Biglaw, Copyright, Fabulosity, Intellectual Property

This May Be An Even Greater Response To A Cease And Desist Letter

Back in June, we got a chance to see an absolutely great response to a cease and desist letter. The author of that response letter, Stephen B. Kaplitt, is an Above the Law folk hero for kicking off his response to an unnecessarily threatening C&D with “obviously [this] was sent in jest, and the world can certainly use more legal satire,” before systematically ripping the opposing attorneys a new one.

Now comes another great response to a C&D letter, and this one may even be better because of the firm on the receiving end.

Teaser: Biglaw smackdown! Snarky footnotes! Spice Girls references! Lollipops!

The American Bankers Association (i.e., that other ABA), through an entity called Accuity, publishes a book called the ABA Key to Routing Numbers of the American Bankers Association (affiliate link)[1]. The book is a directory of all the Routing Numbers assigned to banks.

Greg Thatcher has a website that takes Routing Numbers and publishes them in an easily searchable form online.

Then Nigel L. Howard of Covington & Burling wrote a C&D on behalf of Bizarro ABA threatening Greg Thatcher with legal action. It was the pretty standard collection of vague, trumped up threats you’d expect.

Thatcher’s attorney, Andrew B. Delaney, swung into action and penned this response. Here are a couple highlights:

Even that we have trouble buying.[7] There isn’t any copyright notice on the download. And you must be aware that information itself isn’t copyrightable. It just isn’t.[8] In fact, there was a case this real important Court decided back in the early ’90s that was about telephone numbers.[9] In that case, a company just took a local phone book and copied it exactly. The publisher of the phone book knew that the company had copied it because the publisher had popped some phony names in there. No kidding, right? And so the publisher sued the thieving company it caught red-handed. And the thieving company won because it was just information.[10]

[7] And we went to law school, which just illustrates how gullible we are.
[8] No matter how much one might want it to be. Even if one wants it like the Spice Girls want a “zigazig ha.”
[9] Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991).
[10] I know, right? I remember reading this case and being all like, No way!

He also rips up ABA’s claim to copyright of the whole Routing Number when most of the number is not even generated by the ABA. Oops.

Along the way, we learn that Delaney’s office has lollipops, which is a nice touch. It allows Delaney to tell Covington & Burling to “suck it!” without getting rude.

The letter concludes:

© 2013 Andrew B. Delaney and Jorge V. Pivar-Federici. All rights reserved. But wait … fair use allowed and encouraged. Actually, go ‘head and publish the whole thing as is. We don’t care.

Good to know. That’s why we’re reproducing the whole thing on the next page…


[1] Will you use this affiliate link to actually buy this book? Hell no.

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