Users have been known to complain that Tumblr, the immensely popular microblogging site, is not always as communicative as it might be about the periodic outages it has suffered. Zach Inglis put up a site called IsTumblrDown.com which gave users a clue whether an inability to connect was just them, or the whole system being down. There was little likelihood that it would be confused with an official site, especially since it took a bit of a mocking tone toward the platform giant (and had no revenue). Lawyers representing Tumblr nonetheless fired off a nastygram demanding the site’s removal.
The story has a rare happy ending, though. Tumblr sent a second letter saying that the cease and desist letter had been sent by mistake [Daily Dot]:
We deeply apologize for our mistake. Our legal department very recently started using a third party vendor to assist us in pursuing trademark infringers and, due to an error in our new process, your domain was mistakenly caught in the cross-fire.
To paraphrase Eric Turkewitz, when you outsource your trademark enforcement, you might just find yourself outsourcing a chunk of your customer goodwill at the same time.
In a menacing letter that included the draft of a complaint, well-known entertainment lawyer Martin Singer informed his target that “I have deliberately left blank spaces in portions of the complaint dealing with your using company resources to arrange sexual liaisons with older men such as ‘Uncle Jerry,’ Judge ——, a/k/a ‘Dad’ (see enclosed photo), and many others. When the complaint is filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, there will be no blanks in the pleading.” Now California appeals court judge Steven Suzukawa has ruled that the threatened disclosure was appropriately related to the financial dispute at issue and did not constitute extortion as a matter of law. [Hollywood Reporter, earlier]
Texas: “I’d never trust a dentist who reacts to negative online reviews by having his lawyer threaten the reviewer with criminal charges. Would you?” Complete with a vigorously worded letter, explaining why his client is not planning to take down the review, from attorney Leif Olson of the admirably named Olson Firm in Humble, Texas. [Ken at Popehat]
The Underbelly restaurant in Houston offered a “Double Double” burger. When chef Chris Shepherd got a letter from lawyers for the California-based In-N-Out chain, saying it infringed on their similarly named sandwich, he promptly changed the name to “Cease and Desist Burger.” It has sold well, says the restaurant’s marketing manager. [Erica Ho, Time]
The township of West Orange, N.J. sends a cease and desist letter to a local political activist who runs the domain westorange.info and gets the following response from attorney Stephen Kaplitt (via Above the Law):
Dear Mr. Trenk:
I am pro bono counsel to Jake Freivald and write in response to your “cease and desist letter,” dated May 13, 2013, regarding his domain westorange.info. Obviously it was sent in jest, and the world can certainly use more legal satire. Bravo, Mr. Trenk! ….
Oh, and just to play along, had you intended for your letter to be taken seriously, even in some small measure, we would have sent in response something along the following lines: …
[several legal points follow about municipalities' general lack of a right to exclude others from using their names as part of domains]
If you manage to produce supporting authority that even remotely passes the laugh test, I will donate $100 in your honor to the American Civil Liberties Union — N.J. chapter. I plan to make the donation online, assuming the state of New Jersey has not shut down aclu-nj.org.
Sent to Gawker by a lawyer who represents controversial Toronto mayor Rob Ford, it affords Ken at Popehat much delight: “First, nobody ever governed themselves accordingly based on a threat from a hotmail account.”
Ken at Popehat to the rescue, with a pledge to “do everything in my power to find pro bono representation for the Buckleys to (1) prevent you from extorting and retaliating against them through the cost of defense, and (2) empower them to cockroach-stomp you righteously.”
How to be gentlemanly in a cease-and-desist. [Mashable, Popehat]
From Ken at Popehat, a righteous response to a bumptious cease and desist letter [Regretsy]
Scam pretend-lawyers pose as real Hollywood lawyers firing off nastygrams to shake cash out of illicit downloaders. [Above the Law]
A student organization at Penn Law created a poster for a fashion-law event playing off the well-known design of luggage-and-handbag purveyor Louis Vuitton. Lawyers for the luxury firm fired off a cease-and-desist letter, but the Penn law department declined to comply, a stance that Eugene Volokh finds persuasive: ” I think the use of the marks can’t qualify as dilution, is unlikely to confuse, and is likely to be a fair use in any event.” Another view: Ron Coleman (dilution a possibility).
North Carolina’s Peace College sends a nastygram to critics [Peter Bonilla, FIRE] More: Popehat.
At RedState, Leon Wolf has been parodying the work of Senatorial daughter and talk-show personality Meghan McCain. McCain’s lawyer, Albin Gess of Snell & Wilmer, wrote RedState editor Erich Erichson to threaten litigation over the posts, which prompted this magnificent letter in response (PDF) from Georgia attorney Christopher Scott Badeaux, representing Wolf. It also guaranteed more critical attention to McCain herself and her work, including this cruel entry by Ken at Popehat.
What Ken calls “the use of money and power to achieve censorship” — particularly in jurisdictions where judges are averse to awarding sanctions and anti-SLAPP protections are weak — is a continuing problem long overdue for open public discussion.
Should they be nastygrams, or adopt a more measured tone? [Ron Miller]