Boing Boing Raises Its Middle Finger to Ralph Lauren

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Our friends at the wonderful (and newly redesigned) Boing Boing are raising a collective middle finger to Ralph Lauren after the clothier took issue with their display of an ad that a staffer had singled out for criticism.

On September 29, Xeni Jardin re-posted the disputed ad, which she’d seen at a site called Photoshop Disasters, along with her own reaction: “Dude, her head’s bigger than her pelvis.” The implication, perhaps, was that the company’s marketing people had tweaked the image to give the model, in the words of Jardin’s colleague Cory Doctorow, “an impossibly skinny body.”

Calling out such an ad for criticism or comment, Doctorow concludes in his followup post, is “classic fair use.” But in their cease-and-desist letter, lawyers for Ralph Lauren claimed it was an “infringing image.” The lawyers brought their complaint to Boing Boing’s Internet service provider, which, rather than caving to Smartly Dressed Big Brother, passed it along so that BB staffers could discuss it. And they did. And the lawyers’ complaint didn’t pass their “giggle test.”

“So, instead of responding to their legal threat by suppressing our criticism of their marketing images, we’re gonna mock them,” Doctorow promises. He then issues a scolding counter-threat: That any time the fashion house attempts such a weak legal maneuver, Boing Boing will again reproduce the original criticism, publish and mock the threat to ensure it is spread far and wide, and, my favorite: “Offer nourishing soup and sandwiches to your models.”

Follow Michael Mechanic on Twitter.

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