How stupid is Charles Carreon's lawsuit against The Oatmeal, IndieGoGo, the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation? Really, really stupid

Regular readers of Boing Boing will know that Charles Carreon is a lawyer hired by the humor-aggregating website FunnyJunk to send a letter to the webcomic The Oatmeal, demanding $20,000 and threatening a defamation suit (over The Oatmeal's year-old post about FunnyJunk's unauthorized use of his comics, and their bad behavior when this was pointed out to them) unless payment was made.

You will also know that Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, responded with a funny, insulting letter to FunnyJunk and Carreon, and a vow to raise $20,000 for charity, and to remit a photo of Inman standing with the money, along with a comic depicting FunnyJunk's owner's mother trying to seduce a bear in lieu of payment.

You will also know that Carreon proceeded to provoke Internet-wide outrage by threatening to have the fundraiser (which was hugely successful, to the tune of over $200K) shut down, along with IndieGoGo, the site on which it was hosted. And that he made good on that threat by filing suit against Inman, the Oatmeal, IndieGogo, the American Cancer Society, and the National Wildlife Federation.

Now, Ken at Popehat, a former US federal prosecutor, has obtained a copy of the complaint, and has made a detailed analysis of it. From his reading, it appears that Carreon has made a number of really dumb errors (besides the obvious dumb error of picking a fight with the whole Internet). In his usual entertaining fashion, Ken gives us the details, at some length (amazingly, this is only the tip of the iceberg, as Ken is apparently withholding the really juicy stuff for use in the courtroom).

Sweet Charity: Mr. Carreon's theory of how California charity law governs the defendants is wholly harebrained. As but one example: Mr. Carreon asserts that California Government Code section 12599 controls The Oatmeal, even though that statute by its own terms applies to "any individual, corporation, unincorporated association, or other legal entity who for compensation" engages in fundraising in California — professional telemarketers and fundraisers, in other words. In a similarly wrong-headed or deliberately deceptive vein, Mr. Carreon claims that Government Code section 12599.6(b) requires charities like the ones he has sued here to "exercise and establish control" over "all fundraising activities conducted by others for their benefit." Except that's not what Government Code section 12599.6 says at all. It says "A charitable organization must establish and exercise control over its fundraising activities conducted for its benefit, including approval of all written contracts and agreements . . . ." Mr. Carreon made up the part requiring charities to police fundraising they don't control themselves or contract out. That's why if your kids sell lemonade in order to donate the proceeds to save the pandas, the World Wildlife Fund doesn't have to come and proofread their signs and make sure that they aren't misstating the ingredients of the snickerdoodles or coercing the Jenkins kid up the block to buy seconds.

True Versus Truthy: Mr. Carreon makes a number of factual assertions that appear to play rather fast and loose with the requirements of Rule 11, cited above. Take, for example, his claim in paragraph 37 that "Mr. Inman's stated intention is to turn over only $20,000 of the amount raised by the Bear Love campaign" to the charities. Mr. Carreon's own exhibits show that he is lying. Mr. Inman said that he was trying to raise $20,000 (at the time of this writing he has exceeded ten times that) and that he would donate half to one charity and half to the other. Later, when results far exceeded expectations, Mr. Inman posted an update, saying "a lot of people have been asking what I plan to do with the extra money we raised over the initial $20,000. 100% of it is going to charity. I’m going to add 2 more charities to the list, in addition to the ACS and the NWF." Mr. Carreon also implies falsely in paragraph 30 — as he has stated falsely to the media — that the bear-loving mother Mr. Inman drew was meant to be Mr. Carreon's mom, when in fact the post makes it perfectly clear that the statement is directed a FunnyJunk, a web site that does not actually have a mother (unless, perhaps, its mother is AOL).

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part V: A Brief Review of Charles Carreon's Complaint

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