You can tell a corporation is in trouble when they begin threatening legal action against smaller companies without any evidence. You can tell they’re in serious trouble when they won’t even tell their targets what they’ve done wrong.
Apparently, Variety is in serious trouble. On March 24, 2010, the sinking publication filed a lawsuit against the punk rock band The Vandals [Ed. note: Vandals’ bassist Joe Escalante is a BH contributor] for allegedly using their trademark in an album cover some years back. There’s only one problem – that issue had already been settled back in 2005, with The Vandals agreeing not to use anything similar to the trademark. Since then, The Vandals haven’t used the trademark in any way, shape or form.
So what’s a struggling publication to do? How about finding random websites in different places, then accusing The Vandals of having posted the old trademarked material there and leaving it up purposefully, without any evidence to back up such claims?
In Variety’s complaint, they cite exactly two incidents of a website under The Vandals’ direct control promoting the original album cover. Both times, the mistake was quickly rectified by The Vandals, well within the 30-day cure period envisioned under the original settlement agreement.
Variety also cited Amazon and YouTube as sites using such imagery. Naturally, The Vandals don’t own Amazon or YouTube or control them, so they have no control over those websites. They have already demonstrated good faith in their attempts to have such material removed in any case, asking their fans to turn in instances of trademark misuse so they can work on getting such material removed.
Wonder why Variety is so upset about a few third parties out of The Vandals’ control using old images? They’re not – if they were, they’d try to get ISPs or websites to take down the material. They haven’t done any of that, if their complaint is complete.
Instead, they’ve sued The Vandals to the tune of $75,000.
Don’t scoff. This is going to become more and more common as Hollywood feels the economic pinch. They’re not interested in stopping infringement – they’re interested in exploiting it for big cash. It’s unconscionable, and Variety’s attorneys should know better.