Sunday, 4 October 2009


March 4 2005 cover of Private Eye. This is a t...Image via Wikipedia

One of my favourite ever legal precedents is something of a media joke. If you want to tell someone to eff off without actually saying it, it is common to refer them to Arkell vs Pressdram. Pressdram is the publishing company responsible for the British satirical magazine Private Eye (not welcome, sadly, in the Emirates where it remains 'not on sale').

Arkell threatened the Eye with legal action in the correspondence, which has been reported as going something like this:

Arkell v. Pressdram (1971) [unreported]

Solicitor (Goodman Derrick & Co.):
We act for Mr Arkell who is Retail Credit Manager of Granada TV Rental Ltd. His attention has been drawn to an article appearing in the issue of Private Eye dated 9th April 1971 on page 4. The statements made about Mr Arkell are entirely untrue and clearly highly defamatory. We are therefore instructed to require from you immediately your proposals for dealing with the matter. Mr Arkell's first concern is that there should be a full retraction at the earliest possible date in Private Eye and he will also want his costs paid. His attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of your reply.

Private Eye:
We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell. We note that Mr Arkell's attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.

That was the end of the correspondence but the start of a timeless reputation for Mr. Arkell, who remains, over 30 years later, a joke.

Anyway, I thought I’d just share this rather marvellous example of what happens when organisations do choose to ‘do an Arkell’ with online communities and commentators. Guinness fired off a ‘cease and desist’ at the chucklesome (and classic, you’ll thank me if you didn’t already have this one in your reader) Fail Blog.

Guinness was asking for a logo to be removed from a screen grab used on the Fail Blog - it qualified for a 'fail' entry for having a Guinness Book of Records record for 'most people killed in a terrorist attack'.

The blog modified the offending material and then posted up its opinion of Guinness and its pompous letter for its significant readership to enjoy. It also posts a link which it says is its full legal response to Guinness.

The link is a ‘Rick Roll’ – the modern Arkell vs Pressdram?
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Mita said...

Love it. Thank you for steering me to Fail Blog (how did I not come across this before).

Though I think sayin "fcuk off" is much more satisfying than "an Arkell"! But that's just me.

KJ said...

Nothing better than the straight simple truth

Media Junkie said...

I love Fail blog lol. I still love lolcats though :)

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