Friday, June 15, 2012

Not Backing Down: Rambling Beach Cat interviews lawyer Charles Carreon

(photo @ wikipedia)

When I decided to take a chance and call lawyer Charles Carreon on Friday afternoon, I wasn't expecting much of anything. Considering that the man has been under attack from large portion of the internet, I figured that no one would even pick up the phone (and if someone did, I would get a simple "no comment.").

Imagine my surprise, however, when Mr. Carreon actually did pick up the phone, answered my questions, and gave a very detailed analysis on why he feels he's on the right side of the disagreement between and The Oatmeal.

For any of you who are unfamiliar with this controversy (and not currently seeking treatment for back injuries caused by the giant rock under which you have been residing), legal humor site has an excellent three part series to help get you up to speed: Part IPart IIPart III.

Otherwise, onto one of the most unexpected interviews of all time. Carreon's words appear in blue and everything is sic'd (including my own writing; my wife/editor is not here to nag me about my multiple typos).

My first question for Mr. Carreon was about his attempt to shut down the The Oatmel's fundraiser. I didn't understand why he wouldn't instead just say that raising money for cancer and wildlife preservation was great, but it did not affect the damages that were owed to his client. The move seemed to cause more bad PR for himself and FunnyJunk rather than help his case.

Carreon replied that under California law, you must be properly registered to conduct a fundraiser, something he is certain that Mathew Inman (operator of The Oatmeal) and IndieGoGo (the crowdfunding site being used The Oatmeal) are not.

"You might think of it as the 'Pseudo Santa' law," he explained. "Anybody can get a Santa suit. Then around Christmas time, you can probably make pretty good money wearing one outside of Macy's, ringing a bell, and saying you'll give the money to the Salvation Army. But you can't do that."

Carreon went on to say that he had been in contact with the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation and confirmed that Indiegogo had not executed the proper fundraiser paperwork.  He explained that this missing documentation gives a sponsoring organization the power to shut down a campaign that may bring a charity itself into disrepute or injure its goodwill...or might be "using a charity as a human shield for a slander campaign inciting people to cyber vandalism," Carreon added.

While he didn't specifically mention Inman in his comment on cyber vandalism, he had directly accused him of instigating such attacks on his website. I asked him to confirm if he thought Matthew Inman was behind some of the recent trouble he had experienced:

"What he [Inman] has done...I am not entirely certain of the scope of it. I don't know if you're familiar with his cartooning--people having their heads thrown in a chipper, his character of a pterodactyl consuming blended brains with gusto--I've actually never seen anyone incite people to violence in that fashion."

"I don't actually expect anyone to show up at my house with a weapon.  But I think that when you insult someone by saying that their mother engages in bestiality, that is the first step in dehumanizing a person."

"It might not have seemed very dehumanizing when Walt Disney made Japanese people look silly with buck teeth and big glasses who could not pronounce their 'R's or their 'L's.  But it was dehumanizing, and the purpose was to direct evil intentions against them, which ultimately resulted in the only nuclear holocaust that ever occurred in the history of humanity.  I don't think Truman would have ever done that if we hadn't so dehumanized the enemy."

"When you dehumanize someone, that is the first step to inciting people. The emails that I've gotten...many of them wish me death or wish for the complete collapse of my law practice...and they are virtually all uninformed."

"They say I filed a lawsuit. I haven't filed a lawsuit.  They apparently wouldn't know a lawsuit if they saw it.  But they are willing to join the internet lynch mob and engage in cyber vandalism."

Carreon then detailed a few of the incidents that he has had to deal with this week.

His website was hacked and the password taken (which he was able to recover before any damage could be done). Someone also created a twitter account posing as him, which Carreon claimed constituted trademark infringement (due to his name being trademarked).

What really seemed to make Carreon angry about the twitter impostor, however, was the fact that he/she was being offensive, rude, and calling people names.

"They used that twitter feed to make a bunch of offensive statements that I would never make," he explained. "I don't call people dumbass, idiot, that sort of thing."

"Matt Inman was right there to egg them on when that occurred; he said 'This is like a man with his dick in a hornets' nest throwing his balls in it.'"

After mentioning Inman, Carreon speculated about his possible involvement in the false twitter account:

"I don't know if that's coincidence. Why was he on twitter at the same time the impersonator was? I don't know."

He went on to state that his email address was falsely registered for various websites, including some that were pornographic. Carreon firmly believes that this string of attacks was the work of Matthew Inman.

"I think that's cyber vandalism. I think he [Inman] incited it knowingly and intentionally."

