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June 13, 2014

‘Ready for Hillary’ PAC Acknowledges Parodied Merchandise Does Not Violate Federal Law, Retracts Takedown Demand

Parody Merchandise Restored Online; Victory for Free Speech

WASHINGON, D.C. – In response to a legal threat by Public Citizen, the “Ready for Hillary” PAC today retracted a takedown demand, acknowledging that Minnesota activist Dan McCall’s parodied merchandise does not violate intellectual property rights and is fully protected.

On June 1, the PAC sent notices to Zazzle.com and Cafepress.com – two online merchants – demanding they remove designs that use the PAC’s logo or slogan as part of criticism directed at Hillary Clinton. McCall’s design, which was being sold on T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers and more, altered the slogan “I’m Ready for Hillary” to “I’m Ready for Oligarchy.”

Public Citizen on Monday sent a letter to the PAC, arguing that McCall’s design was protected both under the intellectual property laws as well as the First Amendment. The letter gave the PAC three days to retract its takedown demand before Public Citizen would file a lawsuit.

“Although it should never have gone this far in the first place, we are pleased that the Ready for Hillary PAC recognized Dan McCall’s free speech rights and rescinded its takedown demands,” said Paul Alan Levy, attorney at Public Citizen. “This win shows that parody merchandise does not violate any federal laws, and we hope that online merchants recognize this in the future before immediately removing merchandise due to a takedown demand.”

Earlier this week, CafePress agreed that parody designs are protected by the First Amendment as well as by the doctrine of fair use and resumed selling the merchandise. Late last night, after the PAC retracted its notices, Zazzle returned the items to its website.

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