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Will the Internet Kill the Cease and Desist Letter?

Just like video killed the radio star, I can't help but wonder whether the power of the Internet will kill the impact of a copyright or trademark lawyer's staple:  the cease and desist letter. A few days ago, I posted about how Baker & McKenzie embarrassed itself in the blogosphere with a heavy-handed, pre-emptive cease and desist letter to BoingBoing about the possibility of its allowing unauthorized streaming of Word Cup soccer games. Now, according to Steve Johnson's column in the Chicago Tribune, lawyers for Hello! magazine and People are having a heyday, launching cease and desist letters to  Gawker and other Web sites that displayed digital images of their photospread of Brangelina's (Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie) new baby, Shiloh Nouvel.  People magazine paid $4.1 million for exclusive rights to the photos. 

But Johnson wonders what all the fuss is about.  The Web sites don't offer all of the photos, and they're mostly in thumbnail format. Johnson writes:

First is that, whatever the lawyers think, the publicists ought to step in and explain to them that the publication of one little magazine cover image, plus the attendant controversy, boosts rather than detracts from public interest in seeing the whole set of photos.

In both the Baker & McKenzie and Brangelina cases, the Internet adds a new dimension to the consideration of whether to file a cease and desist letter. Lawyers need to think about whether a cease and desist will make them -- and, by association -- their clients look foolish, like in the Baker & McKenzie case and, in fact, need to decide (as in the People magazine case) whether a cease and desist letter is even worthwhile. Maybe the Internet hasn't completely eliminated the need for cease and desist, but it's changed the factors that lawyers should examine before rushing to send one out.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 9, 2006 at 06:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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