SAN FRANCISCO - November 28 - 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:
For more on Barney's copyright abuses: