Funnyjunk Lawyer Being Mocked Mercilessly, Makes Things Worse By Trying To Shut Down The Oatmeal's Fundraiser

from the stop-digging dept

As the famous saying goes, when you are in a hole, stop digging. Someone might want to send that message to lawyer Charles Carreon, who has (legitimately) worked on some good cases in the past. However, for reasons that are confusing even his friends, he seems to be trying to respond to a big mistake by hinting at an even bigger one. As you have probably heard -- since it's all over the freaking internet -- there's a little fight going on between funny webcomic site The Oatmeal (and its creator Matthew Inman) and the not very funny aggregator of things that people claim are funny site, Funnyjunk. You can read our take on the mess, if you'd like.

The summary version is that Inman got annoyed at people posting his comics on Funnyjunk and spoke out publicly about it (to be honest, his statements seemed to be an overreaction and include lots of silly statements about "stealing" that aren't particularly accurate). However, he was clear that he had no interest in suing or using the law at all. He just wanted to speak his mind and shame the site. Funnyjunk overreacted back... and then waited a while before doubling (or perhaps tripling) down on its overreaction by hiring Carreon to send Inman a letter threatening a lawsuit on a bunch of claims, nearly all of which appear to be totally bogus (the defamation claim is the main one, which is simply ridiculous, but there's also an absolutely crazy trademark claim that seems to suggest that Inman's opinion of Funnyjunk is "false advertising"), as well as demanding $20,000. Inman then responded in true internet fashion, by posting the letter with his thoughts interspersed and (most importantly) setting up a fundraiser at IndieGogo to try to raise $20,000, not to pay off Funnyjunk, but to donate to charity. And it came included with a marginally NSFW drawing involving a mother (apparently "Funnyjunk's") and a bear. You've probably seen it by now.

Anyway, somewhere along the way the Streisand Effect took over, and the whole thing went viral. Now, as we've learned in previous Streisand Effect situations, this is the point at which the person who overreacted begins to recognize how badly they screwed up and how they've made things a lot worse. And then they apologize and grovel or something along those lines -- and we chalk up another hash mark on the big scoreboard on the internet showing how social pressure and the court of public opinion can keep excessive legal threats in check.

But, of course, there are always some people who can't stop digging. In fact, I would guess that the people who often find themselves on the wrong end of the Streisand Effect are probably slightly more prone to excessive-digging in response to said Effect, because the type of person who doesn't really know the Streisand Effect is about to hit them is likely the kind of person who doesn't realize that continuing to dig doesn't get one out of a hole.

And, here, it appears that Carreon has failed to stop digging. He spoke to MSNBC and said a few things so stupid that he might want to have someone who is more internet native act as a filter prior to talking to the press in the future about these sorts of things. Here's the big one:
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. (The fundraising website has only responded with an automated message so far.)

"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.
Yes. A large portion of the internet hates you... and your response is to threaten to shut down a massively successful fundraiser for the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society? Really? Is that really the smartest response to the situation?

Then there's this:
"I'm completely unfamiliar really with this style of responding to a legal threat -- I've never really seen it before," Carreon explains.
Indeed, I don't think anyone is quite familiar with the full extent of Inman's response, but for a lawyer who plays up his connections to various internet-related lawsuits, you would think Carreon would have, perhaps, spent some time on the internet. And the internet, in general, is not a fan of bogus legal threats. There's a pretty long history of that, and it shouldn't have been that hard to predict that this threat would backfire.

Either way, as another day goes by, one hopes that Carreon's more level-headed friends will suggest that it may be time to ditch the shovel.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2012 @ 8:02am

    The oatmeal is not a funny webcomic site, that's just shoddy reporting right there.

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