My first cease-and-desist letter

Straight? Unhappy? Billboard ParodyIt seems that Exodus International, the “largest Christian referral and information ministry” in the ex-gay movement has hired Liberty Counsel, “a legal organization dedicated to advancing its organizers’ conceptions of religious freedom the sanctity of human life and the traditional family,” to try and get me to take down my PARODY of Exodus’ “Question Homosexuality” billboard campaign. Umm, no.

Here’s the text of the letter:

Dear Mr. Watt:
Liberty Counsel is a national public interest law firm. We have presented many briefs before the United States Supreme Court, and we have argued before the High Court and in state and federal courts throughout the nation. Liberty Counsel has offices in Florida, Virginia and hundreds of affiliate attorneys licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We frequently provide assistance to various organizations including Exodus International (“Exodus”).

It has recently come to our attention that your web site,, is using an image that you admit was taken from the Exodus web site. As you are aware, that image is located at

You appear to believe that the stolen image is exempt from federal intellectual property laws as a “parody” due to “fair use.” Unfortunately, the intricacies of federal law cannot adequately be covered on “Wikipedia” due to the variety of facts addressed by courts in numerous cases. Your use of the image is indeed a violation of copyright law and is not covered by “fair use.” Nearly the entire image file from the Exodus web site was is used on your web site with only two changes. You changed “Gay” to “Straight?” and “” to “” Furthermore, your altered image substantially diminishes the potential value of the original image as utilized by Exodus on billboards across America and online. Moreover, your infringing activity creates the false impression that Exodus is sponsoring or endorsing the altered billboard, in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125, as it contains the “E” logo mark that belongs to Exodus. You have not been licensed or authorized to use either the image or the logo belonging to Exodus.

We are confident that you will understand our insistence that you immediately cease use of the image on your web site or in any other form. Please confirm your agreement to this request, and please note your confirmation that no other use is being or will be made of the images or logo, by signing and returning an original signature on a copy of this letter at the address shown above, no later than March 15, 2006. We appreciate your anticipated cooperation with this request.

Mathew D. Staver, Esq.

All legal advice is welcome and appreciated.

Update: Ex-Gay Watch also receives a C&D.

Update: In a stroke of brilliance, Jason further parodies the Exodus billboard. Religious? Litigious?

Update: One of the more interesting aspects of this letter is the law firm’s mention (and dismissal) of Wikipedia. In an attempt to be OVERT about my act of PARODY, I linked to Wikipedia’s entry on Fair use. Liberty Counsel asserts that:

…the intricacies of federal law cannot adequately be covered on “Wikipedia”…

Though their rationale for this statement is so opaque as to be unintelligible:

…due to the variety of facts addressed by courts in numerous cases.

Hmm. Yeah. Thanks. Care to elaborate? A rough paraphrase: “This isn’t true because of facts. And st00f.”

I thought the folks at Wikipedia would be amused by their inclusion in my cease-and-desist letter. They responded thusly:

Indeed, Wikipedia cannot give legal advice, as is indicated in our legal disclaimer:

However, best of luck with your legal issues, and thanks for letting us know about the mention!

Update: With legal representation from the ACLU and Fenwick & West, we’ve responded to Liberty Counsel’s cease-and-desist letter.


Wow, what a compliment.

Your parody is such an obvious, obvious, obvious case of Fair Use.

I said it before, I’ll say it again, YOU FREAKIN’ ROCK!




That is amazing. And you know that I’m behind you with whatever I can do. :-) I know JUST a little bit about copyright law, and they are full of it. Parody is clearly protected, and it’s clearly a parody. I’m so sending this to boingboing.

This looks like another case that proves the saying “an empty barrel makes the most noise”.

I am not legal expert either but I did a few quick searches and it seems that they are just trying to threaten you.

If you have not done so already, please contact the folks at and report the C&D. They track bullshit like this.

Also, I have saved your image and, unless you have any objections, I will be posting it on my blog as well.


Sounds like maybe they’re unhappy. Have they gone to the web site you recommended on the billboard? It could only help.

(and you can’t even really see the logo. I didn’t notice that it was more than just a few background clouds until they brought my attention to it. and I certainly don’t associate it with Exodus. Stinkers!)

I love you!

I fear this opinion might make me unpopular, but I do think it might cross a “fair use” line. Not on the basis of parody, which is absolutely protected, but rather becasue of the circumstances behind its execution

A) No matter how small or whatnot, their logo is still on the board. If you would photoshop the whole board as another color and obscure the detail, it would help the case.
B) It’s not just a snapshot of the billboard that you altered — it’s an official pic that they actually use for promotional purposes. Imagine if they were to take a pic was using on their site and change a few words to make it “ex-gay”-friendly. We would go apeshit.

I feel dirty even slightly defending Staver and The Liberty Counsel, but I don’t want to see you lose face over this. I’d certainly be in contact with Lambda Legal and get a true expert opinion.

I see your point on the logo…it wouldn’t hurt the parody at all to eliminate that. Justin, that’s a decent idea, simply from a legal standpoint. Frankly, I had never even noticed the “e” until they pointed it out, and even then I had to look for it.

As far as it being a photograph instead of the billboard…I’m not sure that matters as far as copyright law is concerned. Justin altered a photograph digitally, and that’s the real issue at hand as far as the law is concerned. Their use of it, frankly, doesn’t mean anything…it’s whether or not Justin’s use qualifies under the 4 fair use factors or is clearly a member of a protected class (criticisim, parody, or other allowed use). I think it is VERY clearly protected speech.

