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).