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Trial Of The Century: Keillor V. MNspeak.com

Posted September 13, 2005

A couple weeks ago, this website received, via the appropriately old-fashioned U.S. Postal Service, a cease and desist letter from Garrison Keillor's attorney. Click inside to read the letter and the unfinished saga of the humorless crank.

A Prairie Homeboy Companion

On a Tuesday night two weeks ago, the letter showed up in the mail. It is included below, so you can see for yourself the kind of verbal mastery it takes to make a legal document sound like Keillor's forlorn nostalgic prose.

Let's quickly review the situation: Garrison Keillor -- a liberal comedian! -- is threatening to sue MNspeak -- some blog! -- that uses a t-shirt to poke fun of his mega-gigantic media empire. You'd think we shot Guy Noir or something.

Man, this guy is getting old.

Fighting off the urge to tell everyone on the planet about the old guy's folly, the first thing I decide to do is give him a second chance. I immediately call Keillor's lawyer, and the brief conversation goes something like this:

Me: "Listen, you really don't want to do this. I highly suggest you tell your client to revoke this cease and desist."

Him: "Why?"

Me: "First off, your client has no legal basis for this, and it's clear you're just trying to bully me. Secondly, this is going to make your client look extremely out of touch. I'll even write the headline for you: 'Liberal Comedian Sues Blogger.' Do you really want that?"

Him: "Is that a threat, Mr. Sorgatz?"

Me: "Dear god, no. I'm trying to be nice about this. I'm just telling you to let this go. I've made no real money off this, and there are only a handful of t-shirts left. If you let it go, I'll let it go. This is just going to blow up in your client's face."

Him: "I'll consult with my client."

The lawyer disappears for 10 days, and I assume it's over. Then he calls back late last week to say Keillor still wishes to pursue his cease and desist.

Woebegone Legalities

Exhibit A: This is the t-shirt page (with the "Buy" buttons removed and image redacted).

I have no doubt about where I stand legally. Parody typically falls under Fair Use (or sometimes, the First Amendment), and this is clearly an instance of parody. There are a series of factors involved in the definition of parody, including this: it is probably parody unless a "reasonable person" could mistake the new work [the t-shirt] as the work of the copyright owner [Prairie Home Companion]. To claim copyright infringement would involve arguing (as the cease and desist letter below implies) that some lost soul could find their way to MNspeak.com, click through to the t-shirt, and ignore the message in bold that clearly says "WARNING: This shirt is not associated in any way with Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor, MPR, The Fitzgerald, or, well, anything -- it is PARODY."

In other words, Garrison Keillor would have to prove in court that Minnesotans are stupid.

'Liberal Comedian Sues Blogger'

So what now? I've temporarily honored the cease and desist, but haven't decided how to proceed. Since there were only about 10 shirts left (and I had no plans on reprinting new ones), there's no real economic reason to pursue this. And besides, let's be clear about the scope of what we're actually talking about: a fairly stupid t-shirt with four words on it. In an age of much bigger problems, is this really worth fighting for?

But here's the thing: it annoys the living hell out of me that Garrison Keillor thinks he can bully me. And not only that, he incorrectly invokes our legal system to do it.

I am starting to talk to lawyers about my options, and am filing a report with the ACLU this week. But since this site makes minimal money, I have no plans to pay for legal assistance -- if anyone knows a young sparky first amendment lawyer who wants to investigate a potentially high-profile case (on a pro bono basis), email me at rex@mnspeak.com.

Congratulations Garrison, you've won the round.

To be continued...

See Also:
PubLaw: Parody: Fair Use or Copyright Infringement
Supreme Court: Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. (critical case in establishing fair use precedent)
The Rake: A Prairie Groan Companion (satire from 2002)

» Categories: phc internal tshirts | Author: rex


Chuck and I can attest to how much something like this sucks when it happens to something you pour your heart and soul into, but these are just t-shirts, so its awesome.

Didn't you ask for this very scenario in an interview with CJ?
»» Submitted by »»» tom at 10:31 PM on September 12

I never liked Keillor...

Bring on the "Liberal Comedian Sues Blogger" t-shirts.
»» Submitted by david at 10:58 PM on September 12

Some candidates for the second run of t-shirts:

"Prairie Homeboy Companion"
"P****** H* C********"
"I got sued by Garrison Keillor and all I got was this stupid... nevermind."
»» Submitted by »»» rex at 11:04 PM on September 12

rex you just need a tshirt with the disclaimer on it.

WARNING: This shirt is not associated in any way with Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor, MPR, The Fitzgerald, or anything!
»» Submitted by yup at 11:19 PM on September 12

How about "It's Parody, Stupid!" shirts.
»» Submitted by Phil at 11:42 PM on September 12

My vote -- honor the cease and desist. Don't reprint the t-shirts. Just capitalize on the incredible blogging press you'll be able to drum up with this -- I just got here via Waxy Links, if that tells you anything. Print up new t-shirts that say "This t-shirt makes Garrison Keillor look extremely out of touch." (or one of a million relevant slogans that would sell better) Step 3: Profit!

Seriously. C&Ds; like this are a plague. Publicize it and fight it as your act of civil service for the month.
»» Submitted by Adam at 12:40 AM on September 13

I totally agree with Adam. Abandon any foolish pride over the issue and triumph with another clever product, while simultaneously sitting back in your chair and allowing the blogosphere to validate your stance against such absurdity.
»» Submitted by »»» alexis at 1:02 AM on September 13

I wanna see some blood.
I'm willing to donate 5 dollars (and US dollar$ at that) for your legal fees.
»» Submitted by you at 1:11 AM on September 13

Talk with Garrison. Let him know you're a person of reason. Tell him you'll pull the shirts off the market if he would agree to (finally) trim his nose hair.
»» Submitted by Ron at 1:19 AM on September 13

One problem with your comments to Keillor's counsel is that "out of touch" is kind of the coin of his client's realm, no?
»» Submitted by Jason at 1:14 AM on September 13

I'm no Garrison Keillor fan club member, but just because someone doesn't start slapping his knees and going, "Ho, isn't that the word from those rap songs?" isn't itself qualification for 'humorless.'
»» Submitted by John Gorenfeld at 1:24 AM on September 13

Your parody defense is shot to hell since your sole intention is to make money selling TShirts using a derivation of their trademark. But be sure to continue digging your hole a lot deeper.
»» Submitted by You're fucked. at 1:22 AM on September 13

p.s. That last guy may have been a member of the Garrison Keillor Fan Club, though.
»» Submitted by John Gorenfeld at 1:29 AM on September 13

That's not accurate. The product being commercial is one of four factors considered in acts of parody, but it's just one, and certainly not a case-closer. The Two-Live Crew / Pretty Woman case set the precedent.

But I'm not going to debate the legalities (or for that matter, the aesthetics) any further here, because that's an endless hole.
»» Submitted by »»» rex at 1:29 AM on September 13


http://blogs.citypages.com/ ctg/2005/09/keillor_halts_m.asp
»» Submitted by Pete Scholtes at 1:44 AM on September 13

Damn, as a fan I'm disappointed. Here's the tactic I hope will be tried. People in the Twin Cities should go to the weekly broadcast, and use the "notes to home" cards they get to write wry protests. The object should be to make fun of the legal moves in the spirit of the show (i.e. to be good enough to air, even if they don't).

I dunno. I guess there's an admission and supporters won't want to give any money to them right now.

I still crave the idea of Keillor reading over the air a note like "To Rex in Minnesota ... don't let those big-city lawyers get the better of you ... we'll still give you the shirt off our back" &c.;
»» Submitted by Dan Hartung at 1:39 AM on September 13

I'm a fan, too, by the way. Keillor is way more of a genius in my book than Altman.
»» Submitted by Pete Scholtes at 1:53 AM on September 13

But I'm not going to debate the legalities any further here, because that's an endless hole.

Isn't that what all this unused space is for? Let the masses decide!

But seriously, I'd drop the issue.
»» Submitted by »»» alexis at 2:04 AM on September 13

Since this is a community site, maybe I should put it up to a vote.
»» Submitted by »»» rex at 2:16 AM on September 13

Looks like there's already a wikipedia entry about it...

»» Submitted by Andrew at 2:17 AM on September 13

Obviously, Garrison did not start his day with ketchup. Ketchup has natural mellowing agents that help keep you out of these lose-lose PR nightmares.

Ketchup, for the good times.
»» Submitted by Dan Laugharn at 2:30 AM on September 13

This wasn't "lose-lose" for Keillor. Rex, it seems, gave him a shot to let this quietly die.

Ymmm... ketchup.
»» Submitted by Doug at 2:40 AM on September 13

A similarly absurd case went to court in 2000. Starbucks sued a cartoonist for selling t-shirts parodying their logo and image.

That case found the cartoonist was NOT infringing on Starbuck's trademark, but he was tarnishing their logo because it said "Consumer Whore." So he was allowed to continue the parody, but not able to profit from it.

I'm just glad I got my shirt before it became a collector's item. :-)
»» Submitted by »»» chuck at 3:33 AM on September 13

At USPTO.gov you can check the metioned trademark registrations.
They are all in the name of KEILLOR, GARRISON

2,542,909 shows:
International Class: 035
On-line ordering services featuring clothing, books, audio tapes, compact discs, videos, mugs, framed prints and posters, plaques, throws, doormats, towels and novelties
First Use Date: 1999-07-01
First Use in Commerce Date: 1999-07-01

»» Submitted by Cole at 3:18 AM on September 13

Link was lost: or http://tarr.uspto.gov/

»» Submitted by Cole at 3:39 AM on September 13

You should submit this to Chilling Effects.

I went through a similar situation as webmaster for the band Beatallica, and learned a few things:

- Even if you think your use is "fair use", the only way you can prove it is to go to court, and copyright infringement cases typically cost $100,000-$200,000. The system is financially slanted towards copyright holders.

- The more publicity you can get, the better. Shame the bastards, and they'll back down.

»» Submitted by David Dixon at 3:44 AM on September 13

Also contact the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which helps defend people against this kind of threat. They did quite a number on Ludlow Music's suit against Jibjab for their parody of "This Land is Your Land".
»» Submitted by David Dixon at 4:44 AM on September 13

War in Iraq, Floods covering the South, and the biggest issue I'm hearing out of Minnesota is a radio host upset about 10 t-shirts. What a lamer. God, this guy must be really out of touch with people outside his age group.
»» Submitted by James at 4:53 AM on September 13

Anyone got an email for the liberal comedian or his lawyer? I'd like to email him what I think of this bull shit. What an asshole this guy really truely is.
»» Submitted by Johnny at 4:46 AM on September 13

From the letter above the email address of the lawyer appers to be 'eric.nillson@lawyer.com'
Worth a quick polite mail asking him to pass on congratulations to his client on getting known worldwide as a silly old man.
(ref: metafilter)
»» Submitted by matthew at 6:26 AM on September 13

There's an interesting case of a company suing a friend of mine who's a blogger going on over at seobook.com. The situation has been slashdotted and covered on Wired, NYT, WSJ, etc.
»» Submitted by Lee at 6:02 AM on September 13

Further to the above I sent:

Dear Sir,

I believe you act for Garrison Keillor.

Would you be kind enough to pass on my congratulations to him for appearing as a very silly old man for his copyright defence. It certainly brightened my day, and amused me more than any of his books.

Had he not pursued someone who writes a very minor blog I might never of heard of the whole silly dispute.

Could he approve of a t-shirt saying Prairie Gnomes Nose Companion for me to market worldwide on ebay to promote my new nasal hair clippers?

Yours etc

»» Submitted by matthew at 6:37 AM on September 13

Put legalities aside (because legalities have nothing to do with truth, morality or decency).

I don't think your shirt was malicious, it was very light "ha ha" kind of thing. I think if you become vindictive or stir up trouble (already happened now) then you are being malicious. Its a small matter as you say, so I wouldn't milk it or fight it.

From his point of view I think its perfectly possible that somebody could have seen the shirt and actually thought that PHC was making some rap joke. I don't think anybody thinks somebody would BUY the shirt not realizing, but it would be easy to just see it on the street and think that PHC was trying to make some hip joke. (and coming from them, this joke would just seem weak. its not their style).

You see it as a hip intertextual thing that enhances them (like sampling). But that's how you think. PHC fans don't think like that, they don't get "culture sampling".
Leave them alone, they are nice enough people (like a pleasant relative : you don't make off-color jokes just to rile them up).

In a time of cultural war you should support those who are doing good. don't fuck with Keillor, he ripped norm coleman a much needed new asshole. the liberal world tends to rip each other up over little nothings.

also, it is so endlessly funny to juxtapose straight whitey with black "funky" hip-hop tropes ? I mean its a staple of sitcom humor, and its a staple of the 'clever white guy' world. but methinks that shit is plaaaaaayyyyyed out.

»» Submitted by felix at 6:20 AM on September 13

Who is going to get the joke? Does anyone using the term "ho" even aware of the show Prairie Home Companion? I'm curious as to what audience would actually find the shirt funny.
»» Submitted by jjones at 7:05 AM on September 13

OH SCHNAPPLE!! This is the best thing that could've happened.
»» Submitted by »»» taylor at 7:54 AM on September 13

The one thing I see in the C&D; letter that you didn't mention in your entry was "your use of aprairiehomecompanion.org". That site doesn't go anywhere for me. Can you comment on what's up with that?
»» Submitted by Dave at 7:56 AM on September 13

»» Submitted by js at 7:59 AM on September 13

No one really likes the PHC show anyway.
»» Submitted by M at 7:57 AM on September 13

Is there anythingpreventing you from doing a new shirt?

Parody is Spelled

G a r r i s o n K e i l l o r

Parody of a Libel provided by Garrison Keillor

Has a nice ring to it..

»» Submitted by Fred Grott at 8:16 AM on September 13

People, please stop confusing trademarks with copyright.
»» Submitted by Mensa at 8:20 AM on September 13

Freedom of Speech: Just watch what you say.

Isn't weird how people are supposed to be allowed to express themselves... until some liberal douche-bag decides that it's somehow "offensive" to someone?

Who the hell could get confused anyway. I'll guarantee the vast majority of Americans have no idea who the hell Garrison Keillor is.
»» Submitted by Clarence Anderson at 8:30 AM on September 13

As your attorney, I advise you to step up production of these shirts, and continue selling them through the aforementioned "aprariehomecompanion.org" domain name.
»» Submitted by esquire at 8:10 AM on September 13

We support you, Rex! Parody will always triumph over curmudgeonism.
»» Submitted by Slanderous Minneapolis at 8:29 AM on September 13

Liberals......always in favor of supporting, defending free speech. Unless of course it offends them. Should be interesting to see how the ACLU roars into action to protect the first ammendmet rights of the......I'm dreaming again.
»» Submitted by Gen. Iron Guts Kelly at 8:47 AM on September 13

Mensa has a good point. Campbell is a copyright case. There is another case out there about a humor magazine that parodied a beer company in a fake ad. I think the beer company was Miller. Anyone recall the name of the case? I don't even remember the outcome. So the first issue would be if fair use for parody extends to trademark protections.

Also: about two or three years ago Tonya Harding sued a maker of "novelty foods" who had created a product labelled "Tonya Harding Hot Sauce" that had caricature of Tonya Harding on the label depicting her as, well, how should we say... White Trash. I think that case settled.
»» Submitted by Tanker J.D. at 8:44 AM on September 13

Don't cave. Parody is protected and Keillor should go spin.
»» Submitted by Brian at 8:55 AM on September 13

The Starbucks case cited by Chuck, above, seems to be similar facts based on the the Salon.com article. I couldn't find the ruling on Westlaw, though.
»» Submitted by Tanker J.D. at 9:02 AM on September 13

isn't prairie home companion itself a parody? not a very funny one, but a sort of warm fuzzy one. too bad no home-towny radio dude sued Keillor out of existence back in the day, hey?
»» Submitted by :dotty at 8:52 AM on September 13

Lame response to a mediocre parody. This is stupid and not funny at the same time.
»» Submitted by liono at 8:59 AM on September 13

Perhaps the next one should read "A Parody Home Companion"?
»» Submitted by Erica at 9:22 AM on September 13

Not sure what sucks more, PHC or your lame T-shirt.

"Help, help, I' being opressed."
»» Submitted by Not amused at 9:22 AM on September 13

Keep in mind, everybody, that trademark law and copyright law are two very different things. This case has nothing to do with copyright. It's all about the trademark. So when you're doing your Google searches, don't even bother looking up copyright issues, because they are not relevant to this case.
»» Submitted by Jake at 9:19 AM on September 13


Somebody (with an account) should explain the 'backstory' to those nosy amateurs.
»» Submitted by Morcambe at 9:36 AM on September 13

First of all I think that shirt is a riot. I have sent this link to all my Midwest friends back in Chicago and in Dallas, TX. So I'm spreading the news. I'll keep checking and hope that you start selling the shirt again. Keep up the good work.
»» Submitted by Jim in Tennessee at 9:44 AM on September 13

I think it should be desisted just on the basis that it's not even clever. You dropped the letters ME to make the word HO. How long did that take to think up? Real headline should be Comedian Sues to Stop Painfully Unfunny Humor
»» Submitted by andy at 9:34 AM on September 13

I don't think the guy has a legal case. But what's even more embarassing is that he thinks such a completely lame parody is nontrivial enough to warrant attention. Prarie Ho Companion? That's just dumb in the first place. If you're going to get sued, maybe it should be over something more clever.
»» Submitted by Webegone at 9:50 AM on September 13

One side y'all may not have considered:

If you have a trademark, you ARE OBLIGATED to ACTIVELY defend against any possible infringement. If you do not jump on infringements, you can be SOL later when someone really infringes, because the infringer can point to your failure to go after earlier infringements, causing you to lose rights to the tradmark.