I then moved onto the fact that had posted Matt Inman's work without his consent or attribution. Carreon, however, stood his ground on why he felt his client had acted appropriately and Inman had not.

"Nobody can be accused of willful, felonious copyright infringement who has done nothing but operate a website in which user content is uploaded and they have not received DMCA notice. Inman never sent one DMCA notice. But he complained again in his usual bitching and moaning over the internet manner, so my client removed everything he could find."

"When I wrote the letter, I was unaware of any other Oatmeal comics being there. Inman apparently was.  He could have notified us of this in a DMCA notice a long time ago.  But he chose not to.  He chose to do the same thing he's done before, because he is a clever web user of the mob."

For anyone that is hoping for Matt Inman to counter sue (myself included), Carreon had this to say:

"Matt's done a great job spinning it, but he's not going to sue FunnyJunk. He couldn't sue FunnyJunk. He couldn't even counter sue FunnyJunk for copyright infringement if we sue him because he hasn't registered the copyrights on any of those domains.  Even if he did an expedited registration...he would get no per incident damages because the "infringement" occurred before the registration.  He's got nothing."

"FunnyJunk is not suing him. FunnyJunk didn't sue him. So what are people bitching about?"

I replied that asking for $20,000 in damages seemed not only outrageous, but nearly impossible to prove. He replied that it did not need to be proven in hard damages; an expert on the witness stand could point out that advertisers would shy away from doing with business with FunnyJunk due to The Oatmeal's claims of copyright infringement.

I then asked him if he knew of any specific incidents of an advertiser not doing business with FunnyJunk due to statements made by The Oatmeal.

"You got people voting with their feet and trampling to get out of there," he replied.  "What do you think that does to your user base?  What do you think that does to your advertising money?"

"When you accuse someone of a crime, that's called defamation per se, and that means that no damages have to even be proven. Damages are presumed if you accuse someone of a crime or misconduct that reflects poorly upon their business and profession."

"Now he [Inman] accused FunnyJunk of willful copyright infringement, which is criminal.  That was in my letter, but apparently no one reads the letter; they just read the little funny words written around it. The bottom line is that he accused FunnyJunk of a crime that FunnyJunk did not commit.  Under those circumstances, the demand for $20,000 is perfectly common place."

If there was still any doubt about Carreon's resolve to weather the storm and see this case through, it was quashed it when he concluded with the following statement:

"That fact that he [Inman] wants to react by advocating net war against me and accusing my mom of bestiality makes him lower than the low. If people want to side with him, they better check their motivations, because I am the kind of person that that defends people from that kind of person."

"Anyone who thinks it's going to wreck my career because I stood behind my client, stand behind myself, and point at the wrong doer as a bully...they have absolutely no understanding of what makes a lawyer. They apparently think that a lawyer is a person who cowers, apologizes, and stands in a corner...That is not what makes a lawyer. That's a politician...that's your ordinary plebe that doesn't have any fight, doesn't have any skill, and wouldn't know how to find a legal weapon if they needed it."

"I'm fine. Am I angry? Yeah...but I keep my cool, and I keep working."

After his concluding statement (which I would have found very inspiring if I agreed with the side he represented), he apologized if he seemed rude at all (he didn't), we discussed the stupid name of my website, and I was left wondering how someone that seemed so smart, passionate, and strongly desiring to do the right could be fighting on what most people (myself included) see as the wrong side in an internet proxy war of good vs. evil.

Perhaps I should have asked more questions, but I wanted to hear Carreon out and give him the chance to say more than had been revealed in prior interviews...and he did not disappoint (and I'm probably a terrible interviewer, but whatever).

I'll close with three thoughts:

1. It's much harder for me to personify Charles Carreon as a force of evil after speaking with him. I truly believe he thinks that he's doing the right thing (along with the fact he was able to make some surprisingly good points). This brings me to my next point:

2. He may be certain that Matthew Inman coordinated attacks against him and his website, but I'm just as convinced that he did not. Inman took the time to mark out Carreon's contact info on his response letter and has not made one public call for any sort of retribution. For someone that seems to be very intent following the law to the letter, Carreon should cite better possible evidence for his theories of intentional harm than "he was on twitter at the same time as an impostor was."

3. I'm still firmly in The Oatmeal's camp on this one, but Carreon is much smarter, tougher, and determined than I gave him credit for.

He finished our phone conversation by informing me that he should have an even more detailed public statement on this matter sometime over the weekend.  Grab your popcorn, ladies and gentlemen.

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