Satirist Dan McCall battles Hillary Clinton PAC over "Ready for Oligarchy" design [IMAGES]
This is the design that has McCall in trouble with a Hillary-supporting PAC.
:::: UPDATE (2:20 p.m.) :::: The Ready for Hillary PAC today retracted its "takedown demand," meaning McCall resolved the dispute and can resume selling his products on Zazzle without the need for litigation after all. Read a commentary by McCall's lawyer here.
Earlier this year, Sauk Rapids satirist Dan McCall won a legal victory over the federal government after National Security Agency reps tried to get online retailers to stop selling shirts emblazoned with the the agency's seal and slogans like this: "The NSA: The only part of government that actually listens."
The NSA essentially claimed their logo is copyrighted and couldn't be used without permission, an argument that didn't pass muster in light of the First Amendment's protection of satire. Now, a pro-Hillary Clinton group is making a version of that same argument to once again get McCall's products pulled from stores. (McCall also sells his shirts on his own site, LibertyManiacs.com.)
"It's a situation where, a little more than three months after we won the NSA case, we're like, 'Really, again?'" McCall tells us.
Legal reps for the Ready for Hillary super PAC sent two of McCall's biggest online vendors, CafePress and Zazzle, a "Copyright Infringement Notice" arguing that logos like the one at the top of this page are "synonymous with the Ready for Hillary political action committee" and "specifically created for Ready for Hillary's exclusive use." Though the letter only specifically refers to an "I'm Ready for Hillary to Explain Benghazi" bumper sticker that isn't McCall's creation, it was apparently enough to persuade both retailers to pull McCall's products too.
McCall posted this summary of the spat to his Facebook page.
That prompted McCall's attorney to write a letter to Ready for Hillary making this case (emphasis in the original):
Although the parody specifically cited in the letter was offered for sale by a different parodist, we can understand how CafePress would have assumed that your threat of litigation could have extended to McCall's materials, and how a court might later decide that the letter place it on notice of your potential claims against McCall as well. McCall concedes that he does not have your client's permission to use its logo in his materials; we contend that a parodist does not need permission.
CafePress didn't need much persuading before deciding to resume selling McCall's Hillary products. In a letter written to McCall, CafePress's senior legal counsel writes, "Our decision to reinstate is based upon our concerns with the First Amendment implications raised by Ready for Hillary's notification."
"Commentary, criticism, and parody about politics, the political process, and political figures are given the highest level of First Amendment protection," the letter continues. "Further, speech conveyed through the use of messages on T-shirts and related items such as the bumper sticker about which Ready for Hillary has complained has long been held to be protected speech under the First Amendment."
But as of last night, Zazzle still hadn't followed suit, and McCall is threatening legal action.
(For more, click to page two.)
McCall's lawyer gave Ready for Hillary a deadline of end of the day yesterday to retract its "Copyright Infringement Notice." Asked if he's planning to sue if that demand isn't met, McCalls answers, "Yeah, we might if they don't [retract]. My lawyer and I talked about it, batted a few emails back and forth, and he said we're ready to go if [Ready for Hillary] doesn't retract the letter."
"We'll resolve this without having to go to court if they're willing to," McCall adds.
But in Facebook posts published a few hours later, McCall struck a more combative note:
Well, it appears that war is imminent. Legally speaking, that is. My attorney has been speaking with representatives from one of the manufacturers that received a takedown letter from "Ready for Hillary" PAC, and it appears LibertyManiacs.com and my parodies were indeed specifically targeted in writing in the letter, making the likelihood of the Super PAC's backing down before our deadline highly unlikely.
This was clearly no mistake, oversight, or legal faux pas. These people are so calloused by the amoral combat of politics that they actually think they not only can use wimpish legal tactics to stifle free speech, but that none of us fly-over-country proles will do anything about it.
Needless to say, if you hadn't already noticed above, my normally well-harnessed Irish temper has loosened the reins a bit this afternoon.
McCall says the "Ready for Oligarchy" design was inspired by a study he recently read that concluded, "The sinking feeling a lot of average Americans have that they don't have much influence in politics is really true."
"America is basically an oligarchy where a small amount of people control the political system, and it's a shit-show theater for most of us," McCall says, paraphrasing the study's findings. "We really have say only when our interests happen to align with powerful corporate interests, and this came out at about the same time as Jeb Bush versus Hillary Clinton was being talked about [as a possible 2016 presidential matchup]."
"I understand we remember the '90s as being a pretty good time and Clinton being a pretty good guy, but really, we're going to go to this Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton [cycle] forever?" McCall continues.
To read some of the key legal documents involved in the McCall-Clinton feud for yourself, click to page three.
Here's the letter CafePress wrote to McCall explaining why they decided to resume selling his Hillary parody products:
And finally, here's the letter McCall's attorney sent to the Ready for Hillary PAC threatening legal action:
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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