Jason: But my understanding is that you have to look at the whole photo as part of the parody, not just the board. If they’ve taken measures to protect this specific image, then that includes the entire photo. So when it comes to altering it enough to make it acceptable, you also have to alter or crop out much more of the surrounding environment.

Again, this is just my understanding. I had a similar situation where I set a parody in a conference room. The parody (which involved public figures) was no problem, it was the conference room pic (which I had pulled from a company’s official photos).

Well, the four fair use factors are:

1. the purpose and character of your use
2. the nature of the copyrighted work
3. the amount and substantiality of the portion taken
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market.

Only one of these has anything to do with amount of use. While Justin did take the significant portion of the work, without doing such there is no possibility of parody.

Actually, now that I look at it, Justin didn’t use much of the photo. According to my math, he used 65.29209%, actually, and that doesn’t count the pixels he altered. If you take those into account, it might be very close to half. Over half, but significantly less than the whole, and just enough to produce the parody. All of the other factors (purpose, nature, and effect) are all in Justin’s favor.

Wow. What bullies! So much for turning the other cheek . Go free speech! Go Justin! Rah!

Telling Justin what to do is a bad idea. Be ye warned crazy-trying-to-be-scary legal guys.

Yea, and its VERY, VERY likely that he’ll be fine if he calls their bluff and does nothing. Just wanted to throw it out there that its not just the focal point of the pic that matters. And I’d DEF. alter the logo.

Thanks for the comments and suggestions, I appreciate them all. If you have any other thoughts, please leave a comment.


The first thing I did was send a query to the EFF by email. I’ll probably follow up by phone.

I chatted with someone at the ACLU of Northern California during lunch—they should be contacting me with more info later today (as far as the ACLU’s interest and the C&D’s merit).

On the Angry Fag’s advice, I’ve submitted the C&D to the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse. Check out his excellent post reviewing the merits of the case. Many thanks.

I sent an email to the HRC giving them a heads up.

Mike at Ex-Gay Watch (who also got a cease-and-desist letter from Liberty Counsel) has passed my contact info along to Lambda Legal who I plan to call later.

Jane, Jeremy, and Jason, regarding Exodus’ e-in-a-circle logo/watermark, I too may have originally missed it (or overlooked it) and would not have any qualms with photoshopping it out of the image—to appease Exodus. In the meantime I’m going to let the image stand and allow things to play out as they are.

Is it harmful or helpful that in a moment of indignant outrage I stole your image and uploaded it to my MySpace page, then posted it as a comment on many of my friends’ pages, and included it in a discussion thread on one of my clubs there?

Heh, Leona, no worries, feel free.


ha, i was actually going to suggest that everyone who reads this upload the photo to their websites as well. Go, Leona!

Justin, Just checking in to see how things are going in California. Looks like life there is definitely not boring! Your J-School law class should come in handy on this one. Good luck!

I was chatting with my parents tonight and lamented at the fact that I have so little daily contact with people who would describe themselves as conservative. Not any more!

Stacy L. Harp, a self-described “conservative Christian” wrote on her personal blog:

I was totally offended when I saw the “parody” and I do not think it’s remotely funny to drive people into homosexuality.

And I thought, facetiously, “Amazing! The parody worked.” Here’s someone who commits an entire blog to fighting homosexuality yet was able to experience the deeply offensive nature of the Exodus billboards from a conservative, heterosexual perspective.

Justin! You’ve arrived!

I also posted it on my blog, as you know. My favorite part is the integrity of the telephone wire. Well done!


Did you boingboing this?

“Drive people to homosexuality”??? hahahahaha

Yes, and in “A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift intended to drive people to eating Irish babies. Mmmmmm … Irish babies.

Leona, yep, I thought about removing the wire, but felt it added a little bit of that gritty realism.

Jackie, I passed it along, and I believe Jason did as well, but they’re posting has been light lately so… Feel free to suggest it yourself.

Marcia, yes! I think we need a billboard that says: Irish? Hungry?!


Justin. In light of this whole debacle, I have written an open letter. I hope you understand. I love you (platonically, of course) as a friend, but you’re wrong.

You can find my letter here.

Justin, you are f**king AWESOME. Good luck dealing with the legal side of this. It just goes to show ya, though, that these folks have nothing better to do with their time and money. Please keep us updated about what happens, k? :)

This rocks!

Irish? Hungry? Parody Billboard

Thanks Jason!

Did you know you were mocking a revolution? See Article about anti-gay therapy for teens.

Posted on my blog too.

Why should you have all the fun?

Leona, awesome, thanks for catching that. The timing is certainly interesting. I’ve sent a quick email to the reporter letting him know about the C&D.


Where were these legal eagles when one of those ex-gay ministries was still using the likeness of someone who renounced them?

Two quick comments.

One, how much would it cost for you to put this billboard up in CA? I’ll kick in the first $100 if you decide to go “real-world” ;-)!

Two, you probably know this already, but CA has some fairly strong laws that cover and protect this kind of speech. CA has singled out Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) as especially odious legal (at least legal sounding) instruments. Here’s some more information on CA and SLAPPs.

Take care.


