John Scherer: Genesis of a Lawsuit
In November, 2008, a letter containing certain legal demands was sent to the company hosting Uncyclopedia. The body of the letter is contained in the story below, exactly as written. The contextual material surrounding it describes the genesis of a lawsuit attacking the free speech of Uncyclopedia and its diminutive symbiotic organization, Wikia.
Jean ambled sleeplessly from his apartment kitchenette to bathroom and back again. It was 2:00 AM, and the kittens' kidneys he had braised with butter, garlic, and brimstone for supper were not sitting lightly on his stomach. He opened the hinged lid of the trashbin and peered in: the kittens were still twitching. He had not thought they could live so long without their kidneys. His lips curled in disgust.
From under the sink he got a box of Draino and poured the contents into a Revere Ware saucepan of hot water. The resulting solution of steaming lye could have scalded the skin off a rhino. He poured it onto the mutilated kittens. That will teach them, he thought, for not dying fast enough.
This may strike the reader as a cruel and heartless act, but Jean was a hunchbacked Frenchman -- and a lawyer. He was, in fact, the lead legal counsel for a producer of video training units -- Video Professor, Inc. -- infamous for its coercive marketing techniques. He was therefore by definition a fiend, a fraud, an evil djinn, a sneering and deformed Creature of Darkness Made Visible.
Seed of a Lawsuit
Later that morning Jean surfed the Web in his work cubicle, alternately looking at sado-bestiality porn and searching for websites mentioning his employer. One search led him to Uncyclopedia, the world-famous literary site where the best and brashest talent of the Web have created an oasis of wit and cleverness. There he found an article on John Scherer and Video Professor, Inc. Snickering and drooling, Jean printed out a copy and scuttled into John's office.
"Goddamn motherfuck shit!" screamed John Scherer, his bald head reddening with rage. "Sue them! Sue them! Sue their balls off!"
"Don't you want to read the article first, Master?" said Jean, leering.
"NO!" howled Scherer. "Just start the lawsuit. Sue them all! SUE EVERYONE!"
"Yes, Master," said Jean, fawning and dribbling spittle. "I shall begin. We shall sue the entire Internets and the Web. Everyone will get shafted, Master... yes.... everyone will feel the shaft of the Video Professor! Try my unit indeed!" And he laughed in the sinister manner commonly written as "Muhahaha!".
Jean slithered back to his work cubicle, his hunchback bobbing and a string of spittle sliding unnoticed down the front of his pinstriped Brooks Brothers vest. He began drafting a letter to Wikia, the company which hosted Uncyclopedia.
- "Dear ASSHOLES: I am General Counsel and Hunchbacked Henchperson for Video Professor, Inc, the major producer and direct marketer of computerate learning CDs and online computer learning units. Video Professor has been the bestest in the field of computerate learnings units for more than 20 years, you motherfucking slanderers! We is noticing that what is writtened on http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/John_Scherer, makes Video Professor and its CEO and Founder, John W. Scherer out to be sexual perverts and deviants, but also says some bad things about them. In addition, we believe several meatpieces of content on the site infringulize on Video Professor's GALAXY-WIDE property rights and is being used in violation of wildebeests. The statements made on the website regarding Mr. Scherer are not only fucking false and humiliating, but serve to diminish his reputation as a lawsuit-crazy bastard. To continuate to allowing these statements to remain on the Interwebs site or to continuate to be publishing thems is amounts to reckless conduct on the part of Wikia, and we is going to eat your kidneys for supper, you bastards."
A quick spellcheck found several errors. Whining to himself in the falsetto of cortisol-saturated rage, Jean corrected them and also deleted the more obvious obscenities. After multiple revisions and a lot of help from his secretary -- a female gorilla with freakish blond fur, surgically enhanced boobs, and an IQ of 158 -- he came up with the following:
- " Dear Sir or Madam: I am General Counsel for Video Professor, Inc. ('Video Professor'), the major producer and direct marketer of computer learning CDs and online computer learning tutorials. Video Professor has been the market leader in the field of computer learning for more than 20 years. It has come to our attention that the content on http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/John_Scherer, a site for which Ethr.Net LLC is the ISP, portrays both Video Professor and its CEO and Founder, John W. Scherer in a false and defamatory light. In addition, we believe several pieces of content on the site infringe on Video Professor's intellectual property rights and are being used in violation of the law."
