March 20, 2004

Legal Grind

WE HAVE NOTICED that as blogging becomes ever more popular, more and more bloggers are facing threats of legal action because of something they have written. Many times this writing is a parody, which mocks either words or images to make a satirical point.

As far as we can tell, such parodies are protected under the First Amendment. However, it seems that many people in America do not realize this. As some of these people have managed to gain positions in industry, they have access to highly-skilled legal professionals. Hence, when they get annoyed at something they read or see, they can call these attorneys at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday just as the attorneys are about to leave for Maine, and order the attorneys to deal with the alleged offenders forthwith. The attorneys, knowing that their pals from law school are already on their way up to Ogunquit for the lobster bake, will quickly dash off a threatening missive to placate their angry client – all the while wondering why they didn’t join the Peace Corps instead.

Now, this has led to some pretty funny legal filings, such as the notorious Global United Rayon and Cosmetics Corp. v. Bob’s Blog case, 673 U.S. 1198 (2003). In court filings, plaintiffs alleged that in October of 2001, one Robert X. Udall of Old Rochelle, N.Y., had committed offenses including “trademark infringement,” “patent infringement,” “defamation,” “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” “loss of consortium,” “making plaintiff’s counsel miss his flight,” and “causing plaintiff’s counsel’s hospitalization after suffering cardiac arrest as he was trying to get to his dinner reservation.” Plaintiffs alleged these offenses were in connection with Mr Udall’s on-line complaint that his wife didn’t like the Global United Rayon-brand lipstick he bought her for their anniversary.

While such sloppiness might have led to the suit being thrown out, Mr Udall made the mistake of thinking it was a joke, and he did not pursue the matter. This resulted in a default judgment against Mr Udall. Despite his subsequent appeals, the Supreme Court had no choice but to agree to the plaintiff’s demand that Mr Udall be drawn and quartered at daybreak.

As you can see, these things are serious business. But fear not! We here at Benjamin Kepple’s Daily Rant offer for your enlightenment an Actual Sample Letter* which we sent in response to one of these dunning letters. It follows:

-------------

8 January 2004

Benjamin Kepple’s Daily Rant Inc.
“Your Hometown Nostalgia Source”
901 Burnaby St., Suite One
Hamilton HM 11
BERMUDA

Mr. Upshaw P. Belvedere IV
Attorney-at-Law
Somehow, Passed & Thebar PLLC
590-C Avenue of the Americas, Suite 8997-2
New York, New York, 10021
U.S.A.

SENT VIA FACSIMILE

Dear Sir,

Please be advised we are in receipt of your letter, dated 6 January 2004, regarding your clients CLM Cyclosis Inc. and Chinese Wall Zombie Bond LLC, each of which is a New York-based market analysis firm.

We understand your clients (“The Bastards”) are upset with our American subsidiary’s depiction of their work on 4 January 2004, to wit: “All’s Fair in Love and Business,” (http://www.benkepple.com/archives/000240.html). We also understand that as counsel, you are obligated to act on behalf of The Bastards’ interests, no matter how contrary to established case law and general principle their complaints (“Damned Nonsense”) are. That said, you are advised that The Bastards’ Damned Nonsense is completely unwarranted, given long-established legal principles governing works of parody, farce, satire, and the like. Hence, we are sure you or your intern (“Indentured Servant”) will find Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 US 46 (1988), fascinating reading. We would also remind you of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569 (1994), which clarified that a satirist may create parodies for profit. We’re sure you remember it from your days at law school (“That Diploma Mill.”)

Again, though, we do understand that your job is to defend The Bastards’ interests; so we would never accuse you personally of vexatious litigation, barratry or the intentional tort of abuse of process. However, please do be advised that any Further Legal Action (“Harrassment”) on The Bastards’ part will be met with a measured and warranted counter-response (“Scorched Earth Policy”). We would consider it most unfortunate if we had to implement a Scorched Earth Policy, and hope we haven’t any need for that. It would be quite regrettable (“A Public Relations Nightmare”) if we were forced to go to major media, various Internet sites, and take other counter-measures to help ensure we received appropriate relief from a Court in this matter.

We are confident that after careful consideration of the facts and relevant case law, you will agree that this was all merely an unfortunate misunderstanding. As such, we consider this matter closed. However, if you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Cordially,

TAD MURCHESON
General Counsel
Benjamin Kepple’s Daily Rant Inc.

BENJAMIN KEPPLE
Chief Executive Officer
Benjamin Kepple’s Daily Rant Inc.

Cc: File
Style section, The Washington Post

---------

*IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE: Anyone who actually faces this or any other type of lawsuit in real life should NEVER send a letter like this, especially to a practicing attorney. They should instead contact a respectable lawyer immediately, and pay him or her write something that actually can stand up on its own two feet. We are not lawyers and cannot help. Furthermore, the preceding is intended as parody and entertainment only, and should not be construed as legal advice, assistance, or opinion, even if we did send something similar although not as nasty once to a collection agency that screwed up our medical bills. Offer void in Puerto Rico and Vermont. Call now and you can get the amazing Stain-B-Gon scrub-brush ABSOLUTELY FREE. Many will enter, few will win. Certain terms and restrictions apply. By reading the above essay, you agree that you have waived any and all rights to sue for damages, injury, or other claims that may result from reading this article. It's a dessert topping AND kills germs! Estoppel doctrine aggravated damages injunction pray for relief wherefore ordered.

Wow. You got all the way down here?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at March 20, 2004 04:21 AM | TrackBack
Comments

What? It can't be used as a floor wax?

Posted by: Brian Chapin at March 20, 2004 05:31 AM

Style point!

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at March 20, 2004 10:40 AM