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The Oatmeal laughs last: Charles Carreon owes $46K to parody site

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The long-running saga that originated as a spat between Internet rights attorney Charles Carreon and The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman is over, and the ruling has been set. Carreon has been told by a federal court that he must pay a third-party $46,100, a figure arrived at because, as the judge said Friday, Carreon's actions "throughout the litigation" turned an unexceptional case into "an 'exceptional' matter."

Carreon owes that hefty sum to Christopher Recouvreur, the owner of Satirical Charles, a parody website that mocks Carreon, the Tuscon-based Internet rights attorney. The judge ruled that Carreon "went to great lengths, imposing unnecessary costs on plaintiff, to avoid service" and "engaged in unnecessary, vexatious and costly tactics."

Recouvreur and his website are obviously instrumental in this case, but it's hardly the story's beginning or end. To figure out exactly why everything happened, let's take a trip back to June 2011, when the whole dustup began and the world learned that you don't mess with the Oatmeal.

It was in early June that Carreon's client FunnyJunk filed a lawsuit against The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman, demanding $20,000 as recompense for a series of online slanders and character defamations over the concept of intellectual property.

The webcomic responded not by handing over the $20,000 but rather by writing a scathing letter-cum-comic and creating an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that sought that same amount of money—not for Carreon and the image-posting website FunnyJunk, but for charity.

The campaign's home page featured a drawing of Carreon's mother making love to a grizzly bear. It raised $220,000; Inman donated it all to two charities. 

A few days later, Carreon threw his own ego into the mix, suing Inman for another $20,000 because he "hosted false statements" about FunnyJunk, a site Inman had long accused of lifting his comics. That lawsuit started to blow up in his face when things got so wacky that Carreon actually sued the charities Inman was targeting, an attempt to bar them from receiving any money on grounds that Inman wasn't properly handling charitable donations. 

Carreon dropped his lawsuit against The Oatmeal in early July, citing to Ars Techinica that his "mission" was "accomplished." 

By then, Satirical Charles had already gone up in an effort to mock the radical Internet rights attorney, and Carreon had redirected his sights set there. He threatened libel action against the site, but Recouvreur countered, filing a lawsuit against Carreon that alleged his parody site was legal. 

That's the case that ultimately wrapped up last week, but its closing took quite a while. In December, Carreon admitted that the site was legal and agreed to pay any recuperating costs, throwing Recouvreur $725 and calling it a day. 

Recouvreur countered by demanding that Carreon pay $77,765.25 "for his time," which is how we got to where we were on Friday, when a federal judge ruled that Recouvreur's time was actually worth $46,100.25.

Carreon's not ready to pay the fine quite yet.

"I don't think it's correct, but it's never a good idea to sound off in the press what you think of a judge's rulings," Carreon told Ars Technica. "We have two possible levels of review left."

And what about that Inman fellow, the one whose comics seem to have started this whole mess?

"I still think that Matt Inman is a great big bully," Carreon added. "I'm glad that I stood up to him. It would have been nice if [this whole saga] had happened in a different way. I didn't lose any clients as a result of FunnyJunk. I've gotten new clients since then. I know there are a lot of people that wish me ill, and I don't wish them ill in return."

Photo via Charles Carreon