Paralegal who sent takedown notice to remove Wonga parody meme forced into internet hiding

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By Alex Aldridge on

Wonga’s legal team hand recent University of Law graduate the dubious privilege of getting an image parodying the company removed from Twitter. Backlash focuses on him, rather than senior members of legal team.


On Friday Wonga unleashed the full force of the Streisand effect when it ordered a Twitter user to remove an image parodying the nation’s favourite payday lender. The picture showed a character from Wonga’s adverts superimposed onto a debtor’s prison scene (taken from a painting in Hogarth’s the Rake’s Progress series), complete with Wonga logo.

Straightforward copyright infringement, right? Wrong. The reality of actioning the takedown proved rather difficult, as the offending tweeter, @Brandy_Snap, went public with her interaction with Wonga. As news of the legal threat issued by Britain’s leader in extremely-high interest loans spread rapidly throughout Twitter, the image was retweeted thousands of times.

Included in @Brandy_Snap’s Wonga counter-offensive was a screenshot of the takedown notice she received. The notice (pictured below) included the name of the member of Wonga’s London-based legal team who drafted it. Surely a document that carried a high likelihood of being leaked should have had individuals’ names removed from it? Or, alternatively, be sent out in the name of a senior lawyer, such as the company’s general counsel, Lucy Vernall?

But no. In an illustration of how Wonga is prepared to let its legal rookies take the flak during difficult times, the task was delegated to a paralegal. Poor University of Law-educated James Johnson has had to remove his LinkedIn profile amid the backlash, which has seen him not only named on Twitter but also in the Daily Mail. At the very least, the lad deserves a training contract for his troubles.

To round off this sorry tale, Wonga has underlined the all-for-one-and-one-for-all ethos running through the company by issuing a tweet that brands its legal team as “soulless”.