Howard Stern v. The Web
Shock jock fights divorce news site

Does the king of all media hate new media? Well, the people behind reported Sunday they'd received an angry letter from lawyers representing the outspoken radio and TV personality.

See also...
... by David Cassel
... in the Dirt section
... from November 23, 1999

It all started late last month when Stern announced a separation from his wife Alison after 21 years of marriage. The same day, a Webmaster known as "Bad Boy" created the domain.

While the New York Post reported "the depressed shock jock" sobbed on the air about the separation ("I'm a crummy spouse, a burnout, and I always have been."), Stern was soon back to his nasty self, laughing off a handwritten condolence from Kathie Lee Gifford, a favorite target. began adding links to news stories about Stern's marital troubles. As of Monday, the page's counter showed just 16,517 hits, but evidently one of the visitors was a Stern attorney. According to an announcement on the site: "[W]e received a letter on Friday from Howard Stern's attorneys demanding that we cease publishing the site and transfer the domain name to them."

Now Stern is facing an even more libertarian community (one which has never had to skirt FCC restrictions) than his no-holds-barred radio crew. One reader who identified herself as "CockMistress Angelina" urged the Webmasters not to buckle. "Howard needs to remember that the umbrella of the First Amendment does not shelter him exclusively. Give that misogynistic jack-ass a taste of his own medicine, Badboy!" Others weighed in on the site's message boards. ("[H]e's always laughing at other people's misfortunes. Now it's our turn to laugh at his!!!!")

Fierce opinions even surfaced on ("They don't have a fucking leg to stand on. Ignore them."), but the discussion quickly devolved into an Internet-style flame war. ("Since you're a Fat Fuck with a mouth full of drool, you haven't a clue -- as usual...")

So why would the shock jock waste his time attacking a Web site? Bad Boy is baffled. "I like to think that Stern knows nothing about this, that this is just a case of lawyers run amuck," he told GettingIt. "It's hard to imagine he would condone this kind of pointless bullying." Stern himself has railed against lawyers on his radio show, and argued forcefully for the protection of the First Amendment.

But property is property. "Suffice it to say that the constitution protects many, many rights, of many, many individuals, but it doesn't give you the right to steal," warns Micah Corman, the New York lawyer who Bad Boy says contacted him.

And this isn't the first time Stern's online fans have heard from attorneys. Two weeks ago TV Guide's site reported that "many" unauthorized Stern sites had received letters from Stern's lawyers and CBS. In early October, fans in were already complaining that lawyers had contacted two sites that were Web-casting RealAudio clips from Stern's show. Ironically, the legal heavy-hitters are attacking some of Stern's most loyal fans. One affected site has been posting daily updates about Stern's show since September of 1995.

Bad Boy argues there's no chance his site could be confused with Stern's show or other productions and that he has a First Amendment right to report on Stern as a public figure. But Corman points to the law governing commercial speech. "One can't sell his own soft drink as Coca-Cola or a Coca-Cola lookalike or what have you." Protected speech is one thing but, "[I]t's another thing to be using someone else's name for your own personal profit, aggrandizement, what have you."

But Bad Boy has never shied from controversy. His other projects have included the sex news sites ("Six out of 10 American men would rather have great sex for a year than $10,000") and ("Get an old vase ... I like to use disposable diapers"). Ironically, the controversy has been good for business. In the last day, the site has received nearly 3,000 visitors. And while not everyone supports the site, the claim of trademark infringement seems to ignore a lot of Stern-related material already on the Internet.

There are endless pages of Stern-related links, a Howard Stern Web ring, and the inevitable "ate my balls" page. There are even Howard Stern animations like Stern Trek: The Next Degeneration and Private Parts II: The Swedish butt bongo. In homage to one of Stern's most famous characters, someone even registered

Bad Boy says Stern's lawyers have requested a response by the end of today, and he's pondering the letter he received that he says begins, "Attention Prospective Defendants." He says, "We're consulting with attorneys on our legal position ... So far, it seems that we are 100 percent in the right."

Yet Bad Boy also notes Stern's "superior financial muscle," and he's asking his readers whether he should put up a fight. "Financially, it won't be worth it to fight this, but we may have to do it on principle."

David Cassel is GettingIt's interactive media correspondent. He doesn't own a radio.