October 17, 2005 4:48 PM PDT

Barney: I sue you, you sue me

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For a plush purple dinosaur who extols the virtues of affection and amity, Barney can be surprisingly aggressive in his legal demands.

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."

Barney
Credit: Stuart Frankel
Barney's lawyers say this photo
amounts to an unlawful use
of the cartoon character.

One of the ostensibly violent sites, a site maintained by Baltimore-area programmer Rob Carlson, depicts a Barney toy suspended from the ceiling. Carlson, who has not removed the photograph, says it has been online for at least five years and nobody has complained before.

Carlin said he could not discuss his law firm's next steps in attempting to remove offensive images of Barney from the Internet. "I really can't comment," he said Monday in a brief telephone conversation.

Another letter from Carlin was directed to Stuart Frankel, who maintains the "Source of All Evil" site with a rendering of a vaguely Satanic cartoon tyrannosaur. "It is unlawful...to use this property without the permission of Lyons Partnership," Carlin wrote. "These materials must be immediately removed."

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."

Barney's lawyers have been aggressive in pursing trademark lawsuits before. They once sued the creator of a sports mascot that, as part of its performance, assaulted and generally did violence to a Barney look-alike.

But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1999 that the performance was a parody and not forbidden by trademark law. "Even if young children--like the 2-year-old who had such a traumatic reaction to the downtrodden Barney--are in attendance, we would expect them to be supervised by parents who could explain the nature of the parody," the court decided.

32 comments

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Barney everywhere ?
Looks like we're gonna see those pictures in all kinds of places now ...

Isn't it a shame how 99% of the lawyers give the whole profession a bad name ?
Posted by My-Self (242 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, I'm thinking about it...
I might just find parody barny images and host some (with the parody creators permission of course).
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Link Flag
What I don't get is...
Why that picture? Ok maybe the inverted pentagram is going a little far but one would think a character of Barney's caliber would be the target of some people with those really nice editting programs. You know, Barney strapped under a Titan V. Barney in the French fleet at Trafalgar. I mean, something a little more unbelievable than a fanged, horned, devile Barney.
Posted by (29 comments )
Link Flag
Just 99%?
I thought they were all evil...
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
Barney everywhere ?
Looks like we're gonna see those pictures in all kinds of places now ...

Isn't it a shame how 99% of the lawyers give the whole profession a bad name ?
Posted by My-Self (242 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, I'm thinking about it...
I might just find parody barny images and host some (with the parody creators permission of course).
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Link Flag
What I don't get is...
Why that picture? Ok maybe the inverted pentagram is going a little far but one would think a character of Barney's caliber would be the target of some people with those really nice editting programs. You know, Barney strapped under a Titan V. Barney in the French fleet at Trafalgar. I mean, something a little more unbelievable than a fanged, horned, devile Barney.
Posted by (29 comments )
Link Flag
Just 99%?
I thought they were all evil...
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
More stupid lawyer tricks
Now it is apparently illegal to do parody or satire? These Barney lawyers have gone too far and need to be disbarred - NOW!
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They do what their client pays them to do...
They are only doing what their client wishes them to do. It is not illegal (though it should be) to threaten someone with legal action under a law that they interpret differently than the courts.

This should be considered extortion.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Link Flag
More stupid lawyer tricks
Now it is apparently illegal to do parody or satire? These Barney lawyers have gone too far and need to be disbarred - NOW!
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They do what their client pays them to do...
They are only doing what their client wishes them to do. It is not illegal (though it should be) to threaten someone with legal action under a law that they interpret differently than the courts.

This should be considered extortion.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Link Flag
Remember this?
Circa like 96 or so. <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://impressive.net/games/barney/fun.cgi" target="_newWindow">http://impressive.net/games/barney/fun.cgi</a>
Posted by Bob_Barker (167 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Remember this?
Circa like 96 or so. <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://impressive.net/games/barney/fun.cgi" target="_newWindow">http://impressive.net/games/barney/fun.cgi</a>
Posted by Bob_Barker (167 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Anyone Remember the Barney Blaster
Does anyone remeber the old &lt;a href="http://208.185.149.219/
getbits.acgi?tbart=01762" Title="Still available" After Dark Barney
blaster module? Laugh, Laugh, bang, ow, boom!
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Anyone Remember the Barney Blaster
Does anyone remeber the old &lt;a href="http://208.185.149.219/
getbits.acgi?tbart=01762" Title="Still available" After Dark Barney
blaster module? Laugh, Laugh, bang, ow, boom!
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Won't CNet be sued?
By hosting the offensive image in the article, isn't CNet putting itself at risk of legal action?
Posted by SocialConservative (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Probably not...
...because C-Net is a news wire and they are protected under the First Amendment. Freedom of the press, remember? That won't stop these corporate thugs to keep trying though....
Posted by Maelstorm (130 comments )
Link Flag
Not the same thing.
They are reporting on a news item and not creating a parody of their own. They could host pictures of other copyrighted works without fear of lawyers knocking down their door.

If a solid claim did come in for any story, they would simply comply and remove the material. The owners of the Barny image would have to prove some form of slander in the article or the inclusion of the image to have a legal basis though.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Link Flag
Won't CNet be sued?
By hosting the offensive image in the article, isn't CNet putting itself at risk of legal action?
Posted by SocialConservative (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Probably not...
...because C-Net is a news wire and they are protected under the First Amendment. Freedom of the press, remember? That won't stop these corporate thugs to keep trying though....
Posted by Maelstorm (130 comments )
Link Flag
Not the same thing.
They are reporting on a news item and not creating a parody of their own. They could host pictures of other copyrighted works without fear of lawyers knocking down their door.

If a solid claim did come in for any story, they would simply comply and remove the material. The owners of the Barny image would have to prove some form of slander in the article or the inclusion of the image to have a legal basis though.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Link Flag
Sorry Barney!
The kids love you, the adults hate you, what's a sophmoric purple dino to do? Get out the lawyers!
I propose a Barney bonfire at the next burning man. Bring all the tapes and plush toys you can get your hands on, big props to those that actually bring big props. Perhaps we can nail that big purple beast on the cross to burn.
Dearest Barney:
It really hurts when you grow up and discover that no adult actually believes the pap you fed us as children.
Posted by Muddleme (99 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sorry Barney!
The kids love you, the adults hate you, what's a sophmoric purple dino to do? Get out the lawyers!
I propose a Barney bonfire at the next burning man. Bring all the tapes and plush toys you can get your hands on, big props to those that actually bring big props. Perhaps we can nail that big purple beast on the cross to burn.
Dearest Barney:
It really hurts when you grow up and discover that no adult actually believes the pap you fed us as children.
Posted by Muddleme (99 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Evil Barney
We all know Barney is an Evil Chinese Communist trying to brainwash America's youth!
Posted by bkedersha (66 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Evil Barney
We all know Barney is an Evil Chinese Communist trying to brainwash America's youth!
Posted by bkedersha (66 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This happened to me.
I got a similar threatening letter from the same lawyer at the same agency!
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.uncoveror.com/editorial3.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.uncoveror.com/editorial3.htm</a>
Posted by Uncoveror (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm with the lawyers on this one....
... social satire needs to be of better quality to warrant publication
with Barney included.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
This happened to me.
I got a similar threatening letter from the same lawyer at the same agency!
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.uncoveror.com/editorial3.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.uncoveror.com/editorial3.htm</a>
Posted by Uncoveror (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm with the lawyers on this one....
... social satire needs to be of better quality to warrant publication
with Barney included.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
 

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