Rep. Lauren Boebert Decides To Streisand Parody Site Making Fun Of Her, Threatens To Take Legal Action Against It

from the supporting-the-1st-Amendment dept

Rep. Lauren Boebert is one of the new crew of elected Republicans who claims to be “pro-Constitution” and “pro-freedom” but when you get down into the details, it seems that the only part of the Constitution that matters to her is the 2nd Amendment. The website for her campaign proudly states that she’s “Standing for Freedom” and is “Pro-Freedom, Pro-Guns, Pro-Constitution.”

You do have to wonder if she skipped over the 1st Amendment in her rush to defend the 2nd, however. This morning, her press secretary Jake Settle (who came to her office after working on Mike Pence’s communications team) sent quite a fascinating threat email to the operator of a Lauren Boebert parody site, TheLaurenBoebert.com.

The operator of that site, comedy writer Toby Morton, tweeted an image of the letter this morning:

I have since seen the original email that does, indeed, appear to come from Jake Settle. I have emailed Jake to confirm his side of the story, and asked him to answer a few questions as well. At the time of writing he has not responded. The email says the following:

To whom it may concern,

This website (https://www.thelaurenboebert.com/) needs to be taken down since the photos on here are copyrighted property of the U.S. Federal Government. They are the property of the office of Congressman Lauren Boebert, and your use of them is unauthorized and illegal.

Additionally, the entire website is a defamatory impersonation, and it goes against relevant terms of service and U.S. law. Please remove immediately or face further action.

Sincerely,

Jake Settle | Press Secretary
Rep. Lauren Boebert (CO-03)

If you’re wondering what the parody site looks like, it does use the same main image as Lauren’s official Congressional site (different from her campaign site). Here’s what the mobile version of the parody site looks like:

And here’s her official Congressional site (note the same image):

The parody site honestly doesn’t have that much more on it. It shows a couple Boebert tweets, then has links to some other parody sites of wacky Republican members of Congress and Senators, and says that it’s a parody site (which isn’t just a talisman where saying it automatically makes it true). Update: There actually is a bit more on the website that I had missed on first pass: under the “blog” tab, there are some posts that include a number of images of Boebert. It is extremely unlikely that the copyright to any of those works are held by the US government. It is possible that some are held by Boebert herself (unclear if her Congressional Office would hold the copyright), but we’ll get there.

Before we even dig into the legal analysis of Settle’s threat letter, let’s just make one thing clear: whether or not there’s a legal leg to stand on, Settle’s threat is stupid. All this has served to do is to Streisand a parody site that likely wasn’t receiving much if any traffic prior to this. Indeed, Morton has confirmed to me that the site hadn’t received much traffic, but now tons of people are looking at it. At best, Boebert comes off looking like a thin-skinned insecure whiner who can’t take a mild parody. At worst, she comes off as a censorial bully who has no respect for “freedom” if it’s associated with the 1st Amendment.

As for the legal issues… Settle’s email is a mess of confusing concepts, so it’s not even remotely clear what any actual legal claim might look like (which is not to say there are none — just that Settle’s email most certainly does not lay out a clear theory of one). First up, the copyright claims are a mess.

This website (https://www.thelaurenboebert.com/) needs to be taken down since the photos on here are copyrighted property of the U.S. Federal Government. They are the property of the office of Congressman Lauren Boebert, and your use of them is unauthorized and illegal.

It’s not entirely clear how they could be both the “copyrighted property” (which is not a thing) of “the U.S. Federal Government” and “the property of the office of Congressman Lauren Boebert” at the same time. There’s only the one image on the front of the site as far as I can see, and it might be true that Boebert holds the copyright to it. A lot of people responded to Toby’s tweet and falsely claimed that since it’s on a government website it’s public domain. That is not true. US copyright law does say that works created by the government are in the public domain and not subject to copyright. But (and this is important) that does not mean every work the government uses or posts to its website is automatically in the public domain. Other copyright holders can transfer a work to the government, and the government could then retain the copyright.

In this case, it seems highly unlikely that the work was created by the federal government. It is quite likely that it was created by Lauren Boebert’s campaign or someone closely associated with Boebert and the campaign. There are then all sorts of possibilities about the copyright. It could be held by the photographer. It could be held by the Boebert campaign, or by Boebert herself if the copyright was assigned to her. In theory, it could have been assigned to the federal government, but that seems highly unlikely.

The claim that it is the “copyrighted property” of the US government seems like it is likely nonsense. The claim that its held by Boebert’s office is not entirely crazy. However, even if that were true, Morton would have a very strong fair use argument, seeing as that he’s set up a parody site. Parody is one of the quintessential examples of fair use. As the Supreme Court has said, the context of the use of the original work in a parody does matter, so it’s not automatically fair use.

