FunnyJunk's bewildered lawyer: "I'm completely unfamiliar really with this style of responding to a legal threat"

The Internet's head exploded yesterday at the news that FunnyJunk had sent a $20,000 legal demand letter to The Oatmeal, asserting that the Oatmeal's complaint about FunnyJunk's users reposting Oatmeal content was, itself, an offense warranting a $20,000 settlement.

This act of monumental chutzpah ("You want ME to pay YOU $20,000 for hosting MY unlicensed comics on your shitty website for the past three years?") was matched by Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman's response: to promise to raise $20,000 for cancer charities, but before it was turned over to them, to photograph himself standing astride the pile of money and forward this photo, along with a cartoon depicting Funnyjunk's lawyer's mother trying to seduce a bear, to FunnyJunk and its counsel.

The fundraiser was a smashing success, blowing past the $100,000 mark in a day. Now, MSNBC has caught up with FunnyJunk's counsel, Charles Carreon, a storied attorney who made his reputation litigating the sex.com case. They find Carreon in a state of sheer bewilderment as he confronts the enormous storm of bad will, negative publicity, and public disapprobation he and his client find themselves amidst. As he says, "I'm completely unfamiliar really with this style of responding to a legal threat."

I'd be tempted to feel some sympathy for Carreon, save for the fact that the interview closes with this: "He also explains that he believes Inman's fundraiser to be a violation of the terms of service of IndieGoGo, the website being used to collect donations, and has sent a request to disable the fundraising campaign." It's hard to feel sympathy for someone who wants to take over $100,000 away from cancer charities because of a supposed violation of someone else's fine-print.

"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," he says.

"I'm completely unfamiliar really with this style of responding to a legal threat — I've never really seen it before," Carreon explains. "I don't like seeing anyone referring to my mother as a sexual deviant," he added, referencing the drawing Inman posted...

"I don't think that what I did was unreasonable," Carreon says while discussing the initial demands sent to Inman. He tells me that while this situation is unique, he is typically open to negotiation. He ended the conversation with a promise to keep me updated on how things are resolved and on whether he takes any legal action against the folks who have been harassing him since Inman's "BearLove Good Cancer Bad" fundraising campaign started.

"It's an education in the power of mob psychology and the Internet," Carreon told me.

It's a testimony to the power of smart people to fool themselves that Carreon can clearly see the ugliness of "mob psychology," but not the ugliness of legal intimidation.

Also, I'm rather amused by MSNBC's treatment of the cartoon of the mother and the bear (above).

Cartoonist turns lawsuit threat into $100K charity fundraiser

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  1. It’s an education on the contradiction about what is legally possible (not talking about law-correct, that’s always interpretation) and what you should morally do. 

  2. > It’s hard to feel sympathy for someone who wants to take over $100,000 away from cancer charities because of a supposed violation of someone else’s fine-print. 

    I *KNOW*, right?  Talk about tone-deaf …

  3. “Carreon […] tells me that while this situation is unique, he is typically open to negotiation”

    Ah, so it’s a shake-down.

    1. Carreon, an attorney, wrote a letter demanding compensation for “defamation per se”, an action for which truth is an absolute defense, in response to statements which were entirely correct.

      Your interpretation is probably the most charitable one available.

    2. Scenes I’d like to see:

      Matthew Inman: I’m going to write a figure on this piece of paper. It’s not quite as large as the last one, but I think you’ll find it fair. [Draws a giant zero.]

      Carreon [to Funnyjunk owner]: I think we should take it.

  4. Rule number one of the internet: Don’t fuck with the internet. And since nothing ever “goes away” on the internet, this is pretty much going to follow him for the rest of his life. Welcome to Hell buddy. You’re about to become an Urban Dictionary entry.

    Also, anyone else notice that Carreon and carrion pronounce the same? Coincidence? I think not.

      1. My life was empty until you introduced that site to me. It is now complete. Thank you.

        To be honest, I couldn’t decide if he’d be a verb (i.e. “Carreoning: to become bewildered when your preposterous attempts at extortion via the legal system lead to public humiliation”) or an adjective synonymous with being a dick.

    1. It breathes new life into an old D&D monster: the Carreon crawler. Or this rewrite from Shakespeare:

      Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
      That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
      With Carreon groaning for burial.

  5. He tells me that while this situation is unique, he is typically open to negotiation.

    How about he negotiate his own mouth shut and fire his client?

    1. He doesn’t get it if he still thinks he’s dealing with something you can negotiate with. Especially after admitting that the response was completely outside his experience. Dunning-Kruger effect perhaps?

      He should advise his client to:
       * apologise
       * withdraw the threat 
       * contribute generously to the charity fund
       * switch off adverts on all their web pages showing content that hasn’t been checked for copyright violations.

