The Guy Suing The Oatmeal Now Also Suing Charities The Oatmeal Is Raising Money For

Senior Contributor
06.18.12 6 Comments

A quick review: a lawyer, Charles Carreon, recently sent Matthew Inman, artist and owner of The Oatmeal, a letter of questionable legal status demanding $20,000 in unspecified damages over claims that the website FunnyJunk was hosting Inman’s comics without giving him credit or paying him for the advertising. Not helping the case? That the Oatmeal was correct and that this was actually happening, as his lawyers pointed out in a much politer letter than was entirely necessary.

Inman promptly responded by posting a rebuttal on his website and starting a charity drive to raise $20,000, not for the purposes of paying off these damages, but instead to donate to two worthy charities and give Carreon and FunnyJunk the finger.

It also triggered a truly massive and hostile response from pretty much every corner of the Internet, something a man who had successfully stripped a website from a porn troll was completely unaware might happen.

At this point, of course, Carreon has acknowledged that what he attempted to do had a questionable legal justification and that he should really just pack it up before he gets sucked into a legal vortex that’s probably going to ruin his life.

Just kidding! What he really did was sue IndieGogo, the site Inman is using to raise the funds. Oh, and the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation on Friday. If you think that makes him a bigger douche than ever, well, actually…It’s even worse than you think.

First, Popehat’s summary of the situation:

1. The lawsuit is captioned Charles Carreon v. Matthew Inman; IndieGogo Inc.; National Wildlife Federation; American Cancer Society; and Does [Does are as-of-yet-unnamed defendants], Case No. 4:12 cv 3112 DMR.

2. Charles Carreon appears as “attorney pro se,” meaning “I am attorney but am representing only myself”…

3. CNS included the following description of the case, which is most likely drafted by CNS upon review of the complaint: “Trademark infringement and incitement to cyber-vandalism. Defendants Inman and IndieGogo are commercial fundraisers that failed to file disclosures or annual reports. Inman launched a Bear Love campaign, which purports to raise money for defendant charitable organizations, but was really designed to revile plaintiff and his client, Funnyjunk.com, and to initiate a campaign of “trolling” and cybervandalism against them, which has caused people to hack [Carreon]’s computer and falsely impersonate him. The campaign included obscenities, an obscene comic and a false accusation that FunnyJunk “stole a bunch of my comics and hosted them.” Inman runs the comedy website The Oatmeal.”

If you were wondering what Carreon is hoping to achieve with this, the short answer is that he’s trying to poison the well. It’s like this: if the charities accept the money Inman is raising, they will officially be dragged into this lawsuit. Currently they’re not involved — the money is with IndieGogo, not the charities, so they can still wash their hands of this pretty easily, legally speaking.

While $90,000 in donations is tempting, it’ll probably cost them a fair chunk of that just to deal with Carreon, who, with the Does, can just add anybody he wants to onto this suit willy-nilly. He’s deliberately trying to create a legal black hole around this fundraiser, because… because… honestly, hell if we know. Because his ego just can’t take the beating it’s getting?

The Popehat post mentions at least two lawyers specializing in the First Amendment have volunteered to help out, pro bono, which, combined with the fact that the Oatmeal has done the appropriate CYA with a law firm, means Carreon is in genuine trouble. For example, California and Washington both have laws on the books against strategic lawsuits against public participation (i.e. suing people to make them shut up), which may mean Carreon would be subject to serious legal consequences, like the state of California going over his finances in detail, and even liquidating his assets to cover court fees in certain situations.

The really troubling thing about all this is that Carreon was, until recently, a pro-First-Amendment lawyer who’d done good work. This has gone from embarrassing mess to full-on career suicide. Hopefully, Mr. Carreon realizes what’s happening before it’s too late. Otherwise, well, maybe he should get a better lawyer.

(Image courtesy Eurobas on Flickr)

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