Hold on what’s that one about the Irish? Shouldn’t it direct people to


Here’s a thought: If these hatemongers go so far as to file a suit against you, file a countersuit. The claim? Intentional infliction of emotional distress. Not over their suit against you specifically, but a class action on behalf of all non-straights, asserting that the ‘gays can change’ BS is a lie that harms all non-straights. Of course, part of this would involve proof as to whether the ‘ex-gay’-oids know that ‘gays can change’ is BS – meaning that, as part of discovery, they could be forced to come up with actual statistics to ‘prove’ their ‘success’ rate. Its always interesting to see how far these clowns will go to avoid having to show what their actual ‘success’ rate is.

Great stuff! C&D’s are not so great but are of limited value in speech cases. We’ve put up a post and will update. We’ll send out more messages today.
Thanks to Jason for the image we used at the end.

Sounds like they are abusing the judicial process to violate your Constitutional rights.

I’m posting your image as a news item on my blog today, maybe they’ll come after me for just reporting it?

I could use a little money to retire on…


I’m not an attorney–you need to run this past one–but as a parody, I would think the case would be thrown out by a judge. If they were serious about this, they would have gone to the judge first to shut you down. That they have to threaten you suggests to me that they are unsure they could win the case. But the question is, can you afford to fight the case?


I would love to see these evangelicals attack adultery, lying, stealing, covetousness, divorce, and child abuse with as much vehemence as they have used to attack homosexuality. Being gay didn’t even make it to the top ten (commandments) in God’s list of sins! Your billboard parody is amazing, and shows how evangelicals waste so much money on silly things while the multitudes starve. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (The Bible- Book of James 1:27)


I will donate $200 right now! I assumed the billboard was real. Why isn’t the gay movement filling the country with this kind of stuff?

Plus there should be billboards touting the VP’s daughter, Mary and her lover Heather, as sexually active and unrepentant homosexuals reflecting Dick Cheney’s wholesome values (indeed he has said she is his best staff person).

There are dozens of ways in which the right wing’s own bs ideology can be totally turned against them. Why the hell haven’t we been doing this all along? Also other billboards questioning the negligent parenting of Phyllis Shchlafely, Dan Quayle, and other prominent conservatives (ie “Why have they raised and indoctrinated with their own values – active and unrepentant homosexual children *who has specifically chosen to reject ex-gay theology)!!!


I agree with BigBadJon. Where have all these people and religions been while such things as adultry, child and spousal abuse been? They seem content in judging other souls but where’s the love and compassion they’re suppose to have. Not to mention the fact they know they have no right and shouldn’t be judging another soul’s journey in this life anyway. It’s quite hypocritical and selective how some people and religions act.

I think their strongest argument is the trademark claim. At the bare minimum, I would edit out the “e” logo they’ve talked about. Your best bet is just take another billboard photo and create a similar shot. Less satisfying than using the same pic, I know, but will keep you out of trouble.

I have a short article on this up at The Boston Progressive


Funny, but risky. I’m no trademark attorney, but the copied “E” sure doesn’t look like a parody. If you ‘ve got the money to fight hire an attorney, you could, but why bother? I’d ditch the “E”. If your actions cause Exodus not to be able to use the bilboard again, then you may have damages if they get a friendly judge.

Will and Kyle, even though you may not have, I thought seriously (for about 15 seconds) about starting a fund to purchase a billboard. Then it occured to me that the intent of my parody was to demostrate how deeply offensive I found the message on the original billboard. So I’d rather not perpetuate that message’s delivery (beyond this parody), even in jest.

Oh and thanks for the SLAPP link. In the course of this experience it was brought to my attention (I thought I heard it called a slapsuit), but I need to dig deeper.

Blier Watch, ThomasMC, and Craig R, big thanks for the links and support! It’s important to me that as many people as possible see about his. Not so much the C&D letter (which is important) but the parody billboard—and what it parodies.

BigBadJon and Dee, hear, hear! But let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. “Ex-gays” need support groups as much as (if not more than) everybody else. That said, I in no way support the greatly confused and misinformed mission of Exodus International.

Kat and Kyle, I totally understand your frustration (who doesn’t after 5+ Bush years) but I’d rather take the high road. Engage the opposition in dialog.

Bob, Marc, and Lwyergrl, I don’t consider a cease-and-desist letter to be dialog. If indeed the watermarked-e is their concern, then a simple email requesting that it be airbrushed out would have been well more than enough to get me to do so.

Sending a cease-and-desist letter through a conversative law firm, however, is an act of war.

Obviously (to me) they were not interested in protecting their trademark, they are interested in stifling my free speech. Which is something I’m VERY passionate about.

So for now the image will stay as is, pending appropriate legal consulation.

Sending a cease-and-desist letter through a conversative law firm, however, is an act of war.

Which I have to say was very un-gay of them. Perhaps there’s something to all that aversion therapy?

Aversion therapy is a form of psychiatric treatment in which the patient is exposed to a stimulus while simultaneously being hurt or made ill.

Yay! Sounds like fun. Sign me up Exodus!

Rick Karr

Has anyone passed this info along to any copyright reform advocacy groups (e.g. EFF, Public Knowledge, even Creative Commons) or engaged scholars (e.g. Siva Vaidhyanathan at NYU, Peter Jaszi at American U., Larry Lessig at Stanford, etc.)? The incident provides an excellent example of the shortcomings of fair use doctrine — that it’s not a preemptive safeguard, that one can only invoke it as a defense after having been accused of infringement, by which point the lawyers are already raking in the cash….

Rick, great suggestions. I just sent off emails to Larry, Peter, and Siva. If there’s anyone else you think would be interested, please don’t hesitate to do the same.

