by Kara Platoni
We tip our hats to San Francisco's Electronic Frontier Foundation, defender of e-civil liberties, for bringing some light into the dreary task of sorting incoming press releases with this little gem: "EFF Accepts Barney's Surrender -- Purple Dinosaur Backs Off and Pays Up; Free Speech Rights Preserved." Yes, it's actually a real case -- the EFF just got Barney's copyright owners to withdraw a suit against Stuart Frankel, a New York man who put up a parody Web site describing what he suppposed was the purple dino's secret double life as an agent of evil. According to the EFF's response to the lawsuit, this included images of Barney "with horns, sharp teeth, a pentagram, and the number '666' embalzoned on his chest." (If you check out his Web site now, there's nary an image of Barney, although amongst the tidbits about clavicord construction, Javanese cooking, and Spanish baroque organ music, Frankel does have this to say: "About The Barney Affair: This is my little corner of the web, and the bullies can't have it. There's nothing more to it than that." The EFF's full press release after the jump.
EFF Accepts Barney's Surrender Purple Dinosaur Backs Off and Pays Up; Free Speech Rights Preserved
San Francisco - The corporate owners of the popular children's television character Barney the Purple Dinosaur have agreed to withdraw their baseless legal threats against a website publisher who parodied the character and to compensate him for fees expended in defending himself.
The agreement settles a suit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in August on behalf of Dr. Stuart Frankel against Lyons Partnership, owners of the Barney character. Frankel received repeated, meritless cease-and-desist letters from Lyons, claiming his online parody violated copyright and trademark law. EFF's suit asked the court to declare that Frankel's parody was a noninfringing fair use protected by the First Amendment.
"We wish we hadn't had to file a lawsuit to finally get Barney's lawyers to stop harassing a man who was just expressing his opinion about a cultural phenomenon," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Hopefully Lyons Partnership has learned its lesson and will have more respect for fair use in the future."
This settlement is the latest development in EFF's ongoing campaign to protect online free speech from the chilling effects of bogus copyright claims. Earlier this month, EFF filed suit against Michael Crook -- a man who claimed copyright infringement in an effort to censor his online critics.
"Those who misuse copyright should know that they can be sued for doing so," said McSherry. "This settlement should send a message to those who want to use copyright law as a pretext for censorship."
EFF was assisted in this case by Elizabeth Rader, James d'Auguste, and Brian Carney, attorneys with the firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP, which is defending Dr. Frankel's free speech rights on a pro bono basis.
For the original complaint: http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/barney/frankel_v_lyons_complaint.pdf
For more on Barney's copyright abuses: http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/barney/
For this release: http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2006_11.php#005024
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world at http://www.eff.org/
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