So, Keillor & Co have to do something. hence the C & D letter.

Just sayin'.

»» Submitted by bystander at 9:48 AM on September 13

Of course he's clueless -- the man just got a cell phone and wrote a Strib column about it. We should cut the old, befuddled, funny guy a break.
Hell, maybe it was his attorney (billing at $300+/hour) who talked him into it.

»» Submitted by Rob at 9:52 AM on September 13

I'm glad he's suing you, as you're clearly a dick. Now, if you had pointed out his lawyer was wrong in suing you, that would be one thing. Garrison probably knows nothing about this... but, I guess this is a good way for you to get hits on your site.
Please send all flames to martelthehammer@gmail.com
»» Submitted by Kevin Horner at 10:08 AM on September 13

While I like the idea of fighting the man, even when "the man" in this case is a comedian whom I enjoy, some perspective is in order. A holder of a trademark is required by law to defend it. While your operation is small and poses no threat to Keillor's brand, if they didn't pursue legal action it would open them up to trouble down the road. I don't have the legal source handy, but it is possible for another entity to cite lack of diligence defending a trademark in the past as a reason that they too should be allowed to profit from Keillor's IP.

I don't much care for this arrangement, but the guy has spent 30 years making A Prairie Home Companion a household phrase, at least among English majors. His lawyer is less worried about your minor infringement than he is worried about creating an opening for the big offender. Don't take it too personally.
»» Submitted by Duane at 10:03 AM on September 13

Congrats on your exposure. I linked here from Boortz's news page today.

I think the T-shirt is extremely funny (and I have found Keillor funny from time to time, too) Good luck with what ever you decide to do.
»» Submitted by JRD at 9:50 AM on September 13

You're done for, dude. Every rest home resident and retired professor emeritus in the mid-west is gunning for your ass now.

Are Keillor's Lutheran jokes good stuff or what? And that line about every kid being above average in Lake Wobegon? Just doesn't get old.. (Maybe we could countersue on the grounds of defective comedy...)
»» Submitted by yo-dawg at 10:14 AM on September 13

I would advise getting in touch with someone at adbusters.org
they've done that kind of thing before.

A trademark is tied to the design styles that are used to represent it as far as

»» Submitted by marko at 10:36 AM on September 13

Even within the public broadcasting industry, Keillor is considered something of a putz.
»» Submitted by Knows firsthand at 10:41 AM on September 13

Wow, so much hate! Am I the only one here who loves both MNSpeak and A Prairie Home Companion?
»» Submitted by chuck t at 10:31 AM on September 13

"We hereby demand that you immediately adandon all use of "A Prairie Home Companion."

»» Submitted by Doug at 11:00 AM on September 13

How about

G a r r i s o n K e i l l o r is a Ho and not my companion.

G a r r i s o n K e i l l o r used to be funny.

G a r r i s o n K e i l l o r: Stupid White Guy
»» Submitted by wyck at 10:58 AM on September 13

It seems like he has a good case. Minnesotans are morons, so I can see them being confused by this.

»» Submitted by Gene at 11:05 AM on September 13

You know what's going to happen? In a couple of months, you'll be listening to APHC and as you listen to the News from Lake Wobegon, you'll realize that the story Keillor is describing is really about you and the T-shirt. That's how he communicates with the outside world. It's spooky.
»» Submitted by chuckjr at 11:04 AM on September 13

Um, I've only found PHC marginally amusing, but it does improve upon the painfully unfunny shirt causing the brouhaha.

I look forward to other franchise dilutiing offerings to come: Ho Alone. Ho Improvement. Ho Magazine. ET Phone Ho. Comedy Gold.

For your follow up? Type 1134 on your calculator and then turn the monitor upside down! Genius!
»» Submitted by 99 at 11:22 AM on September 13

The lawyer and author of the letter is Keillor's wife's ( that is, 2nd and much younger wife) brother, scion of a nice, next-door, middle class Anoka family that numbers among its clan three classical violinists (including said wife #2). They were in high school together so he probably did it on spec or even pro bono. Even he used to play the violin.

I want a T-shirt!
»» Submitted by jDubya at 11:25 AM on September 13

Why don't you use your brain and come up with something original on your own and quit trying to ride on the backs of people who HAVE an original thought?
Garrison Keillor has a perfect right to ask you to stop.
»» Submitted by Lee at 11:32 AM on September 13

This is truly outrageous. When will the Duct Tape stand up and sue for the years of Prairie Home infringement they've endured?

And Ketchup. And Powdermilk! I think if they joined forces, they'd be able to ravage the prairie like a swarm of locusts.

Now the news from Lake Sue-the-blogger: where all the women are strong smelling, all the children are above each other, and all the men are good suers.
»» Submitted by jojo at 11:26 AM on September 13

Hmm....I'm pretty sure there hasn't actually been an orginal thought in quite some time.

It's interesting that people are more up in arms about this than the 15% voter turnout we will probably have in Mpls/St P for the primaries.
»» Submitted by doug at 11:40 AM on September 13

You MUST realize that the 1st Amendment only gurantees freedom of speech for well-heeled, limousine-liberals and completely mindless idiots, and that the legal profession is fully staffed by BOTH.

I would LOVE to see some other lawyer shove this one right back in his face, but barring that - the bad publicity for the ever-sensitive Garrison is a close second.

I'd love to be on the jury for this one.
»» Submitted by Another Rex at 11:21 AM on September 13

used to like him, now he's a dick. kinda like clinton.
»» Submitted by bob at 11:54 AM on September 13

two words: male menopause
»» Submitted by anne at 11:53 AM on September 13

endlessly funny to juxtapose straight whitey with black "funky" hip-hop tropes ?

This reminds me of the sequence in The Wire where the two young, black Baltimore gang members steal a car and listen to "the News from Lake Woebegone" on a long drive because that's what happens to be on. Utter classic.

Note to conservative visitors: MNSpeak and PHC are both liberal by any meaningful standard. Did this get linked by Little Green Footballs or something?
»» Submitted by Pete Scholtes at 12:00 PM on September 13

copy of email sent to phc@npr.org :

I am a big fan of the program. I have the 25th Anniv. cd

Do you have have t-shirts? I am interested in the one of the 'HO' shirts.....
Thanks. Bill
»» Submitted by Bill Thomas at 12:01 PM on September 13

I hope Garrison Keillor doesn't find out we have an old iron mine filled up with water near Gilbert, MN named Lake Ore-Be-Gone!
»» Submitted by »»» srhcb at 12:29 PM on September 13

Mr. Keillor worked hard to build the name and you should respect that. I am a democrat but I am becoming increasingly concerned that you jerkoff liberals have no respect for others hard earned property when push comes to shove, you will steal it.
»» Submitted by Take a hike at 12:20 PM on September 13

Ummm, I'm not so sure you have a slam dunk case against Garrison Keillor. The use of "Ho" in place of "Home" can easily be shown as a pejorative term designed to dilute and devalue his trademark. I realize you didn't stage a huge marketing campaign and sell tons of t-shirts but the fact that you sold anything indicates that you are profiting from it which means your t-shirt could be seen as a commercial parody as opposed to a non-commercial one, (see Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music).

»» Submitted by my2cents at 12:29 PM on September 13

How about?

Liberal Comedian Sues Some Dumb Guy Selling Bad T-Shirts?
»» Submitted by dumb at 12:47 PM on September 13

Liberal or not, Garrison Keillor built The Prairie Home Companion from the ground up and made it a commercial success for more years than you have been alive. Your derogatory T-shirt is not particularly humorous NOR successful, but it is based on the title of Keillor's show, and thus makes a false association between your not-terribly-clever effort and Keillor's decidedly successful property.

So... Cease and desist, like the man said. You yourself admitted that the T-shirts were a lousy investment, so what is the purpose of defending your failure? Unless, of course, you're just grandstanding to see your name in the same paragraph with Garrison Keillor's.

»» Submitted by Charles Miller at 11:53 AM on September 13


Print more.
»» Submitted by Mike at 11:56 AM on September 13

In response to Pete:
Note to conservative visitors: MNSpeak and PHC are both liberal by any meaningful standard. Did this get linked by Little Green Footballs or something?

Maybe not Little Green Footballs but powerlineblog has the story. Always nice to hear from the "hindrocket".

»» Submitted by Brian at 1:04 PM on September 13

Naw, dog. The title of this blog post should have been "Lake Ho Begone"
»» Submitted by Ben Donley at 1:10 PM on September 13

T shirt suggestion-

Garrison Keillor: Aging Hippie Liberal Douche
»» Submitted by PHC bores me at 1:10 PM on September 13

If you send them a letter claiming that you don't feel you infringe based on fair use (satire), or if you ask permission, I feel confident they would send you a response stating that they accept your position and reserve the right to take further action.

These letters are a part of doing business. The problem is that if a real megacorp (like Walmart) can prove that they aren't defending their trademarks, then Walmart can ignore their trademarks.

If you want to fight someone, fight the legislation that require this kind of horseshit and create unreasonable barriers to small businesses.

Taking a dump on a radio program accomplishes nothing.

Also, if Garrison Keillor is a "mega-gigantic media empire", what is Rupert Murdoch.

»» Submitted by IANAL at 12:57 PM on September 13

drop the posturing, make amends, or even apologize.

this got on some public radio mailing lists, and some people are talking about organizing to write to your sponsors. that would actually trip you up, no? i'm sure he has a bigger fan base than you do.
»» Submitted by think it over at 1:07 PM on September 13

"I am a democrat but I am becoming increasingly concerned that you jerkoff liberals have no respect for others hard earned property when push comes to shove, you will steal it."

"Democrat"...you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
»» Submitted by Don MacDonald at 12:57 PM on September 13

Recognizing there is a delicate balance between Free Speech and defamation or misuse of names, trademarks and other intellectual property, "Parody" has a specific definition under the law.

About ten years ago, the MN Legislature modified our laws making it quite a bit easier for companies to protect their intellectual property. The new law was partly precipitated by the case of Road Kill Helper and Spotted Owl Helper, where Betty Crocker sued to stop the company from selling a product encroaching upon "the good name" of their product, Hamburger Helper.

Nowdays, the original boxes are collectors items:


»» Submitted by »»» srhcb at 1:19 PM on September 13

Haha!!! These posts are a hoot!

Keillor, you suck!!
»» Submitted by Ubermensch at 1:21 PM on September 13

Geez, I'm torn.

On one hand, if he has the law on his side, as much as it sucks that's the way it goes. Witness the Dysfunctional Family Circus which was sued out of existence.

HOWEVER, with that said, please let me go on record that no one, and I mean no one, did I mention NO ONE loathes Mr. Keillor more than I do.
»» Submitted by Admin Worm at 1:44 PM on September 13

I think Keillor is very funny. Everyone in my nursing home listens to PHC.
»» Submitted by yo-dawg at 1:41 PM on September 13

Yo-Dawg, that was extremely funny. I imagine the home saves $$$ on sedatives on Saturday afternoons by switching on NPR.
»» Submitted by Admin Worm at 1:53 PM on September 13

Nilsson, schmilsson. Wonder if Keillor's lawyers are paid with public money like Garrison.
Rex's mistake was to not hit the taxpayers up for a little seed capitol, build his empire on the public dole, then suddenly decide he's a bigshot capitalist, with lawyers n' all, like GK.
If there was any justice in the world, anybody that could show a W-2 for the past 20 years would have a legitimate ownership claim on all the crap that PHC has produced. It wouldn't have been produced if Uncle Sugar hadn't taken your money away at gunpoint (a/k/a the income tax), and decided they know better what to do with it. (give it to Public Broadcast Ho's like Garrison Keillor)
I say, go for the big brass ring, Rex. Prove to the world that if you suck at the public tit, your "work" belongs to the public domain. Hope you don't get a liberal democrat judge at your trial, though.
»» Submitted by Rick at 1:43 PM on September 13

Man, people sure are touchy about this shirt. Do you even know the history behind it?

'Prairie Home' spoof fits its creator to a T - "It was linguistically funny to drop a couple of letters," says Sorgatz. "But I don't mean anything by it. It came from cheekiness about the movie being made and stars being in town."

AFAIK, it wasn't so much a rip on the show or Keillor, but on the insanity of the news media (CJ) and the daily gossip about the stars in the movie (Lohan).

Maybe "Save Rex" or "Free MNSpeak" should be the next shirt!
»» Submitted by »»» moe at 1:55 PM on September 13

The above comments cover the most important point - that a copyright or trade-mark must be consistantly defended, or it's void.

That being said, I must admit that it wasn't until after I moved out of Minnesota that I realized that people thought he was telling jokes,
»» Submitted by David Driscoll at 1:35 PM on September 13

Now that you've garnered some attention, simply change the wording in a new shirt:
"GK sleeps with prairie whores"
»» Submitted by alternates at 1:54 PM on September 13

You are absolutely in the right here. I like Garrison Keillor, and I think your T-shirt is inane, but that doesn't matter. You are still right.
I don't read blogs (see "inane" above); I found you on Findory. Even if you stopped now, you will have won the battle. The only reason to keep this up is what one of your emailers said about C&D; orders being a plague upon the land, a legal form of bullying. Thanks for standing up to them
»» Submitted by preston woodruff at 1:57 PM on September 13

I don't get the parody. What "A Prairie Ho Companion" mean?
»» Submitted by The Rat at 2:05 PM on September 13

I would totally buy a t-shirt that just said: "WARNING: This shirt is not associated in any way with Prairie Home Companion or Garrison Keilor"

Hell, I'd buy 5.
»» Submitted by Trendware at 2:25 PM on September 13

I listen to Garrison every week. Without fail. Love the show. Disagree with his politics, but still love the show. I find it funny that he would issue a C&D; for your little T-shirt. I think you ought to tell his lawyers to pound sand and sell your last 10. I'll buy one and wear it while I listen to his show. And, I'll contribute to your law fund.
»» Submitted by Bill Sirmon at 2:11 PM on September 13

Rex -- as a long time fan of Fimoculous, I am wondering if you are planning to send GK a "You are so off my buddy list" T-shirt as a peace offering?
»» Submitted by Dave Pacey at 2:37 PM on September 13

"It was linguistically funny to drop a couple of letters"

Sheesh, does it make you feel smart to use awkward college-speak in describing a silly t-shirt? How about "Dood, we said 'HO.' It's FUNNY."
»» Submitted by Jones at 2:43 PM on September 13

for a lark, take the last 10 shirts, and, in big ol' fat red letters, write "Banned as per Liberal Lawsuit" across the front, then post them up on eBay.

And you could even state that the proceeds would be donated. I think the dilemna of them attempting to sue a person who's raising money for a worthy cause might result in an explosion.
»» Submitted by Ren at 2:56 PM on September 13

"I'll even write the headline for you: 'Liberal Comedian Sues Blogger.' Do you really want that?"

That made me laugh a lot when I saw it on WarrenEllis.com. Now I read the comments on this page, and...

...A bunch of NPR listeners threatening to band together to infringe on someone else's free speach, because it parodies something they enjoy?

That sad. You're forces of evil on the side of good.
»» Submitted by Brandon at 2:38 PM on September 13

Attorney Nillson's writing style is rather constipated, isn't it? The lack of an earlier reference to aprairiehomecompanion.org makes me wonder whether he was cut-and-pasting, not too carefully, from a cease & desist (redundant) letter originally sent to someone else in an unrelated dispute.

Without regard to the merits, or whether Keillor might or might not ultimately win his lawsuit, the transaction costs for both sides in litigating can quickly skyrocket. Among the risks faced by the defendant is that even when the plaintiff can't prove he lost money or suffered any other specific damages (e.g., to reputation), he might still be awarded his attorneys' fees for proving up the violation of his rights. Tread carefully.
»» Submitted by Beldar at 2:36 PM on September 13

"Legally I have no doubt where I stand"?

Heh. You should. Because your shirts are pretty clearly infringing use.

1 - They are intended to make a profit.
2 - they are intended to dilute the brand.

If he wants you, he's got you.

If you'd just quietly, politely played chicken, instead of giving attitude to the lawyer, you'd probably have gotten away with it. But here you are, instead, demonstrating that your intent was to dilute the brand.

Don't confuse your own idea of right and wrong with standing under the law. That's a good way to end up broke and broken.
»» Submitted by eric at 3:04 PM on September 13

the "PR" has begun - the Pioneer Press has a blurb on their site
»» Submitted by »»» rachael at 3:38 PM on September 13

I just asked for his side of the story through his website...

You can reach it here.
»» Submitted by Matthew Gotth-Olsen at 3:29 PM on September 13

Jesus. Does everyone love seeing their own typed words so much that they'll even respond to something so benign, trivial, and assinine, often with NOTHING new to say? I think there are probably more important things to work ourselves in a tizzy over than some "liberal" suing a blogger.
»» Submitted by Cindy at 3:50 PM on September 13

Firstly, Why does this have to become a "Bash Garrison Keilor" board? Garrison Keilor is decent guy and an incredibly talented storyteller and comedian. I have enjoyed "A Praire Home Companion" for a number of years.

Secondly, why is this a matter of Liberal versus Conservative?
This has noting to do with political stance. The matter here is that Keilor saw his creation being defamed and acted to protect it. Who wouldn't?

If you want to create a product and make money, that's fine. Come up with something catchy and original; Don't do it on the backs of other people's creations.
»» Submitted by Dave at 3:36 PM on September 13

You may want to contact the South African site Hellkom which was taken to court on a similar type of issue by Telkom the company they were parodying, and they had the case withdrawn. Their was a similar instance with another South African company making parody t-shirts too but I can't recall their url.

