Funnyjunk's Lawyer Charles Carreon Just Keeps Digging: Promises He'll Find Some Law To Go After Oatmeal's Matt Inman
from the wow dept
Wow. Just… wow. Following the net fight between The Oatmeal webcomic creator Matt Inman, and aggregator of non-funny stuff, Funnyjunk, we’ve been pointing out that Funnyjunk’s lawyer, Charles Carreon needs to stop digging himself deeper into the hole he’s found himself in. Instead, he seems to have decided on the opposite strategy, and he’s digging deeper and deeper every minute.
If you don’t recall, he was trying to shut down the fundraising effort that Inman set up in response to Funnyjunk’s threat. And then he accused Inman of “instigating security attacks” against his website. The latest is that he’s now redirected his own website to a sales page for his book, but also has done an interview with Dave Thier at Forbes, in which he’s even more aggressive in fighting back against Inman and those who are mocking him. It’s really quite incredible. Thier describes Carreon as being “excited about this bizarre new world he had stumbled into” and now focused on somehow pinning the blame on Matt Inman:
In his 20 years as a lawyer, he says, he’s written hundreds of letters like the one he sent Inman, but the response to this one was unique.
“So someone takes one of my letters and takes it apart. That doesn’t mean you can just declare netwar, that doesn’t mean you can encourage people to hack my website, to brute force my WordPress installation so I have to change my password. You can’t encourage people to violate my trademark and violate my twitter name and associate me with incompetence with stupidity, and douchebaggery,” he says. “And if that’s where the world is going I will fight with every ounce of force in this 5’11 180 pound frame against it. I’ve got the energy, and I’ve got the time.”
Except, uh, nowhere has Inman “declared netwar” nor has he encouraged anyone to hack Carreon’s website. If it’s true that scriptkiddies have gone after Carreon’s website, that’s unfortunate, but it’s a ridiculous (and obnoxious) stretch to pin the blame for that on Inman. Of course, associating someone with incompetence, with stupidity and with douchebaggery is broadly a statement of opinion. There’s a First Amendment thing we have that generally says that’s okay. People can call each other stupid douchebags, and we like that in America.
For color commentary, we turn to Ken at Popehat, who decides to educate Carreon on the First Amendment:
The implications of Mr. Carreon’s position are profoundly chilling. Under the rule he seems to suggest, if you write about bad behavior by someone else, even if you don’t urge action, you run the risk that you will be held liable when one of your readers is inspired to hack or threaten or harass. Perversely, this means that the more criminal or unconscionable or horrific the conduct you are describing, the greater legal risk you take by writing about it. That’s not the law, thank God. The very suggestion is un-American and contemptible.
Moreover, note that Mr. Carreon is suggesting that it is actionable not only to inspire people to undertake (alleged) illegal action, but actionable to inspire people to “associate me with incompetence with stupidity, and douchebaggery.” In other words, if your criticism of someone’s conduct leads others to form an opinion of him, and express that opinion, that’s actionable. That’s true to the extent that someone states false facts about a person — for instance, by falsely accusing them of child abuse. But The Oatmeal offered satirically expressed opinions about Mr. Carreon’s conduct in a letter which The Oatmeal presented to his readers to review. To the extent that The Oatmeal opined that Mr. Carreon is incompetent, stupid, and a douchebag, those are classic opinions absolutely protected by the First Amendment. Under First Amendment law governing defamation, they are particularly protected because The Oatmeal presented the facts based on which he drew his opinions — namely, the letter itself. Under the theory that Mr. Carreon seems to be advancing, if I wrote you a letter suggesting that your wife beds down with diseased ocelots and calling for your children to be flogged, and you publish the letter and say that it suggests that I am a disturbed person of low character, then I would be legally responsible if people formed the same opinion based on the evidence you provided. Indeed, under Mr. Carreon’s apparent theory, if he criticizes The Oatmeal’s response to him as vulgar or unprofessional or uncivilized, he’s legally responsible for people agreeing with him. This is not law, this is madness. And bear in mind that Mr. Carreon markets himself as a First Amendment champion.
But Carreon has decided that “there must be a law!” against this, and dammit, he’s going to find it:
He may have a very difficult time proving that Inman “instigated attacks,” as he said on his website, but he’s certain he can find some legal recourse for what’s going on right now – “California code is just so long, but there’s something in there about this,” he says.
Back to Ken at Popehat, who notes in response, why yes, there is a law:
Oh, Mr. Carreon, indeed there is. There’s California’s magnificent anti-SLAPP statute, under which you’ll be paying the attorney fees of anyone you sue. There’s California’s judgment debtor exam law, under which you can be interrogated about your income and assets in preparation for garnishing your income and, if necessary, seeking liquidation of your assets to satisfy a judgment for attorney fees against you. There’s California’s sanctions statute, under which you can be sanctioned for bringing suit to harass or without adequate legal or factual basis.
Read them carefully. And think. Think hard. Step back from the precipice. This can get better, by you letting it go. Or it can get worse. Much, much worse.
Carreon tells Thier that he welcomes “the opportunity to confront legally the misuse of a new technology.” First of all, it’s not that new, and he might want to do some digging into other clueless lawyers who have sought to shut down online criticism of themselves. Carreon is still digging and he’s going to lose very, very badly in court with the arguments he’s making right now. Given his statements to various reporters, he’s already made it clear that he’s seeking to suppress speech and that he’s willing to use any law he can find to do so. That’s a particularly short-sighted thing to do, given California’s relatively strong anti-SLAPP law, which one hopes Carreon familiarizes himself with.
But, really, there’s the bigger issue: what the hell is he thinking at this point? And isn’t there anyone with a basic grasp of the internet who knows him who can sit him down and tell him to stop digging?