- "The statements made on the website regarding Mr. Scherer are not only false and humiliating, but serve to diminish his reputation and the reputation of Video Professor, Inc. To continue to allow these statements to remain on the site or to continue to be published amounts to reckless conduct on the part of Wikia."
Giggling gleefully, Jean printed out five copies and headed for his boss's office.
Rage of a CEO
However, John Scherer did not approve of his lackey's work.
"It's too goddamned short, you foul pustule," he shrieked, pounding his desk. He was a small man, a veritable gnome with a shiny pate and deranged blue eyes, but when he pounded his desk he seemed formidable. Especially when one remembered his backstory.
"Make the letter longer," he screamed. Mucus streamed from his distended nostrils and saturated his mustache, a caterpillar of furze which conformed perfectly to the American Standards for Mediocre Facial Hair. "Make it more demanding, too. Why the hell do I pay you, you vile lump of slobbering legal manure? Why?"
"Because I grovel, Master," said Jean.
"Grovel away and write me a LONG lawsuit!" screamed John the Video Professor. "Now get out of here before I take this letter-opener and gouge out your succulent eyeballs."
"Yes, Master," groveled Jean. He scuttled out of his boss's office with his anus puckered so tightly he could taste sphincter in the back of his throat.
"We have to rewrite," he told his gorilla secretary.
"Let me have the letter," his secretary groaned in her ravaged, barely understandable gorilla voice. The surgeon who had given her beautiful well-formed breasts and an enhanced brain had, with impish humor, left her with the larynx and vocal cords of Gorilla beringei, the eastern mountain gorilla. "I will add material pertaining to our copyrights and so forth. By the way, there are 336 new legal actions on your desk. They're for recovery of money from people who ordered our free introductory offer and then did not pay for it."
"I've never understood that," whined Jean, whose own IQ barely topped 70 points. "How can we sue for payment on a free offer?"
"The fine print," moaned his secretary in her agonized gorilla voice. "It says that they have to pay for everything we send, forever and ever, no opting out, no refunds, no cancellations. We send them useless crap and they have to keep on paying no matter what. It's called 'continuation marketing.'"
"Who thought of that?" asked Jean.
"Satan," his secretary rasped painfully in her destroyed gorilla voice. "We use it by arrangement with the Dark One himself."
Later that afternoon Jean delivered the completed letter to his employer, the dyspeptic gnome John. His secretary had added several paragraphs:
- "Video Professor is the owner of the registered trademark, "TRY MY PRODUCT", which it uses extensively to promote its products and services through a variety of channels, including television, print advertising, and the Internet. As a trademark owner, Video Professor, Inc. has an affirmative legal obligation to protect and enforce its trademarks. In order to preserve their value, we must ensure that our trademarks are used only a manner of our choosing. The "TRY MY PRODUCT" trademark is used in a most unwholesome and unsavory context on the site. To protect it from this unwarranted tarnishment, we must demand that it be removed and not be used further in connection with http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/John_Scherer."
- "Additionally, Video Professor, Inc. is the owner of valuable copyrighted materials, namely the photographs/likenesses of Mr. Scherer, the company's Founder and CEO, who extensively promotes himself as the Video Professor, which are being infringed at http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/John_Scherer. We have a good faith belief that the use of Video Professor's copyrighted photos of John W. Scherer, apparently copied to the site from http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnwscherer is not authorized by Video Professor, Inc., any of its agents, or the law. Such use of Video Professor's copyrighted material in this manner, without permission, unlawfully infringes on this company's copyright and must cease immediately."
- "Please remove all references to Mr. Scherer and/or Video Professor from this and any other Uncyclopedia sites. Further, you must ensure that you do not publish additional false and defamatory statements regarding John W. Scherer and/or Video Professor, Inc. or otherwise misappropriate and misuse Video Professor's intellectual property. Kindly provide us with written assurance that you will fully comply with these demands within forty-eight (48) hours of the date of this email."
