Lawsuit Fights Baseless Copyright, Trademark Threats

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked a federal court Wednesday to protect the free speech rights of a website publisher who has suffered years of baseless legal threats over his parody of the Barney and Friends television show.

Since 2002, the Lyons Partnership has repeatedly sent meritless cease-and-desist letters to Stuart Frankel because his website pokes fun at Barney the purple dinosaur, the well-known children's television character. Dr. Frankel, assisted by EFF, responded to these letters in 2002 and 2005, but Barney's lawyers have continued to harass him. The lawsuit filed by Dr. Frankel asks the court to finally resolve the matter by declaring that his parody does not infringe Barney's copyright or trademark rights.

"Barney's lawyers are sending out intimidating lawyer letters to parody websites that are clearly protected by the First Amendment and fair use," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "It's time for Barney to call off his lawyer armies and get back to entertaining children."

Barney's lawyers have a history of using copyright and trademark laws as a pretext for censorship. In fact, EFF itself received such a warning in 2001 after archiving a copy of a different Barney parody on its site.

"The misuse of intimidating cease-and-desist letters for censorship is a growing problem online," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "We hope this lawsuit sends a message to Barney's owners and other corporations to think twice before sending baseless threat letters."

EFF has long defended digital artists' rights to build upon other creative works. During the 2004 election campaign, EFF helped protect JibJab Media, Inc., and its animation "This Land" after Ludlow Music claimed the work infringed the copyright of Woody Guthrie's song "This Land Is Your Land."

EFF is being assisted in this case by Elizabeth Rader, an attorney with the San Francisco office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer &amp Feld LLP, which is defending Dr. Frankel's free speech rights on a pro bono basis.

For the full complaint:

For more on Barney's copyright abuses:


Corynne McSherry
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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