I know it's a different country and different laws, but it can't hurt to see what the principle is that they argued.
»» Submitted by Adrian at 3:58 PM on September 13

It sounds like someone hasn't been taking their ketchup lately. I hope Peter Ostroushko gets to do the bumper music for Court TV when this airs.

»» Submitted by Ed at 3:58 PM on September 13

Keillor does have to defend his trademark, that's a principle of trademark law. Don't take it personally. Look at it this way: the shirts were funny--now they are collectable and funny.
»» Submitted by a reader writes at 4:11 PM on September 13

this is going to get national and probably international media attention. if you own any gk stock, sellsellsell!
»» Submitted by anne at 4:10 PM on September 13

"Any $15 donation gets a free 'A Prairie Ho Companion' T-shirt."
»» Submitted by rone at 4:24 PM on September 13

The biggest hoot is that poor old GK won't talk politics anymore because he is too depressed about the state of politics in this great country.
»» Submitted by Still Searching for a Happy Liberal at 3:59 PM on September 13

*snip* Does everyone love seeing their own typed words so much that they'll even respond to something so benign, trivial, and assinine, often with NOTHING new to say?*snip*

heh heh, Cindy said "ass"

dropping the "inine" from it is linguistically funny...
»» Submitted by Mr. Ned at 4:19 PM on September 13

You'll have to excuse my Freudian slip.
»» Submitted by Cindy at 4:59 PM on September 13

Well, I found out about this over at Reason, so it looks like even the libertarians are having some fun with this. Personally, I wouldn't know who Garrison Keillor was if he dropped dead in front of me. This is probably the most publicity the silly old putz has had in his life.

If you get around to printing off any more of those shirts, I'll take three of 'em!
»» Submitted by V at 4:45 PM on September 13

"He's got a copyright interest in the name and he just wants to protect it  nothing personal," Nilsson said.

Sheesh, even the lawyers don't understand the difference between trademark and copyright now. WTF?
»» Submitted by Jake at 5:30 PM on September 13

I'd buy a t-shirt that says:

"I remember Garrison Keillor when he was funny"
»» Submitted by daughter of icarus at 5:56 PM on September 13

Ol' Garrison has a typical Minnesota Liberal sense of humor.

I'd gladly buy a t-shirt if you startt selling them again.
»» Submitted by »»» mthalo at 6:24 PM on September 13

The Twin Cities can't catch a break lately, what with The Olympic Hopefuls and Spaghetti Western both also getting C&Ds.;
»» Submitted by Doug at 6:31 PM on September 13

I wonder how Garrison feels about Al Franken's "The O'Franken Factor" radio show?

I've listened to APHC for decades, but it's become almost unlistenable to me since Bush was elected, as Garrison descends into angry, self-righteous fuddyduddyism. Like Garry Trudeau, he squanders his considerable charm and talent on cliched, bitter invective. All with the requisite nudge and "we-know-what's-what" wink at the NPR audience of self-annointed bien pensants.

This isn't about commercial confusion. It's is about Garrison's inflated self-importance and rage. It's like what Bill O'Reilly did with Al Franken, much to O'Reilly's regret and Franken's delight.
»» Submitted by freetotem at 6:28 PM on September 13

Minneapolis regularly hosts the thrice-yearly meetings of the Internet Engineering Task Force (www.ietf.org). There are a fair number of hard-core internet free speech advocates who attend. I bet you could sell them a fair number of T-shirts protesting these actions. That should draw the attention of the Minneapolis chamber of commerce. After all, that's 2000-3000 people who descend on the city once or twice a year. The city would want to preserve its positive image with these people.
»» Submitted by tf at 6:46 PM on September 13

The T-shirt's not funny. Keillor's not so hot either. But if this T-shirt's actionable, then ship me a busload of lawyers 'cause half the stores in this town sell T-shirts that are worse.

Yeah, his lawyer has to do it to defend the mark. The mark's been duly defended and there's no room for Wal-Mart to slip in and steal Keillior's empire away. Time for the lawyer to crawl back under his rock before he gets the boss in hot water on the whole of this newfangled Intarweb thing.
»» Submitted by A Humorless Cretin at 6:11 PM on September 13

Contact Lawyers for the Arts. They charge about $35 for a consultation. I think they have branches in most states. Just google them to find your local branch.

However, you've already done what Keillor's lawyer wants. You've stopped selling the t-shirt. So as far as they're concerned, they've already won.

So keep selling the t-shirt. I'll buy one just to spite Keillor's lawyer. I think you'll discover they don't want to go to trial either, because they know they'd probably lose.
»» Submitted by Alex B at 7:27 PM on September 13

He's a jerk. I once sent a letter to him when he wrote for Salon, suggesting that perhaps his advice to a letter-writer was lfawed,since he'd ditched his first wife and kid in a pretyt ugly way. He CYBER_STALKED ME for a good two months after wards (albeit poorly-he thought he could read headers,etc.) What a tool
»» Submitted by KateCoe at 7:51 PM on September 13

The ACLU tends to take cases which are strictly religiously- or politically-minded free speech cases, so (nothing binding here, only law student, etc. etc. etc.) see if John Hinderaker can drum up any legal support for you via intellectual property lawyers. And then ask legal counsel if they need a volunteer law student for the case - I'm in. Regardless of whether or not you comply with the cease and desist order, you'll want some legal advice anyway. Good luck, Rex.
»» Submitted by »»» mara at 7:57 PM on September 13

Wow. I can't believe how fired up people are on this! It seems insane that someone who uses the public airwaves and satire to make their living would go after someone else using satire. It'd be like me going after Slanderous Minneapolis for making fun of me on theis site. It's crazy! And that was the spirit of Rex's post... it certainly didn't seem mean. Although I'm glad to see a lot more people visiting MNSpeak!
»» Submitted by »»» jderusha at 8:52 PM on September 13

DISCLAIMER: This is not legal advice. I do not represent you. ATG asked for my take on it. This is what I would do and keep in mind I do not have to pay attorney fees and you may down the road on the matter if these guys are really serious about it:

(1) It seems extremely unlikely a reasonable person could possibly confuse the two. It is very clearly a parody, the name is not designed to mislead, but is exactly the contrary.
(2) It seems unlikely the Plaintiff could prove financial damages. Even if they could, are they collectible?
(3) If you pushed the matter, the plaintiff may seek a temporary injunction (TRO) until a full hearing on the merits (trial) occured. That would be no biggie. It would cost them 15 hours for the TRO in atty fees and cost you a physical presence in the court room representing yourself pro se.
(4) This is a blessing in terms of publicity. I would absolutely make them file a law-suit in the matter. Just make sure you can fill all the shirt orders that are likely to come in if the case hits the paper. Your timing is great.

As to the letter itself: I would respond in writing that you are considering the matter and will notify them of your decision in 30 days after consulting an attorney. Tell them that you are unrepresented and ask them for legal advice. This would force them to write you another letter or two. Get them to write as many letters as possible. This will drive up the costs for the plaintiff, which is always fun. In the interim, that would give you time to sell off your inventory and get ready to print more shirts. Then when the 30 days lapse, write them again and simply say, you offer to settle the matter for $1.00 and that the letter is a settlement offer and not admissable under the rules of evidence. By the time, anything happened it would be another 30 days. If it gets to the point of them filing a law-suit (i.e. TRO) tell ATG to call me and I would look at what they filed. I like this route because it's the American thing to do, makes the f'ers spend money they do not need to and you spend almost nothing, and the best part, you get free publicity.

***Again, this is what I would do only and not legal advice.

»» Submitted by Curious George, Esq. at 8:25 PM on September 13

gotcha back rex! that is some fucking BULLSHIT.
»» Submitted by sb at 9:22 PM on September 13

I wonder if the letter is completely legitimate. It is a letter from someone alleging to be an attorney representing Garrison Keillor. The letter gives no evidence that Mr. Keillor has authorized this Eric Nillson to represent him in this matter. In fact, there is no evidence that this Eric Nillson has even informed Mr. Keillor of this matter (note that two persons were Cc'd on the letter, neither of whom is Mr. Keillor).

I would recommend sending a letter to Mr. Keillor, Cc this Eric Nillson, pointing out that this Nillson character is maligning his good name with this stupidity, and offer to assist Mr. Keillor in any lawsuit he may wish to bring against this Eric Nillson.

If you don't hear directly back from Mr. Keillor, continue with your parody and disregard this Nillson nonsense. Direct no correspondence to Eric Nillson, and let Keillor speak for himself.
»» Submitted by blitz at 9:47 PM on September 13

Why not just make a t-shirt with "Garrison Keillor is a total dickwad idiot" and sell that? I'd buy one.
»» Submitted by John Brabble at 10:25 PM on September 13

Perhaps this has been mentioned already, but is it possible that the colorscheme of your t-shirt is just a little too Wellstonian for Keillor to see the humor?
»» Submitted by fxb at 10:33 PM on September 13

Trademarks need to be defended or they are lost. This is just a fact of life. Even if you win in court by establishing there is no likihood of confusion, Keillor has to take you to court to have that fact established so he doesn't lose his trademark completely.

»» Submitted by a reader at 10:45 PM on September 13

I see from your comments you may not understand what he's about to sue you for. Mr. Keillor has no copyright case against you; he's suing for trademark infringement. He also potentially has a dynamite claim under the Anti-Cybersquatting and Consumer Protection Act for your use of the domain name as alleged in the cease and desist letter. His attorney also implies that he could come at you with state based unfair competition torts that are likely arcane and I have no knowledge about how they'd play out.

Mostly, I want to make sure you realize that there is nothing copyright about this going on.

Best of luck,

UC Berkeley Law Student
»» Submitted by Law Student at 10:56 PM on September 13

How about a T-shirt that says, "Garrison Keillor is an embittered and hateful old fool," (or however else you'd like to describe him, such as "&enemy; of free speech" or "GK is a s***head'), followed by a copy of the attorney's letter?
»» Submitted by Grundgesetz at 10:20 PM on September 13

I found this story through a link on The Morning News, which is a bunch of people I read regularly but don't know. I'm proud to be able to say that hey, all this controversy started with a guy I met in a bar once. Congratulations on making the big time, and good luck with the fight. When those shirts are available again, I'll buy one.
»» Submitted by Ingrid's Big Sister at 11:08 PM on September 13

'Congratulations Mr. Keillor. Your fame in being a thin-skinned "comedian" who can't take a joke even while viciously criticising others under a thin veneer of humour has reached the People's Republic of China. My students--international law students in the South Central University of Nationalities, Wuhan--are going to have this incident relayed to them as an in-class study for a topical debate.

'I have already collected MNspeak.com's side of this issue, along with several commentators' (both pro and con), into a handout for class perusal. I would like, if at all possible, to hear your side from your mouth (and not the legal jargon of your attorney Eric Nilsson) and present it to the self-same class for their debate.

'I will proceed with the class debate with or without your contribution, I should note, since I have your side indirectly spelled out by your supporters. I feel it would be more fair both to you and to my students, however, if I were to present your side of the issue first-hand.

'I look forward to hearing some good news.'
»» Submitted by Michael at 11:59 PM on September 13

I read a lot of the responses, but not all of them.

You know all those stupid little stickers of Calvin from "Calvin and Hobbes" pissing on logos or phrases that you see on the backs of tons of cars.

That's pretty much the same thing as your t shirt.

I remember reading an interview with Bill Waterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, and the interviewer describes a moment when Waterson, then retired and being a huge recluse, is walking out of a grocery store and sees one of those stupid stickers on a car and just stopping and looking for a second, and its obviously hurting the guy to see his "child" being used in that way.

I'm not going to pretend that I don't like Garrison Keillor, because I do, and I think he says and does a lot of things that that are good and worthy of saying and doing.

I'm also not going to pretend that I think he is as famous, or has had as large of an impact as Calvin and Hobbes either, however, I am going to point out that, though your parody may turn out to be legal, it is not moral.

Just because something is legal or illegal does not make it morally right and wrong. He is obligated to try and protect his trademarks, to prevent a trend from picking up that will take his creations away from him and make them "piss on chevy logos" for all eternity.

So all of this talk about him being a luddite, or a cumudgeon, or whatever, seems like the speak from a bunch of internet busy-bodies who don't have an inkling of an idea of what it is to have a nationally, legally recognized trademark. Much less one that is being parodied for profit (you sold the shirts, you didn't give them away).

Parody is okay, but the way this discussion is slanted you'd think parody was the moral high ground, like it was some kind of shan-gri-la of personal expression.

I do not believe he has much of a real legal case against you, but I do believe you should question wether or not that is important, and wether or not you should be making such "grand" efforts to soil his reputation.
»» Submitted by John Hill at 2:50 AM on September 14

Some of Keillor's humor is amusing. He is staunchly, however, a bona fide, card-carrying, tin foil hat liberal. You gotta remember that! There's one set of rules for them, and another set for everybody else! So, without any mental trepidation, Keillor can still maintain his air of intellectual superiority, while in reality conducting his personal business matters in the most banal manner. But, that's OKAY for liberals! Remember...one set of rules for them...oh, I almost forgot; Dan Rather wasn't biased, either...repeat after me: One set of rules for them...
»» Submitted by Goober at 7:06 AM on September 14

Keillor loves to dish it but he can't take it. What a wimp... I'd like to place an order for a dozen tee shirts please...
»» Submitted by David at 7:23 AM on September 14

Did you ever stop to consider how your actions may have affected Garrison's prostitution activities. I didn't think so!

walk in beauty...
»» Submitted by Michael McNally at 7:22 AM on September 14

How about a T-shirt with this entire thread?
Might need the front and back.

(Not sure what the morality quotient of that shirt would be.)

»» Submitted by »»» chuck at 7:29 AM on September 14

I've never found Keillor to be entertaining; however as somebody who makes a living in part defending and protecting a nationally recognized trademark, I have to say that for he and his lawyer to persist on this issue, when it is clearly protected speech, is embarrassing (for them). Anyone who works in brand management knows that attacking someone via legal channels when they parody you is a quick trip down bad-PR lane.
»» Submitted by Oversoul at 7:38 AM on September 14

I have never heard of you before. I don't even know your name or the name of your blog.
I listen to Keillor all the time, and have his archive bookmarked.
Do you realize a "Prairie Home Companion" movie by Robert Altman is due to be released soon?
Do what you feel you must, but an angry little blogger isn't going to hurt Keillor in the least, no matter what juvenile postings you feature on this remote little corner of the web.
»» Submitted by Vince at 7:45 AM on September 14

Maybe "A Fairie Ho Companion" would've been more fitting?
»» Submitted by Big Daddy at 8:11 AM on September 14

Wouldn't it be cool if bloggers everywhere started offering these fine, quality products for sale? Hundreds of them? We could be a full-time job for Keillor's counsel.
»» Submitted by Cynical Nation at 8:20 AM on September 14

Look, the only people who would recognize the connection between the shirt and the show would be people that listen to NPR. Who actually listens to NPR? Who actually cares?
»» Submitted by Big Daddy at 8:20 AM on September 14

Garrison Keillor is still alive?
»» Submitted by Greg C at 8:28 AM on September 14

The real question is whether Melissa Gilbert is GK's prairie ho companion - she does have a thing for older men.
»» Submitted by Just a Tom at 8:47 AM on September 14

I for one am going to print up my own run of these shirts and sell them on ebay. That will really piss Keillor off. And if he sends me a cease and desist, I will sell the inventory to my buddy and he can put them all on ebay. Until he gets his cease and desist... etcetera. I would imagine that Keillor lacks the resources of the Recording Industry to track and prosecute all offenders.
»» Submitted by Capitalist Steve at 8:48 AM on September 14

So sad. Garrison Keillor was/is an entertaining guy in many ways. But he's proved himself to be the a$$hole who requires he be the only person in the room who gets to decide what is humorous and what isn't. And as a result he's become one of the people he so despises.
»» Submitted by MikeB at 8:40 AM on September 14

GK blows and sucks. IP is a ridiculous and unenforcable notion anyways.
»» Submitted by o h bush at 8:58 AM on September 14

I used to watch PHC on PBS back in the 80s and bought a tape of a bunch of songs about cats Keillor did that are ALL parodies of well-known tunes, so he understands, or did, the concept of parody. The difference must be that back in those days he was on the way up and understood humor, now he's on the way down and is 'protecting' his intellectual property.

I say do what you can to continue to be an irritant to the has-been.

»» Submitted by Retread at 8:51 AM on September 14

the guy is so phenomonally boring. christ on a cruthc do people still listen to that self-absorbed windbag.
»» Submitted by marison eeyor at 8:41 AM on September 14

OK, everybody. Flood the Prairie Home Companion site and tell them what dweebs they are.
»» Submitted by Barry Dauphin at 9:05 AM on September 14

What I don't understand is why ALL bloggers don't use a service such as Prepaid Legal which gives you an incredible access to legal aid for like $26/month. If Rex had had a service such as this, he would have had legal representation, and the ability to parry an attack such as this. If you want some info just email me. It's a great plan, and great peace of mind.

GK has made a boondoggle paroding Republican, Jesse Ventura, etc... it's really the pot calling the kettle black! He also has a new movie coming out so he does't want to tarnish the name I guess. Really is sad!!!

»» Submitted by Chris Vaughn at 8:47 AM on September 14

I love it!!!

"Gustafson", "Nilsson". Sounds like Fargo. Great stuff!!!

»» Submitted by Steve Dores at 9:02 AM on September 14

rex stand your ground. GK feels threaten, even though, he shouldn't.
»» Submitted by dig at 9:23 AM on September 14

I used to work tangentally with GK years ago and he is indeed a self-absorbed jerk. Back then at least his folksy little Lake Wobegone stories were packed full of veiled bitchy comments on his colleagues and others. You had to be on the inside to pick up on it, but it was absolutely brutal.