- "Nothing in this letter should be construed as a waiver, relinquishment or election of rights or remedies by John W. Scherer or of Video Professor, Inc. Both Video Professor, Inc. and Mr. Scherer expressly reserve all rights and remedies under all applicable laws."
- "Sincerely, General Counsel, Video Professor, Inc."
"Better, you motherfucking slimeball," grunted John, peering at the letter. "What the hell is this stuff about 'Try my product', though? I thought our slogan was 'Try my unit.'"
"Yes, Master, but no, Master -- we had to settle for 'Try my product' because the other one was used by the sado-bestiality porn star Max Goatpain. His lawyers got the trademark first."
"Christ. You lawyers are the minions of Satan incarnate, you know that, don't you?"
"Of course, Master," grovelled Jean.
"Send it off," snarled John, and went back to chewing his luncheon -- flayed live guinea pigs on a bed of curly endive, smothered in a creamy sauce des sécrétions sexuelles created by the great chef Marcel Mangeur deChat. Such are the luxuries enjoyed by the wealthy and depraved leaders of "continuation marketing".
Of course parody of a public figure cannot be construed as slander or libel under US law. Jean's blond gorilla secretary knew that even if Jean himself did not.
In fact, Jean had previously sued half of the Internet in an effort to get people to stop complaining about the coercive and underhanded marketing techniques used by Video Professor, Inc. That lawsuit had no staying power, however, and was widely derided as one of the most misguided legal actions since Andrew Jackson sued Fanny Beard in 1839 to stop her "hanging about and flashing my picture at sailors along the New Orleans waterfront."
A year later Video Professor quietly dropped that lawsuit when a judge pointed out they could not very well sue anonymous individuals on the grounds of unrevealed statements. The judge said such a lawsuit constituted a "double idiocy," and called Jean "the stupidest cretin ever to pretend to be a lawyer."
The humiliation still stung.
But over the next weeks, as Jean crouched in his work cubicle nervously chewing his cuticles and whimpering, he began to understand that a company like Video Professor Inc. could only damage itself by suing websites like Uncyclopedia. Lawsuits against egalitarian, multi-talented communities devoted to social satire could only result in more articles being written, more images crafted.
Video Professor, Inc, and John Scherer would continue to be exposed to ridicule for as long as they acted in a ridiculous manner.
And so it was. A few weeks after he sent the letter to Wikia demanding the capitulation of their parent organization, Uncylopedia, Jean was in his malodorous apartment surfing the Internet when he found another Video-Professor-related article on Uncyclopedia. This one described the company's legal staff formulating the very letter he had in fact sent. (This article is, of course, the one you are reading right now.) Jean found himself weeping as he read the descriptions of his own craven grovelling, his cruelty, his stupidity. It suddenly seemed to him very strange: he envied the writers of Uncyclopedia.
They wrote what they wanted. From Greek philosophy to collapsed stars their minds wandered the universe. They were free.
Jean staggered into his kitchenette. He squeezed two tablespoons of KY jelly into a fryingpan and began to heat it. The dwarf rabbits he had chained to the countertop watched him nervously. Tears filled Jean's eyes: everything he had ever done had been stupid. Toothless, ineffectual malice ruled his life. He groped for the drawer-pull. Knives filled the drawer: boning knives, chef's knives, filleting knives, paring knives. He pulled out the first one his hand touched: a high-carbon santoku with a gleaming 8-inch blade. It had been honed to diamond sharpness.
The rabbits shifted unhappily on the countertop.
What was Video Professor, Inc, but a scam for bilking people out of their money? And what was he but a bully for a bad cause? Craving creativity, craving freedom, he found himself opposing both. He grasped the knife in his right hand. The rabbits whimpered. The fryingpan smoked on the burner.
Joint by joint Jean the lawyer chopped the fingers from his own left hand and dropped them into the hot KY jelly. The bite-sized pieces of flesh sizzled. Then he began filleting the meat from his forearm. The pain was the one true thing in his life.
Obviously this is a work of parody. The lawyer portrayed is a French male, and clearly not a representation of Jean Robertson, the actual General Legal Counsel for the firm of Video Professor, Inc. Other characterizations are of well-known public figures and entities. This should be clear to anyone who reads the article.