As far as organizations, I’m in contact with the ACLU, EFF, and Lambda Legal. I’ve also submitted the C&D to Chilling Effects.

I hadn’t thought of Creative Commons (which I’m a big supporter of) or Public Knowledge, but why not, I’ll get the word out. Thanks again!

From the blogs

Sister Nancy Beth Eczema posts her own Exodus billboard parody and sez:

I consider abusing crystal meth slightly less harmful to gay people than the “therapy” Exodus is offering

Blier Watch sez:

A resource of the Center for American Cultural Renewal has been Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Counsel. Having failed repeatedly in the marketplace of ideas, the religious culture warriors are more frequently turning to litigation as a favored tactic to silence the opposition…

And Alan Chambers looks like such a fun guy!

Jesus’ General sez:

“We’ll sue your ass if you make us think too hard about our recovery. And don’t make us say ‘ass’ again. It makes us think too hard about our recovery.”

Craig R. of the Boston Progressive sez:

a cease & desist letter is cheap — nothing more than a threat, essentially saying “we really don’t care of the law is on your side or not: we have more money to burn than you do to get our way.” However, that monetary equation may change if the ACLU gets involved or a counter-suit is filed on Justinsomnia’s behalf by lawyers willing to work on contingency.

Addison Phillips sez:

Obviously renouncing that you’re a cocksucker means you have to renounce that you have a sense of humor also.

Where the Dolphins play sez:

Apparently unhappy with others being allowed to excercise the same free speech they enjoy, Exodus International has hired Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Counsel law firm to try and scare Justin and others who posted his work.

And an allusion and a pun from Here lies a toppled god. Could I ask for anything more?

Cake or death. Liberty is not an option.

For folks interested in more details about the ethics and effects of forcibly converting people (esp. young people) away from homosexuality, please see Maman Poulet’s excellent and detailed post on Ex-gay movements.

Ooo, ooo, time to do some research on the opposition!

Same-sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk by Matthew D. Staver

Same Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk book cover

(via Mike Tidmus)

Let me know how I can provide constructive help Justin. I think you should put out a paypal button to collect $ for legal defense now! If you don’t need go to court you could donate the $ to charity.


Your parody is great. I enjoyed it immensely.

The parody is on target and we know this because Exodus ran to Jerry Falwell’s law firm for a C&D letter.

My advice is to contact Lambda Legal and ACLU.

Good luck.

I’m a supporter of Exodus, but I agree with you guys on this one. You should be fully allowed to use this as a parody. You make a good point. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. This makes it look like Exodus is afraid of free speech. I think Exodus should “let you be” on this one. It’s making mountains out of mole hills.


As an ‘ex-straight’ who saw the light, this billboard is great. There IS hope for straights! With over 50 percent of straight marriages ending in divorce and rampant wife-beating/abuse, I can see why folks would want to leave the orientation. Pooh on Liberty Councel.

Brian, linking to this post, and letting people know is the best way I can think to help right now. Hopefully collecting money will not be an issue.

Bernie, thanks for stopping by, it means a lot to me. Perhaps you can share your outlook with the folks at Exodus.

What bullshit. This is one of those letters written simply to intimidate. I’m a lawyer and it must be true.

It isn’t.

On this date in 1994, the Supreme Court ruled that parodies that poke fun at an original work can be considered “fair use” that doesn’t require permission from the copyright holder. (AP)


Let me preface this by saying I’m not a lawyer and I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. However…

I think you might have a more effective and lawyer-proof parody if you smudged-out the “e” logo mark and subtly changed the billboard background color (mauve? pale salmon? washed-out rainbow tie-dye? or, dare I say it: pink?)

Uberpatriot, well, it seems to me that someone from Exodus could have just sent me an email asking me to remove (or airbrush out) their logo from my parody image. That would have been the sane, human, Christian thing to do.

Rather someone decided it would be more effective to intimidate me with a cease-and-desist letter requiring that I suspend my civil rights so that their narrow-minded worldview appears unchallenged.

In order to defend my right to free speech, the parody image will remain as is, unless a judge tells me otherwise.

Update: Ha. Yeah, pink. I think I need to come up with a rainbow version.

Its time to mirror this image everywhere. Censorship just don’t work the way it used to, Liberty Counsel.

Chiming in again with the “if you should find you need cash, put up a button and I’ll donate” comment.

And you *do* rock.

To Mush, Brian, and everyone else who has offered financial support, thanks. Really. I think I’m good right now, but if that changes, I’ll definitely get the word out.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to support issues like this, I’d strongly recomment becoming a member of and/or donating to the ACLU, Lambda Legal, the EFF, or Planned Parenthood (because if you missed it yesterday, women in South Dakota lost the right to choose whether or not to have an unplanned pregnancy).

Today in Bay Windows, New England’s largest GLBT newspaper:

Liberty Counsel takes on gay bloggers
by Ethan Jacobs

When blogger Justin Watt heard about Exodus International’s billboard in Orlando promoting its ex-gay ministry, Watt, who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif., says he became livid and was inspired to act. Last September a friend forwarded him a photo of the billboard, which reads, “Gay? Unhappy?” and provides the address for the Exodus Web site. He said he was so offended by the billboard that he used Photoshop to change the text of the image to “Straight? Unhappy?” and swapped the Exodus Web address for In about two minutes he had finished making his parody and posted it on his blog…

From The Washington Blade today:

Exodus fights ‘ex-gay’ billboard parody
Blogger says he won’t remove image despite threat from Liberty Counsel
by Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg

The “ex-gay” group Exodus International is targeting blogger Justin Watt with a cease and desist order after Watt posted a parody of the group’s billboard ad campaign on his site.