If you should happen to communicate with him again through his lawyer or otherwise, you might also want to mention that he's a terrible singer, since apparently nobody's thought to tell him so far.
»» Submitted by MPR survivor at 9:23 AM on September 14

I had to comment again... since MPR survivor made the comment...

HE IS A TERRIBLE SINGER! One of the funniest moments in all of PHC is when he decided to have an imprompt singing, and everyone was off key... esp him! It was the closing of the show, and I can only imagine people were fleeing for their lives.

He also needs a mic screen on that mic! His breathing through his nostrils sounds something akin to blow torch firing up....

Just proves that in America if you have a dream, some federal money given to you not based upon talent - any democratic-dream is possible.

»» Submitted by Chris Vaughn at 9:41 AM on September 14

gee, a self-absorbed hypocritical liberal entertainer, that's something new.....
»» Submitted by Sam I. Am at 9:36 AM on September 14

Print that letter a little more clearly so we can all call the lawyer and offer to testify. For you.

I also think you've got a gold mine here with other, non-PHC, parody t-shirts. Sign me up on your mailing list. I still drink my morning coffee out of Baghdad Bob cups.
»» Submitted by Mike K at 9:47 AM on September 14

Anyone who wants to protect their copyright in anything must be very vigilant to demand that anyone cease and desist from any action that may infringe on their copyright. The reason is that the copyright holder does not want to run the risk of someone contending that they have waived their copyright. If they let anyone slip by without issuing a cease and desist letter that could be intrepreted as a waiver of their copyright.
»» Submitted by Redman at 9:48 AM on September 14

People who don't want to read the entire thread can post a number from the following code, so that everyone can skip your redundant posts:

1. Keillor is acting like a typical liberal (and I am unaware of the fact that the sellers and designers of the T-shirt are also Minnesota liberals)

2. There's a difference between copyright and trademark

3. I'm a Keillor fan and you're all horrible

4. Ketchup joke

5. Old people joke

6. If you profit from the sale of something (like a T-shirt, or, say, a radio show), you forfeit your right to parody a trademark

Any more?
»» Submitted by Pete Scholtes at 9:23 AM on September 14

To recap, freedom of speech is great when Larry Flynt parodies Jerry Falwell, but liberal targets are off limits.
»» Submitted by matt duffy at 10:02 AM on September 14

Oh, and...

7. A copyright/trademark must be vigorously defended or its void
»» Submitted by Pete Scholtes at 10:15 AM on September 14

Matt, I think you meant to post:

»» Submitted by Pete Scholtes at 10:16 AM on September 14

Now we know that all the liberal comedians are above average.
»» Submitted by Joe Baby at 10:13 AM on September 14

You've been Instalanched so that explains why the conservatives. Cause we are open-minded enough to read a moderate libertarian like Insty, and to root for a liberal like MNspeak.

As a conservative, I believe in near absolute First Amendment rights. This applies even when it is my ox being gored. If you make a parody of Limbaugh, (say: "Limblah-blah, Pustulence in Broadcasting Studios") I might not be impressed, but you have a right, at least in my book, to say it.

The fact that you may dilute the brand with a clearly differentiated product is not societies problem, and the fact that Limbaugh spent many years and much sweat creating his product and standing in the marketplace also will not affect my decision.

Parody is a chief weapon of the weak to trim the powerful. (Now I sound like a liberal, or what liberals imagine themselves to be, anyways.) You have to have a better reason than pity for a rich and powerful man for me to trim free speech rights.

I personally welcome seeing liberals fight. Not for the obvious reason, but because you guys have some nuts you need to get rid of. And as long as good table manners prevail, the nuts will continue to sit at the head table.

So "Let's burn down the Prairie! Up against the Cabin! Kill Whitey!"
»» Submitted by Eric R. Ashley at 9:23 AM on September 14

How about:

8. Keillor is acting like a typical liberal (and I am aware of the fact that the sellers and designers of the T-shirt are also Minnesota liberals and find it very funny)
»» Submitted by Sam I. Am at 10:26 AM on September 14

Actually, Keiller needs this press just as much as you do.
»» Submitted by DoDo at 10:25 AM on September 14

Well, since your parody is not either vulgar or viscious, I think it's fine. This is a beautiful game, in my opinion -- make a move that could be trademark infringment, which could prompt someone's lawyer to send you a C & D. So, depending on how the holder handles your parody you can stop making the current shirt and use the publicity to sell another, wider-audience-appeal, wittier shirt. This shirt would not have any hints of trademark infringement but would sell because people love knocking fuddy-duddies down a notch.

I sure do!

Sounds like a win-win situation for all parties involved - you get a few extra bucks & some traffic, and Keillor (depending on what actually happens) gets a lesson in self-centeredness.

Ah, what a country this USA is. There is always something entertaining going on.
»» Submitted by Mr. G at 9:46 AM on September 14

Who is Garrison Keillor?
»» Submitted by Steve at 10:36 AM on September 14

What if you changed it to "Praire Whore Companion" That way GK has nothing on you (althought it may be less funny).
»» Submitted by Torr828 at 10:33 AM on September 14

The posts about Starbucks failed to mention that Starbucks recently lost a parody case in Texas. A small microbrewer was selling "Starbocks" beer. Starblech sued. The court ruled that the brewer could sell the beer within his home county, which was indeed all he wanted to do. -- http://www.markenbusiness.com/en/news.php?newsid=2237

I suggest avoiding the controversy entirely in the future with t-shirts along the lines of "Garrison Keillor suGKs farts out of subway seats" or "Go fuGK yourself, Garrison Keillor".
»» Submitted by Stan at 10:27 AM on September 14

It seems like Keillor is, in effect, claiming that he is the only one who can profit from prairie hos. If so, Keillor must be the prairie pimp.
»» Submitted by Moklevat at 10:41 AM on September 14

As Shakesphere said, sometimes you've "got to be cruel to be kind". I'm not going to give you sympathy, but something more important to your long-term well being--- a basic explaination of branding and trademarks relative to entrepreneurialship.

GK is just protecting his brand. Parody is free speech until you try to make a buck off of it, then it's called infringement.

If you had just done a free-access parody on your blog or given away the shirts you'd be safe, but selling the T-shirts crossed the line. Sorry bub, but that's the law, which applies to liberals and conservatives alike. Being the little guy isn't going to give you any advantage in court. The fact that you didn't make much or no profit won't be relevant to the court either. The issue is not profit, but infringement.

You might have gotten away with a little branding pilferage had you not printed up a phrase as anthetical to the brand as you did. Subtle infringements are hard to detect in the marketplace, but "Prairie Ho' Companion" sticks out like a flashing red light amidst the other legitimate PHC-brand material.

Also, you made your infringement easy to detect and trace. There's people who are paid to look for infringements; you couldn't have done a better job of attracting their attention than by placing a product that was obviously unlicensed for sale over the internet on your web page.

I suggest that you study the rules surrounding trademarks and copyrights before you go further. GK lawyer's are cutting you some slack by only asking you to "Cease and Desist"; they just as readily could take you to court for infringement and brand defamation, both of which involve paying damages.

Disclaimer: I'm not associated with GK or the legal profession.
»» Submitted by Nova A at 9:49 AM on September 14

What's the record for post with the most comments?
»» Submitted by chuckjr at 10:49 AM on September 14

I can't believe President Bush's incredible insensitivity to this injustice. He sits around his ranch reading BOOKS, if you can believe it, while the First Amendment lies in tatters around his feet. How many more poor and minority bloggers must be sued before he will pull the National Guard out of Iraq to deal with this issue? How much more carbon dioxide must be spewed into the atmosphere by the talkmeisters of Minnesota before he realizes that global warming MUST BE STOPPED! Where is FEMA when the levees of our liberty break and the flood waters trap freedom-loving bloggers in Cyberdomes where injunction-wielding lawyers terrorize the helpless victims who are trapped there?

And what about Karl Rove? Don't tell me he's not behind this! The man must be stopped. Today it's a harmless T-shirt... tomorrow he'll be leaking your underwear size to some neo-con "journalist" at the New York Times. This is SO OBVIOUSLY an insidious plot to undermine the influence progressive spokesbeings like Mr. Keillor. It's the only credible explanation for an injustice of this order.

And don't overlook the John Roberts connection, here! With Chief Justice "John" Roberts at the helm, you can kiss your precious civil liberties goodbye. Oh, sure, he's just LOOKING for a chance to score a few "liberal" points by ruling in favor of an icon like "The Prairie Home [censored]." He'll have Hillary eating out of his hand like a trained sheltie once he authors the unanimous majority opinion in THIS little case. It's perfect: he sides with capitalist thugs while getting credit for his "open mindedness," and she smirks while she sells out the progressive/left coalition on her mad march to power.
»» Submitted by Scott W. Somerville at 10:41 AM on September 14

Required reading on Keillor
»» Submitted by Scof at 10:51 AM on September 14

I think it's time for a "A Danish Ho's Comanion" T-shirt.
»» Submitted by Richard R at 10:00 AM on September 14

I think this quote from the Required Reading sums up GK's schtick:
"So I'll be feeding you mostly shit,"
»» Submitted by puffdaddy at 11:02 AM on September 14

It's a parody!

NPR fans, please get a grip. Your opinion of the degree of humor in this is irrelevent. Parody has been protected for decades.

Think of all the parodies Keillor does on his shows. Or pick up any copy of Mad magazine. Or watch Saturday Night Vile (uh, I mean Evil, no I mean Live). Think how outraged most of these good liberal types would be if the target of any parody were to sue Keillor or Mad or SNL.... and yet here their outrage seems to be against someone who came up with a parody t-shirt.

Hey, it's just speaking truth to power!

»» Submitted by Jim at 10:27 AM on September 14

Consider the little mouse, how sagacious an animal it is which never entrusts his life to one hole only.


Um, can we close off this hole now? Maybe get a promise from Rex to post any upcoming television or radio inteviews so we can tune in? I don't seem to have the discipline to stop reading these, and it's eating up all my time...
»» Submitted by crazymouse at 10:51 AM on September 14

Typical Liberal asshole--OK to make fun of people he approves of, but not OK to be parodied--What a dipshit.
»» Submitted by RogerA at 11:07 AM on September 14

»» Submitted by RushIsCool at 11:12 AM on September 14

Pete, you forgot 1a: everything comes down to liberal vs. conservative, especially in this case even though there is no basis for it. And for constructive discourse all you have to do is say liberals suck and vise versa.
»» Submitted by spacemanpete at 11:03 AM on September 14

I think it's funny. I'll buy one if I still can. If Mr. Unfunny's lawyers object to the cash, you can donate my money to your favorite cause. Surely there's a national legal defense fund to help average people when they're threatened with senseless lawsuits. Give the money to them.
»» Submitted by Lou Minatti at 11:12 AM on September 14

John the Baptist : Jesus Christ :: Will Rogers : Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor is The Homespun Conscience of the World, so stop making fun of Doonesbury!

»» Submitted by gs at 11:09 AM on September 14


I've enjoyed the Prairie Home Companion, but Mr. Keillor has gotten a bit overtly political, that or I've just recognized it more. In any event, his show is tainted, like a soda with a bug in it. I'm afraid I have to toss the whole thing now.
»» Submitted by Bryan at 11:14 AM on September 14

Instead of using GK's name, which is, no doubt trademarked,
you could print up a tee-shirt saying:

"Someone at NPR is a totally clueless braindead a**h***"

Your problem would then be that the entire NPR staff
and talent bench would think you are referring to them.

You, of course, would win every case because in a
libel case, the absolute truth is an absolute defense.

btw I think PHC is mildly amusing. I don't think your
teeshirt reaches even that low standard.

Just make sure you never, ever parody ...
"The Spanish Inquistion (tm)"

"I'm not a ...
but 1,000 drowned
... is a good start".
»» Submitted by Ted at 10:50 AM on September 14

What a whiney, self-important punk you are. I give hard-earned money to the ACLU...please don't waste their time or resources on this non-issue. The have much more important things to do.
»» Submitted by watty at 11:22 AM on September 14

You ought to thank Keillor for the promo! I got here via an Instapundit link...you have arrived!

»» Submitted by j3sdad at 11:27 AM on September 14

I just skimmed through some of the responses, so please forgive me if this has been said...

Does anyone own the phrase "A Prairie Ho Companion".
You could start you're own brand!
»» Submitted by Nairb at 11:37 AM on September 14

These guys are only getting paid for the legal stationery. The legal threat is nonexistant, and they know it. Are you guys who recommend capitulation kidding? Nothing will happen. Go on doing exactly what you were doing. I ignore letters from lawyers all the time. It's a scare tactic. You can parody anything you want any time you want for as much profit as you want, and there is nothing anybody in the U.S. can do about it. (Or should, but that's not a legal matter) And if they actually try to, just find a pro bono lawyer and you've won the moment you step into court. And I would immediately print 100 more of those shirts! Prairie Ho' Companion forever!
»» Submitted by darkcoffee at 11:55 AM on September 14

I'll write a song about it if you'd like.

E-mail me: apeville@comcast.net

I love taking on things like this.
»» Submitted by zilla at 11:55 AM on September 14

I have been a fan of "A Prairie Home Companion" for years, and have seen the show live twice. My favorite person in the troupe is Pat Donohue, guitarist extroidinaire.

But I have been a fan of the Constitution Of The United States Of America for a much longer time. You are clearly not attempting copyright infringement, but merely creating a punny little word-play. You have my support.

Keillor could take a lesson from the British royal family in this instance. They normally ignore such things as being beneath their notice. Makes them look smarter than they actually are.

A question: why did you not point out the funny little typographical error in the legal document's first paragraph?
»» Submitted by Wesley Loftis at 11:55 AM on September 14

Manual Trackback"
»» Submitted by Ken Summers at 12:07 PM on September 14

Hmmm, I wonder what Garrison Keillor's position was on the parody novel "The Wind Done Gone". Margaret Mitchell's estate sued the author of the parody and lost. It's not quite the same thing (there were copyright issues at stake, as well as the trademark issues), but the net effect is almost the same. And as was pointed out above, the "O'Franken Factor" is an even better fit, since it is a trademark infraction almost identical to this, except the defendent in this case is a small operator without the financial backing to defend himself.
»» Submitted by timekeeper at 11:34 AM on September 14

One word, Garrison: Metamucil
»» Submitted by cris at 12:09 PM on September 14

Interesting. Is Mr. Keillor himself posting commments here using several different fake names?
»» Submitted by Sleuth at 12:26 PM on September 14

Keillor's just jealous because the t-shirt is funny and he's not.
»» Submitted by Satyricon at 12:48 PM on September 14

Last Word....This goes to show that most people that respond to blogs have little interesting to say, never read the thread to see if what they are saying is redundant and like to rant and rave with little to no actual information on what is going on. With the advent of Satellite TV you all should have your own talk shows it would be at least as good as Bill O-Reilly (Altho his dirty talk is probably better). Altho you would be the only one watching them.
»» Submitted by doug at 12:35 PM on September 14

A couple of things, just for the hell of it: NPR doesn't have anything to do with the show or with Keillor. I believe that Keillor himself (not MN Public Radio) actually owns the show and the trademark. His production company produces the show, and it's distributed by American Public Media. Most of the stations that carry the show are also NPR affiliates, of course.
»» Submitted by Marlys at 12:52 PM on September 14

Just take up a collection to have 1000 new copies of the shirt printed up. Non-profit, you know? Then just give them away all over hell. Drum up publicity for this. Make it backfire in Kiellor's face.

Oh, and print up a few that say, "Lake Ho-be-gone."
»» Submitted by jojo at 12:48 PM on September 14

The starbucks coffee & coffehouses / starbOcks beer case is different than this. That was a pure likelihood of confusion case; this is parody. The law allows a small, regional first user of a mark to continue using his mark in his regional market if a bigger, badder nationwide mark later takes over. For example, there is a small restaraunt in rural Illinois called Burger King that is in no way connected with the dude in the creepy, stylized king costume you see in T.V. ads.

Here, the new "parody" mark is intended to make fun of the original mark. Thus, it's more like the first starbucks case, where the parody had the same intent. Thus, the tarnishment argument is still open for Keillor. (But that might just discorge profits, not get an injunction against use)...
»» Submitted by Tanker J.D. at 1:24 PM on September 14


Wow, so much hate! Am I the only one here who loves both MNSpeak and A Prairie Home Companion?
»» Submitted by chuck t at 10:31 AM on September 13

Yes. There are also those of us who are bored shiteless by both Keillor and this site.

»» Submitted by thibaud at 1:24 PM on September 14

What gives? I thought that liberals like Keillor loved the coerced redistribution of wealth. He should be happy to spread the bucks around.

