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Pro Bono Lawyer Fights C&D With Humor 144

Zordak writes "When Jake Freivald received a questionable Cease and Desist letter from a big-firm attorney, demanding that he immediately relinquish rights to his website http://westorage.info, his pro-bono lawyer decided to treat the letter like the joke that it was. In a three-page missive, the lawyer points out the legal, constitutional, and ethical problems with the letter that led him to conclude that the letter was a joke. He concludes, in a postscript, with an unsubstantiated demand for $28,000 in overpaid property taxes, and offers to lease the city the domain name 'westorange.gov' in exchange."
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Pro Bono Lawyer Fights C&D With Humor

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  • by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @03:21AM (#44068333)

    It's westorange.info, not westorage.info. The editing is ridiculous.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think that 'C&D' should probably be 'S&D' also - Stand and Deliver.

    • by Camael ( 1048726 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:09AM (#44068677)

      Hi, all. Welcome to the site.
      I’m sorry that it has been hard to use this site over the past few days (the week of June 17, 2013) because the traffic has been so high. If you get a “Resource Limit Is Reached”, just refresh the page and it should load after a try or two.

      I believe the traffic is organic: There is no evidence lending credence to the rumor that the Township orchestrated the viral response as a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack to take me out. (Just for the record, that’s a joke, probably mostly for the CNET visitors.)

      I find it ironic curious visitors are doing what the West Orange County failed to do.

    • by MysteriousPreacher ( 702266 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @09:54AM (#44070255) Journal

      It's westorange.info, not westorage.info. The editing is ridiculous.

      You have unrealistic expectations. Editing here has long consisted of pressing "submit" and then spending the afternoon climbing under the desk to pick-up the Skittles that fell down there yesterday.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Editing here has long consisted of pressing "submit" and then spending the afternoon climbing under the desk to pick-up the Skittles that fell down there yesterday.

        Skittles also look an awful lot like some Methaqualone pills.
        Not implying anything, of course...

  • an appropriate response to an asshat. Not living un the US I have no opinion or idea how this will be received, but a good story nevertheless.
  • by morbingoodkid ( 562128 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @03:27AM (#44068365) Homepage

    Why bother the appropriate response is:

    ------------
    Re: Cease and Desist Order

    No.

    Regards
    xxxx

  • by Sproggit ( 18426 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:39AM (#44068581)

    Letter to Warner Brothers: A Night in Casablanca

    Groucho Marx
    Abstract: While preparing to film a movie entitled A Night in Casablanca, the Marx brothers received a letter from Warner Bros. threatening legal action if they did not change the film’s title. Warner Bros. deemed the film’s title too similar to their own Casablanca, released almost five years earlier in 1942, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In response Groucho Marx dispatched the following letter to the studio’s legal department:

    Dear Warner Brothers,
    Apparently there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own. For example, up to the time that we contemplated making this picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers. However, it was only a few days after our announcement appeared that we received your long, ominous legal document warning us not to use the name Casablanca.

    It seems that in 1471, Ferdinand Balboa Warner, your great-great-grandfather, while looking for a shortcut to the city of Burbank, had stumbled on the shores of Africa and, raising his alpenstock (which he later turned in for a hundred shares of common), named it Casablanca.

    I just don’t understand your attitude. Even if you plan on releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

    You claim that you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without permission. What about “Warner Brothers”? Do you own that too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about the name Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers when Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor’s eye, and even before there had been other brothers—the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazov; Dan Brothers, an outfielder with Detroit; and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (This was originally “Brothers, Can You Spare a Dime?” but this was spreading a dime pretty thin, so they threw out one brother, gave all the money to the other one, and whittled it down to “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”)

    Now Jack, how about you? Do you maintain that yours is an original name? Well it’s not. It was used long before you were born. Offhand, I can think of two Jacks—Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and Jack the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day.

    As for you, Harry, you probably sign your checks sure in the belief that you are the first Harry of all time and that all other Harrys are impostors. I can think of two Harrys that preceded you. There was Lighthouse Harry of Revolutionary fame and a Harry Appelbaum who lived on the corner of 93rd Street and Lexington Avenue. Unfortunately, Appelbaum wasn’t too well-known. The last I heard of him, he was selling neckties at Weber and Heilbroner.

    Now about the Burbank studio. I believe this is what you brothers call your place. Old man Burbank is gone. Perhaps you remember him. He was a great man in a garden. His wife often said Luther had ten green thumbs. What a witty woman she must have been! Burbank was the wizard who crossed all those fruits and vegetables until he had the poor plants in such confused and jittery condition that they could never decide whether to enter the dining room on the meat platter or the dessert dish.

    This is pure conjecture, of course, but who knows—perhaps Burbank’s survivors aren’t too happy with the fact that a plant that grinds out pictures on a quota settled in their town, appropriated Burbank’s name and uses it as a front for their films. It is even possible that the Burbank family is prouder of the potato produced by the old man than they are of the fact that your studio emerged “Casablanca” or even “Gold Diggers of 1931.

