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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Filed Under: congress, copyright, defamation, free speech, impersonatoin, jake settle, lauren boebert, parody, streisand effect, toby morton


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  • icon
    n00bdragon (profile), 3 May 2021 @ 12:18pm

    copyrighted property of the U.S. Federal Government

    wut

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2021 @ 12:24pm

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Chris ODonnell (profile), 3 May 2021 @ 12:59pm

      Re:

      When I see somebody "defending the Constitution" my default assumption is that they have no idea what it says.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        JMT (profile), 4 May 2021 @ 7:12pm

        Re: Re:

        You just know she's only ever read one very particular part of the Constitution, and even then it didn't actually say what she wanted it to so she just watched Fox until she heard what she needed.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2021 @ 2:59pm

      Re:

      Like "Murica," they defend and love the completely fictional version of the Constitution in their head, not the actual document or its contents.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 3 May 2021 @ 3:35pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        cpt kangarooski, 4 May 2021 @ 6:27am

        Re: Re:

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

        Well, an unbeheadable king probably has a good shot at a long life and you can't really know he's unbeheadable unless you try....

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 May 2021 @ 12:18am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Tanner Andrews (profile), 4 May 2021 @ 5:12am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 May 2021 @ 1:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          My hat is off to you, good sir. 🧐
          It isn't easy, in these times, to dodge the Law of Poe in such a fashion with some good old-fashioned satire.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          David, 5 May 2021 @ 10:14am

          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).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2021 @ 12:24pm

    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.

    (definitely humor, but not really sarcasm)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 3 May 2021 @ 4:32pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2021 @ 12:31pm

    There are more pages

    You seem to have missed the hamburger menu, which includes a blog of quite a few articles detailing her criminal past amongst other things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2021 @ 4:11pm

      Re: There are more pages

      I'm wondering how the Hell she got elected in the first place, given her well-documented disregard for the law. Colorado's a goofy place, but they normally don't stoop so low when it comes to elected officials.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 May 2021 @ 12:30am

        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?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 4 May 2021 @ 9:06am

        Re: Re: There are more pages

        She got elected because the western part of Colorado that is her district is very, very conservative. Colorado is a purple turning (perhaps turned) blue state because of the Denver-Boulder-Ft. Collins area. Everything else is very red.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 3 May 2021 @ 12:32pm

    "Congress" includes the Senate and the House (of Representatives). So, it's... weird for you to say "members of Congress and Senators" above; you've already covered them all by saying "members of Congress."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whey Standard, 3 May 2021 @ 12:35pm

    Is it not possible a member of her congressional staff took the photo as part of their official duties, resulting in it being a work of the federal government and copyright being unavailable?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 3 May 2021 @ 12:54pm

      Re:

      It is, but if this were to go to court, discovery might reveal to whom the photo really belonged (if the judge doesn't benchslap the Boebert and her lawyer first for wasting their time).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anon, 4 May 2021 @ 5:53am

      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...??"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        cpt kangarooski, 4 May 2021 @ 6:31am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2021 @ 12:38pm

    "goes against" haha amateur

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 3 May 2021 @ 1:07pm

    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".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2021 @ 1:18pm

      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!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        AndrewM, 6 May 2021 @ 6:45am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 6 May 2021 @ 7:29am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Toom1275 (profile), 8 May 2021 @ 11:09am

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

          Have you ever considered not being a deranged piece of shit?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JMT (profile), 4 May 2021 @ 7:22pm

      Re: Not quite a fan of the 2nd amendment

      "Except for that "well regulated militia" bit it starts with."

      It's only 27 words long so you'd think it'd be pretty hard to miss the "well regulated" bit in there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 3 May 2021 @ 1:10pm

    Updated

    Some people have pointed out that there is also a blog page that includes more photos of Boebert. I've updated the post to reflect that, though it doesn't change the analysis very much...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2021 @ 1:17pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DeComposer (profile), 3 May 2021 @ 1:20pm

    Don't assume reading skills

    IIRC, she has a mail-order high school diploma.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Christenson, 3 May 2021 @ 2:45pm

      Re: Don't assume reading skills

      I thought there were some questions as to whether she in fact had a GED... so mail order would be better.

      I want facts on this one!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 3 May 2021 @ 3:04pm

      Re: Don't assume reading skills

      Well at least she got a competent person to write down the right mail address for her. Too bad she seems to have lost access to people who would right down a few correct things for her.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 3 May 2021 @ 3:05pm

      Re: Don't assume reading skills

      Yeah, my first assumption when a politician pulls a stunt like this is usually that it's just a bid for attention and fundraising.

      But in Boebert's case, I can't discount the possibility that she really is just that stupid.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2021 @ 1:22pm

    And what's even more comical?

    The lack of foresight to not purchase that domain and any other similarly named one. Perhaps she should be paying that person more instead of the idiot who wrote the complaint.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mononymous Tim (profile), 3 May 2021 @ 1:40pm

      Re: And what's even more comical?

      Yeah, that would require thinking ahead and other conscious thoughts. Not possible for people who the only thinking they do is about playing the victim.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pixelation, 3 May 2021 @ 6:56pm

      Re: And what's even more comical?

      What's more comical is that people vote for Lauren Boebert. She could smoke a crack pipe and be elected mayor. Just say, "2nd amendment" anything and you'll get tons of votes from idiots.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        OGquaker, 4 May 2021 @ 12:18am

        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®

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 May 2021 @ 12:41am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2021 @ 1:55pm

    and it goes against relevant terms of service and U.S. law.

    What TOS? I mean, i could probably find some TOS for the registrar or NS operator, but did this guy do that and read them, or just throw some more spaghetti at the wall?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 May 2021 @ 1:58pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 May 2021 @ 2:01pm

    I look forward to her using the proper legal framework & send a DMCA notice over the photos so we can see the registration.

    Who knows, he might be bored enough to take her to court seeking damages for misuse of a copyright that doesn't exist or she doesn't actually hold.

    What, a sociopath can dream.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 3 May 2021 @ 3:23pm

    Is Devin Nunes giving lectures to other Congressmen on how to get their reputation destroyed by a parody site?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2021 @ 10:50am

    The farm

    Boes cow:moo?
    Nunes cow: moo
    ❤️

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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