“LOL, no,” Explained

How to start a letter to thin-skinned bullies

Last month I mentioned Mike Dunford’s terrific two-word response to a letter from the “Los Angeles Police Foundation” demanding that Dunford’s client stop selling t-shirts that read “F*ck the LAPD” (asterisk not in original). See LOL, no” (Apr. 24, 2024). But I wasn’t aware then of the much longer and yet equally great response Dunford sent at about the same time to the law firm that wrote the letter. That was proudly posted on Bluesky by Dunford’s client, and you can see a PDF version below. No asterisks in that one, either—except for those in the Westlaw cites Dunford includes to show the firm and everyone else just how bogus the demand letter was to begin with.

You should read Dunford’s response, of course, but just to summarize his points:

  • The demand letter was drafted as a copyright “takedown” notice, but it’s basic intellectual-property law that words, short phrases, and acronyms (like “LAPD”) can’t be copyrighted;
  • There would also be no trademark-infringement claim because that requires a likelihood of confusion, and it’s not likely that anyone would be confused into thinking the LAPD was selling “F*ck the LAPD” merchandise;
  • Those points are sufficiently obvious that the letter’s author either doesn’t know anything about IP law or was knowingly misrepresenting it to a non-lawyer (Dunford’s client);
  • Someone harmed by a knowing misrepresentation of infringement can sue the person who made it (see 17 U.S.C. § 512(f));
  • Dunford’s client didn’t know this was obviously bogus and so had to pay a lawyer to respond; and
  • There would be serious First Amendment implications if the LAPD, a government agency, was somehow involved in threatening a person for criticizing or insulting it.

As Dunford put that last point, “[t]he LAPD is not expected to like the existence of ‘F*ck the LAPD’ merchandise. But their sole remedy is to not do things that result in people wanting to buy and wear ‘F*ck the LAPD’ merchandise.” That may be difficult, he conceded, “[b]ut I promise you it would still be easier than trying to get a court to rule” that these shirts are infringing.

He asked for a response explaining why his client shouldn’t file an action to recover attorneys’ fees under section 512(f). If he got one, and it’s funny, I’ll post that one too.