A look at the claims, predictions and behavior of a media "psychic".

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Sylvia Browne Attempts to Silence This Web Site

Sylvia Browne, through her attorney, attempts to shut this web site down.

Letter to the webmaster from Hodgson Law Group, Page 1 Letter to the webmaster from Hodgson Law Group, Page 2

Letter to this site's webmaster from Hodgson Law Group (View as .pdf file).

Background

Since November of 2006, this web site has examined the claims, predictions and behavior of alleged psychic Sylvia Browne.

Most recently, the article on this site about Browne's involvement in the Shawn Hornbeck case has led to quite a bit of media attention on Browne and her behavior, including segments about Browne on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. Most, if not all of this recent coverage has shown Browne in a less-than-flattering light.

Not surprisingly, this media attention has apparently been unwelcome by Browne. For example, she declined invitations to appear on Anderson Cooper 360. And when her alleged "psychic powers" were the topic of discussion on the January 26, 2007 broadcast of CNN's Larry King Live, it was not Browne who showed up to discuss the situation with noted skeptic James Randi. Instead it was another "psychic," Rosemary Altea (who, interestingly enough, was not altogether supportive of Browne).

Another possible indication of Browne's displeasure with all of this attention: A letter I received from her attorney, which seeks to turn off the spotlight I've shone into Browne's dark world.

The Letter

On January 26th, 2007, I received an email from Cheryl L. Hodgson of Hodgson Law Group. Attached to that email was a pdf file containing a two-page letter.

What follows is the text from that letter, interspersed with my comments. All emphasis mine.

(Note: All text from the letter appears here exactly as it was in the original, including the two times Sylvia's name is misspelled.)

January 26, 2007

BY E-MAIL: webmaster@stopsylviabrowne.com

Robert S. Lancaster
StopSylviaBrowne.com
3129 S. Hacienda Blvd. # 622
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745-6304

Re: Browne, Sylvia--stopsylviabrowne.com infringement
Our File No: 1588-005

Dear Mr. Lancaster:

Our firm represents Sylvia Browne Corp., owner of U.S. Trademark Application Serial No. 78908438 for the mark SYLVIA BROWNE. We also represent Hay House, Inc. owner of the U.S. Trademark Registration Nos. 3,057,635, 2,920,509 and 2, 922,219 for the marks HAY HOUSEï½® and HAY HOUSE RADIO.ï½®

Your site is filled with infringing content in violation of United States Code, Titles 15 and 17.

1. Your siteç—´ domain name incorporates our clientç—´ trademark and name at the URL: www.stopsylviabrowne.com. Since your use is without permission or consent of the trademark owner, this use is an infringing use of the mark SYLVIA BROWNE. Your use of the domain name creates initial interest confusion as it misleads the consumer as to the source or affiliation. Your use is also a Dilution of SYLVIA BROWNE, which has become famous through years of advertising and usage by our client.

This is, of course, nonsense.

The use of a copyrighted or trademarked name within the URL of a non-commercial web site - particularly when that web site is devoted to criticism of the product or company - is considered protected free speech.

There are many, many sites on the web with URLs such as "ihate(product/company/celebrity)" and "(product/company/celebrity)sucks".

Some examples:

farmersinsurancegroupsucks.com

walmartwatch.com

fordreallysucks.com

GiveItUpCheney.org

It is clear that StopSylviaBrowne.com enjoys the same protection that these and countless other non-commercial, educational sites enjoy.

Back to the letter:

Your use of the domain name creates initial interest confusion as it misleads the consumer as to the source or affiliation. Your use is also a Dilution of SYLVIA BROWNE, which has become famous through years of advertising and usage by our client.

Since the name of the site is STOP Sylvia Browne, and nearly every page of the site is critical of the woman, I think it unlikely that very many people would confuse this site with hers.

In spite of my belief that this claim has no merit, in the spirit of cooperation, and to aid anyone who might conceivably make such a mistake, I have added the following disclaimer at the bottom of every page on the web site: "NOTE: This site is not affiliated with Sylvia Browne and is neither maintained nor endorsed by her."

The letter continues:

2. It has come to our attention that your site uses Hay House's federally registered marks without permission on the home page of your site. We believe use of HAY HOUSE and HAY HOUSE RADIO in this manner is ALSO actionable trademark infringement and a violation of the provisions of 15 U.S.C. ァァ1114 and 1125(a), thereby entitling Hay House to seek injunctive relief, damages and attorneys fees.

At first, I did not know what this even referred to. Then I noticed: on the bottom-right corner of the image of Browne's home page which is shown on this site's home page, a tiny version of the "Hay House" logo could be seen.

This was also nonsense, for reasons I will go into following the next paragraph in the letter.

I believe this claim to have no merit, but since it was easily done, and did not detract from this site's overall purpose, I have blurred out this tiny portion of said image, again, in the spirit of cooperation.

Here's the next paragraph:

3. Your site reproduces, without authorization or consent, a web page from Hay House's copyrighted web site. This is a willful infringement of U.S. Copyright Laws.

Again, nonsense.

Anyone with even a passing familiarity with U.S. Copyright Laws would recognize that the use of this image falls easily within "fair use" doctrine.

Back to the letter:

4. Your site provides linking instruction and text instructing others how to infringe our SYVIA'S BROWNE'S marks.

I can only assume this is in reference to this site's Support Page, where I give instructions on how others can link back to this web site.

If so, then this is yet again nonsense. Since neither this site nor its URL are in violation of copyright law, there can be no problem with someone else linking to it.

Page two of the letter follows:

Robert S. Lancaster

January 26, 2007

Page 2 of 2

We hereby demand that you immediately cease and desist from any use of SYVLIA BROWNE in this or any other URL forthwith. Be assured, our clients intend to take whatever steps are necessary to protect their interests and to enforce their rights, including, without limitation, the commencement of appropriate legal action to enjoin infringing use, to recover monetary damages as well as attorney's fees.

The foregoing is not intended to be an exhaustive recital of the factual and legal bases with respect to this matter. Nothing contained in this letter is intended, nor should it be deemed to constitute, as an admission or a complete statement of the relevant facts or to waive, limit, prejudice or otherwise affect any of our clientç—´ rights or remedies, all of which are expressly reserved.

Very truly yours,

HODGSON LAW GROUP

By: [signature]

Cheryl L. Hodgson

cc: Sylvia Browne Corp.

Hay House, Inc.

Analysis

One of the attorneys with whom I shared this letter said that he would be hard-pressed to decide which of the claims in this letter was the most laughable.

It seems obvious that the recent media attention this site has received (The New York Daily News, Fox News, Anderson Cooper 360, the Howard Stern Show, The Penn Jillette Show, The Dr. Dean Edell Show, and a number of other radio shows around the country) has not pleased Browne. The site is drawing critical public attention to her, and she is not happy about it.

This letter from her attorney is quite obviously an attempt by Browne to frighten me into taking the site down.

That attempt was not successful, nor will it be.

Conclusion

This site is a non-commercial, educational resource, criticizing Browne's behavior and purported "abilities."

As such, I believe that it, and its URL, are protected free speech.

I do not think that her transparent attempt to silence criticism would be viewed with much patience in a court of law.

Related Links

Clicking on any of these links will load a separate browser window for viewing the linked page.

StopSylviaBrowne.com is not responsible for the content of any of these linked pages.

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