Sounds like Keillor's just another Running Dog Kaptalist.
»» Submitted by Kevin F at 2:18 PM on September 14

please forward this on to eric neal

* Fair Use
There are two situations where the doctrine of fair use prevents infringement:
1. The term is a way to describe another good or service, using its descriptive term and not its secondary meaning. The idea behind this fair use is that a trademark holder does not have the exclusive right to use a word that is merely descriptive, since this decreases the words available to describe. If the term is not used to label any particular goods or services at all, but is perhaps used in a literary fashion as part of a narrative, then this is a non-commercial use even if the narrative is commercially sold.
2. Nominative fair use
This is when a potential infringer (or defendant) uses the registered trademark to identify the registrants product or service in conjunction with his or her own. To invoke this defense, the defendant must prove the following elements:
o his/her product or service cannot be readily identified without pointing to the registrants mark
o he/she only uses as much of the mark as is necessary to identify the goods or services
o he/she does nothing with the mark to suggest that the registrant has given his approval to the defendant
* Parody Use
Parodies of trademarked products have traditionally been permitted in print and other media publications. A parody must convey two simultaneous -- and contradictory -- messages: that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody.
* Non-commercial Use
If no income is solicited or earned by using someone else's mark, this use is not normally infringement. Trademark rights protect consumers from purchasing inferior goods because of false labeling. If no goods or services are being offered, or the goods would not be confused with those of the mark owner, or if the term is being used in a literary sense, but not to label or otherwise identify the origin of other goods or services, then the term is not being used commercially.
* Product Comparison and News Reporting
Even in a commercial use, you can refer to someone elses goods by their trademarked name when comparing them to other products. News reporting is also exempt.
* Geographic Limitations
A trademark is protected only within the geographic area where the mark is used and its reputation is established. For federally registered marks, protection is nationwide. For other marks, geographical use must be considered. For example, if John Doe owns the mark Timothys Bakery in Boston, there is no infringement if Jane Roe uses Timothys Bakery to describe a bakery in Los Angeles.

»» Submitted by john at 2:11 PM on September 14

Start selling new shirts that say:

"Garrison Keillor took the shirt off my back."
»» Submitted by Gullyborg at 1:49 PM on September 14

"But here's the thing: it annoys the living hell out of me that Garrison Keillor thinks he can bully me. And not only that, he incorrectly invokes our legal system to do it."

Gosh, you would prefer he simply pay people to beat the crap out of you, smash your computer, slash your tires? How, precisely, should people pursue legal disputes if not by invoking the legal system? (Although having a lawyer write a letter is not exactly invoking the legal system -- that hasn't happened until you get the summons and complaint.)

Posit for a minute you are in GK's shoes. How would you respond? Not how would you (as you, the blogger) like him to have responded, but how would you respond as GK, the guy who at least has an arguable case for trademark infringement that, if not addressed, could lead to some big losses for him and the people who earn their livelihood through the show.

I know it's not bloglike to try granting that those who disagree with you have any humanity or views worth respecting, but try it for just 30 seconds or a minute: you're GK, you've worked for 30+ years on APHC, it's your life's work in many respects, the thing you will be remembered for ... and you learn about a product (a "A Prairie Ho Companion" t-shirt) being sold that only exists and can only be sold because of your life's work. The person behind the shirt is as unknown to you as I am to that person.

Now try imagining how your best self would respond to what, as many people have noted, is an entirely harmless letter that simply meets a legal requirement.

I've been a state board ACLU member, currently serve as the legal committee chair for an ACLU chapter, and have written and studied abuse of the legal process in some depth, particularly around SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) ... and if I were in your local ACLU I'd argue that they should run the other way from you.
»» Submitted by J at 2:28 PM on September 14

Dude, the guy makes his living off of making fun of the products that others have spent their entire lives creating (whether that's ketchup or Bob Dylan). You're completely missing the point.
»» Submitted by douglas at 2:55 PM on September 14

Ah, snap!!! you just know I'm gonna use my printer, my HP Iron On transfer paper and my MSWord program to make my own Prairie Ho Companion shirts now! I got to, man, I just got to!!! And I'd have never know anything about this if that idiot Keillor had just kept his monotone trap shut!
»» Submitted by Gary at 2:20 PM on September 14


Keep up the fight, Keillor is out of touch and mildly fun at best. I will still swing by his radio show once a quarter, when the wife decides not to complain how boring it is, and give me a run, but long and short the guy's market just runs at a different speed and pace. He probably drives a 54 Studebaker and has lunches on the veranda with "the boys".

Keep up the fight and good work.
Our Post Here
»» Submitted by Frank at 2:47 PM on September 14

Not only is Keillor a Kapitalist-in-liberal-clothing (by refusing to permit someone else to redistribute his wealth), he's just as bad as the Big Pharma drug makers that use publicly-funded research to make vast fortunes.

Tax-funded PHC made Garry rich, now he jes' wants to hoard "his" wealth. Fake socialist; y'all should throw him outta the lefty club for profiteering and keeping down the Little Man.

There's gotta be a Guthrie song (not the theater, Woody) in here somewhere.
»» Submitted by Kevin F at 2:59 PM on September 14

"Parody is free speech until you try to make a buck off of it, then it's called infringement."

I did not know that the organization behind MAD Magazine was a non-profit.

»» Submitted by Sweetie at 11:29 AM on September 14

I'm cracking up reading comments from people who think Keillor is funny and like him. The man is an over the hill boring, angry, egotistic a-hole. Have you read any of his screeds detailing his black helicopter theories accusing everyone from Norm Coleman to Bush to Cheney to capitalists for "murdering" Paul "The Socialist" Wellstone?
Here's one example to See: http://viewfromtonka.blogspot.com/2005/05/garrison-keillor-npr-tax-dollars-at.html
»» Submitted by toni at 3:07 PM on September 14

Hey, it wasn't that funny. But it was a heck of lot funnier than Garrieson "Parody is not protected speech" Keillor has been in decades.
»» Submitted by Michael Edelman at 2:59 PM on September 14

A religious shut-in expresses their wish:

A Prayer re: home companion
»» Submitted by »»» srhcb at 3:21 PM on September 14

All you Keillor supporters take note: If I had a website selling t-shirts that said "Ho" wrapped in a Coca-Cola-esque logo, and then got sued by Coke, you'd be all over the Coke company, demanding they drop the C&D; and donate 20 gazillion gallons to Katrina relief.

I know you'd do it because you view Coca-Cola as some big, evil corporation.

But GK is some soft-spoken purveyor of liberal myth and you can't run to his defense fast enough.

Well, guess what, GK is also a corporation. That's right - all of his income is garnered under a PHC corporation that shields him from much of his tax responsiblity. He's nothing more than an corporation. And now, IMO, he's as evil a corporation as Coke or Wal-Mart or Halliburton. And you liberals that support him in this anti-free-speech movement of his are just a bunch of lousy hypocrites!!!
»» Submitted by PHCHatah at 3:21 PM on September 14

Oh, please. Keillor hates Norm Coleman and George Bush with the heat of a thousand suns, but he's never claimed that they had anything to do with Wellstone's death. In fact, he wrote in a Salon.com essay, "I personally don't believe he [Coleman] had anything to do with the crash of Paul's plane. Plenty of people suspect he did. I don't."

I'm sort of "meh" about Keillor most of the time, but re-reading that piece makes me love him a little.
»» Submitted by Marlys at 4:20 PM on September 14

Keillor started to lose me after 9-11. His banal and lame audio essay directly after it, which touched no reality of the impact of the event, was alienating. Later, his attacks on half the country's population (the red half) went too far. I used to be a big fan.
»» Submitted by Brian Crouch at 5:42 PM on September 14

If Gary Keillor's big city lawyers stop you from selling the "Prairie Ho Companion" T-shirts, how about making ones that say "Ho Be Gone"? Certainly, the old coot couldn't stop you from selling that one.
»» Submitted by Dirkwood at 5:39 PM on September 14

Garrison Keillor's sense of humor stops at his waist (about where his wallet rests on a day when water bloat isn't a problem).

His motto? "Put your hands on my cash and I'll hand you your ass, punk!"
»» Submitted by fooltomery at 6:18 PM on September 14

Unfortunately, he didn't have a lot of choice. The rule with Trademarks is that if you don't defend them they expire. Since Praire Home Companion is a trademark (which makes sense) if someone else wanted to make fake PHC t-shirts and they objected, they could point to your site and say that PHC had forfeited the right to protect their trademark. They HAD to issue a cease and desist. Don't be such a d*ck about it.
»» Submitted by kg at 5:53 PM on September 14

Go for it!!! Don't let that ass win!
»» Submitted by anne at 8:06 PM on September 14

How about a new t-shirt that reads:

"Garrison Keillor Sued Me And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt."
»» Submitted by Buckley F. Williams at 8:26 PM on September 14


You've received a lot of sympathy, but but also a lot of emotional advice today from people who've never put a product on the market or had to fight a commercial lawsuit. You've also received a few good pointers, but as JS rightly points out, don't trust legal advice from strangers on the internet. If you decide to challenge the C&D;, consult a qualified commercial lawyer first.

One can make a living out of parody, but just like any other form of business, you've got to know the commercial rules of the game before you start to play in order to survive and flourish.

You've also got to build legal support costs into your business model before you price your product. Parody-based products derive their value not from their utility (a t-shirt is a t-shirt) but the message they convey, called "content" in the industry jargon. In the content-based marketplace, the major cost is not production, but licensing, royalties and legal protection.

If you like to engage in an occasional funny product, but don't want to make such products a core part of your income, one thing you might consider in the future is going to a firm like CafePress and signing a contract with them. They deal in parodies all the time, and probably have their own legal on tap. See if they will indemnify you from potential infringements.
»» Submitted by Nova A at 7:36 PM on September 14

kg and Nova are give good advice. It is a trademark case, not a copyright issue. Mr. Keillor could conceivably forfeit his trademark rights were he to let your parody go unchallenged. On the other hand, you could defend your product as non-infringing by invoking parody. However, defending your actions means duking it out with lawyers at the going rate - $$$. In your case, not worth it.


»» Submitted by Popeye at 10:19 PM on September 14

Please be advised that I am hereby requesting that you send me one of the remaining ten (10) tee-shirts. Preferably in 3XL.

I was recently banned from the Prairie Home Companion website forum for exercising my Freedom of Speech and want to wear it as a form of Symbolic Free Speech to protest the whimsical Virtual Cease and Desist Order I was given.

Thank you in advance.

(So, how about "A Prairie Home Curmudgeon"?)

PS: A post on the above mentioned APHC website was what led me to this thread.
»» Submitted by JDC at 10:26 PM on September 14

Keillor's had his fifteen minutes and then some, and I wish the old man would hang it up. He's been telling the same joke for thirty years; it was quaint and funny in 1975, but now his show is a desperate, albeit nostalgic, replay. Roll over Milton Berle, and make room for Uncle Gary.
»» Submitted by expat-MN at 10:33 PM on September 14

The domain is still available at GoDaddy for just $8.95 a year!

I'd buy it for you, but I'm a cheap b@$tard.

»» Submitted by »»» mdung at 10:50 PM on September 14

»» Submitted by »»» mdung at 10:51 PM on September 14

https://www.godaddy.com/gdshop/ registrar/search.asp?se=%2B&ci;=164
»» Submitted by »»» mdung at 10:52 PM on September 14

I would love to buy one of those shirts. You should hold an auction to sell them...to offset any costs that you may incur over this nonsense. GK is beginning to look like grouchy man down the
road who screams at the kids.

good luck
»» Submitted by Natalie at 10:44 PM on September 14

A Prairie Home Companion hasn't been funny in many years, ever since Keilor decided to wear his liberalism on his sleeve and book people like Al Franken as guests... (hmmmm... is Al Franken ACTUALLY a clone made from Keilor's DNA?) In any case, WTF? Everyone but Keilor get's the joke, lame or not. I've got no use for him or his ilk.
»» Submitted by mistercalm at 11:02 PM on September 14

Speaking of Al Franken . . . Not long ago he caused more than a bit of a stir on Garrison's program by telling his "favorite" joke that involved a guy with a male "member" growing out of his forehead.

So, how about a caricature tee shirt with Al growing out of Garrison's head--or vice versa?
»» Submitted by JDC at 12:04 AM on September 15

I still like Garrison, I'll never be able to stop listening to Prarie Home. By the way, if you could get your hands on a transcript or a tape of his show immediately following the first stealing of the presidency, old Garrison would get your respect. I have never heard anyone go off on Bush the way he did that day. Doesn't excuse his silly bitch about the T shirts, but I will never forget that day. In fact, there wasn't a single joke that I can remember. The only Prarie Home Companion show that wasn't funny.
»» Submitted by Randwolfe at 2:20 AM on September 15

By the way, are you going to thank Garrison for inadvertently making your weblog hot? he he he ha ha ha
»» Submitted by Randwolfe at 2:33 AM on September 15

Jethro Bodine is to Jethrine Bodine


Garrison Keillor is to Molly Ivins.
»» Submitted by Baldy at 4:57 AM on September 15

"if you could get your hands on a transcript or a tape of his show immediately following the first stealing of the presidency,"

The problem is, these guys are beyond parody, as the quote above shows. How do you tell if this guy is serious or not? What point of reference with the real world do you have to help you?

I really began to wonder about GK when I heard a song he wrote for a diesel engine add in England, it was actually pretty good, I never denied the guy has some talent, but the title "It's good to hate", says it all, in my book
»» Submitted by moptop at 5:45 AM on September 15

Your approach seems ok to me, and since I'm a country boy, I'd like to purchase a double XL shirt. I promise to use it only at occasions when my liberal friends are present !
»» Submitted by Paul at 6:15 AM on September 15

Is it possible to listen to (and where would I find) old shows of the Prarie Home?
»» Submitted by Spanish Dictionary at 7:18 AM on September 15

I was transferred to MN years ago. I knew the weather sucked, but I had no idea that I was moving to socialist-labor union liberal crackpot hell. I was able to adjust to the weather, but not the lefties. Anyway, with apologies to my conservative friends in the great white north, any state that gives us Al Franken AND Garrison Keillor has some serious issues that need to be dealt with.
»» Submitted by Baja at 7:29 AM on September 15

We could just make our own t-shirts with the terrible proscribed wording and then, happily wear them. T-shirt printers often offer one or a few custom printed t-shits for reasonable cost.

There's no issue with private use; i.e. not for sale, thus, commercial usage is no longer at issue. It then becomes a free speech usage and a protest - much harder for the thin skinned to assail.
»» Submitted by cg at 7:40 AM on September 15

Garrison Keillor is his funniest when he is pouting! Good Luck, with this lawsuit. Funny thing is Garrison Keillor will not even getting any headlines from this.
»» Submitted by Anne at 7:48 AM on September 15

You need to attack. This is no time to play defence. You need a number of brand extensions.

For the gay market:

A Prairie Homo Companion
A Fairy & Homo Companion

For the Compassionate Conservative Crowd:

A Prairie Homeless Companion

Or, editorial on your situation:

No Prairie Home Compassion
»» Submitted by Pablo Montoya at 7:40 AM on September 15

Spanish Dictionary Inquires: "Is it possible to listen to (and where would I find) old shows of the Prarie Home?"

1) Yes it is.
2) Here is where:
»» Submitted by JDC at 8:06 AM on September 15

Sorry, I messed up on the 'link' function.

Here is where: http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/
»» Submitted by JDC at 8:15 AM on September 15

It's all fun & games until someone gets sued. I'm not surprised. Those liberals are all for free speech alright, their's! Everybody else must shut up.
»» Submitted by cube at 8:16 AM on September 15

Baja Writes: "I was transferred to MN years ago. I knew the weather sucked, but I had no idea that I was moving to socialist-labor union liberal crackpot hell. I was able to adjust to the weather, but not the lefties. Anyway, with apologies to my conservative friends in the great white north, any state that gives us Al Franken AND Garrison Keillor has some serious issues that need to be dealt with."

For more on "socialist-labor union liberal crackpot hells" and people with "serious issues" check out any of the areas and threads at the other end of this link. I think you've only seen the tip of the iceberg:

»» Submitted by JDC at 8:17 AM on September 15

I stepped into some garrison keillor the other day while visiting a friend's hog farm. I'm still having a difficult time trying to remove the residue from my shoes..
»» Submitted by YETI at 8:55 AM on September 15

Fight him. I'll contibute $10 to your legal fund - but I would think you have attorney's lined up to defend you by now."If the Parody fits...you must aquit."
»» Submitted by joe at 9:18 AM on September 15

Where the heck did all these idiotic anti-liberal people come from? I knew the education system in this state was hurting, but this is crazy.
»» Submitted by »»» moe at 9:26 AM on September 15

to Charles M: Garrison Keillor voice drives me up the wall...so condenscending. Why anyone would waste their lives listening to him after seeing his face boggles the mind.

Finally, after his persistent anti-Bush rhetoric, I got my husband to turn him off... K. is an ego-maniac and you can not reason with his sort......only mind-numbed liberals can stand this fake.

Giving him any more attention with the T-shirts only puts more money in his dirty pocket.....dump it.
»» Submitted by »»» divasmom at 9:22 AM on September 15

Have you asked Kiellor if he is upset about being made fun of? Have you even tried to communicate in a normal and rational manner with him?
Realize that rapping out snotty little comments on a cute little online diary is not considered "normal" communication by people with lives in the real world.
I know, it would ruin your internet cred if you weren't a peevish little twit, but if you tried, maybe you'd learn something about real life people.
»» Submitted by Vince at 9:30 AM on September 15

the annual supper and street dance is coming right up. sept 24. what are you wearing?
»» Submitted by anne at 9:57 AM on September 15

Vince Ventures: "I know, it would ruin your internet cred if you weren't a peevish little twit, but if you tried, maybe you'd learn something about real life people."

I love the word peevish. You just don't see "peevish" nearly enough. Like assinine, underused.

Having said that, I have to wonder if the charge of "peevishness" isn't completely misdirected here. Seems to me that the person who sics his lawyers on someone for exercising their First Amendment Rights to Parody is the peevish one. Not to mention being assinine.

»» Submitted by JDC at 9:58 AM on September 15

I began listening to Garrison years ago (late 80's) when he was doing a quirky, funny early morning program for MPR and PHC had not yet gone national. Jim Ed Poole (with his pet chicken) was Garrison's sidekick on that show. Garrison played an eclectic mix of old gospel, blues, etc., and introduced me to a world of great music that I wouldn't have known. My friends and I could go to the old World Theater and not even stand in line to get into the Saturday night show. MPR and Garrison helped each other make it to the top.