      Even then, it’s going to be rough for him.

      1. >> switch off adverts on all their web pages showing content that hasn’t been checked for copyright violations.

        Y’know, this is a practical, positive suggestion!
        Just disable monitization on un-vetted submissions. It’s technically feasable, and with someone who can tick a box and say “yes, we’ve checked and this is ours” then you have an audit trail and accountability.
        Win-win.

  6. > … completely unfamiliar really with this
    > … has sent a request to disable the fundraising campaign

    Because somehow his simple assertion of unfamiliarity with the Internet wasn’t enough on its own, and he had to prove it by demonstration.  Q.E.D., jerk.

  7. Does our society have another “respectable” profession as two-faced as being a lawyer? I mean, where are the doctors who kill people over and over and get paid vast sums for doing it? Sure there are lawyers who do good, but there are also lawyers who specialize in tearing down everything that decent people are trying to build up, or defending those who do. And this spectacular jerk is a prime example.

    1. Car mechanics. General contractors. Artists of every conceivable sort. Sports coaches. There are plenty of professions whose ranks are populated both with sterling examples of humanity who daily use their position to improve some corner of society and with scum-sucking deviants who daily use their position to tear down all that is decent.

      1.  This.  There’s nothing unique about lawyers.  Any group that’s livelihood is based on both expertise and trust will have shady members who use their expertise in noxious ways.  That’s why lawyers get such a bad rap – they can use their expertise to muck with the legal system itself – making bad ones as bad as “security consultants” who use their expertise to steal from their clients or priests who use their expertise to, well, you know how that one ends.

      1. You are referring to criminal defense lawyers, and much as I despise the criminal justice system this is not the time to have that discussion. This guys belongs to a different breed of scum who use the legal system as a weapon (rather than a way to mediate disputes) to allow their clients to profit undeservedly. Sometimes there are no clients, just the lawyers profitting.

        Several years ago there was a law firm that went up and down Main Street suing every restaurant for labor violations. They had no proof, no documentation, not even any employee names Their strategy was to immediately offer to settle the suit for ten  thousand dollars, and most of the restaurant owners accepted this because it would cost twenty five thousand or or more to even begin to raise a defense. That is basically a protection racket that both the predatory accusers and the victims own defending lawyers are participating in and enriching themselves with.

        The current scumbag under discussion falls into a similar category, as do patent trolls, many sexual harassment lawyers, and more. It has become specialized, like doctors, except that the intent is to injure rather than to heal. Our society is drowning in it.

    2.  >Does our society have another “respectable” profession as two-faced as being a lawyer?

      I see by using the term “respectable” you’ve chosen to pre-emptively neutralise all those posts about politicians.

      1. Politicians are in many ways indistinguishable from lawyers; in fact, large numbers of them actually are lawyers. Between the two groups, they encompass a hugely disproportionate share of the worst people in the world, as even a casual glance will verify. Let’s face it, the most awful serial killers are nothing compared to governments. It takes a government (and a ton of lawyers!) to kill tens of millions of people.

  8. The lawyer turd says that he is “open to negotiation”?  I am sure that the internet can come up with a counter offer, or two.  How about this: Charles Carreon abandons his career in law as an act of good faith, then the internet decides what he should do with his life from now on.  What say you, counsel Carreon?

        1. Yikes.  I was pretty creeped out at that comment for a moment, until I recalled the scene with the minstrel.

          “The lion ripped his balls off, then the boar did all the rest.”

  9. All this could be a sign showing that people are fed up with copyright trolls. Maybe it’s time for politicians to test if they could gain some poll momentum with this.

      1. (Also, some of the letters he claims to have received indicate that the internet is also populated with assholes, including assholes who have in this case chosen to display their assholishness in support of the right side, which probably isn’t actually helpful)

        1. Never underestimate the power of fear of the mob. Hard to sue everyone on the Internet.

  10. I love how he removed the Contact page from his website – as if that’s going to stop anything.
    What a total fucking douchebag this guy is.

    1. Since he doesn’t understand the internet, he probably doesn’t get that we *all* see what he said and all have our own opinions about it. We don’t need no marshals.

  11. Oatmeal FTW! But a bit of a journo-fail here:

    “This act of monumental chutzpah (“You want ME to pay YOU $20,000 for hosting MY unlicensed comics on your shitty website for the past three years?”) was matched by Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman’s response”.

    The bracketed quote WAS Matthew Inman’s (genius) response; the lawyer demanded the $20k, Inman responded with the above. It rather changes the context otherwise.

    1. Idk if it’s because I knew who the quote was attributed to, but it read more like the quote was being used to explain why the demanding $20 was an act of “monumental chutzpah”.

      1. nods that was the intended interpretation, but that there  is an alternative interpretation is the fail. shrug an over long sentence best broken into two or parsed to New Yorker standards. now those guys really know where the comma is.

