After seven years publishing on the Web, I received my first cease-and-desist letter. It was sent by United Feature Syndicate this week because of a Dilbert parody that was linked by a user on the message board for Cruel Site of the Day.
The message contained HTML IMG tags that linked to externally hosted graphics containing parody versions of the Dilbert comic strip. I didn't see the parodies -- the cartoonist apparently got one of these letters before I did and removed the graphics -- but they were described as real strips in which the dialogue was replaced.
You have to love American media corporations that make millions on the work of humorists and chase non-commercial parodies off the Web. Stop taking nominations, PEN -- we now have a winner for the 2004 First Amendment Award!
This is probably an appropriate time to mention that I've always found Dilbert to be one of the most dramatically unfunny comic strips in history. Any parodist who could make it funny should be hired by the syndicate to replace Scott Adams, not hounded by their legal representatives.
My cease-and-desist letter:
November 11, 2003
RE: Unauthorized Use of DILBERT(r) Intellectual Property
Dear Mr Cadenhead:
United Feature Syndicate, Inc. dba United Media ("UFS") is the exclusive owner of all copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property rights in and to the world-famous DILBERT(r) properties. The DILBERT(r) comic strip appears in thousands of newspapers across the United States and around the world. The rights owned by UFS strictly prohibit any individual attempts to reproduce, transmit, copy, or otherwise utilize the DILBERT(r) comic strip, or the characters appearing therein, without the express written permission of UFS.
It has come to our attention that you operate the Web site located at (link) contains various unauthorized copies, the trademarks and/or derivative reproductions of the DILBERT(r) characters. This unauthorized use of the DILBERT(r) materials constitutes infringement in that Internet users will erroneously believe that such materials are licensed by, sponsored by, affiliated with or authorized by UFS. In addition, given the type of infringement you are displaying, UFS is particularly concerned with the tarnishment and disparagement of the DILBERT(r) strip.
We therefore demand that you immediately remove all unauthorized DILBERT(r) materials from the Web site address (link) and any other sites over which you have control. You must confirm to US in writing that you have complied with our demand by no later than two (2) weeks from the date appearing at the top of this letter.
Nothing in this letter shall be construed as a waiver or relinquishment of any right or remedy possessed by UFS or any affected party, all of which are expressly reserved.