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Neil Gaiman Gets a Cease-and-Desist Letter
March 19, 2006 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Neil Gaiman gets cease-and-desisted. In a rather bizarre legal turn of events, Neil Gaiman posted in his journal today that he received a cease-and-desist letter from Mark I. Reichenthal of Branfman & Associates insisting that he remove an "unauthorized" link from tomatoesareevil.com to the official movie website for "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes". (Interestingly enough, Reichenthal evidently has previously been deployed to defend the "... For Dummies" trademark.) Problem is that Neil doesn't own the site; they merely posted a photograph of him with a particularly evil-looking tomato, a tomato which Gaiman is turning into salsa in the hopes of becoming "the Paul Newman of satanic salsas." Neil's reaction: "What an astonishingly small amount of research they must do before firing off these bizarre letters."
posted by WCityMike (36 comments total)

 
Oh no! You posted a link to the Killer Tomatoes site! MeFi's gonna get s00d!
posted by p3on at 9:17 PM on March 19, 2006


Is there any recourse for people who get letters like this? can you counter-sue or something?
posted by Jelreyn at 9:32 PM on March 19, 2006


Let's start by taking Napoleon's advice and attributing this to incompetence rather than malice. On the links page of tomatoesareevil.com, the second link is "author neil gaiman finds evil tomato." Could it be that Mark I. Reichenthal read that to mean that Neil was the author of tomatoesareevil.com? Did the matching Neil photos on the sites convince Mark that no further research was needed?

I don't think so. I smell the sulfurous influence of the demon tomato, bringing a plague of lawyers down on Neil. You can't carve up demons to make your salsa and get off scot-free. There are consequences.
posted by Silki at 9:45 PM on March 19, 2006


It looked like a joke at first, but I think the anti-tomato people are serious.
posted by jam_pony at 9:48 PM on March 19, 2006


Well, humorous but really anti-tomato.
posted by jam_pony at 9:52 PM on March 19, 2006


Threatening to sue over a link: dumbass. Threatening the wrong party: fark.com.
posted by jam_pony at 9:54 PM on March 19, 2006


Neil's site is great, especially for all us wannabe writers. I have never found a better online journal by a working writer. Endlessly entertaining and informative.
posted by Ber at 10:08 PM on March 19, 2006


Honestly, I would not have expected Neil Gaiman to do a WHOIS check. There goes the "dark and awesome modern writer" stereotype I had so nicely cultivated since first finding out that Gibson did fuck-all on the net until a few years ago.

Well, now I need to take some time out and read the rest of Gaiman's site.
posted by jmhodges at 10:33 PM on March 19, 2006


Silki is surely right.

Funny that the "Killer Tomatoes" people bothered to put up a site but have apparently decided that linking to it is a violation of their copyright. Maybe they really are threatening to sue anyone who links to them; google shows only a handful of linkers, most of them the same japanese blog. Bizarre.

I can't imagine the legal morass that might ensue if anyone ever made so bold as to actually watch the film.
posted by taz at 11:17 PM on March 19, 2006


trivia note: Stephen Pearce, "star" and producer of this epic, was the brains behind the deregulation of electricty in California, bless his tiny little heart.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:24 PM on March 19, 2006


I'm going to publish a website, and everyone who views it gets sued for trespassing. I'll make millions.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:38 AM on March 20, 2006


Wow, that's stupid.

Still, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (the second movie) is brilliant.
posted by martinrebas at 2:42 AM on March 20, 2006


Mr Reichenthal probably put in a bill for $500 for taking the time to write that letter. Even when they screw up the lawyers still get paid.
posted by bap98189 at 3:16 AM on March 20, 2006


I don't fathom the notion that a link can be a violation. This would, to me, imply that providing a Library of Congress number, to a book, would be a copyright violation.
posted by Goofyy at 4:06 AM on March 20, 2006


Goofy, you said book, and I own the copyright to a book. My lawyers will be in touch.
posted by tiamat at 5:25 AM on March 20, 2006


I think I should point out that I own a patent on the concept of "copyright" and have copyrighted the word "patent".

Incidentally, both words are my trademarks.

I think that in order to calculate my potential income I will have to refer to this thread.

My lawyers will be in touch ...
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:33 AM on March 20, 2006


1. get cereal box law degree
2. fire off boilerplate letters to websites
3. ?
4. Profit!
posted by mecran01 at 5:37 AM on March 20, 2006


Man, I told a friend of mine about a magazine the other day and BAM! Sued.
posted by jon_kill at 5:57 AM on March 20, 2006


It's hard to pick one thing I like most about Gaiman's journal, but if I did it would probably be the humor, especially in response to something extraordinarily stupid that has been asked of him (exception: most of the writings about McFarlane are not particularly humorous).