[…] Exodus International claims blogger Justin Watt violated copyright and trademark laws when he posted a parody of their “Gay? Unhappy?” billboard ad campaign on his blog – an image which read “Straight? Unhappy?” also posted the parody in February, and Mike Airhart of Ex-Gay Watch, along with Justin Watt, received a cease and desist letter last week. Airhart said he removed the image as a “temporary precaution” after he received the letter and is seeking legal help. […]


Next time photoshop in some hardcore porn up on their billboard. That’ll make em hot.

Wesley Cole

I read that Exodus is after you because of your parady. So…I added your billboard to my AOL profile Page! I suggest everyone does.

I want a T-Shirt! :}}}


Great parody! And parodies are allowed under copyright law. They’re trying to scare you and anybody else who doesn’t have the money to fight a lawsuit to protect free speech. But if this ever did go to court, you’d win under current copyright law. Good for you for hanging in!


And exactly where is the Exodus logo?


[Comment deleted, explanation here]


Dear Mr. Watt:
It has recently come to our attention that you have an absolutely hysterical parody of Exodus billboard campaign on your blog site!!! Love it!! Keep it up!

bigolpoofter et al, as passionately as we may feel about the actions, mission, and marketing of Exodus the organization (hence my parody), I would be very grateful if we refrain from denigrating the members of that organization.

I believe they have as much right as anyone to explore their sexuality in a free and unintimidating environment. I’d like to keep it that way, for everyone.



Give um hell!


Go Justin go!! Fight the power!


Hi Justin. Just read about your parody billboard on the Gay and Lesbian Smartbrief, and reading Exodus’ C&D letter pissed me off to no end! I’m an entertainment lawyer and deal with intellectual property (and parody/fair use) issues almost everyday. I’m not a litigator, but I can be of some assistance with a response to these guys. If Lambda and/or ACLU is not interested, please contact me and I can try to help you out.

Daniel Curzon

There seems to be very little of the original billboard here, so what’s the problem? These people are clearly mindless bigots and must be thwarted and stopped in their drive for their Straight Agenda and Special Rights at every opportunity.

Rick Dallin

I love the idea that you are standing up to these bigot lawyers representing Exodus. Find out what the real laws are and if you ‘re not breaking any, keep on doing it!! Don’t be intimidated. Good luck. Rick

I think the religious right never got over Falwell’s loss to Larry Flynt when he parodied Falwell back in the 80’s. They really can’t handle it when THEY get criticized!!
I’d take your case, BTW.

Bravo! after years of getting my blood pressure up over something so not worth it, I really get to laugh out loud –Ben Franklin would be proud.
PS–it would make a great t-shirt in case you need to raise money for your defense fund

Ha ha ha, those fanatics are so desperate!

Chad, the best part is, I’m now only one degree of separation away from Jerry Falwell. Mathew Staver, the lawyer who sent me the hand-signed C&D letter by mail, is apparently a good friend of Jerry’s.

You know what? I just had a BRILLIANT idea. I should send Larry Flynt an email. If this got picked up in Hustler, oh shit!

Another great article, this time from PlanetOut:

“Ex-gay” group threatens bloggers over spoof by Larry Buhl

“I feel passionately about bringing attention to this issue,” Watt said. “My goal in creating the image, aside from the technical challenge it took to make it look like the real billboard, was to make people think about what the ‘ex-gay’ marketing message means.”

See also articles from Bay Windows and The Washington Blade.


We’re delighted to see that one of the reporters (Ethan Jacobs/Bay Windows) that we contacted last weekend about this matter went ahead with a story.

We just saw the Wayne Besen post on the difficulties for those who attempt to exit the ex-gay lifestyle.

Does the same billboard parody come to mind for you (minus the “e”, of course)?

David in DC

Your awesome! Thx for being courageous and fighting this one against the evil “Pharisees.”

Keep it up.

Hey Justin, I just found out about this mess from reading an article that was reposted over on in the forums. I have saved your image to my system and plan to place it on several of the websites I maintain. I would find it VERY funny if every (or at least as many as possible) GLBT person was to put it on their sites.

Aaron Le Moine

Coincidently, I find it a little disturbing that they have to defend their court history, it might have something to do with the fact they really don’t have a case since the work is more that 10% changed and therefore IS a parody of a disgustingly bigoted and offensive billboard and you did reference where the friggin’ billboard came from and who was responsible for that trash.


You’re doing a great job, that’s all I have to say. They’re just scared if they’re resorting to getting bogus law groups to come after you.


You don’t even need a fair use argument, I don’t think (I’m just a law student). Before something can be copyrighted, there must be authorship in the original work. There’s no authorship in the original billboard, just two words and a URL. No court would find this sufficient. As for the trademark argument, Exodus would need to demonstrate that it is likely the public would be confused by the ‘E’ logo. First of all, nobody knows what the hell the ‘E’ stands for. You’d have to be trying to pass the billboard off as belonging to Exodus before they could sue under the Lanham Act. Second of all, nobody can see it in the background of their billboard.

Exodus also has a weak claim, given that you could simply photograph one of their billboards and make the same modifications. Exodus has no Copyright or Trademark right to prevent the public from photographing these billboards, neither can it prevent people from parodying the ads once the public takes those photos.


hahaha, I love the “two changes” argument. Considering the fact that the billboard consists of two words and a url, two changes is already a very significant alteration. Also… where’s this letter E he’s talking about?

