David vs. Goliath: Web upstart battles corporate giant Facebook

Lamebook, the creation of two BU alumni, runs into legal trouble

Courtesy Photo
Baylor alumni Jonathan Standefer and Matt Genitempo, center, creators of Lamebook.com, pose with friends in the photobooth at their recent “You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Parody!” party. Lamebook.com is entangled in a lawsuit with Facebook.

By Liz Hitchcock
Reporter

Sometimes things are posted on Facebook that make you wonder, “Who thought it would be a good idea to say this?”

Matt Genitempo and Jonathan Standefer, Baylor alumni, saw the potential to profit from, and have a good laugh at, the most ridiculous Facebook content. So they created the Facebook parody website Lamebook.

“We started Lamebook a little [after meeting], and after a few months of doing that it got so popular that we were able to quit our jobs at the offices and do that full time,” said Genitempo, who graduated in 2007 with a degree in graphic design. “That brought a lot of other different design opportunities for both of us.”

While Genitempo and Standerfer, who graduated in 2005 with a degree in film and digital media, were just acquaintances in college, they became friends after graduating and went on to create Lamebook.com, which focuses on posts made by Facebook users.

Lamebook laughs

Lamebook quickly became successful enough for Facebook to take note. Lamebook’s play on Facebook’s copyrighted name and logo led Facebook to threaten the company with a trademark infringement lawsuit in March 2010.

One of Lamebook’s lawyers, Conor Civins, said that after being contacted by Facebook, Lamebook owners decided to file a lawsuit for a declaratory judgment, which means they sued Facebook first in order to gain a preemptive judgement stating that no copyright infringement exists.

“[Lamebook] is a parody website; it’s supposed to be social commentary and it’s protected by free speech,” Civins said.

About a week after filing their lawsuit, Lamebook owners heard back from Facebook’s lawyers in California.

“It literally exploded overnight,” Standefer said. “And that next week we got countersued by Facebook.”

Along with their lawyers in Texas, where their lawsuit was filed, the owners of Lamebook have counsel in California and have been working closely on what Civins called “a strong case.”

Despite having a strong case, Civins admitted that Facebook is tough opposition.

“Facebook is a corporate giant with limitless amounts of money to throw at the case,” Civins said. “But Lamebook has hired very good intellectual property lawyers … We know a lot about this kind of lawsuit.”

The case between Lamebook and Facebook is still ongoing, and Genitempo and Standefer are doing everything they can to stand up to the social media giant, including nonconventional methods like throwing a party on Jan. 21 dubbed “You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Parody!”
They ask for support in their efforts against Facebook on their website, saying, “We really love running Lamebook. Aside from the laughs, it represents an opportunity to work on an incredibly fun project with our buddies that makes a lot of people happy and still allows us to make rent at the end of the month … Problem is, Facebook didn’t get the joke. They’ve decided to pick on the little guys: small business owners who seem to be no match for a multi-billion dollar behemoth. But this is one website that’s not going down without a fight.”
Facebook is just as resolute in its decision to beat Lamebook in court.
In a statement released on Fox 7 in Austin on Nov. 5, Andrew Noyes, communications manager for Facebook, said: “It’s unfortunate that after months of working with Lamebook to amicably resolve what we believe is an improper attempt to build a brand that trades off Facebook’s popularity and fame, they have turned to litigation. We are confident in our position and believe we will prevail in court.”
Aside from the controversy surrounding their biggest project, Lamebook, these Baylor alumni are busy with several projects, including the publishing of a best of Lamebook.com book, co-written by Josh Huck and published by Chronicle Books. The book will be released around September.
Additionally, Genitempo and Standefer are embracing their website’s popularity in the digital universe.
“We’re having a [South by Southwest] party along with the other blog, Texts From Last Night, and a few other pretty popular blogs,” Genitempo said, discussing the popular Austin music festival in March.
Genitempo is also part of another blog called Public School, which is composed of a team of designers who post different aspects of design and creative work.
“Public School is basically a group of creatives who got together because we were sick of designing from home and wanting to be in a creative environment,” Genitempo said.
Standefer and Genitempo advised students who are taking classes in the art department to not limit themselves to the curriculum suggested by advisers and to take classes that seem interesting, even if they aren’t necessarily required.
“All the people that I really respected in the art program and all the students whose work I enjoyed were all doing extra stuff, and I don’t think that you can do great things out of the art department if you’re not doing anything extra,” said Genitempo. “It’s a very competitive field.”
Standefer and Genitempo are in the process of coming out with a new website, one with content and a URL that will be released later.
Students can visit Lamebook and Public School at www.lamebook.com and http://gotopublicschool.com.