In parody, as in news reporting, see Harper & Row, supra, context is everything, and the question of fairness asks what else the parodist did besides go to the heart of the original.

So, perhaps there’s some argument somewhere that would persuade a court that this is not fair use, but that seems unlikely. The fact that this is parodying a politician, and criticizing or even mocking politicians is part of what the US considers an important element of our 1st Amendment free speech protections, it seems highly likely that any court would come down on the side of fair use should a copyright claim be brought.

As for the images on the “blog” portion of the site, there is perhaps an argument that some of those copyrights are held by Boebert (certainly not the federal government). Could those lead to a lawsuit? Very possibly, but if that was the case, the copyright holder should have sent a takedown notice first. Whether or not those images are fair use is a tougher call. They are used for criticism and commentary, which is part of the fair use analysis, but there isn’t that much commentary on them, and so it really would be up to the court where this landed. Still, at the very least, it doesn’t make much sense for her press secretary to be sending out that threat letter, though.

As for the other claim of “defamatory impersonation” well…

Additionally, the entire website is a defamatory impersonation, and it goes against relevant terms of service and U.S. law. Please remove immediately or face further action.

“Defamatory impersonation” is not a thing. Defamation is. But it’s difficult to see anything on the website that would qualify as a defamatory statement of fact. The only real statements on the website about Boebert are calling her a “racist” and a “Qanon sympathizer” and both of those are either protected opinion, or substantially true. Either way, there’s simply no way any defamation claim here would meet the actual malice standard necessary for defamation of a public figure (and as a member of Congress, Boebert is undoubtedly a public figure).

So, even if there is a legal claim buried in here, it’s difficult to see it getting very far. But, either way, just sending such a threat is inherently stupid.

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Comments on “Rep. Lauren Boebert Decides To Streisand Parody Site Making Fun Of Her, Threatens To Take Legal Action Against It”

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57 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
David says:

Re: Re:

It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve read the Constitution or not: if you are fine with storming and threatening the institutions responsible for maintaining and upholding it, you are against it.

And claiming otherwise makes as much sense as shouting "long live the King!" while beheading him.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Gotta love people who "defend the Constitution", yet don’t bother to read it first."

This, right there. I’m a european liberal. I’ve read the US constitution, and even if I can’t quote it chapter and verse I do at least know the most commonly invoked amendments.

The average US alt-right moron? 30% of their got damned population? Either haven’t read the thing, are so shit at english comprehension they don’t grok what the words mean, or don’t really give a rats ass because the main point for them is to stick it to the liberals good’an’ard.

And to think that these are the people who taught Europe the importance of accountability and principle at Nürnberg.

I keep saying the US is done; stick a fork in it. Once they’re through the bad times to come something better may rise from the ashes. Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Green, Josh Hawley…they’re just the frontrunners of what 1 in 3 americans will be sending to represent them. 2024 it’s from their ranks the next Dear Leader will emerge.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Marjorie Taylor Green, Josh Hawley…they’re just the frontrunners of what 1 in 3 americans will be sending to represent them

Ah, you do not quite understand our districting procedures. That is where the politicians pick the voters who will elect them. In order to assure continuity of power, they sometimes draw some fairly strange shapes. We had one shaped like a wishbone, following the river up to Jax, then forking back down across the prairies to Hogtown, with some mighty skinny parts in there.

Thanks to modern gerrymandering technology, we anticipate that far more than 1 in 3 will have GOP representatives. A large portion of the non-GOP voters are concentrated into some odd-shaped districts so that the rest of the districts lean at least slightly GOP.

Here in Florida, we have perfected this in such a way as to have a nice, efficient one-party state, like our neighbor Cuba to the south. We have a GOP legislature (two houses), a GOP executive, and GOP courts. In many cases, the Dems do not even bother running a candidate, or just send up a sacrifice to make a show. All this despite the GOP actually not being particularly popular here, if one goes by voter registrations.

More than 1 in 3 of Florida’s congressional representation will be these guys, even if fewer than 1 in 3 of Florida’s voters are these guys.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ah, gerrymandering isn’t that unfair: districts need to be proportional to their populace mostly. You can afford to lose almost half of the districts to Democrats, so make those districts as close as 100% Democratic as possible. The other half you need to win, so the Democratic percentage in there needs to be less than 50%.

All in all, gerrymandering as a technique for keeping the upper hand breaks down if you control less than 25% of the populace, so it does not really change things once you are outnumbered 3:1. Of course, there is still a bit of leeway since you can draw your districts anticipating ongoing changes in populace and make sure that incoming Democrats will mostly arrive in regions you gerrymandered to be Democratic anyway.

And even 40% can win a district if the 40% are well-armed and work as vote-watchers making sure that only legal votes get cast (with "illegal" being determined by rules designed by the incumbent state legislature).

