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Charles Carreon feels wrath of the internet in a landmark copyright fight

Posted by: Laurence Simons 12/06/12

Attorney becomes victim of an online 'mob' after filing suit against popular artist.

You ever tried to sue the internet? Don't try to sue the internet. As attorney Charles Carreon discovered this week, the internet doesn't really like being sued. "I'm completely unfamiliar really with this style of responding to a legal threat - I've never really seen it before," he told MSNBC. "I don't like seeing anyone referring to my mother as a sexual deviant."

Carreon's mother aside, the attorney and the website he represents, FunnyJunk, have got themselves embroiled in quite the internet hoohah. Speedy recap: FunnyJunk is a website which reposts 'funny' 'junk' - that's amusing images from around the web - and monetises them by surrounding them with advertising. Last year, they caught the ire of webcomic artist Matthew Inman, who reacted to FunnyJunk hosting content from his own website, The Oatmeal, without permission.

If you have a kid brother or Facebook friend who likes regurgitating things they've found online, you will probably have seen The Oatmeal before in your life. So have a vast amount of web users. So when Inman wrote an inflammatory blog post about FunnyJunk's uncredited use of his junk, his entry quickly went up the Google Rankings when users searched for the rival website. So much so that FunnyJunk decided this week, via Carreon, to file a federal lawsuit demanding some $20,000 (£12,000) from Inman in damages to their brand.

"You want ME to pay YOU $20,000 for hosting MY unlicensed comics on your [rude word] website for the past three years?" was Inman's response. "I've got a better idea. I'm going to try and raise $20,000 in donations. I'm going to take a photo of the raised money. I'm going to mail you that photo, along with this drawing of your mom seducing a Kodiak bear. I'm going to take the money and donate one half to the National Wildlife Federation and the other half to the American Cancer Society." Less than a week later, Inman has raised all that and more: as it stands, $100,000 has been generated for the two charities via online donations. No comment from Carreon's mother.

For those with legal careers in copyright law, the case highlights the huge blurry grey area slapped onto the sector in recent years by the web. And for those looking for lawyer jobs at all, an additional lesson: never allow pictures of yourself in quasi-glamour poses to become freely available online. Photos of Carreon, shirtless in front of an American flag, have caused so much ridicule that he has had to take his contact details down from his website. "It's an education in the power of mob psychology and the internet," he admitted.