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.

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.

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Filed Under: criss angel, domain names, fair use, free speech, gripe sites, harrison greenbaum, parody, thomas carulli, trademark
Companies: cablp, kma zuckert


Reader Comments

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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 14 Jan 2022 @ 9:38am

    Criss Angel would do well to spend less time with his magic tricks and more time trying to conjure up a sense of humor.

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

  2. icon
    wshuff (profile), 14 Jan 2022 @ 10:13am

    Maybe he could hire David Blaine to maybe bury the website in a block of ice or something.

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

  3. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Jan 2022 @ 10:44am

    Wow... just... rubs between his eyes
    The downside of immortality is I remember when a lawyer who did something this stupid would be put in the stocks in the center of town and have rotten veggies thrown at them.

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

  4. icon
    Avatar28 (profile), 14 Jan 2022 @ 10:52am

    Not how copyright works

    I'm surprised this wasn't mentioned. In the C&D:

    This is to demand...that you cease publicly displaying the copyright infringing menu.

    That's...not how copyright works.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2022 @ 10:56am

    Re:

    I'm afraid that's one trick Criss Angel may not be able to pull off.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2022 @ 11:31am

    Re:

    That could still be arranged, if you like. I know a farmer...

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

  7. icon
    freakanatcha (profile), 14 Jan 2022 @ 11:44am

    Criss Angel's money disappears

    If the website's menu is "substantially similar" to CABLP's menu is Mr. Carulli claiming that a reasonable person would believe that the actual Cinnamon Toast Crunch is, in fact, named after a stripper Criss banged in the 90's?

    Gotta admit, Carulli makes a valid point.

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

  8. icon
    Norahc (profile), 14 Jan 2022 @ 11:51am

    Not even Criss Angel can make the Streisand Effect disappear.

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

  9. icon
    byte^me (profile), 14 Jan 2022 @ 1:58pm

    Re:

    If he were able to accomplish that somehow, it would certainly be better than any of his other tricks.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2022 @ 3:50pm

    Maybe he could hire David Blaine to maybe bury the website in a block of ice or something.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2022 @ 4:46pm

    i guess we know who had the Special K.

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

  12. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 14 Jan 2022 @ 4:59pm

    Your client is serving what at their restaurant now?

    Parody site: Two raw eggs, cereal orders named after and served by strippers that can include drugs and/or human breast milk, pancakes bounced off the abs of a topless magician, a taco where the filling includes a women with a mustache and economic collapse...

    Lawyers: The menu on the parody site is substantially similar to the actual CABLP menu.

    Me: Uhhh...

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

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2022 @ 5:27pm

    He just Streisanded himself. Thanks, never would have come across it if it weren't for this article!

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

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2022 @ 8:52pm

    Re: Your client is serving what at their restaurant now?

    I mean, let's face it - high markups on otherwise average or unpalatable food items is rife in the restaurant industry.

    Realistically, the legal action gives me the impression that Criss Angel's team is angry they didn't think of the joke first.

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

  15. icon
    WarioBarker (profile), 15 Jan 2022 @ 6:45am

    "Watch me make this money disappear!"

    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.

    You're giving Criss too much credit, Mike - doing all this for publicity would actually be mildly clever, but if so it'd have to be Greenbaum's idea since "Criss Angel" and "clever" don't belong in the same sentence (unless they're connected by "is not").

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

  16. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 15 Jan 2022 @ 11:15am

    Re:

    This contest is over, give Norahc the $10,000 grand prize (I believe that's what happens when Techdirt awards you with comment of the week)!

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

  17. icon
    n00bdragon (profile), 18 Jan 2022 @ 6:18am

    Say what you want: $100.99 for 500 pancakes with some kind of stripper show and a crane is a pretty good deal.

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


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