Having grown up in small-town MN I could easily identify with the humor and the personalities parodied on PHC. Character for character, I could name the real life folks who matched those on the show - from the Ford dealer, the Catholic priest and the Lutheran minister, the cafe owner, the Norwegian bachelor farmers.... all were part of my life.

Needless to say I was a loyal fan of GK and the PHC.

I no longer listen to the show. In the early years there were subtle and annoying references to his politics, but GK became "unfunny" long ago. I don't particularly care for the brand of humor suggested by the T-shirt in question here, but GK has become far more sanctimonious with his politics than his dark Lutheran relatives ever were. He is a man who long ago turned his back on God. Perhaps those dark Lutherans never allowed themselves to experience the grace of God. But Keillor is more pathetic in my opinion because he knows the difference and still rejects the same grace. He is a most ungracious man.

I'd love to see a product line of parodies on PHC with the punny humor (sans references to prostitutes) offered by some of the writers here. There seems to be some good legal advice as well and it will be interesting to see how this all turns out.

Ginger Baker, authentic prairie girl

»» Submitted by Ginger Baker at 9:43 AM on September 15

Q: What do you get when you combine myopic zeal with amoebic tunnelvision, add a dash of peevish assininity, put it on a hook and cast it all down there where the bottom-feeders dwell?

A: The letter at the top of this thread.
»» Submitted by JDC at 10:10 AM on September 15

Ginger already posted my thoughts, but forgot this bit:

Doesn't Keillor's own APHC's merchandise catalog hawk all kinds of parody t-shirts and mugs?

(A wave to JDC.)
»» Submitted by jennywren at 10:15 AM on September 15

Wow. Talk about your basic Art Bellian (that's the old host of Coast to Coast for those of you not in the know or the loop or the noose or whatever) irony:

Did you notice the letterhead on which the implied threat appeared?

"P.A." it says.

Could it possibly be? . . .
"Peevish Assininity"(??!!!)

(And back at ya', Jennywren =)
»» Submitted by JDC at 10:42 AM on September 15

Let me see if I've got this straight. Someone who has a trademark, like Prairie Home Companion, is *legally obligated* to defend it against infringement or else they could lose the trademark altogether. This is a well-known fact. So Garrison Keillor's lawyers sent out the standard legal letter to defend his trademark -- nothing unusual here, all par for the course. They didn't take you straight to court, they didn't demand the money that you made from the t-shirts, they just told you to knock it off. And you're pitching a fit about it. I don't see that you have a leg to stand on here.
»» Submitted by Karen V.H. at 12:00 PM on September 15

This seems like the same thing that Al Franken went through with Fox News on his last book. Perhaps Al's lawyer will help you out...can't remember his name...big-wig 1st Amendment lawyer.

P.S. Al won.
»» Submitted by Eric at 12:00 PM on September 15

Hmmmm& maybe if your parody had been a bit more interesting or imaginative GK would have just hired you as a writer or offered you a gig.
»» Submitted by text at 12:00 PM on September 15

Hand out the remaining shirts at a PHC show. Do it at intermission. The show is performed live, after all...
»» Submitted by Paul Taylor at 12:00 PM on September 15

Minnesota probably has an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute that would allow summary dismissal of any suit he could file. The SLAPP statutes applies whenever one is sued for public participation, i.e., speech, petitioning government, etc., and requires the plaintiff to come up with proof establishing a probability of success on the merits at the outset of the case. If you win the SLAPP motion, he will have to pay your legal fees. Therefore, you should be able to get an attorney to represent you without pay on the basis that attorney fees will likely be recovered. Calling your county bar association might be a good way to find a local lawyer who deals with those type of issues.
»» Submitted by lawtalkinguy at 12:00 PM on September 15

How about I sponsor a PHC boycott? I live in Los Angeles, so if I get all of the local listeners to boycott they will be down about 7 people. However, if he changed the name of the show to A Prairie Ho Companion, we could blow the roof off that mofo!!!
»» Submitted by Shannon at 12:00 PM on September 15

Here's a solution: Come up with your own ideas instead of ripping off someone else's.
»» Submitted by Dan at 12:00 PM on September 15

I'm a huge GK fan - gonna drop him an email and complain. This is b.s.
»» Submitted by Peter at 12:00 PM on September 15

I like the fact that Keillor goes after the republicans, I think the gloves are off, its a real war, and he understands that, I never thought he was very funny, so, if his more explicit political axe is "influencing" his funniness, I could hardly tell, and he has extremely great musicians on sometimes, but going after the t-shirt is a lose lose for him, win win for the t-shirt guy, which is also fine.

»» Submitted by rob at 12:00 PM on September 15

I'd chip in $5 to buy spellcheck for hack lawyer Eric Nilsson. What on earth in "varety entertainment?" Is it like "variety entertainment?"
»» Submitted by zeus4prez at 12:00 PM on September 15

Maybe you can get a Daily Show appearance off of this t-shirt "issue".
»» Submitted by Jimbo at 12:00 PM on September 15

This is forehead-slappingly stupid and sad. I used to love Garrison Keillor, and I wince to see him engaging in this kind of frivolous hooey. I'd expect it from Bill O'Reilly, not Garrison.
»» Submitted by Locutus of Bork at 12:00 PM on September 15

Fight for your right to PARODY!!! ( Isn't that a heavy metal song?) Proceeds should be donated to a fund dedicated to removing the stick from Keillor's ass.

You know he's got a forum on his webpage. (Wink wink nudge nudge)
»» Submitted by Guy Noir at 12:00 PM on September 15

Looks like you are the one practicing censorship!
»» Submitted by Jimbo at 12:00 PM on September 15

No one buying (or seeing the ad) would mistake the shirt for one endorsed by Keillor. But someone seeing someone esle wearing the shirt, might be so confused.

Keillor deserves whatever ridicule he gets for persuing this through a dim-witted lawyer who failed to make the point I mentioned above. But I do wnder whether he has a better legal case than it first appears.

I apologize if one of the earlier comments already said what I did.
»» Submitted by Dvd Avins at 12:00 PM on September 15

The very simple fact about this letter is:

ANY owner of a trade or sevice mark has a MANDATORY LEGAL DUTY to "defend" the mark by sending out such 'cease and desist' letters whenever unauthorized use is discovered. Failure to uphold this legal DUTY is punished at law by LOSS of the trade or service mark rights.

The "parody" and "fair use" exceptions relate to copyrights and not to trademarks; two distinct and separate legal concepts (believe it or not).

Relax; the letter says nothing about the mark owner's feelings.
»» Submitted by James at 12:00 PM on September 15

You are all a bunch of spoiled little brats who never got told "No" by Mommy and Daddy and now you rant and rave and carry on like YOU are the ones violated...grow up.

»» Submitted by Julie M at 12:00 PM on September 15

Although I consider Garrison Keillor to be somewhat funny, he's definitely being a jerk regarding this. It's still a parody and only someone who's comatose would confuse the T-shirt with the show.

He's just being a crybaby. I say once you get a lawyer to represent you pro-bono, start printing the t-shirts. You'll still generate press and Mr. Keillor will have to prove in a court of law that these shirts had a negative economic impact on his media empire, sullied his reputation, etc. This will go about as far as Fox News' lawsuit against Al Franken for use of "Fair and Balanced" in his last book title.

What a wuss.
»» Submitted by Steve at 2:47 PM on September 15

Wow - have you seen the shit storm this raised on Daily Kos? There are more postings for this topic than I've seen in a long, long time.

»» Submitted by »»» riskebiz at 2:57 PM on September 15

How about invoking the parody of Jerry Falwell in Playboy that ended up in the Supreme Court - perhaps something like:
Guy Noir had sex with his mother in an outhouse."
»» Submitted by Raisuli at 12:00 PM on September 15

I tried to send the lawyer a nasty email, but it seems like his email address is 'dead', much like a LIEbrals brain.
»» Submitted by jakdracula at 2:56 PM on September 15

is it so wrong (or surprising) for keillor to want to protect his trademark? no. especially as the t-shirt's play on words is obviously incongruent with the image and reputation of that trademark. and thinking of markets, do you really think that making a big deal of this cease and desist will make a dent in his present popularity? don't think so. man, what an over inflated sense of importance!
»» Submitted by ryan at 2:58 PM on September 15

I don't know anything about Garrison Keillor other than he's a cold bitter cynical assh....ummmm...person.

He has to be the only one on the planet that thinks his "mark" is worth stealing because personally, I'd be embarrassed to take credit for owning the real thing.

A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody
A Prairie Ho Companion Parody

Sue ME....

»» Submitted by NobodyImportant at 3:51 PM on September 15

You should make a t-shirt that says "This T-Shirt is in no way endorsed by Garrison Keillor"
»» Submitted by Jim at 4:13 PM on September 15

Just sent GK this email

Sir: Are you really so enamored of yourself and your trademarked name that you cannot take a little parody? You certainly dish it out, so the fact that you have initiated suit against a small beer blogger who sells a paltry few BAD joke tee shirts is an amazing fact to this listener.

Wake up sir, you are about to take a pratfall out here in the Reality Based Community.
»» Submitted by Harry at 4:24 PM on September 15

I agree with Adam's post (9-13)... just sit back and enjoy the publicity. I got here via "Daily Kos", and I read somewhere that Kos gets something like 900,000 hits a day. Pretty good press for your side of the story.

'Course, now I gotta find something else to listen to on the radio (isn't often one finds anythinf *worth* listening to, radio OR TV).
»» Submitted by Andrew at 4:23 PM on September 15

I think you should produce a new variant from this list, and force the Keillor partisans to produce a new threatening letter every week so you stay in the spotlight (I guarantee your other t-shirts are selling 10x as much as normal with all this traffic). Since he was very specific in objecting to this precise wording, you might have a chance.

How about:
- Prairie Homo Companion (for gay Minnesotans who are in committed relationships and don't like Garrison Keillor)
- Perry, Homo Companion (for gay Minnesotans named Perry who are in committed relationships and don't like Garrison Keillor)
- Prairie Harlot Companion (You could also try slut, bizitch, and any other term for "woman of loose morals")
- And so on
»» Submitted by ZiggyTosh at 4:13 PM on September 15

Let's not forget that NPR and the National Association of Broadcasters teamed up to do a damn fine job of killing low-powered FM radio in 2000:

"National Public Radio and the National Association of Broadcasters failed to stop the FCC from implementing its modest Low Power FM service. But after months of intensive lobbying, NPR and the NAB convinced Congress to quietly kill the service, and prevent schools, libraries, community groups and local government from operating low watt stations." (http://www.mediageek.org/archives/000521.html)

As Keillor is probably Public Radio's biggest star, I'm sure he knows where his bread is buttered--this latest is probably just a symptom of that passive-aggressive organizational culture.

Hey, let's have an MPR "wine tasting for the homeless" to ease our minds of this!
»» Submitted by Alan DeNiro at 4:38 PM on September 15

If you're already unaware of it, check out this recent story from the Cincinnati Post:

This summer the University of Kentucky public radio station in Lexington temporarily banned Keillor's show for "profanity." That was stupid, of course, but I like Keillor's harrumphs:

"Mr. Godell apparently considers the word 'breast' to be raw language. I don't," Keillor wrote. "He's the manager of WUKY at the University of Kentucky and so he decides what is fit for Kentuckians to listen to and if he feels it's his mission to protect them from the word 'breast' uttered on the radio, then that's his problem, not mine."

Yep. Pompous jerk.
»» Submitted by Tom at 4:34 PM on September 15

Sorry, the link to the Cincinnati Post article is:


Stupid newbie . . . .
»» Submitted by Tom at 4:46 PM on September 15

Duane has it right. The reason a lawyer got to you is not to simply to squelch you, but to protect the mark from a real poacher. If yopu don't believe this, try something smartass with "Coca Cola" or "Coke." A swarm of JDs will be all over you like flies on shit. BTW, the "parody" is minimally funny -- or less
»» Submitted by bocasteve at 4:40 PM on September 15

Wow, people actually find PHC entertaining! I am amazed. His voice alone is pure torture. God Bless America
»» Submitted by Spencer David at 4:36 PM on September 15

Do you have a home (or renters) insurance policy? If so, it may cover you against this type of lawsuit.

»» Submitted by john at 4:55 PM on September 15

Here's a prediction: All those people who posted saying I hate GK and I'd love to have one of those shirts? You won't see a single dime from them. Just guessing.
»» Submitted by Jambo at 4:17 PM on September 15

I didn't see that Garrison Keillor was even copied with the C&D; letter, just a couple of women at an LLC. I wonder if he knew about it in the first place.
»» Submitted by George at 4:44 PM on September 15

Somehow I'm not surprised. He came to my small MN college a few years ago for a performance in front of a very small audience, and stayed around to talk for a little while after. Once he had stopped performing, he was very rude and unpleasant, I couldn't listen to him anymore after that. How odd that someone whose down-to-earth, friendly image is so central to his celebrity thinks he can be such an asshole even to the fans who come to see him.
»» Submitted by deanis at 4:52 PM on September 15

You should send this to Michael Feldman's APR show, "Whad'ya Know?" I'm sure they'd read it on "Thanks for the Memos".
»» Submitted by Matt at 5:45 PM on September 15

trademark parody is indeed the issue. Some helpful links from lawyers:



»» Submitted by harlan at 5:31 PM on September 15

Here's a thought -- create something which is unique and popular, wait for someone to steal your idea (while spitting on it at the same time, no less) and then tell me how you feel.

»» Submitted by D at 6:05 PM on September 15

people have to defend their trademarks. trademarks aren't copyrights.

»» Submitted by Gullyborg at 6:34 PM on September 15

Garrison Keillor was funny once upon a time. But he jumped the lutefisk many years ago.
»» Submitted by YetAnotherRick at 5:32 PM on September 15

Number of posts making the following points (at a glance):

Keillor is acting like a typical liberal (and I am apparently unaware that the sellers and designers of the T-shirt are also Minnesota liberals): 21

A copyright/trademark must be vigorously defended or it's void: 8

There's a difference between copyright and trademark: 5

Keillor is old: 11 (though I have to give at least the jokes credit for variety)

If you profit from the sale of something (like a T-shirt or, say, a radio show), you forfeit your right to parody a trademark: 3

Hey, put the disclaimer on a shirt: 3

Reference to Al Franken's own trademark parodies: 3

"Prairie Homo" joke: 2

»» Submitted by Pete Scholtes at 7:14 PM on September 15

Ew, I wish I could take those out of bold now...
»» Submitted by Pete Scholtes at 7:20 PM on September 15

If you are looking to purchase replicas of the shirts in question, I would suggest that perhaps you could visit HERE and find both legally sanitized, as well as traditional replicas of the original shirts. This store also has various other Prairie Ho items. Seriously, if you see no other websites this fall, make sure you see THIS ONE!
»» Submitted by Prairie Ho at 6:59 PM on September 15

Congratulations: you say you're liberal/moderate yet the first I read of this, you specifically attacked Keillor as a "liberal".

So you got a cease and desist letter- you act like Nelson fucking Mandela, stripped of your liberties.

Well, the right wingnuts think you're swell. Good for you!

Keillor spent 30 years developing PHC. You're ripping him off- and aren't you EMBARRASSED that you're getting attention for such a LAME joke? I mean, to call it a parody would be an insult to the comic sensibilities of kindergartners.

"Parody" all you want on your (shitty, low-rent) blog, but selling shirts of it is just stupid. You are infringing, just like when I download a song off limewire i know i'm infringing.

Get over yourself.
»» Submitted by Desch at 7:23 PM on September 15

I wonder if this thread illustrates of the snowball effect of redundancy. If people keep coming across the same points/jokes over and over again, they're probably more likely to skip to the end and (in turn) repeat something that someone else has already said.
»» Submitted by Pete Scholtes at 7:23 PM on September 15

Desch, I think the implication of Rex's "Liberal Comedian Sues Blogger" point was that there's an obvious irony in that potential headline. Even beyond its modern use as a political label, the word "liberal" connotes freedom, lack of restraint, etc.

Apparently, most people here (both pro- and anti-Keillor) see no irony there at all.
»» Submitted by Pete Scholtes at 7:45 PM on September 15

Kellior has forgotten about satire and parody. Political labels really don't matter.
»» Submitted by C Swanson at 8:04 PM on September 15

The Prairie Ho thong on that site above is funny as hell.

Seriously... CHECK IT OUT!
»» Submitted by Desch's oversized tampon at 8:16 PM on September 15

Yes, the wording has zing from a purely fashionable perspective.

A Prairie Ho Companion!

Herewith my order for September:
One in Black with white lettering for white slacks.
One in White with Black lettering for black slacks.
One in White with Indigo lettering for blue jeans.

Long sleeves to be pushed up when warm.
Size S

And a couple of Baseball Caps, too.

While APHC movie was filming, a reporter wrote in a national newspaper that people were wearing the above tee-shirts around town. I thought it was a spirited movie promotion.

Thank you!

»» Submitted by Till at 6:42 PM on September 15

The usual advice for using a trademark to make fun of it is: do a really good job, so that it's really clear that you're making fun of the trademarked product and what aspect of it you're making fun of.

"A Prarie Home Companion" certainly deserves to be made fun of, and its "wholesome" image punctured. Unfortunately, the shirts don't really do a great job of this.

This is the sort of trademark case Keillor *doesn't* need to prosecute to defend his trademark, though. If someone tries to break the trademark, parodies -- even bad ones -- aren't going to count as evidence that the trademark is no longer identified with the product. Breaking a trademark requires evidence that people mentally associate the trademark with something different (coke with cocaine, for instance) or more generic (xerox, kleenex). There was never any danger of that here.