Peter Nehem

Took me forever to see the stupid “E” that they are talking about. It is in the background under the word “Straight” and to the left of “www”. You can not see it here but I could finally see at on a copy at
( I would just “scrub that out in Photoshop. That way their stupid logo is gone and that part of their arguement will be crap. Other than that, this is very funny! Great Job!

Balls to them. Parody and political satire are entirely legitimate vehicles for comment which, by definition, always appropriate and tweak content, be it TV, radio, newspaper, photos or anything, really. You have support across the water to nail these bastards to the wall. I only wish I could do something more tangible, but hey – let’s not underestimate the power of prayer which, of course, these swine-herders constantly misappropriate for their twisted purposes.

In my blog archives I relate in a number of posts my experience of exorcism at the hands of born-again Christians. Yeah, exorcism. Horrible. I was young, foolish and trying to run away from being gay; oh, how I know better 19 years later. They did a lot of damage, for a time; I hate thinking how in the US they can legitimately advertise to hurt others as I was once hurt. Here in the UK we now have comprehensive anti-hate laws which mean, while there is an ex-gay movement, it is a tiny group of sad people – rather than a larger group of sad people – and they cannot hope to peddle their lies on the airwaves, in the press or on TV.

Let’s see whose side God is on if they do take you to court. It will certainly raise their profile as anti-democratic, homophobic nuts. I applaud you standing by your right to be witty and funny and spot-on in your spoofing. Long may we be saved from humourless bastards who think they can do all kinds of harm in the name of Christ. x


Just saw the story on PlanetOut re the “Ex-Gay? Unhappy?” piece on Ex-Gay Watch. Never mind.

Glad to see that the ACLU is taking the case. Staver isn’t up dealing with real lawyers.

Give’em hell!


You should sell t-shirt to re-coup the cost. I always have wanted to do some parody billboards, but they are so costly! Keep up the great work!!

I am green with envy!

I posted a bunch of parodies on my Xanga here…
Take a look and leave a comment ^_^


These people are nuts!!!
Who will they go after next?


Ask Mathew D. Staver what his read on Hustler vs Falwell is?

As I recall, the Supremes ruled 8-0 against.

Also, the O’Reilly vs. Franken case says Mathew D. Staver is due for getting his butt laughed out of court.


Well, if they can pray the gay away, then I can pray the Christofascists away.

All’s fair in love and bigotry.

Good for you!!
These people are not Christians! They are Hate filled, scared shitless, do what I say not what I do idiots.
Take them to the cleaners!!


Why are religious crazies so terrified of anything outside their comfort zone? What makes a person this cowardly.

I always feel like I get more
bang for the buck by contributing
to the ACLU.

I am so tired of being preached at by the right (wrong).

If they thought they had any sort of case they would sent your host a DMCA letter. They know your host would see through the shit, but assumed they could push you around with vague mutterances. If they thought they had a case, they would outline what it was based upon instead of boasting about their audiences before the court. They do not. They know it is fair use. For a work to be a parody if must borrow from what it parodies.

BTW, to hear more on my opinions about fascist Christian bull, feel free to listen to my podcast

Mrs. Tarquin

Hooray for you for this darned-near perfect parody! Long may it wave!

Good for you. I preach (very liberal) on the air every Sunday morning, and I count how closely the Christians have been listening by how many ranting emails I get by Monday morning. The more emails, the better I’ve done. A cease-and-desist letter is the gold standard!


you are a rawk stah. love it!!


Draft to Exodus:
In determining whether the use of a copyrighted work is a fair use, there are four factors that are weighed by the court: 1) the purpose and nature of the use, including whether it is a parody of the copyrighted work; 2) the nature of the copyrighted work; 3) the amount of the copyrighted work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole and; 4) the effect of the use upon the potential market of the copyrighted work. 17 U.S.C.A. § 107 (2005). When determining the purpose and nature of a new work, the court weighs four sub-factors: 1) whether the new work is transformative; 2) whether the new work can be reasonably perceived as commenting on the copyrighted work; 3) the commercial intent of the new work; and 4) the conduct of the defendant. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569, 569 (1994). As a national public interest law firm who has presented many briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court (by the way, how many of those cases did you win?) you will of course know that any self respecting court will likely find that the purpose and nature of the new work will militate towards fair use.

A court will likely deem that my new work is transformative of Exodus’ copyrighted work. A usage is transformative if it adds something new to the original work which changes the original work’s meaning or message, rather than simply superceding the original work. Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 137 F.3d 109, 114 (2d Cir. 1998).

The court will find that my work directly commented on Exodus’ copyrighted work. Parody is classified as comment or criticism and may claim fair use status. Campbell 510 U.S. at 569. In the context of a parody defense, the parodic character of the new work must be reasonably perceivable. Id. Parodic character is reasonably perceivable when it comments through ridicule directly on the substance or style of the original. Id.

etc etc. Have fun wasting Exodus’ money. I will win, you know it…idiots.

Hey, I’m straight and unhappy! … Just not getting any punani lately. Good luck in your struggle against the American Taliban.


I am proud to cross-post here from Americablog. Keep up the good work!

