A man accused of violating the trademark of children's TV star Barney the purple dinosaur has been saved from legal action by campaign group the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF).
Lyons Partnership, the company that owns Barney, agreed to drop legal actions and pay compensation for legal fees to Dr Stuart Frankel, a New York City man who Lyons had accused of violating its trademarks on his personal website.
"This settlement should send a message to those who want to use copyright law as a pretext for censorship," said EFF staff attorney Corynne McSherry.
The case dates back to 2002, when Frankel began to receive cease-and-desist letters from Lyons due to a satirical section of his website entitled 'Evil'. The page refers to Barney as "the anti-christ" and claims that "Barney is to children as Osama Bin Laden is to Islam."
In the cease-and-desist letters, Lyons claims that Frankel violated copyrights by posting images of Barney on the page. The EFF picked up the case pro bono shortly thereafter.
In August, the foundation lodged a formal legal complaint against Lyons, alleging that his site was a valid parody of Barney, and was therefore protected under the first amendment's free speech provisions. EFF then claimed that because Frankel's page was protected speech, Lyons had repeatedly violated laws prohibiting baseless legal threats.
"We wish we hadn't had to file a lawsuit to finally get Barney's lawyers to stop harassing a man who was just expressing his opinion about a cultural phenomenon," said McSherry.
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