»» Submitted by Anon at 7:57 PM on September 15

You could have Garrison Keillor's Cease and Desist order silkscreened on a T-shirt.

Or maybe you could trademark the word "Garrison" and the word "Keillor", and then send the Litiginous Lib Comedian formerly known as "Garrison Keillor" a cease and desist order.

»» Submitted by Bilgeman at 8:19 PM on September 15

This renews my appreciation for online discussions. Some humor that frankly beats the shirt in question (Prairie Homo Companion, now THAT I like!), and some good advice.

There's something in the Gospels, I believe, about not letting yourself get drawn into a court fight because of what it will end up costing you. I'd listen to those saying you should back off.

But ya know, that Keillor guy really is a loser. I liked him back in the early 80s, but when he turned up his nose at the U.S. and moved to Denmark, far as I'm concerned he shoulda stayed there.
»» Submitted by Steve at 4:44 PM on September 15

seriously you need to set up a paypal button for people to donate to your legal fund. I'll donate!
»» Submitted by dave at 8:44 PM on September 15

I think the best way to get even with Gary K is to sell as many of the shirts as possible. I know the folks who run this site probably shouldn't. But that doesn't mean that the dedicated readers here can't. Let Eric Nilsson spend his days drafting cease and desist orders by the fistful. Once Keillor gets his first bill for the 40 hours of cease and desist lawyering, I bet Keillor will reconsider his decision in this matter.

Hell, I even took the advice of the guy above, and now my prairie Ho Companion Store has one t-shirt and one sweatshirt with the cease and desist letter screened onto it.

Seriously, for inspiration (or a great shirt) go to The Prairie Ho Protest Site
»» Submitted by Prairie Ho at 8:45 PM on September 15

So maybe Keillor is sensitive about his
creation - sort of like when my brother-in-law
announced that nobody was ever going to date his daughter without "a shave, a haircut, a belt, and a handkerchief." (She was two years old at the time.)
He did not see any humor in the response that this could well describe an actively out lesbian.

You have a valid point about the hugely commercial aspect of PHC, but I would suggest you could make it just as well without quite so much savagery.
»» Submitted by Dave Porter at 8:50 PM on September 15

I've just taken all my Garrison Keillor books to the backyard and set them afire, so no one will ever have to read them again. What a flaming, out of touch moron .. he reminds me of Carl Sagan attacking Apple Computer because they CODENAMED a product after him. Jerk.
»» Submitted by Former Fan at 9:36 PM on September 15

PLEASE print up more 'Ho' shirts!!!
»» Submitted by Mark at 9:35 PM on September 15

I'm no lawyer, and don't even play one on TV. However, as 25+-year civil libertarian, I think Supremes unanimous decision in Falwell v. Hustler (1988) easily disposes with this one. Granted, the TV shirt itself wasn't labeled as parody, but how many people would be stupid enough to believe it was created or endorsed by Keillor's organization? If the answer (as I suspect) is no one then Falwell decides it beyond any doubt.
»» Submitted by Civil Libertarian at 9:45 PM on September 15

Having said that, I recognize that trademark law is a lot stingier about such things. Common sense tends to be ignored.

But Keillor is still being a dick.

»» Submitted by Civil Libertarian at 9:55 PM on September 15

Mr. Public Radio Fundraising Mail, meet Mr. Paper Shredder.
»» Submitted by Don Marti at 10:05 PM on September 15

I agree with your defenders who've posted comments; my summary: Keillor is being a pissy bitch about what is clearly a parody. What he and his attorneys are banking on is that you'll cave rather than fight to the death over what could be an expensive issue for you. Or maybe they just have to send a form letter like this to protect their trademark to show that they made a token effort; I don't know the legalistic details. But I share your "Oh, come ON!" point of view.

So ... is this (so to speak) a hill you want to die on? You'll have lots of us cheering you on if you fight this. Maybe you should create a "Prairie Ho Legal Defense Fund" button for your website for Paypal donations!

Cheers - Carolyn B.
»» Submitted by Carolyn Bahm at 10:35 PM on September 15

This might make a good t-shirt

"Garrison Keillor: male menopause
»» Submitted by J at 10:47 PM on September 15

My suggestion... if this pisses you off as much as it does me, email Prarie Home Companion and tell them - posting here is preaching to the chior.

Here the address: phc@mpr.org

Then, mention this on your own blog and then the blogs of others.

»» Submitted by Matt Galloway at 10:50 PM on September 15

In the face of all the redundant posts here, I just wanted to see the word "asinine" spelled correctly once.
»» Submitted by My Pet Goat at 10:02 PM on September 15

You know dude, I'll buy a shirt if you start selling them again.

And yeah you're obviously legally right.
»» Submitted by Vincent at 11:12 PM on September 15

http://www.netfunny.com/ rhf/jokes/01/Apr/mcrhf.html
»» Submitted by Elizabeth at 11:14 PM on September 15

What an asshole.

You. Not him.

Grow up. Do something constructive - you know, something that acctually adds to the human condition. And when you try to milk $$$ from the unsuspecting public off another human - and have the freaking balls to complain, call him tag words like "liberal" to - yet a second time - con the public....

»» Submitted by Dave at 12:27 AM on September 16

Obviously your a pole smoker, who should have his ass kicked.
»» Submitted by Tommy at 12:51 AM on September 16

are you a lawyer? Can you explain to everyone all instances and subtle issues associated with parody and copyright?

Are you just an idiot who likes to tell lawyers they don't know the law?

Are you stuck in Minnesota because you ARE an idiot?
»» Submitted by are you an idiot at 1:39 AM on September 16

Don't waste your time here.

Go immediately to Mr. Keillor's Ho Page: www.prairiehome.forum.publicradio.org.

»» Submitted by jennywren at 2:06 AM on September 16

What Don Marti said.

Keillor parodies tons of stuff, it's about time he got some too.

Can he dish it out, and not take it, or what?

PS, funny @#*ing shirt!
»» Submitted by racerx at 2:01 AM on September 16

Unbelievable. You need to have all these people write a letter to Mr. K., or write his advertisers, Lands's End and the Sleep Number Bed. I'm going to.
»» Submitted by Sheryl at 3:34 AM on September 16

Speaking of milking $$$ from an unsuspecting public...

Hey look, A Prairie Ho Companion t-shirt for sale on eBay!

»» Submitted by »»» chuck at 6:05 AM on September 16

spacemanpete has a good point...

What exactly does "liberal" or "conservative" have to do with this?
»» Submitted by PhilipMN at 6:41 AM on September 16

Now that is funny. The C&D; that is. While I'm not exactly down with your t-shirt -- causual use of the word Ho makes my teeth grind a bit -- I find a man who constantly parodies stuff slapping down a parody of his own work nicely ironic.

Because I hate the chilling effect of people with clout slapping down the work of people without law firms on retainer, I say if you can find someone who'll do this pro bono it is worth pursuing. Otherwise I recommend parodying the C&D; order in a t-shirt and sending Keillor a t-shirt gratis.
»» Submitted by Kelly at 7:30 AM on September 16

How about "The Nudes From Lake Hobegon"?

BTW: For the record I am shocked--and encouraged--that there are so many non-"liberals" in The Cities and their environs.
»» Submitted by JDC at 8:16 AM on September 16

Hey ... sorry if this was mentioned earlier, no time yet to read through all the comments ... will do so later today ... but FYI, parody or satire is a proper defense to claims of trademark infringement, depending upon the facts of your case. If I were you I'd look up cases involving alleged ®-infringement, in which parody / satire was presented as a defense, and start the semi-arduous process of analogizing the facts of your case with those found in reported decisions. Then you may be in a position to kick butt, possibly even (as happened to me once) watching the judge actually yell at your opposition across the courtroom ... I mean, after all, we still have a healthy First Amendment in this country. ("Maybe I just woke up in Soviet Russia this morning.')

P.S. anybody know where I can find myself a Prairie Ho Companion? ;-)
»» Submitted by Jonathan Burdick at 9:03 AM on September 16

"Do something constructive - you know, something that acctually [sic] adds to the human condition."

Dave, shutting your obnoxious pie hole might contribute to the human condition. Mine at least.
»» Submitted by Dan at 9:02 AM on September 16

Who's Garrison Keillor?
»» Submitted by igwespike at 9:24 AM on September 16

It's not even that great of a t-shirt. What a waste of everyones time.
»» Submitted by archie at 9:36 AM on September 16

How about these:
'The PHC Put the Smackdown on Me'

'Keillor? I barely KNOW her'

'Prairie Ho seeks Companion'

»» Submitted by »»» smittywe at 10:33 AM on September 16

The only thing less funny than A Prarrie Home Companion is your dumb T-Shirt. Get over it.
»» Submitted by rex8 at 10:50 AM on September 16

This happened about 10 years ago with Microsoft. Some guy was marketing t-shirts with pictures of Bill Gates as a Borg, and the words "Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated." Microsoft's lawyers sent him a C&D; letter; after consulting with the several lawyers, the advice he got was that he absolutely was covered as parody, but it would take years to establish legally, exhausting any availabe resources, while Microsoft's legal staff wouldn't even work up a sweat.
»» Submitted by dweeb at 11:28 AM on September 16

I have to laugh at Garrison's folly. When I lived in California I published countless stories about life in Minnesota ( I lived "up north" for 15 years).

The folks out west loved my parodies. When I moved East everyone thought I copied Garrison, but I reminded them Minnesota does not belong to him. I was dubbed Ohio's answer to Garrison Keillor. I thought it was cute at first, but now I feel dirty when called that.

Garrison has been slipping into the muck of Lake Wobegon for some time now. I knew the "bearded man" from way back when he was just a radio disc jockey for MPR (early 70's). About 3 years ago I ran into Butch Thompson, who at least has not fallen into the hate Bush mucky muck.

I feel proud to say my stories of Minnesota are still about Minnesotans (God bless ya'll). Garrison's are about angry liberals, gays and a host of counter-culture residents of his make believe towns.

Park Rapids, Brainerd, Burrmidji, Detroit Lakes, Fargo ND, Ft. Ripley, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Pine River, ect--you are all alive and well in my stories

»» Submitted by Ms RightWing, Ink at 12:55 PM on September 16

The t-shirt is funnier than the above comment anyhow, but not by much.
»» Submitted by archie at 1:21 PM on September 16

The hippy band Phish sued a guy making t-shirts from their song titles & lost because there was no way that anyone could actually confuse the logos he used with the real thing (the songs themselves). Also, doubly, the judge in that case said it was obviously a parody and that Phish had no case.

It made Phish seem out of touch & greedy.

I think it was knighthoodtees.com
»» Submitted by Mr_Eags at 1:19 PM on September 16

Dude, the answer is obvious!

Hire a lawyer, and fund him by selling the t-shirt!!!!!! I'd buy one for the cause. Or maybe just donate $10.
»» Submitted by Seth at 1:25 PM on September 16

The most stupendous irony of this is the origin of the term 'Prairie Home Companion.' It refers to taking your date to the Prairie Home Cemetery after dark for some, uhh, quiet time.
»» Submitted by Ed at 1:42 PM on September 16

I believe your reply should be:

Nillson & Assoc.

R.e., use of "A Prairie Ho Companion

Dear Mr. Nilsson,
Regarding your recent letter, who the fuck is "Garrison Keillor"?

(insert your name)

In any instance, they are asserting to have trademarked "Prairie Home Companion." - why don't you just apply for a trademark on "Prairie Ho Companion"?
»» Submitted by ang at 4:51 PM on September 16

Congrats Rex, you're famous!

I have no idea who this Keillor guy was until now, nor you and your blog. Good luck with whatever you decide to do... I think a new line of t-shirts right about now will sell better than any "Prairie Ho" ones did! Let his petty c&d; make you some money, and hire a lawyer with the proceeds.

Or, just sit back and laugh with a stuffed wallet!

Enjoy your publicity!
»» Submitted by Medea at 6:12 PM on September 16

Oh, I am so looking forward to buying the many possible new t-shirts that could come from this, especially "I got sued by Garrison Keillor and all I got was this stupid... nevermind."

»» Submitted by charismaticpuritan at 9:37 PM on September 16

LL Bean is a leading case on parody in the trademark context:

»» Submitted by WJM at 10:05 PM on September 16

Fight the power, man! FIGHT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
»» Submitted by power at 1:12 AM on September 17

I have actually purchased Keillor audiotapes and books. If his lawyer should happen to read this, let it be known that I am boycotting further patronage of his works.

I will also send a link to all on my email list so that they can join me in my boycott of the gentle midwest asshole.
»» Submitted by roberto at 2:52 AM on September 17

With the movie coming out and the publicity that you are receiving from this on going dispute, I would print up many more of the T-Shirts. I would be ready to make some money off your site for once. Take atvantage of this situation. Don't let this oppurtunity pass you by. When the movie hits the theatres everyone will want a PARODY T-shirt. If you don't do this, someone else will.

»» Submitted by Cullen at 7:12 AM on September 17

We're all getting tangled up in our shorts here. Is Rex right? Is Keillor a Liberal? What's the difference between a trademark and a copyright? Al Franken's an issue?????????

I'd say there's a near 100% probability that EVERYONE who posted here either has a PC or has access to one. Brilliant so far, eh? I'd also suspect that a significant portion of us either have a printer, or have access to one.

Get a t-shirt. Buy some iron-on transfer paper at your local office supply store. Create whatever you want and place it on the transfer. Get out your trusty ol' Proctor-Silex and follow the directions for completing the transfer to your t-shirt.

Or, don't do any of the above. Whatever...
»» Submitted by PCMaven at 7:51 AM on September 17

Keillor is supposed to be funny? That guy always gave me the creeps.
»» Submitted by Pedro at 8:20 AM on September 17

People, please stop confusing trademarks with copyright.

(one among several variations)

I totally agree. Trademarks, andtrademark abuse, are totally different from copywright. (And arguably just as dangerous?)
»» Submitted by Lemi4 at 9:58 AM on September 17

Rex, if you took almost any of the legal advice on this page seriously, you'd end up in jail. With a contempt-of-court citation. Probably in solitary confinement. In "Oz." Or Alcatraz. Yes, probably Alcatraz. They'd reopen Alcatraz and chuck you inside and thow away the key. 'Cause a lot of the people giving you legal advice here seem to have wet cardboard where their brains should be.

> Hire a lawyer, and fund him
> by selling the t-shirt!!!!!!

That's just a stupid comment.

> Regarding your recent letter, who
> the fuck is "Garrison Keillor"?

That is also a stupid comment.
»» Submitted by Perry Mason at 10:30 AM on September 17

If anyone would like a replica of the shirt (albeit in white) please go HERE

There are also shirts with the cease and desist on them, and assorted other Prairie Ho items. Any profits from the sale will be donated to any legal defense fund set up for this site.
»» Submitted by Lemmy at 12:43 PM on September 17

You should stop selling these because Garrison is a Democrat. If he was a Republican, you would need to keep selling them.
»» Submitted by Alex at 1:40 PM on September 17

Make me this t-shirt: The house with two shoes sticking out from underneath, wicked-witch-of-the-east-style, and the caption: "Little House On The Prairie Home Companion." The legs should be men's dress shoes and slacks. The vacant mikestand might be a bit of an overstatement in the visual...
»» Submitted by Hugh M. Orless at 2:07 PM on September 17

Rex, after slogging through this thread, I think it's now official -- MNSpeak has jumped the couch.

(And I thought it was bad when that anti-smoking guy started posting.)
»» Submitted by Ahem at 3:47 PM on September 17

What a gem! This can't be right!!!

In his response to the letter writer Marylin at http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/ Keillor states:

"As for political satire on PHC, it's pretty much an established rule in American life that when you are in power, you are the object of satire. This has been true since the Golden Age of Athens."
(Text copied 17 Sep. from link above.)

Wait, wait... I know, I know, his show is non-political.

I also wonder... Given that a post at the Reasonk link, mentioned above, says that "CHATTERBOX CAFE" is also trademarked by Mr. Keillor. I wonder if he has taken steps to "defend it from infringment" as well?
»» Submitted by AnonMuse at 4:25 PM on September 17

From above - "J" the ACLU related lawyer says:

"you would prefer he simply pay people to beat the crap out of you, smash your computer, slash your tires? How, precisely, should people pursue legal disputes if not by invoking the legal system?"

Apparently a polite request would not have been within his purview.

And wouldn't you know it; Vince, above, asks: "Have you even tried to communicate in a normal and rational manner with him?"

It's your fault - mnspeak - for not genuflecting before the mighty hypocrite.
»» Submitted by AnonMuse at 4:34 PM on September 17

I left out the link to Reason.
»» Submitted by AnonMuse at 5:39 PM on September 17

Hugh (Re: Proposed Tee-shirt Design Concept): At 2:07 (this date) you left out the broken, horn-rimmed, Buddy Hollyesque, glasses on the ground next to the slacks clad legs. The legs with the red socks and penny loafers. Perhaps a caricature of Michael Landon smirking in the foreground to increase the chances of the rights-holders of the TV show filing another lawsuit would help boost sales. I think all the Wizard of Oz Sewers have moved on up over the rainbow.

QFMI (Question: For MY Information): Is this the longest thread ever on this site (despite having--allegedly--jumped both the shark and the lutefisk at least a couple of times)?