Dear Justin,

Thanks so much for the laugh, and I commend you for standing up for yourself from one of the most phoniest “organizations” (more like cults) in the USA. I speak from experience (New Life, not Exodus), and it’s the biggest joke on the planet. How silly of Exodus to try to bully you (and the gay community as well) around. I hope your story reaches every corner of the country, so people can see how silly these groups are. Funny, they shot their own selves in the foot by harassing you and getting this story out. Dumbasses!

Keep up the good work, Justin!


THIS LAWYER IS A HACK! So I guess if you don’t make it as an ambulance chaser, you TRY to litigate for the American Taliban – logical legal transistion.
By his condescending tone, I bet he thought you were 12 years old and easily scared.
Make a copy and sign the letter then mail the original?? What can’t he afford a self-address stamp envelope and send you two copies? Or will such extravagant expenses blow a hole in his operating budget?
Did it come via certified or registered mail, probably not.
I’m sorry his writing skills are really atrocious, aside from his law books, he clearly has demonstrated he’s never cracked open a composition book either.
Should take it one step further and contact to ask them to put up similiar billboards in Orlando and have a great laugh reading the same letter!

By the way, have you or anyone thought about geting together to get an actual billboard of this done??? If so, I’d like to donate some fundage!

gee. i didn’t know you could copyright a single letter of the alphabet. i thought that “e” thing looked familiar. maybe somebody should tell exodus about these guys
But I guess people have been sued over a single letter before

Anyway. GREAT parody. I just wish we lived in a world where this type of thing wasn’t necessary (both the paraody AND the suing).


If the anti-gay freaks can take a picture out of the newspaper of a gay couple being married and turn it into an anti-gay advertisement without permission (the court ruled that those anti-gay freaks COULD use the picture without their permission), then exodus is full of shit about being covered by copyright.


Oooo! I bet those Exodus guys feel all MANLY now that they’ve threatened you with a bogus lawsuit. I’m getting all hot and bothered thinking about it…

All drinks on the house for you! Absolutely hilarious! Congrats on making the quacks pissed off at you. I’m going to link this to my blog, definitely. Thanks for giving me a great laugh.


Mike P

Good work! You might add in your letter encouragement for Mathew D. Staver to come out of the closet himself, while he’s working on the legal case.

Good luck! Mike

Gregg Fiege

If you are ever in Jacksonville FL drinks are on me. Thanks for pissing off the religious quacks.


Justin. Laughs aside, it is the quacks at Exodus who are wrong here. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to throw the crap back at bigots with the word ‘gay’ exchanged for ‘straight.’ I mean, come on, who the hell do they think they are? Thanks for pointing out the stuidity of their argument. And a big pat on the back for the Fenwick and West attorney who involved him/herself in this case to the benefit of all of us! Onward dear Americans! And a big “Fuck You!” to the bigots, wherever you are. (I trust I can still say the ‘f’ word in America).

I’d love to do a bumper sticker or t-shirt to help spread the joy.


And they say that the gays and the ‘gay agenda” is cultivating a cultural ‘war’? Well I’m about ready to sign up. Where’s the recruiting office?

Justin, great job! I just linked to this from the Outright Libertarians blog and web site. We are the national LGBT association for Libertarian Party members and fellow travellers, and we’re behind you all the way on this.


There’s no way in hell this suit would go through. This is clearly not intellectual property violation or fraud. Fox couldn’t sue Al Franken, and they won’t be able to sue you. Good job making them squirm!


This is clearly exempt from intellectual property and fraud laws. Don’t worry, darling. Fox couldn’t sue Al Franken, and they won’t get away with suing you. Good job making them squirm!

Christopher Tyler

I LOVE this. You have NO idea how much I LOVE this. Those FREAKS trapped me when I was only 21 and had no idea about life because I had been raised by a bunch of religious NUTS. Their ‘reparative’ therapy really screwed me up. Any chance I get to see [Exodus] fall on their face is fabulous.

Justinsomnia posted this great parody of “ex-gay” ministry Exodus International’s recruiting billboard


Hi Justin, I live in Orlando, and I see those hateful, nasty billboards everday! We complained to the local Gay and lesbian Center, and they were USELESS! Did not even try to get those billboards removed by the city council. SHAME on the GLBT Center in Orlando!! THANK YOU for taking the time to stand up to this EVIL hateful group..

This “culture war” that is being thrown around was basically started when a bunch of religious bigots had the bright idea to bitch about absolutely everything!

By the way, check out my blog. I’ve posted parodied images of several hate groups’ symbols, including Exodus’s fucking ‘e’, the AFA, NARTH, FRI, and “Love” won out.
I’m working on pictures of various fascists, such as James Dobson, Don Wildmon, Mathew Staver, Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, George Bush, Saddam Hussein, Rick Santorum, and so on.


you guys go!
keep up the great work!


I have to wonder how much would it cost to put up a real billboard.

I would like to place it in front of theirs!

I can’t believe them they are the ones in the wrong, to bad we can’t remove their freedom of speech.

oh well
that is america for you.

Brian Hamilton

Brilliant. These zealots think they’re exempt from the U.S. Constitution by divine decree.


Thank you so much for this. I think Exodus International is full of shit thinking it can reform us gays. Why would we “chose” to be made second class citizens, etc.?


Excellent work! Great move bringing in the ACLU. Interesting: does Exodus think they might be competing with your blog for their target audience?


