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Name 'Em and Shame 'Em

Legal systems are predicated on the basic idea that dispute resolution and the righting of wrongs is better achieved through peaceful adjudication than, say, punching the other guy in the nose.  The downside is that the ostensibly civilized path to justice can be an expensive and time-consuming one, and not every ethical wrong is as yet protected by a legal right. 

Enter, then, the court of public opinion, where judgment is at least swift -- especially on the internet. 

Urban Counterfeiters is one such venue, dedicated to "bringing American consumers reports from small companies and artists who have been taken advantage of by large corporations."  (See also previously featured site You Thought We Wouldn't Notice....)  As you might expect, the Urban Outfitters chain ("the Wal-Mart of cool") is among UC's targets -- and has been subjected to not only online disapprobation but old-fashioned in-the-flesh protest and pamphleteering as well. 

Crownfarmer and Urban Outfitters shirts

Could the T-shirts designs and other original creations on the site have been protected by copyright or perhaps trademark law?  In many instances, yes.  But in the meantime, a bit of (judiciously exercised) extra-judicial action certainly sends a message. 

Many thanks to my engaged and engaging student James Creedon, Fordham law library guru Larry Abraham, and above all Anonymous for making sure that I finally posted this one!  And don't forget to head over to Murketing for further reflections on the subject.