(PS: I'm listening to a Prairie Home Rerun as I type. I guess Garrison's satirical response to the pro boner move on the part of his attorneys will have to wait until next week's show.)
»» Submitted by JDC at 5:48 PM on September 17

Excuse me: For "Sewers," above, please substitute "Sue-ers."
Oh what the heck . . . "Litigants."
Thank you in advance.
»» Submitted by JDC at 5:59 PM on September 17

Oh. I almost forgot:

Has the copy of the above original letter from the law firm--along with background documentation--been sent to "The Smoking Gun"?

I'd bet those guys would just love this story.
»» Submitted by JDC at 6:04 PM on September 17

And, (now that a link to this thread has been sent to The Smoking Gun so they could "scoop" Michael Feldman and Jon Stewart) here's a final bit of discussion on the topic elsewhere in the Blogsphere. Pay particular attention to the manner in which the so-called "liberal" manages to drag his BushHater neurosis into the mix . . .

»» Submitted by JDC at 9:14 PM on September 17

Okay . . . HERE's the (friggin' C&Pable;) Link:
»» Submitted by JDC at 9:19 PM on September 17

it's possible to see this as keillor defending women against being called "hos." i would like to see it that way...

congrats on the press, mnspeak.
»» Submitted by jami at 12:33 AM on September 18

For two decades now, I've been calling him Garrison Keill-over. He's heard on many of the same stations for which Nina Totebag reports. Ha ha.

»» Submitted by uffi at 3:33 AM on September 18

You might want to mention that only the STUPID will confuse the words Ho and Home, and his objection highlights which his fans are...
»» Submitted by Don Simpson at 10:06 AM on September 18

Toad boy is a bully
»» Submitted by Howie at 11:03 AM on September 18

Keep in mind, Keillor is REQUIRED to go this route. If he lets anything that looks like infringement of copyright go by, someone can later infringe his copyright in a meaningful way, and use the previous incident as evidence that Keillor was lax in protecting his rights.

That being said, I'd prefer a variation on one of the second run nominees, that says:

"I got sued by Garrison Keillor and all I lost was a stupid t-shirt."

solomonology at hotmail
»» Submitted by Dr. Solomon Davidoff at 11:28 AM on September 18

Garrison Keillor is the Baby Boomers' Lawrence Welk
»» Submitted by »»» srhcb at 1:17 PM on September 18

I'm amused by the posts that say Rex should shut up because GK's required to defend his copyrights/trademarks/whatever. I mean, this may be true, but it doesn't mean Rex should roll over and like it. Assuming the law is actually on his side, he has every right to fight back. Good luck, you're gonna need it.

And I'm actually a GK fan (from NY, no less). Doesn't mean I support the actions of his lawyer here. And to the person(s) who commented that the CCs didn't go to him but to "two women at a LLC", they're probably the two people who run his company. Both names sound familiar; I'm pretty sure they're in the litany of thank-yous at the conclusion of every show.
»» Submitted by Tim at 7:26 PM on September 18

If you'd like to put a face with a name in terms of one of the parties CC'd in the original letter, just C&P; this link. It will take you right to it.


The event pictured at the other end of the link vaguely reminds me of one of those Limousine Liberal affairs, mentioned above, such as a Wine and Cheese Tasting Party for the Homeless or any of many events mentioned by Tom Wolfe in his classic, "Radical Chic and Mau Mauing the Flak Catchers."
»» Submitted by JDC at 8:18 PM on September 18

Under Polaroid Corp. v. Polaroid Electronics (287 F2d 492 (2d Cir, 1961), the court considers several factors to determine likelihood of confusion:

1. Ability to identify goods from a particular source;
2. Whether the trademark owner seeks to enter the infringer's market;
3. Infringer's good faith use in using the mark;
4. Whether the infringer's good is an inferior product;
5. Similarity of marks;
6. Are the products involved similar?
7. Actual confusion;
8. Sophistication of consumers in distinguishing the products from the source.

Tarnishment of the trademark, on the other hand, does not require a showing of likelihood of confusion. Tarnishment may enable a TM owner to prevent parodies of the TM.

Example: "Enjoy Cocaine" t-shirt, which looks like Coke's symbol.

»» Submitted by mark at 2:04 AM on September 19

Keillor is clearly feeling listless and out of sorts. Perhaps he has neglected his RDA of Raw Bits?
»» Submitted by GoatBoy at 9:10 AM on September 19

Threats of cease-and-desist are automatic. The language is boilerplate: change the names, print, send. Try using uncapitalized "Coke" when talking about anything other than coal and/or steel-making.
Somewhere above, a link was given to a writeup on the L. L. Bean case. Reading it, you are probably open to a charge of "dilution" of a trademark. What would actually happen in a court is anybody's guess. But, you have ceased and desisted.

»» Submitted by John Anderson at 10:40 PM on September 19

Please print more shirts. I'll buy five. Keilor is an old fart and a hypocrite who has made a fine fat living by spoofing everyone and their dog. If we looked we'd probably find he has done almost the same thing on his show a million times. Somebody pokes a little fun at him and he whines- what a stupid old ass.
»» Submitted by tb at 11:39 PM on September 19

The Coming Legal Superstorm Against Bloggers Watch: The Prairie Ho Companion T-Shirt - MNspeak.com

There are some California attorneys who would like to help.

Will you make more t-shirts?
»» Submitted by Flap at 12:15 AM on September 20

I don't know whether parody extends to trademark, either. I suspect it does not, but that is something your attorney will know, and I suspect it is something GK's attorney already knows.

The word is T-shirt, by the way.
»» Submitted by Diane at 9:58 AM on September 20

Print up T-shirts with "Garrulous Kvetcher" emblazoned on the front. Oh, that will put the SOB into apoplexy.
»» Submitted by Cover Me, Porkins at 10:57 AM on September 21

I can't believe I just read this whole thing. How pathetic. I need to get a life.
»» Submitted by pjk at 5:12 PM on September 24

i'm trying to spread the word on MY website onanov.com . GK has got to go. The parody of PHC and GK on the public radio program "LeShow" this weekend is hilarious (this is Harry Shearer's show... www.kcrw.org or www.harryshearer.com ...
»» Submitted by Donald at 1:04 PM on September 25

This is slightly off topic but it may be good background.

It seems as if GK really isn't all that interested in protecting his trademark. A quick search of available domain names shows the following:

aprariehomecompanion.net is available.
aprariehomecompanion.org is available.
aprariehomecompanion.info is available.
aprariehomecompanion.us is available.
aprariehomecompanion.biz is available.
aprariehomecompanion.tv is available.
aprariehomecompanion.name is available.
aprariehomecompanion.cc is available.
aprariehomecompanion.ws is available.
aprariehomecompanion.bz is available.
aprariehomecompanion.tc is available.
aprariehomecompanion.vg is available.
aprariehomecompanion.ms is available.
aprariehomecompanion.gs is available.
aprariehomecompanion.com is unavailable.

I always advise my web clients to buy all iterations of their domains. Why? Well it hasn't been tested yet, but when a company makes the conscious decision to leave some versions of its domain name available to be purchased by others, they are, it seems, granting permission to others to purchase and use that name. Domain names sell for as little as $12 each per year - $168 additional to protect APHC, less than he probably paid the lawyer for the C&D.; Note: this is not the same thing as cyber squatting. Maybe a lawyer out there can comment.
»» Submitted by Barrett at 10:59 PM on September 25

Here is a satire -

Garrison Keillor At Prairie Home Lost His Oversized Yellow Panties, Companion Marbles & Sense Of Humor

Maybe Garrison can learn something, since he lost his sense of humor.

»» Submitted by Mr. Satire at 11:57 PM on September 26

This what you do.
1. Don't hire an attorney, do it yourself. Buy the Nolo book on representing yourself in court. "Represent Yourself in Court"
2. Prepare a "request for documents" a mile long that PHC will have to respond to. Don't forget to request transcripts of every past show and every T-Shirt that GK has ever been associated with.
3. Prepare a counter suit should they file claiming infringment of your rights.
4. Put the t-shirt back up for sale on the site. Call (don't write) their attorney and blow a rasberry in his ear. First inform him of who you are so he knows. Then be unutterably rude and treat him as an object of derision. Pull no punches. Have fun.
5. Let them sue. The instant they sue, serve them with the request for documents. Then file the counter suit.
6. File motions of protest over everything. Never accept anything without a fight. Force their attorney to show up in court. That's your goal. NEVER be NICE. Attorneys have this clubby little thing they do with each other. Don't buy it. Believe me you aren't a member of the club. You want him to wish he had never become a lawyer. Ever.
7. Argue your own case, and require a jury trial. If the ever take it all the way by that point you will be comfortable enough in the courtroom to be able to make your points with the judge. You have an excellent case. GK is a public figure, as public if not more so as Jesse Ventura whom he went after with a meat axe for show after show. PHC has oodles of heavily biting humor against GW Bush as well. They haven't a leg to stand on. Make the judge and jury laugh.
8. Settle out of court for a minimum of $20,000. Make money off of this.

The basic name of the game in the legal world is to make the other guy hurt more than you until he says uncle. If PHC is paying a lawyer and you aren't paying a lawyer, that means they are going to bleed like a stuck pig and you will just have minor inconveniences. You can give them a couple of years of heavy bleeding while you have a highly educational (and valuable) experience. With a countersuit to defend, they will probably just give it up as a bad job. What's the worst that can happen? You can have to stop selling the shirts. Big deal.

»» Submitted by Paul at 11:04 AM on September 27

I wouldn't cease and desist. Copyright law protects parody. Nobody likes to be parodied; too bad! I'd keep making the t-shirts AND I'd make other shirts that make fun of Keillor (like people have suggested above). That he's getting so fighting mad about the parody makes it all the funnier to me. Let him spend his money trying to exorcise his anger by suing you. Ever tried contacting the ACLU? They might represent you: David v. Goliath.
»» Submitted by lawgirl at 1:05 PM on September 27

The following poster ends by saying he's not a lawyer. No sh**. He doesn't have a clue as to what he's talking about. On the other hand, Paul's advice is very good, esp. the last line: the worst thing that can happen is you have to stop selling your T-shirts. Paul is a lawyer; believe it. Take his advice!

As Shakesphere said, sometimes you've "got to be cruel to be kind". I'm not going to give you sympathy, but something more important to your long-term well being--- a basic explaination of branding and trademarks relative to entrepreneurialship.

GK is just protecting his brand. Parody is free speech until you try to make a buck off of it, then it's called infringement.

If you had just done a free-access parody on your blog or given away the shirts you'd be safe, but selling the T-shirts crossed the line. Sorry bub, but that's the law, which applies to liberals and conservatives alike. Being the little guy isn't going to give you any advantage in court. The fact that you didn't make much or no profit won't be relevant to the court either. The issue is not profit, but infringement.

You might have gotten away with a little branding pilferage had you not printed up a phrase as anthetical to the brand as you did. Subtle infringements are hard to detect in the marketplace, but "Prairie Ho' Companion" sticks out like a flashing red light amidst the other legitimate PHC-brand material.

Also, you made your infringement easy to detect and trace. There's people who are paid to look for infringements; you couldn't have done a better job of attracting their attention than by placing a product that was obviously unlicensed for sale over the internet on your web page.

I suggest that you study the rules surrounding trademarks and copyrights before you go further. GK lawyer's are cutting you some slack by only asking you to "Cease and Desist"; they just as readily could take you to court for infringement and brand defamation, both of which involve paying damages.

Disclaimer: I'm not associated with GK or the legal profession.

»» Submitted by Nova A at 9:49 AM on September 14
»» Submitted by lawgirl at 1:29 PM on September 27

»» Submitted by lawgirl at 1:29 PM on September 27

You can hear Harry Shearer's parody of Garrison and the t-shirt issue here:


(Real Audio required)

This is almost a bit too accurate of an impersonation to be funny--right down to the breathing heavy into the microphone.
»» Submitted by Donald Baxter at 3:06 PM on September 27

Keillor is five years away from pooping his pants (if he doesn't already) and sucking applesauce through a straw. He's a twit who tries to assign political values to the everyday people of Minnesota that he and the far-left East Coast crowd alone hold. He's out-of-touch, could give a shit about the true everyday American, and his movie, if it is even close to his show, will be a cure for insomnia.

I hope he has cancer of the ass.
»» Submitted by Zack One at 6:44 PM on September 28

I'm done with buying any of that asshat's audiobooks. He's a douche who knows even less about down-home politics than he does about being funny, and that's saying something. Fuck him--agree with the ass cancer.
»» Submitted by Emma at 6:56 PM on September 28

I can't believe you are selling T Shits that infringe on someone's copyright! Just because the T Shit is missing some letters it is still the same thing and carries the same meaning! A T Shit with "A Prairie Ho Companion" is the same as "A Prairie Home Companion" and you shouldn't put it on your T shit.
»» Submitted by bl00k at 2:20 PM on September 29

Garrison Keillor has joined The Family Circus in the gallery of those who cannot take a joke.

Once upon a time, there was a parody of The Family Circus cartoon called The Dysfunctional Family Circus in which obscene and intelligent parodies were added to wholesome Family Circus cartoons. It had to be removed after Bil Keane, the creator of The Family Circus, objected.

Now we know that with A Prairie Ho Companion, Keillor demonstrates that he is just as unable to take a joke and laugh at himself as the creators of The Family Circus.

This latest episode is another reason why I no longer listen to Garrison Keillor from A Prairie Home Companion. Frankly, I'd rather watch Mr. Garrison and the gang from South Park.
»» Submitted by Braniff at 5:55 PM on September 30

You know, Garrison himself parodies things all the time so he's being such a hypocrite just because he's the butt of the joke this time. I like Prairie Home Companion but this kind of behavior makes me want to tune in to another show. If you can dish it out, you should be able to take it. Bring on the "Garrison Keillor: Prairie Home Hypocrite!" t-shirts!!! I'd buy one!
»» Submitted by mizzzjulie at 4:17 AM on October 2

I could actually care more or be upset at Garrison if the shirt were actually funny. Perhaps he wouldn't have come as down on you if it weren't as "unwholesome".....perhaps. I'm not so sure he's upset with the infringement as being infringed by something he'd probably see as vulgar.

I'm not defending, honestly, I don't care... it's not that funny to be worked up over....move on... you weren't gonna get rich anyway and reality dictates you're gonna be pushed again by someone else in your near future... we all get knocked around.

»» Submitted by gimpel at 6:49 PM on October 3

...Actually, I just thought your parody was rather lame. Changing "Home" to "Ho" because it's a naughty word? Come on. I'd sue, too - just to protect my dignity!
»» Submitted by Bren at 6:50 AM on October 5

I didn't know that there were that many HOs on the prarie; that the wearer of the tee-shirt was necessarily the companion of one of them, and are we not to be informed of the identity of this particular HO? Would "A PRARIE HO HO HO COMPANION" have earned a cease and desist letter, or a cup of holiday cheer, instead? I'll have MY HO contact YO HO, and we'll find another HO and a BOTTLE OF RUM. Meanwhile, chirren, there are bodies in Pakistan. I gotta go.
»» Submitted by bud at 1:03 PM on October 18

I'm thinking of going to a PHC show and wearing my "I'm carrying Karl Krebsbach's baby" t-shirt and see how they like that. Do you think I'll get thrown out?
»» Submitted by Rosie at 1:09 PM on October 20

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»» Submitted by pigi at 10:28 AM on October 25

»»» = registered user.

10 Trackbacks:

Prairie Home Products From mrssatan: In keeping This Trend Going, and being one to never shy away from controversy or hoopla (or possible legal threats which I will entirely dismiss and/or countersue), mrssatan is proud, insanely proud, and giddy with excitement, ...
»» Posted on: MrsSatan

A Prairie "Ho" Companion: Current.org is reporting that blogger Rex Sorgatz has temporarily stopped selling T-shirts that say "A Prairie Ho Companion" after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Garrison Keillor's lawyers. "[I]t annoys the living hell out of ...
»» Posted on: I Love Radio .org

In re: Prairie Ho(me) Companion: If true, this matter brings Garrison Keillor so far down in my estimation... Yet another T-shirt you cannot buy. The lawyer who wrote this cease-and-desist letter apparently scanned into this page cannot have kept a straight face when ...
»» Posted on: John Palfrey News

Radio News You Can't Use: Mb_radio_blaupunkt_219Radio's Role in the Aftermath of Katrina Houston Astrodome officials blocked an LPFM radio station from setting up shop and broadcasting emergency info to displaced hurricane survivors... then finally changed their ...

Don't cross the blogging streams: During my blog abstinence, I have continued to read. A few things that caught my attention including:. Control the mind of a lift; Humour, a difficult concept; Big Brother creator goes mad - ahhh, a show from a fertile imagination ...

holy cow: of bull and manure: Prof. Yabut's back from vacation. Enough said:. mislead us not into temptation: Sadly, I can't go back to those days. of innocence, when I believed priests were always right. Back in April,. we discovered the website of Priests for Life ...
»» Posted on: f/k/a . . .

These are not Lake Woebegon Days: or Garrison Keillor Writes A Book Report That cuddly Minnesotan, Garrison Keillor, has been an uninvited geist in my corner of the Zeit lately. First he shows up on my favorite websites, along with some I've never heard of, looking like ...

Lake Wobegone: I'm enjoying the cease and desist letter that claims, "We believe that your use of these words creates a likelihood that the public will be confused as to the sponsorship of the T-shirt and our client's services and products. ...

FtNW sued by FtNW: Inspired by this, I have decided to sue myself to get publicity.
»» Posted on: From the New World

Satarist sues over satirical blog.......: This is more for [info]eakahler's benefit since she haaaaaaaaates him, but it seems the ever lovable Garrison Keillor of the Prarie Home Companion fame has sued a blog over a T-shirt that they made that said "The Prarie Ho Companion". ...
»» Posted on: Tim's Random Thoughts

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