Published by LawTechie - June 21, 2012 - LawTechie

Internet lawThe MediaPost reports on a feud between comic strip creator Matthew “The Oatmeal” Inman and

The dispute started last year, when Inman complained publicly that his material was being uploaded to FunnyJunk. “I realize that trying to police copyright infringement on the internet is like strolling into the Vietnamese jungle circa 1964 and politely asking everyone to use squirt guns,” he wrote. “I know that if FunnyJunk disappeared fifty other clones would pop up to take its place overnight, but I felt I had to say something about what they’re doing.”

FunnyJunk’s lawyers responded to The Oatmeal’s jab with a cease and desist letter, accusing The Oatmeal of defaming FunnyJunk, infringing its trademark, and demanding $20,000 in restitution.

The Oatmeal, wisely realizing that the C&D’s claims were nonsense, responded by posting the letter online and asking his fans for $20k in donations (he quickly raised $100k), which he proceeded to split evenly between the National Wildlife Foundation and the National Cancer Society.

FunnyJunk’s lawyers (IMO not very funny people) decided to file a federal lawsuit against The Oatmeal, the National Wildlife Foundation, the National Cancer Society and The Oatmeal’s fundraising platform:

Carreon says that Inman violated a California law that requires commercial fundraisers to register with the state attorney general’s office. Carreon also accuses Inman of trademark infringement for allegedly creating (or inciting someone else to create) a fake Twitter account with Carreon’s name.

Apart from the karmic implications of bringing a meritless suit against two benevolent non-profits, I am personally curious about what FunnyJunk’s lawyers intend to accomplish with this. The California law claim seems a wash as I cannot imagine that a non-interested third-party would have standing to bring a civil suit for alleged violations fundraising regulation. The trademark infringement claim is just as troublesome (it is obviously nominal fair use to call a business by its name when you are talking about them). The defamation claim may have something if Inman’s original accusations were in fact false… but still, the karmic implications of suing the National Cancer Society just to make a point…

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.


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