SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – An attorney who specializes in Internet law sued “The Oatmeal” creator Matthew Inman, claiming the web cartoonist is conducting an illegal fund raiser and defaming him in blog posts and “inciting” cyber-vandalism.
Tucson-based attorney Charles Carreon sued Inman, Indiegogo, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society, in Federal Court.
Carreon claims it all started in 2010 when Inman publicly accused the Seattle-based, user-generated website FunnyJunk.com of stealing comics and making defamatory remarks.
FunnyJunk.com responded through Carreon, who is licensed to practice in California. Carreon says he sent Inman a letter demanding $20,000 in damages and that he remove all references to his client, FunnyJunk, from Inman’s website and blog.
He claims Inman responded with a “Bear Love” campaign, which sought to raise the $20,000 by using Indiegogo.com as its funding platform, and then donate the money to charity.
Carreon says the “Bear Love” campaign began on June 11 this year, and includes a cartoon of an obese woman in her underwear, trying to seduce a bear.
“Instead of mailing the owner of FunnyJunk the money, I’m going to send the above drawing of his mother,” Inman wrote in his blog, according to Carreon’s complaint. The blog allegedly continued: “I’m going to try and raise $20,000 and instead send it to the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society. I’m hoping that philanthropy trumps douchebaggery and greed.”
Carreon claims the Bear Love campaign has raised almost $170,000.
He claims the campaign amounts to using a “human shield” to protect Inman, and that Inman’s accusations that FunnyJunk stole his comics are not true.
“The statements that, ‘FunnyJunk stole a bunch of my comics and hosted them on their website without giving me credit’ was false and misleading,” Carreon says in the complaint.
“FunnyJunk LLC, which was and is plaintiff’s client, operates a website filled entirely with user-uploaded media content at FunnyJunk.com. FJ operates FunnyJunk.com in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and has never uploaded Inman’s comics to the FunnJunk.com website. Nor had Inman ever sent DMCA takedown notices.”
Carreon claims that Inman posted on the Internet that FunnyJunk infringed copyright.
“Plaintiff’s demand that Inman cease and desist from making such statements was lawful, and the demand for payment of $20,000 reasonably reflected FJ’s estimate of advertising losses sustained due to the taint of being accused of engaging in willful copyright infringement for commercial gain, a federal felony,” according to the complaint.
Carreon claims Inman did not really want to raise money for charities, but to “revile Inman’s legal adversaries,” and to “initiate a campaign of trolling and cyber vandalism against them which has borne abundant toxic results, including criminal misconduct by Inman’s Internet followers against plaintiff in the form of repeated events of computer hacking and false personation.”
Carreon claims that the defendant charities are registered as charitable organizations with the California attorney general and appear on the Charitable Registry. Inman and Indiegogo, he claims, are not, nor have they filed disclosures or annual reports required by California law.
Carreon claims they are not exempt from registration and therefore are prohibited from soliciting on behalf of charitable organizations in California.
He claims that although the two defendant charities were notified of the issues surrounding the Bear Love campaign, neither one has “disavowed their association with the Bear Love campaign, thus lending their tacit approval to the use of their names to the Bear Love campaign.”
Carreon seeks imposition of a charitable trust, and damages for false designation, trademark violations, inciting and committing cyber vandalism, false personation and identity theft.
He seeks a permanent injunction to impose a charitable trust on assets collected by Indiegogo on Inman’s behalf, and wants Indiegogo to register as a California fund raiser.
Carreon filed the complaint pro se.