Otto Penzler Threatens Me With a Lawsuit

This post is not a joke.

I just received the following message from Otto Penzler:

“If you don’t remove this TODAY, I will sue your ass. I have already discussed this with my lawyer who agrees it is actionable. You may find this humorous–I don’t. I do have your address and you will be served with a cease and desist order, plus a liable suit, copyright infringement suit, and some other stuff as we think of them. NOW, Mr. Champion.”

Mr. Penzler takes apparent umbrage to several recent posts that satirize and parody his New York Sun columns. To prevent any confusion, I have removed the photos of Mr. Penzler and have added a visible disclaimer that these posts are parodies for the uninitiated (which apparently includes Penzler) about a character named “Otto Peltzer,” not Penzler. Other than this, the posts, for the moment, remain unchanged.


  1. Is it really any different from what Larry Flynt did with Jerry Falwell? I thought the law was pretty clear cut in this area.

  2. Sounds like you still have a bit of a rat problem.

    I’d never heard of Penzler until I read about him here. Out of curiousity I googled him and took a look at his writing. My first impression: maybe he should sue himself.

  3. I don’t want to have to organize a “Free Ed” campaign. I hope your “ass” has a good lawyer just in case.

  4. In keeping with 17 U.S.C. § 107, the Sumpreme Court has already noted artists’ attitudes toward parodies. They found that it was unlikely that any artist would find parody a lucrative derivative market, as artists “ask for criticism, but only want praise.” (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. ’94)

    Still, this situation is why I only parody dead writers. Good luck with it.

  5. If somebody whose public image rested upon his status as a publishing industry luminary decided to sue a blogger for making fun of him, I would totally lap up the opportunity not to have to go looking for stories to comment upon in my blog covering the publishing industry! Nor would I be afraid to express my opinion about the matter!

  6. If Otto Penzler had in fact spoken to an attorney, he would not be writing you himself. You would get a lawyer’s letter. (And Otto would be getting billed for $600 an hour!)

    As a rule, defamation cases are difficult to win and damage awards tend to be small. It would be very unusual for an attorney to be willing to take a defamation case on a contingent fee basis, and the fees expended in litigating even a successful defamation action usually exceed the total recovery.

    A good attorney would tell Mr. Penzler to forget about it, as everyone else would have if only he hadn’t sent his unfortunate threatening email.

  7. >My first impression: maybe he should sue himself.

    Excellent point, Finn! Thinking of one of my favorite Patrick Kavanaugh poems: maybe he should sue God:

    “He had the knack of making men feel
    As small as they really were
    Which mean as great as God had made them.”

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