A couple of years ago, Swift Fox held a furbecue in October of 2002 at which China and Max Fox brought with them to help celebrate Halloween a pinata, which is a Mexican children's toy often used at celebrations.

In case you don't remember your Sesame Street (am I going to get in trouble for linking here, too?) a pinata is a paper mache' thingy which is filled with candy and sometimes little toys. Folks, often little kids, are blindfolded, spun around a few times, and told to bat at the pinata with the hope of breaking it open and letting its contents rain down where they can then be picked over. Pinatas can be made in all kinds of forms, from the Grim Reaper to fairys and wedding bells. The one that China and Max Fox happened to bring with them was shaped like Barney. I don't know where they bought it from because they drove to Pittsburgh from Ohio.

A couple of days ago I recieved an e-mail from Dataline, back in Pittsburgh. She'd recieved a letter in the mail addressed to me from the law firm of Gibney, Anthony, and Flaherty, LLP, Attorneys at Law who represent the Lyons Partnership (it's a link to a Google search because if you plug them into Google you'll find a hell of a lot more about the lawsuits they start than you will about the company itself) who own the rights to the character of Barney, as well as the other characters (like Baby Bop, et cetera). Normally she wouldn't open mail that had gone there instead of to my address down here but whenever she finds letters from world powers, lawyers, military bases, or extraterrestrials (sorry about the crop circle in your flower bed, Dataline - Zaggggazxt lost my new address) she's in the habit of opening them and letting me know that something's afoot.

They sent me a letter demanding that the violent images of Barney be taken down.

(Incidentally, I never recieved a notice at that e-mail address.)

So pictures of a Barney pinata being smacked around by a bunch of adults celebrating Halloween constitutes violence. I'm inclined to nit-pick and tell them that a pinata and a stuffed animal (which they claim I have on my site) are two different things (and they are - the former is for beating up, the latter for dragging around by one limb, hugging, cuddling, and going to sleep with) and they should get their facts straight before threatening me, but I don't want to be an asshole about it (because that would probably leave me in an actionable position, and I can't afford a lawyer).

They also say that these violent images should be taken down to protect children who are on the Internet. I can sort of understand this, because you can find some pretty wicked stuff wholly by accident with a simple Google search (as anyone who's ever searched for 'sample autopsy reports' at work and accidentally gotten Necrobabes.com can attest to (and yes, this really has happened)).

However, this makes me wonder about the state of parenting in this day and age, where grown-ups are afraid that something happening to a a fictional character can harm a child's mind. I sure as the day is long wouldn't let my kids (if I had any) sit down at a computer without me riding shotgun (they could probably teach me a thing or two about coding, that's for sure), and I definitely wouldn't let them do their own web searches without my doing them first to make sure that nothing nasty came up (as the above anecdote can attest to). That's just good parenting.

So, guys, I've taken the pictures down, per your request. I don't have the time or money to fight this in court. My EFF membership has lapsed, so I feel kind of funny about bringing them in on this. I also have to wonder where the hell these guys were back in the late 1990's when the BBS door game Barney Splat was all the rage and when a hack of the first-person shooter Wolfenstein 3D called Barneystein 3D (which co-starred Beavis and Butt-Head) came out.

Guys, I hate to break it to you but the First Amendment guarantees fair use of images in a not-for-profit manner. I took pictures of a bunch of folks having a good time with a pinata. These pictures are not going down for that reason. I've contacted the EFF (who have called you on this before, if you will recall) as well as the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse. You've done this to a couple of thousand people this week. It's fair use; I've got it, you've got it (you used it when you copied the URL to my website, in fact!), it's part of copyright law.

I've since contacted the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse and the EFF.

Chilling Effects has listed me on their website.

Last update: 25 October 2005, 1222 EDT

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