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October 18, 2005
Danger, Wil Wheaton
It looks like Barney is back for a second round in the fair use fight, but in the past four years, the ground rules have changed a bit.
Barney's lawyers at the New York firm of Gibney, Anthony and Flaherty sent stiff warning letters last week to Web sites displaying less-than-flattering images of the plump saurian.
"Your Web site depicts a plush Barney toy in a violent manner or position," Matthew Carlin wrote Tuesday on behalf of Lyons Partnership, which owns the Barney trademark. "We are writing to request that you remove this violent content toward Barney on your Web site." [...]
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco civil liberties group providing legal representation to Frankel, dismisses the legal threats as nonsense. "I think that Barney is unfortunately looking like he's becoming a recidivist in phony copyright claims," said Cindy Cohn, EFF's legal director.
In 2001, EFF took on Barney's lawyers after they sent out similar cease-and-desist letters. At the time, Cohn wrote back saying that anti-Barney screeds were protected by the First Amendment rights to publish parodies, and Barney's owners never pursued the matter further.
Since then, the EFF managed to break new legal ground by forcing voting machine maker Diebold to write a check to settle allegations of copyright misuse. "We were very happy to cash that check for $125,000 from Diebold when they made phony copyright claims," Cohn said. "I'd be happy to cash one from Barney."
The Diebold reference is explained here
; Wil Wheaton reference here
. These photos
ought to give Barney a few more reasons to be shaking in his boots, eh?
Update: Welcome, Fark readers. I see I've puzzled a few of you. To clarify: besides portraying Wesley Crusher on Star Trek and becoming an A-list blogger, Wil Wheaton is a champion for free speech on the Net. He's also a friend of EFF, an organization that's spent the last 15 years fighting for free speech online. Which is why, back in the day, Wil literally kicked Barney's butt in a mock duel to benefit EFF and criticize the Barney lawyers, who keep trying to silence people with cease-and-desist nastygrams. Now it looks like Barney's angling for a rematch.
Hope that helps.
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