The humor website Chickenhead publishes a parody of the famous Daily News headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead” and promptly receives a threatening letter from lawyers for the Gotham tabloid (Dec. 29; mild tastelessness).
Via Peter Lattman, Bill Lerach, unhappy with press coverage of an embarrassing defeat in an attempt to blackmail companies with meritless (but highly risky) litigation over Enron, sends the WSJ a nastygram, and the WSJ responds.
A classic, from TechDirt (Oct. 30):
It appears that Universal Studios recognize that the followers of the cult favorite TV show Firefly would be a great source of viral marketing for the movie based on the show, Serenity. They put together a huge viral marketing campaign…. However, as with so many of these things, it appears that the marketers at Universal forgot to tell the lawyers at Universal, who recently decided to send out cease and desist letters to a bunch of the guerilla marketers they had pushed to promote the film.
More: Tijir, Oct. 28.
- David Lat has much more detail on the $46 meal-skipping criminal case; and the St. Petersburg Times reports Ralph Paul was acquitted because his defense attorney misrepresented to the jury the legal standard, and the prosecutor didn’t correct it. [Above the Law; St. Petersburg Times]
- Amber Taylor isn’t impressed with Dahlia Lithwick’s proposal of new rules for Supreme Court clerkships. [Law. com; Prettier Than Napoleon]
- Legalized extortion of banks over Enron scandal. [Point of Law]
- Round-up of links of Sherwin-Williams’s suit against Ohio municipalities that are using contingent-fee plaintiffs’ lawyers against it. [Point of Law]
- Possible settlement in the Million Little Pieces class action. [TortsProf]
- California kennel works can’t sue dog owners for bites. [Bashman]
- Defense prevails in first federal welding trial. See also POL Nov. 21 and Dec. 9. [Products Liability Prof]
- David Bernstein on phony associations in epidemiological research. [Volokh]
- Aleksey Vayner doesn’t just have an impressive video resume, he can send a bogus cease-and-desist letter with the best of them. [IvyGateBlog]
Public Citizen Litigation Group’s Greg Beck blogs a refutation though, alas, he doesn’t single out the attorney who makes the absurd claim. Beck notes the problem:
Even if a claim like Aquage’s is without legal merit, however, many small online sellers who receive a threat like this would rather cut their losses and back down than risk a lawsuit. It’s usually not worth hiring a lawyer when you are only hoping to make a few bucks off the sale in the first place.
Attorneys for the talk show host have fired off a cease and desist letter to retired Kansas City teacher Patrick Crowe, 69, over his efforts to draft her as a presidential candidate. In addition to demanding that he surrender his website oprah08.net (which lands visitors on this site) and give up his toll-free number 1-866-OPRAH08, the letter (courtesy Smoking Gun) insists (p. 2) that Crowe “refrain from using any and all references in any vehicle (including, without restriction, websites), for any reason, to Ms. Winfrey” or her properties. (Matt Campbell, “Quest to elect Oprah becomes publicity opera”, McClatchy/ Seattle Times, Sept. 23; Andrew Buncombe, “Oprah blocks bid to make her President”, The Independent (U.K.)/Belfast Telegraph, Sept. 22). Ann Althouse comments: “would Oprah be a good President? I think she’s too litigious.” (Sept. 24).
For years lawyers representing the owners of the children’s-show character Barney have been firing off cease-and-desist letters to parodists who’ve portrayed various forms of violence being visited on the purple dinosaur (see, for example, Jun. 25, 2001). Now one such exchange has escalated, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued Lyons Partnership, owner of Barney rights, seeking a court’s declaration that Stuart Frankel is not committing infringement by publishing a Barney parody site. (Robert Ambrogi, Legal Blog Watch, Aug. 24). Update Nov. 30: Lyons backs off.
Iola Scruse, 66, of Louisville, who is on Social Security and paying bills for dialysis, “must pay $6,000 for the 872 songs her grandchildren downloaded, in addition to court fees.” Scruse “said she has no idea how she will pay the fine or what her next action will be.” Self-employed engraver Michael Brown paid $5,000 “because his teenage daughter had shared nearly 900 music files with others”. And: “No lawsuits anywhere have gone to trial, said Jenni Engebretsen, a spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group that files the suits on behalf of the companies. … ‘We hope that what is coming out of these lawsuits is that parents are having conversations with their kids,’ she said.” (Amy H. Trang, “Illegal downloads create unlikely defendants”, Louisville Courier-Journal, Jul. 31). The recording industry had sued a Ypsilanti, Mich. man for unlawful downloads; after he died, “the RIAA made a motion to stay the case for 60 days in order to allow the family time to ‘grieve’, after which time they want to start taking depositions of the late Mr. Scantlebury’s children”. (new blog Recording Industry vs. the People, Aug. 13; see David Berlind, ZDNet, Aug. 14).
The RIAA strategy is an example of a new legal phenomenon that I have dubbed “spamigation” — bulk litigation that’s only become practical due to the economies of scale of the computer era. We see spamigation when a firm uses automation to send out thousands of cease and desist letters threatening legal action. We saw it when DirecTV took the customer database for a vendor of smartcard programmers and bulk-litigated almost everybody in it…
The RIAA uses systems to gather lists of alleged infringers, and bulk-sues them. It has set a price that seems to be profitable for it, while being low enough that it is not profitable for the accused to mount a defence, as they do not get the economies of scale involved.