    • Heh. I can almost hear his voice:

      I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. <Groucho>I don't know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.</Groucho>
    • by flyneye ( 84093 )

      OMG, I've wet myself.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Unamused, Warner Bros. requested that the Marx Brothers at least outline the premise of their film. Groucho responded with an utterly ridiculous storyline, and, sure enough, received another stern letter requesting clarification. He obliged and went on to describe a plot even more preposterous than the first, claiming that he, Groucho, would be playing “Bordello, the sweetheart of Humphrey Bogart.” No doubt exasperated, Warner Bros. did not respond. A Night in Casablanca was released in 1946.

      Entire exchange can be found on 27bslash6.com [27bslash6.com].

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:45AM (#44068611)

    There's more going on here than a city semi-reasonably fighting a domain squatter.

    • by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:02AM (#44068649) Homepage Journal
      If it was any more petty, it would be a home owner's association.
    • by Camael ( 1048726 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:23AM (#44068725)

      Yup, found plenty of dirt [baristanet.com] here, no idea how true all this is but it seems to be some bad blood involved.

      Freivald, who also ran for West Orange’s town council (and briefly created another website expressing dissatisfaction with a Weichert realtor a while back), tried to find out why his WestOrange.info website was being targeted by the town. Freivald gave a speech about his website and his surprise at receiving the letter, at a town council meeting on June 11. He expressed concerns about why the town didn’t address the “confustion” they were worried about through other methods, other than sending the cease and desist letter. Then Freivald asked for transparency.

      The morning after the meeting, Freivald received this email in response to his questions about the letter from West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi:

              Good morning the Administration authorized the sending of the cease and desist letter at the request of members of the Public Relations Commission that believe the sites and the confusion they arouse, undermines the efforts of the Commission and the work they do in promoting the Township. As the Commission is officially sanctioned and funded by the Township, the Administration respected their concerns and agreed to send the letter.

      There’s just one problem. Freivald is a member of the Public Relations Commission (PRC), along with Prakash Khaitan, Chair; Michelle Cadeau; Cynthia Cumming; MaryEllen Morrow; Jonathon Ridley; Josefina Velez, Vice Chair; Patrecia West.

      It does seem unusual that the town council is messing around with their own PR committee.

      Plus, Freivald is/was pretty active politically [joekrakoviak.com] so that might be where he ruffled some feathers.

      • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @08:28AM (#44069545)

        It seems that the alternative journalist he ticked off is a volunteer member of hte same Council that he is a volunteer member of. She wrote some inflammatory things about his wife's charity group (dealing with special needs kids), he got ticked, said some things, and the journalist in turn threatened blackmail of the "stop saying bad things about me, or we'll stop covering your wife's charity in the press at all". he of course didnt take that lying down and criticized the hournalist more... ...and so now the journalist, in the name of hte council that they are both volunteer members of, contacted a lawyer and had the C&D sent.

        So in the end the C&D Lawyer is a middleman in their dispute.
        Now, he sent a very poorly written C&D and deserves all ridicule he has recieved on that (and failed in his own due diligence if he can so easily be trumped by such simple things as facts, as the shown in the response letter). but he was also just being used a pawn in the battle between the two individuals.

        this is how it looks frm what ive found.

        • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

          also humourous of course is that the Mayor just issued some boilerplate response in defense of the council, not even aware the the gent is a (volunteer) member of that very same council.

        • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

          Ah, lovely to see tax dollars so well-spent. Or donations, or whatever that council is funded by.

      • You might find this amusing: "Fri Jun.21 CANCELLED: Public Relations Commission Meeting" (from the official site [westorange.org])
  • This letter is a fine piece of legal writing. The only other bits of legal writing I've seen during my legal research when I went to court "in pro per" (that's Legalese for "I did it by myself") over a trifling First Amendment issue that were as funny were a couple of SCOTUS opinions written by the two acknowledged legal hacks of the court, Scalia and Thomas. The original of Scalia's was written in blood; Thomas' original was written in crayon.

  • by JohnnyMindcrime ( 2487092 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:55AM (#44068811)

    so does that make me "Anti-Bono"?

  • Legalese (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @07:42AM (#44069239) Homepage

    As someone that's just had to write a long missive to my old car insurance company, I have to wonder why such things are even allowed to get that far without someone stepping in and saying "Hold on, that's just going to cause trouble". In legal cases, there should surely be some penalty for a false representation such as the C&D letter.

    My own frustration stemmed from the fact that my insurance company changed something on my policy that I agreed to. Then the next thing I know, they've cancelled the policy because I didn't pay the difference for the change. News to me, given that I actually had two letters that said my next regular payment had been adjusted accordingly for EXACTLY that payment, and that I didn't need to do anything.

    It was also quite interesting in that the envelope that the notice of cancellation was received in only arrived on my doorstep the DAY AFTER the insurance was cancelled. Pretty sure that no matter what you do there, I have a came for "untimely service" or some such.

