What is up with Garison Keillor?

Apparently the extremely liberal and well spoken host of Prairie Home Companion is suing a blogger for making a parody t-shirt.
The blogger tried to make simple amends with the lawyer, saying this is a ridiculous lawsuit, but Mr Keillor apparently wants to pursue legal action against this guy.
Does this make ANY sense?

Dave Shevett


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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5 thoughts on “What is up with Garison Keillor?

  1. This may be an instance of using the courts to establish that you’re protecting your copyright. ISTR a few corporations or copyright holders who watched their name drift into “public domain” because by the time they got around to suing someone for an egregious violation, the defendents could point to many similar previous takings which the copyright holder did not prosecute.
    However, I also recall that “cease and desist” letters are usually sufficient to show “a history of defending the copyright”, so maybe Garrison Keillor is just offended by this particular parody.

  2. No, that doesn’t make sense, because the claim that Keillor is [at the moment] suing over the shirt is not accurate. He sent a C&D letter, which I think was an acceptable (if somewhat overly dramatic) course of action. Assuming my minimal legal knowledge is correct, sending a C&D is not the same as bringing up a lawsuit.
    I don’t know whether it’s a reasonable supposition that people would connect PHC with the shirt, and be offended. I also don’t quite understand exactly what the blogger was offering when he said he’d “let it go.” And despite the press this is getting, I don’t think the show is really going to lose many fans over it.
    Mostly, it just sounds like a mildly unfortunate point for both sides.

  3. It does make sense. I don’t like the results, but it does.
    #1. The blogger is mistaken about the legal issues. This is a matter of trademark infringement, not copyright, and the legal standards are very different. Unlike copyright, you can lose a trademark if you don’t defend it vigorously enough. (That’s what happened to “aspirin” and could still happen to “Kleenex” or “Xerox.”) Keillor’s lawyer sending a cease-and-desist letter is practically what he has to do if he wants to retain control over the “Prairie Home Companion” trademark.
    #2. The blogger’s response was pretty tactically stupid. It’s possible he would have gotten farther if he had approached Keillor’s lawyer with a “what can we do to work out something mutually agreeable?” attitude. Instead he got defensive and snarky, incorrectly told the lawyer that he has no legal grounds for taking action, and threatened him with bad press. That’s not going to get him anywhere, even with a liberal comedian.

  4. Regarding the various tacticss mentioned here, from a purely legal standpoint, the lawyer may be right. But a Cease and Desist letter is nothing more than a threat. It is, in short, saying “If you do not comply with our requests, we will sue you.” In this case, I feel that the very first contact between the ‘offendee’ (that being Prairie Home Companion, Inc, Reg Us Pat Off, whatever), and the ‘offender’ (a fellow printing a few T-shirts) was a very direct, threatening letter from their lawyers.
    That doesn’t smack of the down home comfy space that PHC tries to portray.

  5. Garrison Keillor can be rather cranky. (He and James Lileks had a tiff many years back after Lileks interviewed him, and apparently it’s developed into a feud: the very different politics of the two has played apart. A summary of some of the feud it is here.)
    Some background is here.

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