Criss Angel Sends Ridiculous Legal Threat After Comedian Creates Parody Menu Of His Restaurant
from the that's-not-magical,-that's-being-a-censorial-asshole dept
Harrison Greenbaum is a comedian and (sometimes) magician, who noticed that the magician Criss Angel had opened a restaurant, named “CABLP” and hadn’t registered the domain cablprestaurant.com. For whatever reason, the restaurant’s actual website appears to be Eatblp.com, and so Greenbaum registered cablprestaurant.com and created a very obvious parody menu. I mean:
It took me way longer than it should to figure out that CABLP apparently stands for Criss Angel’s Breakfast, Lunch & Pizza. Either way, this just seems like a bunch of nonsense, except that Criss Angel apparently is spending some of his very large fortune on hiring an actual intellectual property lawyer named Thomas Carulli from the law firm of KMA Zuckert to send a very bogus cease and desist letter to Greenbaum.
So… Criss Angel has threatened to sue me over the VERY OBVIOUS parody I uploaded on Dec. 29th. His lawyers sent me a cease-and-desist letter (I uploaded it below if you're curious), but it's obvious to anyone that I have a First Amendment right to create comedy around? (1/5) pic.twitter.com/GffUKPY3qv
— Harrison Greenbaum (@harrisoncomedy) January 13, 2022
The letter is sillier than even I would have expected, claiming that the domain registration violates ICANN’s policies.
Dear Mr. Greenbaum:
We are counsel to Criss Angel and his companies, including that which owns the CABLP Restaurant. In a social media posting you have publicly admitted that you intentionally are infringing our clients’ trademarks and copyrights and are violating the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) policies with which you and your domain name Registrar must comply.
Specifically, you admit that you illegally registered cablprestaurant.com as your domain name:
Criss Angel opened a restaurant this year called Cablp and forgot to register CablpRestaurant.com. I know this because, yesterday, I became the proud owner of CablpRestaurant.com.
I mean, even the most cursory glance by a lawyer of the caliber (and billing rate) of Thomas G. Carulli would note that this is not an admission of intentional infringement or “illegal” (WTF?) registration, but rather fairly obvious commentary in the form of parody, which is widely protected. And, because Carulli apparently couldn’t be bothered to pull up the long history of case law on this, it is well documented that domain names making use of trademarked terms to comment on the trademark holder are very much protected. There are a bunch of cases on this (and many, many, failed attempts to use the UDRP process at WIPO to take away such domains), but a key one is Taubman v. Webfeats which makes it clear that using a trademark in a domain name for the purpose of commentary is protected speech and not infringement, so long as there is no confusion (which there clearly would not be here):
We find that Mishkoff’s use of Taubman’s mark in the domain name “taubmansucks.com” is purely an exhibition of Free Speech, and the Lanham Act is not invoked. And although economic damage might be an intended effect of Mishkoff’s expression, the First Amendment protects critical commentary when there is no confusion as to source, even when it involves the criticism of a business. Such use is not subject to scrutiny under the Lanham Act.
There are other cases along these lines as well, and you would think that a lawyer like Carulli could have maybe asked an associate to rack up some billing time looking these up? I mean, unless the purpose was to send a bogus threat letter hoping that Greenbaum would be scared and back down.
It gets dumber.
You further admitted to setting up on your website a menu that is substantially similar to the actual CABLP menu.
If you think the menu above is “substantially similar” to the actual menu at Angel’s restaurant, you may want to have your reading comprehension abilities checked carefully, because they’re broken.
There’s more nonsense in the letter, but it’s so bad it made me pause to wonder if this were all an elaborate prank by Angel and Greenbaum together to try to let people know that Angel had actually opened a stupidly named restaurant… but, that seems too low for even Criss Angel.