    None of that matters, though, as I can prove it all if required. What really annoyed me was the letter demanding the missing payment (the one that you didn't ask for, that you told me would be taken from my regular payments, and that you cancelled the contract - I would assert illegally - before that payment ever came due?) with threat of court action.

    Needless to say my reply was significantly less polite, and less humorous than this, but probably contained a lot more legalese. I'm waiting for the 60-day offer I gave them to resolve the situation (which includes £100 payment back to myself because - even if we take that debt as valid - they incurred costs for myself by cancelling the contract illegally and in an untimely manner) before I do anything else. I think that's pretty reasonable, personally, given that I had already assumed the matter was settled without either side paying the other. My next step will be to claim for the lost day at work that it cost me, though, and that's when it gets so expensive I'm hoping they have the brains to not force me to employ the services of a lawyer or the courts to get that from them.

    I did once write one of my suppliers a song, though. They'd taken forever to supply the school I worked for with a Microsoft licence, and I was literally seconds away from cancelling the order after much messing about (which, apparently, including Microsoft manually typing in my email address and not being able to spell "administrator", which is worrying in so many ways).

    The school were in the middle of being closed because of the snow at the time, which gave me time to write it, and it felt quite Christmassy being in a school in the snow, so it's to the tune of "The Night Before Christmas":

    -------
    'Twas the week after purchase and all through the school,
    Not a computer was stirring, not even a "machine, virtual".

    The machines were hung on blue screens in their lair,
    In the hopes that new Windows soon would be there,

    The children nestled all snug in their homes,
    While snow-days were debated and staff manned the phones,

    And hoped that everyone were all travelling well,
    While wishing that Microsoft had at last learned to spell.

    When out in the ICT suite there arose such a clatter,
    And all came running to see what was the matter.

    'Twas the IT Manager with eyes full of wrath,
    Melting down old Windows disks to de-ice the path.

    "Don't worry," he cried as he stoked up the flames,
    "A Linux disk I have, and some educational games."

    Needless to say, my licence was sorted within the hour.

    • I fired my last insurance company for erroneously cancelling my homeowner's policy twice. Sort of. The first time, I confess, I erred and forgot to send the payment on my car insurance in a timely manner. They did the irrational thing, and took the money from the paid-in-full homeowner's policy, and paid the auto policy. No, sorry idjits, you don't get to unpay my bills. This would have bothered me less if they hadn't sent me and my mortgage company a cancellation notice when they did it. Before someo

      • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

        I feel your pain. In a similar run, my insurance company forgot to autodraft my car insurance for a couple of months and then panicked and pulled the money for the car out of my home insurance escrow. This caused a cascading panic where the mortgage lender saw the escrow was too low to cover the insurance, and they wanted to change a whole bunch of things to fix it. I told the mortgage company to relax, and asked if I could just pay extra on my next payment, stipulated to go straight to escrow, to solve the

    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      As someone that's just had to write a long missive to my old car insurance company, I have to wonder why such things are even allowed to get that far without someone stepping in and saying "Hold on, that's just going to cause trouble".

      Simple - 99% of the time it doesn't cause trouble. If a company sends out 1000 letters, gains a profit of $1000 for 999 of them, and then gets sued and loses to the tune of $40k on one, just what lesson do you think it will learn? Probably not the one the guy who sued them was trying to make.

  • Final Paragraph (Score:4, Insightful)

    by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @07:55AM (#44069325) Journal
    I wonder if the pro bono lawyer was alluding to something in the final paragraph. Like for example, the hired gun lawyer was representing someone other than the city/municipality?
  • by chad_r ( 79875 )
    I think he was doing great until the last P.P.S., when he casually suggested that he could buy westorange.gov, and then sell or license it to the city for over $28,000. If the city ever decided to go through ICANN arbitration, the impression of domain squatting specifically for commercial profit with no evidence of personal use isn't looked on favorably. Considering that the rest of the letter was satire, surely this paragraph is too. But it would be easier not to have to convince an arbitration judge of th
    • You missed the point that he can only buy the .gov address with permission of the township. The township could hardly use ICANN against its own authorized representative.
    • Agreed. Domain squatting + evading 'due process' on his tax issue + conspiracy of the parties to do (a) & (b) . Even more specific, how come nobody ( even all you spell-checkers) even bothered to cite RFC 1480, the "right way" to name a web domain for a government entity? http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1480 [ietf.org]
  • ...to kill all the lawyers, I think we should make an exception for Mr, Kaplitt.

  • I would have simply sent back a Dr Zoidberg meme photo of him saying "your C&D is bad and you should feel bad." That would certainly imply how seriously I was taking it. In fact, I'd print it on our low quality color inkjet too instead of our nice laser one.
  • Can someone post the content of the gawker site letter? blocked by corp firewall....

  • lost badly. I should sue the lawyer for conflict of interest.

Many people write memos to tell you they have nothing to say.

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