    1. Yeah – I was just about to comment with the same thing!

      http://www.charlescarreon.com/contact/
      “You seem to have found a mis-linked page or search query with no associated results. Please trying your search again. If you feel that you should be staring at something a little more concrete, feel free to email the author of this site or browse the archives.”

  12. “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”
    OH REALLY?

    Carreon’s own client did precisely this to The Oatmeal one year ago.

    Is he so unfamiliar with his own case that he had never heard of an angry mob attacking someone perceived as a threat to their beloved site?

    A+, Mr Carreon. A+. 

    1. THIS was almost exactly my thoughts.  How could he be unfamiliar with this technique when his client has used it.  Perhaps he will research his clients better in the future.

  13. Well maybe this was lawyerman’s plan to keep his Wikipedia page from getting deleted for being unworthy.

    1. I was just about to post exactly the same thing.  Everybody ought to have that as their benchmark for this sort of case.

  14. He probably has a great class-action lawsuit against Inman on behalf of the millions of people who have friends who won’t goddamn shut up about Tesla and Edison.  

  15. Wow, just wow.

    He was acting like a complete idiot before, but i’m simply amazed that he’s managed to find a way to make it so very much worse.

    Trying to shut down down a charity fundraiser? really?
    [insert large ascii facepalm picture here]

  16. Dear Mr. Carreon, welcome to our world, the internet. Like law practise it has a couple of rules (like the streisand effect). Ignore these rules at your own peril, and don’t be surprised if in an eyeblink hundreds of millions of people think you’re a dickwad.

  17. “I don’t think that what I did was unreasonable.”
    “I don’t think that what I did was unreasonable.”
    “I don’t think that what I did was unreasonable.”

  18. Is anybody else having flashbacks to the whole Jack Thompson vs. Penny Arcade debacle? You would think that would be a case study in how not to handle a defamation case and any lawyer worth his salt would know about it by now. What does that say about Mr. Carreon’s legal chops that he’s “completely unfamiliar with this kind of response?” Thompson started an obsessive personal crusade against an entire industry and a large part of American culture after his encounter with PA and eventually got himself disbarred. Bets on Carreon’s fate?

  19. “It’s a testimony to the power of smart people to fool themselves that Carreon can clearly see the ugliness of “mob psychology,” but not the ugliness of legal intimidation.”

    Lucid comment, Cory. How easy it is for many folks to justify their own actions yet condemn the same (or similar) actions when mady by others. Seems to be endemic of a certain brand of personage: those who crave power over others above all else.

    1. IMNSHO, being oblivious to one’s own hypocritical nature is just par for the course for human beings – one doesn’t need to be a class-A powertripping jackass to be oblivious to one’s own actions.

      I think scav is right that it’s basically the dunning-krueger effect in action.

  20. I’m perfectly OK with people calling lawyers like this directly. Filing nuisance lawsuits may be technically legal, but it is objectively immoral. Some people think that just because they can be a dick, that means they should be a dick. They need to learn that dickish behavior has consequences. Just because you are not legally barred from shitting all over somebody does not mean that it is a socially acceptable thing to do. Lawyers like this cockbag ruin peoples lives in exchange for money. That is reprehensible, and they need to be taught not to act like that.

    1. I just want everyone reading your comment to remember: You probably _are_ legally barred from shitting all over somebody. Please do not shit on other people.

  21. “Man, we sure have generated a lot of bad publicity with our demand letter to that cartoonist. I wonder how we can possibly make ourselves look any better. I know! Let’s be dicks to animals and cancer patients! That will make people see the rightness of our cause, and surely not instigate any more hate mail.”

      1. About as bad as the fact that FunnyJunk doesn’t have a designated agent for DMCA takedown requests… what was that about competent legal counsel again?

  22. Wow. So, he is completely unfamiliar with the concept of taking a case to the court of public opinion? Really?

    When he is done with his current adventure, perhaps a good next step would be to consider suing his law school. Then again, he would have to prove that they actually failed to teach him, as opposed to him simply forgetting it or missing class those days…

  23. He was taught in law school that intimidation is SOP. Each side postures, preens and tries to intimidate the other. After many billable hours have been rung up, negotiations ensue, and profit! In a standard situation, he would have been bought off with a settlement. Here, legal assbaggery meets widespread ridicule.

    Couldn’t happen to a better guy.

  24. “It’s a testimony to the power of smart people to fool themselves that Carreon can clearly see the ugliness of “mob psychology,” but not the ugliness of legal intimidation.”

    No, it’s a lesson how acting like complete douche can come back and bite you, in this day and age.  You old guys will probably never figure it out, until you decide to act on your stupid, corrupt, greedy thoughts.  Case in point.

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