In response to Brian (from Orlando)’s comment about the GLBT’s failure to REMOVE the “hateful, nasty billboards” — They probably didn’t even attempt it because they knew that Exodus hadn’t broken any laws. How could they have a billboard removed when it’s perfectly within Exodus’ rights to have such a billboard? Even if you disagree with their standpoint, they’re entitled to express their feelings (as protected by the very laws that Justin used to defend himself). No matter how much you dislike someone’s opinion, you can’t stifle it — or it would mean yours should be stifled, too. And I really, really doubt you would like that much, am I right?

Just wanted to point that out.

Mandie, you’re definitely right that Exodus’s free speech deserves to be protected just as much as my own. Thus I have no intention of suing Exodus over their original billboards, even though I detest them.

But, there’s a big difference between sending an intimidating cease-and-desist letter containing misleading and inaccurate legal claims versus communicating directly with Exodus in order to convey that their billboard advertising is hurtful, stigmatizing, and offensive to straight people, let alone gay. And then requesting that they take down those billboards and cease to advertise in a way that that disparages homosexuals or homosexuality.

This scenario in no way infringes upon their free speech rights. What it does is provide them with some pretty powerful feedback that they are doing something wrong.


In Response to “Mandie” Unless you live in “Orlando” and must drive by those hateful billboards everday, you really have no reason to reply to my comments. It is NOT about free speech! Those billboards preach HATE and INTOLERANCE!! I bet if the billboard had a picture of you on it , your head would explode!!!


One need not be GBL to be offended by that Exodus advertisement. I’m terribly worried for anyone who believes that gay(/b/l) are necessarily un-happy, worried for people who believe that religion is the only or even a decent catalyst for happiness, and confused about the people who seem to feel that christianity is an ‘answer’ to homosexuality — as if the RC church wasn’t entirely okay with the idea 2,000 years ago.

And I am most confused by anyone who can look at such a sight and not be immediately offended. People can be straight without being narrow.

Thank you so very much for standing up and being a voice for the rest of us. I applaud you. Yes, free speech is, unfortunately, applicable to even the most closed-minded, hateful, facist, vile, filthy pieces of human garbage on the planet (that would most certainly include “Exodus”) who would rather jeer and make a spectacle of us than to just leave us the hell alone.

Thank God you got the ACLU involved — I just recently became a proud, card-carrying member of that organization. It’s good to have them on your side. I loathe and despise and yes, HATE, because that is my right, Exodus International and everything they stand for…because they exist for one reason alone — to foster and feed bigotry, hate and intolerance — and to condone these by other people in the name of “christianity.” I have a right to hate them the same way they have a right to “be heard.” But what makes me even more offended is that these billboards were allowed to go up to spread a message of hate. When will it end?

You, sir, are a genius. Go get ’em, Tiger.


Hello Justin!

Accolades! Your parody was powerful and simplistic – well done!

As a heterosexual female, I had little knowledge of the rhetoric and doctrine of transformational ministries such as Exodus. In fact, I came across your issue while researching a paper on reparative therapy for a doctorate course in psychology. I had no prior knowledge of the issues surrounding sexual reorientation therapy, or the underlying bias associated with such approaches (I am not a therapist). However, I have completed my review of thousands of pages of opinion written by legal scholars, mental health professionals, and opponents and proponents of this form of therapy, and am writing to say, I am APPAULED!

Although I am a heterosexual or “straight” female, I have not lived in a vacuum. My brother is is gay and I have encountered several acquaintances and made several friends through the years that were gay or lesbian. However, despite my relationships I was completely unaware of the challenges GLBT face from day-to-day. I cannot fathom that such outrageous and illegitimate biases such as those touted by these right-wing transformational ministries still exist – not in the 21st century?! However, based on my research, I was clearly uniformed and ashamed to admit my own previous ignorance.

My husband and I performed an independent exercise of our own this afternoon to explore these issues, and we used you idea to perform our little “experiment”. We entered a local Christian bookstore, and requested assistance with locating literature on sexual reorientation therapy. We were, of course, directed to an area of the store that contained volumes of material on the subject. The clerk was very concerned, and assumed one of our children must be the “afflicted” person – “poor thing”. I allowed her to continue with her recommendations (including possible referrals to transformational ministries), and sympathetic responses for a short time, and then simply asked whether she had any material relevant to my particular dilemma – I am straight but would like to learn of therapies that may allow me to explore being a lesbian. You can imagine her response!

In closing, I was very reassured by the ACLU’s March 22, 2006 response to Liberty Center. I would also like everyone that is involved to recognize that these transformational ministries are attempting to debase our civil rights – not just those associated with sexual orientation. If you were not required to read Orwell’s book Animal Farm as part of your school curricula perhaps you should do so before going to the polls next time! Also, please be more open and honest with your heterosexual friends, acquaintences, and family members about the prejudices you encounter – do not assume we know!

You have my perpetual support, and best wishes! JB


Do we know where the money comes from…have you been able to follow the money trail?


Where’s the “E” logo in the billboard….Diminish what?… I’ve never heard of the world famous “Exodus E”…I agree it’s free speach but can u imagine a billboard preaching a “fix” for blacks and Latinos….


I think it’s weird that people think Jesus was straight: C’mon! He never married, he hung out with 12 other single guys, including one guy that He called “John The Beloved” – How gay is that? And don’t get me started on how they always want you to kneel in front of a sculpture of a naked man and then they want you to eat something that they say transforms into the “Body of Christ” in your mouth. Ahem. Yeah, that’s real straight! And why does the Pope live in that palace, with only men and all those antiques! while wearing fabulous dresses if he’s straight? Men who worship other men are by definition gay! Why are people so blinded by religion?


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