David says:

Re: Re:

Hey look, it’s a chance for a person to reflect on their stated beliefs vs. their actually actions, and then maybe engage in some character growth.

There is an increasing number of Republicans who’d rather err on the side of a solid margin of safety in leaving enough character growing room to avoid humbling Mother Theresa. Or Zippy the Pinhead, for that matter.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: There are more pages

"I’m wondering how the Hell she got elected in the first place"

Because with Trump out of office most americans think "OK, that’s done with, the day is saved, time to go back to sleep"? Smart people know politics is a hard job and avoid it, leaving only the inept and corrupt? Those who can be counted on to vote are either fractured over a huge tent of issues or zealous believers in racism, religion, and guns – so it pays to cater to the voters you can win by chanting three lines over and over again?

Anon says:

Re: But, but, but

If an agent of the copyright holder sends a letter claiming someone else (the government) is the copyright holder, and even more confusingly that someone cannot hold copyrights, then… that simply muddies the water in terms of any copyright lawsuit. "You told the defendant you did not hold copyright, and then sued saying you do…??"

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Re: But, but, but

The US government can hold copyrights. But works created by the US government don’t have copyrights. So copyrighted works held by the federal government merely need to have been created by someone else and then get assigned to the US or otherwise wind up in the hands of the federal government through operation of law.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
David says:

Not quite a fan of the 2nd amendment

Rep. Lauren Boebert is one of the new crew of elected Republicans who claims to be "pro-Constitution" and "pro-freedom" but when you get down into the details, it seems that the only part of the Constitution that matters to her is the 2nd Amendment.

Except for that "well regulated militia" bit it starts with. Regulation is a red flag to the gun-toters, in the dictionary meaning of "red flag. 2: the emblem of socialist revolution".

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not quite a fan of the 2nd amendment

Stop lying about the constitution! The constitution doesn’t say anything like that. If it did, I wouldn’t love the constitution, and I do, so you must be wrong.

The constitution actually says anyone can have any gun they want, because guns are fun – and for self-defence. I love that about the constitution, so that’s what it must say!

AndrewM says:

Re: Re: Not quite a fan of the 2nd amendment

I get it, very clearly. You think "guns are fun," because you get to kill stuff, and take away their lives, play god. Nice. Actually, not nice at all, and it is the worst sin. I don’t think you comprehend the Constitution, nor anything, as you are too busy killing animals, and maybe people. You are a coward, hiding behind whatever it is, plus a disgusting killer gun.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Not quite a fan of the 2nd amendment

I get it, very clearly.

You very clearly do not, since you were replying to a joke*.

You think "guns are fun,"

They are.

because you get to kill stuff

You think everyone shooting guns is killing stuff? Never heard of target shooting? Skeet shooting?

  • also possible I don’t get it, if you were also joking, but your comment doesn’t read like a joke to me.
Anonymous Coward says:

Cue the village idiot...

I expect we’ll be hearing from Koby any minute now on how this speech should be taken down immediately because reasons, first amendment be damned!

It’s an onslaught on conservative thought (pun clearly intended), for crying out loud! What about her feelings? Apparently no one told that bubblehead that there’s some problems you can’t fix with a fucking gun.

OGquaker says:

Re: Re: what's comical?

Tom Bradley was elected Mayor of Los Angeles from 1973-93, 20 years, and run out of office for supposedly "writing a bad check". Since home rule was "gifted" to Washington D.C. by the US Congress in 1975, Marion Barry was elected Mayor from January 1979 to January 1991, re-elected 1995 to 1999 & run out of office for smoking crack. After that we but him on the Corporate Board of our radio network. Sometimes the crime is made up, but power is held ONLY if the System owns you: Barack Obama was the fifth black Senator of the 1,200 in US history at the time, You Decide®

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: what's comical?

I spy, at once, a significant skin-deep difference between Bradley, Barry and Boebert.

"Sometimes the crime is made up, but power is held ONLY if the System owns you"

There may have been a time in the recent past where the US system would accept only those willing to perpetuate the status quo and this hit black politician extra hard since they often got involved in trying to push some form of civil rights agenda.

But that’s not what I’m seeing today at least. Today what I’m seeing is politicians willing to sell themselves to the 30% who want harm to come to blacks, liberals, gays, latins and asians and make the proper noises towards maintaining white america. And a system which has been shoehorned into the service of this cause over the last twenty years or so.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Add a few more entries to that list

So it looks like they can add hypocrite(using her flawed understanding of the constitution to defend what she does like, throwing it in the trash for what she doesn’t) and liar(claiming to be pro-freedom and pro-constitution while attacking someone for exercising the constitutional rights to mock her) to the list of her character traits.

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