Second best would probably be Maddy, who's endlessly "cute," and whom Gaiman obviously loves very much.
posted by Tuwa at 5:59 AM on March 20, 2006


Aside from the fact that this is one more "stupid lawyer on the Internet" story, and that it happens to involve a person of some noteriety, I don't see why this even rates a mention.

It took me all of five seconds to see what the issue was and realize just how stupid the lawyers on the other end of this had been. My 13 year old son could have figured it out.

Seems like BoingBoing should have better things to do with its bandwidth, and Metafilter has better things to do than be an unofficial BoingBoing mirror.

<sucks>Cory</sucks>
posted by hwestiii at 6:01 AM on March 20, 2006


To me it rates a mention because it's exactly the sort of thing I might be likely to point out to somebody else

... and why would I choose this one example over so many other silly internet-illiterate lawyers vs. someblogger? Because it's "Killer Tomatoes vs. Neil Gaiman," and that's just funny.
posted by taz at 6:32 AM on March 20, 2006


can we sue the criminally stupid?

i thought our government was trying to limit frivilous law suits? wtf?!
posted by Doorstop at 7:16 AM on March 20, 2006


"Napoleon's advice?"
posted by majick at 7:19 AM on March 20, 2006


"Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence," majick.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:37 AM on March 20, 2006


I'm flabbergasted. Is Branfman & Associates at all in touch with the real world? Do they actually use this crazy internet thing, or is it just something they read about? Judging from their website (drop shadows, embedded music, frames -- just needs a few animated smiley faces for the complete 1997 look), I'm thinking... no.
posted by Marit at 7:43 AM on March 20, 2006


When I want Neil Gaiman to pay attention to me, I just go see him at a book signing. It's a lot easier than sending threatening letters.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:22 AM on March 20, 2006


Aside from the fact that this is one more "stupid lawyer on the Internet" story, and that it happens to involve a person of some noteriety, I don't see why this even rates a mention.

I find it incredibly humorous that it now seems to be a MeFi staple that every single post must now contain a "why is this even noteworthy?" comment somewhere in its replies. (I can just see a thread from the future: "World blows up. Yeah, we're all dead." Response: "Yeah, like we didn't know this already? How is this worth a FPP? Now it'd might've been useful if you had included where we could find the harps and angelic choirs.")

And, also, for the record, I posted the above with no knowledge whatsoever that Boing Boing had covered it.
posted by WCityMike at 8:27 AM on March 20, 2006


Probably just a front for George Clooney to destroy all mentions of the film.
posted by klangklangston at 8:51 AM on March 20, 2006


Workaday incompetence is so excellent at times and strangely endearing.

The idea of an out of control posse of Dada lawyers firing off absurdist cease and desist letters is fun.

Lawyer 1: I sue your pet gold fish!!

Lawyer 2: No, I sue your pet gold fish!!

They lock arms and dance a vigorous can can...
posted by Skygazer at 9:04 AM on March 20, 2006


Viral marketing for the killer tomato site?
posted by Blue Stone at 9:12 AM on March 20, 2006


I like the idea of surreal lawyers that only exist to amuse us.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:52 AM on March 20, 2006


Blue Stone,
viral marketing for killer tomato?
Look even deeper for an extra level of deception. Follow the money trail to uncover the Gaiman / Branfman / Killer Tomatoes conspiracy.

Is it merely coincidence that "Tomatoes Are Evil" is an anagram for "Viral tease; Me too" ?
posted by Silki at 3:06 PM on March 20, 2006


I've never heard that attributed to Napoleon. Thanks, I guess you learn something new every day!
posted by majick at 4:30 PM on March 20, 2006


mecran01, where does one get a "cereal box law degree"? Is there a Sally Struthers infomercial on obtaining a quickie J.D. in one's spare time? I know you are joking here. At least I hope so, because your remark is hogwash. It's a tedious ordeal to obtain a J.D. and be admitted to the bar. The people bitching about how unethical attorneys are and how much money they make, would be in for a shock if they learned the reality of life for most attorneys. (Turn off the TV and the right-wing radio, folks!) Ok, end rant. Thank you.

On-topic: Cease and desist letters are NOT lawsuits. These letters are often sent for all kinds of reasons, (some reasons more legally sound than others!) but they are not really news.
posted by applemeat at 6:35 AM on March 21, 2006


On-topic: Cease and desist letters are NOT lawsuits. These letters are often sent for all kinds of reasons, (some reasons more legally sound than others!) but they are not really news.

Oh let me revise that then:

Lawyer 1: I sent a cease and desist letter to your pet goldfish!!

Lawyer 2: Well...I sent a cease and desist letter to your pet goldfish!!

They proceed to weep and laugh manically and dance a lusty tango.
posted by Skygazer at 12:55 PM on March 21, 2006


99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name...


I know, I know. We only get to see the outrageous shenanigans of the shysters, and form a false impression.
posted by Silki at 1:57 PM on March 21, 2006


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