For a few years now, we've covered the rather insane lawsuit filed by Daily Variety (owned by Reed Elsevier) against the band, The Vandals because of an old version of an album cover that parodies Daily Variety's logo. Years ago, when the band originally planned this album, it was threatened by Variety and changed the logo to the one at the bottom:
I still don't fully understand why they agreed to change the logo, since they had a strong argument, but who wants to fight in court if you can avoid it? Either way, years later, versions of the original album cover appeared in various places online -- but not on the Vandals' own site. Variety still blamed them for this and sued the band. The band's bassist, Joe Escalante, who was an entertainment lawyer -- but not a litigator -- actually handled the case entirely on his own. He got himself admitted to practice law in Delaware, where the case was filed, and convinced the court there to transfer the case to LA where it belonged.
Now, just as the actual trial was set to begin, Escalante is saying that Variety has agreed to drop the case in a "settlement" that doesn't involve the band paying anything. The Hollywood Reporter has been following the story, and seems to enjoy tweaking its main competitor Variety. Escalante seems relieved that the whole ordeal is over:
"This was the worst thing that's ever happened to me, and to the band, and the hardest thing I've ever done," says Escalante, who represented The Vandals himself. "However, as my wife says, the crash course in federal court litigation made me a better lawyer."
For what it's worth, Escalante recently had me on his radio show, where we got to talk about SOPA, copyright and a variety of other issues concerning how IP laws can be abused -- things that Escalante has taken a much deeper interest in lately.
We've written a couple times about the absolutely ridiculous lawsuit that publishing giant Reed Elsevier filed against the punk band The Vandals. At issue was the fact that, years ago, the band put out an album, in which its logo was designed to parody the logo of Daily Variety, the Hollywood trade rag published by Reed Elsevier.
Way back when the album was first coming out, Variety had sent a cease and desist letter, and rather than fighting it (with a very strong fair use/parody claim) The Vandals caved and agreed not to use the image. However, the image can still be found online -- but not on sites controlled by the band. So Reed Elsevier and Variety are suing the band for somehow not magically stopping these other sites from using the image.
I had thought that once the ridiculousness of this became public, Reed Elsevier would quickly back down, but instead it dug in. Even more ridiculous is that it sued in Delaware, knowing that this would make life more difficult for the band, which is based in LA. Making things even more interesting is that the band's bassist, Joe Escalante, is also a former entertainment industry lawyer, though not a litigator. But, not one to back down from a fight, he decided to represent the band, went about learning the basics of litigation, and even got himself admitted to practice in Delaware.
Escalante emailed us to let us know that all of this has paid off so far, as the band has won the first round of the legal fight, and got the suit tossed out in Delaware and sent to California where it should have been filed in the first place. The short and sweet court order makes it clear that the judge finds it distasteful that Reed appears to have purposely filed the lawsuit across the country from the band to make life difficult for the band. You can see the full order below, but the key point is in the footnote, where the court notes that it certainly could have jurisdiction on the case, but given the circumstances, it feels that it is not appropriate, clearly suggesting that it recognizes the use of the court in Delaware was mainly to inconvenience the band:
The court recognizes that it could, if it were so inclined, choose to exercise jurisdiction over this matter and permit this case to proceed here in Delaware, given that a settlement agreement between the parties contains a clause that names Delaware as the forum for litigating disputes arising from the agreement. That settlement does not bind this court, however, and given the facts and circumstances surrounding this case, the court has decided in its discretion to decline to exercise jurisdiction. First, all relevant conduct and activities appear to have taken place in California, where the defendants reside and operate. Similarly, it appears that the Central District of California would be a far more convenient forum for trial, since the court's reading of the complaint and other documents in the record is that the vast majority of documents and witnesses pertaining to this case are in California. Furthermore, the consent judgment that underlies the plaintiffs' complaint was entered by the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and states that that court retains jurisdiction for the purposes of enforcing the consent judgment and related permanent injunction. It would be far better for that court to determine whether the conduct in question falls within the scope of the consent judgment and permanent injunction. Finally, given the defendants' apparently limited financial resources and the significant costs associated with litigating in Delaware, the court finds that the defendants would be unfairly prejudiced if they were forced to litigate in this district.
In response to this ruling the band has been mocking Variety and its lawyers relentlessly. The link above goes to a pretty incendiary blog post which, frankly, might also open the band up to defamation charges, but that would really only be digging Reed Elsevier deeper into a truly pointless legal battle. Separately, the band has used our favorite movie creation tool, Xtranormal to create this rather hilarious (and probably NSFW) video of a "fictitious meeting" between Variety's outside lawyer on this case and Variety's editor. It made me laugh: