'Kringlegate' Vid Ignites Censorship Face-Off

kringlegate-image.jpg

Plaid made the holidays extra-special this year by sending a video to clients and friends -- including us -- that claims we were involved in an affair with Mrs. Claus, which has since gone public and may potentially destroy Christmas.

It is a completely insane premise.

You've probably seen this or something like it before, laughed once and never thought about it again. But at least two people out there are so distraught over it, they've had a lawyer send an official cease and desist letter to Plaid, demanding that the material be taken down and that proof of its removal be conveyed to them.

From the letter:

"We consider the sexually charged material vulgar, defamatory, highly offensive and constituting the intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Those sound like lawsuit words, and expensive ones.

Last we checked, you can't seriously be accused of "defamation" if the material you print about a person -- in this case, anybody whose name has been entered in a program about a sex scandal with Mrs. Claus -- is too outrageous to be considered true by a reasonable individual.

And given that the "KringleGate" video featuring your name is a holiday greeting that only appears to you, to whom is your reputation actually sullied?

No word yet on what Plaid plans to do, but it seems to us that complying with the C&D will do little more than further chill an already-depressed industry.

Where do users draw the line between nay-saying an inappropriate meme -- and censoring creative play?

by Angela Natividad    Dec-24-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Agencies, Online, Opinion, Worst   

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Comments



Comments

Thanks for the post, Angela.

We do not intend to take down the site.

There were a handful of people (mostly client, vendors, past clients and friends) who received notification of the card with a custom url, (like this: http://www.someonesbeennaughty.com/darryl_ohrt)

These two individuals were on that list. Which is weird...they're not strangers. We actually KNOW these two people. We have removed their names from the list, at the request of their attorney.

The attorney is actually in-house counsel (it's a large corporation.) Needless to say, we're dying to hear the back story - but we're not allowed to contact them (!!)

One of the recipients versions of the card was viewed 23 times - so we're guessing that it kind of "went viral" within her company, eventually landing in someone's inbox who doesn't believe in humor.

We all know how large company HR and legal teams can quickly make poor decisions attempting to uphold a vague interpretation of harassment law. We're guessing that's how it happened.

For the rest of us - let this be a reminder that there are still workplaces where communication, creativity, humor and fun are squashed daily. I'm grateful for not having to work in a place like that.

Have an awesome Christmas!

Posted by: darryl ohrt on December 24, 2008 10:51 AM

Angela, excellent report!! The idea that this piece of Claus-sex-whimsy by Plaid is offensive is so ludicrous I laugh. The mock video contains no vulgarity, no nudity, and could only cause emotional distress to someone in HR whose heart, like the Grinch's, is two sizes too small.

I understand that some organizations have strict standards for what is passed along inside email. So if they don't like it, don't pass it along.

The saddest part is that employees inside such a bureaucracy can't have a wee bit of fun. I hope it goes to court and makes Plaid the most famous agency in all the land.

Posted by: Ben Kunz on December 24, 2008 11:44 AM

Wow, Angela. You’ve kinda missed a few major points here.

First, defamation is possible with obviously outrageous or exaggerated communications. We’ve seen plenty of people – particularly celebrities – successfully sue tabloids for publishing outrageous material. None of these people agreed to be part of a practical joke, regardless of its intentions. I can think of plenty of people (and I work in a major advertising agency, where you’d think everyone would be edgy and progressive) who would take offense to being inserted into an online message with sexual connotations.

Second, this statement is pretty naïve for someone in your position: “And given that the "KringleGate" video featuring your name is a holiday greeting that only appears to you, to whom is your reputation actually sullied?” In the Web 2.0 world, this stuff easily extends far beyond the recipient. Your post already guarantees that.

It’s easy to dismiss this kind of stuff when you’re regularly posting imagery that is far more offensive. But people who visit Adrants expect Steve’s routine big-titty posts. Most clients do not expect to receive a holiday greeting with obscene references and language. Next year, just send the traditional box of candy. Believe it or not, clients will think far better of you for going the expected route.

Posted by: Santa on December 27, 2008 12:15 AM

Santa:

I'm not a lawyer, but I was on a jury once, so I am therefore just as qualified as anyone to weigh in here.

The message was not "online" in the sense that anyone could see it. It was a customized URL available only to the recipient of the email.

Defamation in a tabloid is easy to prove, since millions of people will see the magazine at the checkout stand. You show the same naiveté you assign Angela with this statement: "In the Web 2.0 world, this stuff easily extends far beyond the recipient. Your post already guarantees that."
No, it does not, unless the recipient of the allegedly offensive email actually forwarded it on to a bunch of people. Angela's post here does not mention the people involved. Overruled.

As a highly trained blogger and casual legal observer, I hereby declare this case ridiculous and a waste of the court's time. I further award Plaid 100 million dollars for their trouble.

Posted by: Jetpacks on December 27, 2008 8:37 AM

Jetpacks:

Oh, I never said the case wouldn’t be ridiculous. But it wouldn’t be the first time a ridiculous case went to court. I would hope this matter wouldn’t escalate to such proportions.

You say it was a customized URL, yet even Darryl is guessing it “went viral” within the company. And it likely did. That was my only point regarding exclusivity notion. In the Web 2.0 world, things leak. Constantly. Did Plaid create safeguards prohibiting people from passing the URL to others? Doubt it. I’m guessing that deep down, they hoped it would go viral. Oops.

I do believe the company’s response to this was extreme. It seems like they should have started by simply calling Plaid and asking them to remove them from the list.

BTW, did you and your family like all the presents I left?

Happy Holidays.

Posted by: Santa on December 27, 2008 2:03 PM

The lesson to be learned from all this is that americans are obviously insane.

Posted by: The Dirty Mexican on December 27, 2008 8:41 PM

Happy Holidays

Posted by: seviyeli sohbet on December 28, 2008 8:48 AM

Happy Holidays

Posted by: seviyeli sohbet on December 28, 2008 8:48 AM

Happy New Year Adrants!

Thank you for all the chuckles, the occasional belly laugh, and your irresistible and provocative posts throughout 2008!

-Arthur

Posted by: arthur barbato on December 29, 2008 11:24 AM

Darryl -- kudos for not taking the site down. We look forward to finding out how far your antagonists are actually willing to take the case. =P

Santa -- I loved the yacht. Thanks.

Ben, Jetpacks, Dirty Mexican -- hear, hear ... hear.

Arthur -- you're very, very, very welcome.

Posted by: Angela on December 29, 2008 1:11 PM

It's really pretty ridiculous that someone would consider themselves "defamed" by something this silly. Would they have been as offended if they'd been "elfed" or some other such nonsense?

Posted by: J on December 30, 2008 5:12 PM

J,

They might have felt defamed to be "elfed" if they were a dwarf or midget.

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