motionsrel=url2html-23882 [slashdot.org]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_11#Chapter_III_-_Pleadings_and_Motions>, any sane lawyer would say that this would just be a bad idea. The lack of awareness here was impressive before but has no crossed over into a whole other level of stupidity and douchebaggery.
  • by DWMorse (1816016) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:03AM (#40358273) Homepage

    I need to file a patent on frivolous lawsuits. I know exactly how I'd word the letter announcing my intent to protect my IP.

    "Yo dawg, I heard you like to sue, so I'm suing you for suing, so you can go to court for going to court..."

  • by hsmith (818216) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:04AM (#40358283)
    Honestly: He messed up.

    He should have gone on the extreme offensive and sued the shit out of Funny Junk once he got that letter. I found what he did amusing, as well as good for humanity (with his charity) - but in the end he let a useless website continue on churning out stolen content.

    Granted, Inman said he seeked council before doing what he did, so perhaps he knew it was inevitable. The court case should be amusing, to say the least. I hope he counter sues for 200x the amount.
    • No he didn't... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nweaver (113078) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:33AM (#40359049) Homepage

      Read the Oatmeal's lawyer's response. Its basically:

      "You have no leg to stand on. Go away. But if you don't, know that a: The internet doesn't like this, you have been warned and b: Uhh, you never met the criteria needed for a DMCA safe-harbor defense. You don't want to start something here"

  • Wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:11AM (#40358345)

    FunnyJunk isn't suing.
    FunnyJunk's Lawyer is suing.

    • Re:Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto (415985) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:14AM (#40358879) Journal

      FunnyJunk's Lawyer is suing.

      Then maybe the douchebags at Funnyjunk should publicly disavow any connection to the douchebag who's doing the actual suing?

      You know, like, sometime before the folks at CNN, BBC, et al decide to pick up the story and broadcast it with the lede: "...and in other news, the internet site funnyjunk.com is suing some comic site and TWO BIG CHARITIES today..." (followed of course by the charities giving a ton of damning soundbites that make the site and its lawyer look like massive, well, you know, douchebags...)

      ('course, there's still that whole douchebag factor, but that's not my problem. I'm only here to offer helpful advice about that lawyer vs. reputation thing).

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:11AM (#40358347)

    I hop Oatmeal countersues that 5'11 180 pound frame prick into oblivion.

  • This is fantastic. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by p0p0 (1841106) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:12AM (#40358355)
    I love it. It's so open and shut in favor of The Oatmeal. He never incited anyone. He in fact mentions that he DIDN'T incite anyone and that it was FunnyJunk who messaged their userbase to confront The Oatmeal, or at least very heavily implied they should. Everything The Oatmeal has done is retaliatory, in defense, and FJ has been on the offense for the entire situation.
    God knows why. Money I suppose. The Oatmeal's comics are popular and probably bring a lot of traffic when the comics are linked to FJ and not The Oatmeal.

    Everytime the owner of FJ speaks he tries to paint himself as the one being hurt, but all the damage is self-induced by the bad PR he's constantly causing by sending rude messages and generally un-gentlemanly behavior.

    Now if this ever does reach court, I'm sure it'll be decently long as FJ tries to throw everything it can at The Oatmeal because if they lose the Streisand Effect will hit even harder. I'm sure at least some users will leave, but more importantly they'll lose many potential users just because of they'll be shown beforehand how FJ operates.

    Either way, I'm going to just grab some popcorn and enjoy. I can't wait for The Oatmeal's response to this. Should have just complied with the takedown request (it was a request, The Oatmeal never once filed a DMCA) but apparently the owner of FJ just can't stand being told (asked) what to do.
    • by Adambomb (118938) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:21AM (#40358453) Journal

      Before everyone finishes patting themselves on the back about how stupid Carreon is, how he has invoked the Streisand effect and a bunch of bad PR ask yourself this: How many of us had honestly even heard of Funnyjunk before today.

