Charles Carreon, the lawyer who sent a legal threat to The Oatmeal on behalf of FunnyJunk (FunnyJunk was upset that The Oatmeal had complained about the undisputed fact that its users routinely post Oatmeal comics to the site and threatened a libel suit unless they got $20,000 from The Oatmeal), has made good on his threat to comb the statute books until he could find something to sue Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman over.
But Mr Carreon has gone much, much farther. He has not only named Inman to the suit, but is also suing IndieGoGo (Inman launched an IndieGoGo fundraiser for a cancer charity and the National Wildlife Federation, and raised over $100,000 for them, with a promise that he would photograph himself standing astride the money and send it as a taunt to Carreon prior to remitting it to the charity). He is also suing the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society.
Ken at Popehat and Kevin from Lowering the Bar are offering pro bono counsel to the defendants in the suit, and looking for other First Amendment attorneys to volunteer their time to fight Carreon's lawsuit. Here's Ken's summary of the Courthouse News Service summary of Carreon's suit:
1. The lawsuit is captioned Charles Carreon v. Matthew Inman; IndieGogo Inc.; National Wildlife Federation; American Cancer Society; and Does [Does are as-of-yet-unnamed defendants], Case No. 4:12 cv 3112 DMR.
2. Charles Carreon appears as "attorney pro se," meaning "I am attorney but am representing only myself" and "I will continue to wreak havoc until forcibly medicated."
3. CNS included the following description of the case, which is most likely drafted by CNS upon review of the complaint: "Trademark infringement and incitement to cyber-vandalism. Defendants Inman and IndieGogo are commercial fundraisers that failed to file disclosures or annual reports. Inman launched a Bear Love campaign, which purports to raise money for defendant charitable organizations, but was really designed to revile plaintiff and his client, Funnyjunk.com, and to initiate a campaign of "trolling" and cybervandalism against them, which has caused people to hack Inman's computer and falsely impersonate him. The campaign included obscenities, an obscene comics and a false accusation that FunnyJunk "stole a bunch of my comics and hosted them." Inman runs the comedy website The Oatmeal."
As Ken points out, if the CNS summary is true, then Carreon's suit is especially frivolous:
Now, that summary, most likely written by CNS, may be flawed; thorough analysis must await getting a copy of the complaint. But to the extent the summary is accurate, it suggests a number of patent defects in the complaint. First of all, Carreon — appearing pro se — doesn't have standing to sue for false statements against FunnyJunk, or for trademark violations against FunnyJunk. Second, if the "trademark infringement" is premised on the notion that The Oatmeal violated Charles Carreon's trademark in his own name by criticizing him, it is knowingly frivolous for the reasons set forth in the excellent letter Mr. Inman's attorney sent. Inman's discussion of Charles Carreon was self-evidently on its face classic nominative fair use, because it named him to shame him and not to make commercial use of his name. Similarly, I can say that Charles Carreon remains a petulant, amoral, censorious douchebag without violating his trademark because that's nominative, not commercial.
Ken's post is (as always) full of great analysis, and he recommends that if you want to help fight Mr Carreon's douchebaggery that you donate to the Oatmeal's charity fundraiser (currently standing at $178K and rising) and tell your friends (he also asks that you not send angry emails or calls to Mr Carreon).