A look at the claims, predictions and behavior of a media "psychic".

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A Response to Sylvia Browne's Attempt to Silence This Web Site

I respond, through my attorney, to Browne's attempt to shut this web site down.

Letter to Sylvia Browne's Attorney, from attorney Jordon S. Davis of Davis and Davis, Page 1 Letter to Sylvia Browne's Attorney, from attorney Jordon S. Davis of Davis and Davis, Page 2

Letter to Sylvia Browne's Attorney, from attorney Jordon S. Davis of Davis and Davis (View as .pdf file).

A Brief Note

My apologies in advance for placing these "legal issues" letters here in the Articles section of the site, which should be more focused on examining Browne and her claims. But I feel it is important for this to be out in the open as much as possible, so people can decide for themselves what all of this says about Browne.

Background

On January 26, 2007 I received a letter from Sylvia Browne's attorney, which was obviously an attempt to chill public debate on Browne and her claims, by intimidating me into taking this site down.

Unfortunately for Browne (and her attorney), I know my rights, I know a bit about copyright law and "fair use" (having designed and maintained a number of web sites), and better still, I have good attorneys advising me.

The letter was simply that - a letter. As such, I could have simply ignored it. But after listening to the attorneys' advice, I decided that it was wiser to be more proactive.

The Letter

On February 7th, 2007, attorney Jordon S. Davis, Esq, sent the following letter to Browne's attorneys on my behalf.

Page 1

Cheryl Hodgson, Esq.
Hodgson Law Group
9606 Santa Monica Blvd., Third Floor
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Re: StopSylviaBrowne.Com

Dear Ms. Hodgson:

This office has been asked by Robert Lancaster to answer your letter of January 26. Your points are responded to in the numbered order in which you made them:

1. StopSylviaBrowne.Com does not infringe on the pending mark "Sylvia Browne" under any reading of the law. The website is highly critical of Sylvia Browne, providing information about her past criminal history and describing the numerous instances in which she gave incorrect information to individuals seeking help, among them the parents of Shawn Hornbeck. There is absolutely no possibility that even unsophisticated consumers could believe that the website and its content are created or maintained by Sylvia Browne, are endorsed by Ms. Browne or are a product of Ms. Browne. Without conceding any infringement, Mr. Lancaster has placed a disclaimer on his website stating, "This site is not affiliated with Sylvia Browne and is neither maintained nor endorsed by her."

There is simply no place in a free society for the suppression of dissent about a subject of public interest merely because the individual involved has paid a few hundred dollars to trademark her name. You are referred to such sites as FarmersInsuranceGroupSucks.Com, WalmartWatch.Com, and WiiHaveAProblem.Com for other examples of websites which incorporate trademarks of which they are critical. You are also referred to the recent case Fox News Network, LLC v. Penguin Group, Inc. and Franken. You will recall that not only did Fox News lose that case, but they endured some very unflattering publicity in the process.

2. The points made above apply equally for the Hay House trademark. The trademark appeared as part of a small and indistinct picture of Sylvia Browne’s website’s homepage. There was no possibility that an unsophisticated consumer could believe that the trademark rendered as part of a picture of Ms. Browne’s homepage could indicate that Hay House produced, licensed or endorsed the content of StopSylviaBrowne.Com. Without conceding any infringement, however, Mr. Lancaster has removed Hay House’s trademark from his website.

Page 2

3. Your claim that Mr. Lancaster has violated Hay House or Ms. Browne’s copyrights is without foundation in law. Material on which a person holds a copyright may be used without permission in a variety of cases. Most applicable in this instance is that it is fair use to quote copyright material for the purpose of comment and criticism. You are directed to the following facts: a) The copyright material is a very small portion of Ms. Browne’s entire website, being only one page out of dozens of linked pages; b) The homepage on display is not even legibly rendered, and the vast majority of words cannot even be read as rendered; c) Once again, this is a matter where the benefit to the public of debating the issue of Ms. Browne’s claims far outweighs whatever copyrights Ms. Browne and Hay House may have.

4. Your statement about providing instructions to others is not cognizable in law.

Your letter of January 26 has set forth no factual or legal basis as to how Mr. Lancaster is in violation of any of your clients’ rights. Unless you are able to cite some support for your claims, Mr. Lancaster will neither cease nor desist from operating StopSylviaBrowne.Com. He is involved in the distribution of important information about this person who, you are reminded, has chosen a life in the public eye.

It is a fact that bears mention that Ms. Browne is a person of wealth and resources far in excess of Mr. Lancaster. There have been instances where monied individuals have used the courts as tools to bully their detractors. You are put on notice that any suit filed without basis will be met with a vigorous defense that will take full advantage of California’s anti-SLAPP law and include motions for legal fees and sanctions. In such suit, this letter will be produced as evidence that your clients were aware that no grounds existed for any lawsuit. You are also put on notice that it may be a breach of ethics for a lawyer to prosecute a case knowing that it has no footing in law and knowing that it is being used to harass the defendant. This office has in the past notified appropriate agents of the bar when a firm pressed a matter such as this.

Please communicate directly with this office regarding Mr. Lancaster and StopSylviaBrowne.Com. Mr. Lancaster is aware that you have contacted Domains By Proxy. Please inform this office of the information you are seeking and the purpose of your request.

Sincerely,

[signature]

Jordon S. Davis, Esq.

cc: Robert Lancaster

Analysis

The anti-SLAPP law which Mr. Davis mentions bears some explanation.

A "SLAPP" is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Simply put: it is when a corporation or individual files a lawsuit against someone in order to silence or reduce their participation in a public debate.

From the web site of the California Anti-SLAPP Project:

While most SLAPPs are legally meritless, they effectively achieve their principal purpose: to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources and thus diverts the defendant's attention away from the public issue. Equally important, however, a SLAPP also sends a message to others: you, too, can be sued if you speak up.

Fortunately, several states have "anti-SLAPP laws" which benefit those who are the target of a SLAPP. California - the state in which both Browne and I reside - is one such state.

Conclusion

I believe that this letter makes my position perfectly clear: I have no intention of taking down this site, nor of giving up the URL "StopSylviaBrowne.com". I will fight any attempts to make me do so to the fullest extent of the law.

I would like to say here that I appreciate all of the help and support I have received in the few days since I published the article about the letter from Browne's attorney. I think that Browne miscalculated this move in a number of ways, one being the effect it would have on public opinion. From the emails I am receiving, and the various blogs commenting on the letter from Browne's attorney, it has become obvious that support for this web site is no longer limited to people who are doubtful of Browne's "psychic abilities," but now also includes people who might never have even heard of Browne until this, but who dislike attempts at suppressing Free Speech.

And huge thanks to , for crafting such a powerful response.

Related Links

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StopSylviaBrowne.com is not responsible for the content of any of these linked pages.

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