      Given that it contains so much user submitted content, imagine how many ads have been served on pages where people have gone to flame them, despite the bulk of slashdot readers using adblocks on unfamiliar sites.

      I wonder if his ego might still have them laughing all the way to the bank depending on how long it takes them to drop or settle the suits. Even before the internet its been known in marketing that the only bad publicity is no publicity.

      • by hsmith (818216) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:35AM (#40358551)
        Never heard of Funny Junk before this. But, I still have never visited their site. So, no gain for them really.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:51AM (#40358663)

          I visited for you. It's really shitty. Basically, it's all the racist and stupid shit that your idiot high school classmate posts on facebook collected in one place.

          For example, on the front page of funny junk right now there is a joke about black people who say "shizzle" and eat fried chicken. And, its not even funny. FunnyJunk is run by an idiot scumbag, for idiot scumbags.

      • by aaron552 (1621603) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:42AM (#40358589) Homepage

        I knew that FunnyJunk was basically the new ebaumsworld - or at least the subsequent iteration (9GAG is the next one) of the "take other people's content, add advertising, profit" business model - but little more than that. Now I also know that its lawyer is unbelievably ignorant about the internet and the Streisand Effect.

      • I may now have heard of it but I can promise you one thing: I have never visited nor will I ever. No click counts, no ad impressions, nothing. The only thing they might get from me is a bump in google ranking due to links (if I actually created links) but that would ONLY be the result of propogating this very story, a story that is not going to help them in the long run, even if it helps them in the short run. I do however now know who The Oatmeal is :)

      • by Saint Fnordius (456567) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:04AM (#40358803) Homepage Journal

        I have a hunch that the FunnyJunk owner is not really all that interested any more, and that Carreon picked this fight as a way to gain a reputation. Now his ego won't let him back down, and in his world the Oatmeal is now the Moby Dick to his Ahab, with FunnyJunk tricked into being his Pequod.

  • by Roujo (2577771) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:21AM (#40358445)
    The title is wrong. FunnyJunk isn't suing, their lawyer Charles Carreon is. He's not representing them, he's representing himself. At least, that's what I got from the title of the case on Courthouse News Service, "Charles Carreon v Matthew Inman".
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      What is his standing then?

      Can I buy $500 worth of Google stock and then sue Apple over their anti-Android tactics, since it has an adverse impact on my shares? If the company isn't suing, then Charles is just suing as a shareholder as far as I understand the law. I can understand shareholder suits against the company they own shares in since that is a direct relationship.

  • Ok, just copyright infringment by the users, but not the site.

    However,

    When Oatmeal users possibly libel/troll/flame/attack (ahahah yeah right) others, that IS TheOatmeals fault?

    Double standards much?

  • by biodata (1981610) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:31AM (#40358521)
    I don't know who FunnyJunk or TheOatmeal are, and this article doesn't inspire me to find out.
  • dumb fuck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Legion303 (97901) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:36AM (#40358563) Homepage

    "You can't encourage people to [...] associate me with incompetence with stupidity, and douchebaggery."

    No, that was all you. You vomit-smeared, feckless pile of yak shit.

  • by tehcyder (746570) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:08AM (#40358827) Journal
    Not a fuck was given.
  • Between the two of them, they make a compelling case for there being too many law schools.
  • by telekon (185072) <canweriotnow@MEN ... com minus author> on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:25AM (#40358973) Homepage Journal

    You may recall from last week the news item concerning FunnyJunk's extortion ...

    Charles Carreon has filed suit in California court against Slashdot, alleging that an article appearing on the site defamed him by characterizing his lawsuit agains The Oatmeal as "extortion."

    When reached for comment, Carreon stated, "They like to hide behind this claim that their content is all user-generated, but that certainly doesn't obviate their responsibility to... oh, fuck."

  • SLAPP (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MarkvW (1037596) on Monday June 18, 2012 @01:19PM (#40360879)

    And Mr. Funkyjunk had better hope that his state does not have a SLAPP statute!

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