Today in uncool corporate news, we have the case of humorless fashion retailer Forever 21, a store that has, for the record, been sued various times for copyright infringement. Despite being rather public Christians (their bags have “John 3:16” written at the bottom), they seem to be not particularly forgiving and are not at all happy that Rachel Kane, who created the satire blog WTForever21, is making fun of their clothes. They don’t like the “F” standing for you-know-what, apparently. They sent her a cease and desist in April, accusing her of copyright infringement, trademark infringement, unfair competition, and dilution.
WTForever21 is, of course, satire — Kane’s home page includes the disclaimer “And, just FYI, The term ‘Forever 21’ is a trademark of Forever 21, Inc. This site is not affiliated with Forever 21, Inc.” Beyond that, it actually serves to bring attention to Forever 21’s products, even if it does mock them a bit. So we can’t help thinking it’s total bullshit for a corporate entity to come stomping on a single blogger — who’s not making any money from her site — just because they don’t like her content about them. But they have.
Kane wrote to Consumerist about her legal woes, explaining that she’d responded to Forever 21 via her attorney disputing the accusations, but that on June 2 the retailer responded with a “firm threat to sue” unless she takes down the blog. She has until June 10 to make her decision.
She also wrote,
WTForever21.com began little more than a year ago as an exercise in my favorite pastime – complaining. I was a newly unemployed writer and Los Angeles native with nothing on my plate but the anxiety of my dwindling savings, so I started to commit one post a day in an effort to keep my mind from turning mushy.
In November, 2010 the site gained initial attention from the pop culture site Jezebel.com, whose writers have been historically critical of Forever 21. Mentions on many other sites followed, including Time.com, TheFrisky.com and a space on The Huffington Post’s blogger roster.
More than 333,000 views and countless LOLs later, I am employed again but forced with the painful reality of sinking the community and life raft that kept me afloat through tough times last year all because of an irate bully who can’t take a joke.
The only thing I have to console myself with in this defeat is the hope that consumers at large will know just how humorless the people are who make the day glow pink panties they have buy in bulk.
Seriously, guys, if bloggers can’t make fun of corporations on the Internet, where are we?
Updated: We got in touch with Kane, who had the following to add.
As of right this minute, I’m hoping I can figure out some way to keep WTForever21.com up without getting sued, but it doesn’t seem to be possible. It’s really unfortunate, but I’ll most likely be forced to take down the site, barring any serious deus ex machina. I don’t have the resources (financial or otherwise) to take on a behemoth like Forever 21 over a little satire blog I love. Their pockets are just too deep. The real bummer for me is the community that’s grown up around it is going to suddenly disappear. That’s where the fun comes from — people chiming in about their own WTF moments is the real special sauce. WTForever21.com is just the bowl it comes in.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a reader email me personally and ask me to find them something on the site they couldn’t find in store or how many times I’ve had a reader comment that they love this hideous purse or that insane harem pant. I drive a pretty healthy percentage of clicks from my site to theirs and I’m certain they’ve made sales from WTForever21.com they wouldn’t have otherwise collected.
As for whether the site’s making any money…
Since the site started, I have made exactly ZERO dollars. I have spent more than $80 to pay for domain fees, though. The Google ads I have on the site now hardly justify them even being there and I only put them up to bankroll giveaways and contests. Google adsense doesn’t pay out until you reach $100 and I am very far away from ever seeing any money made off WTForever21.com.
Updated 2: Kane sent us a copy of the cease and desist. Note Forever 21’s sort of hilarious “Your website’s name refers to an abbreviation for colloquial expression that the general public may find offensive,” along with claims that WTFForever21 constitutes “unfair competition” and has led to “monetary damages” for the poor, downtrodden retailer.