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‘Dumb Starbucks’: parody, reality TV stunt or art by Banksy?

Starbucks logo in a Chicago store.

Associated Press

Take an iconic brand, put the word "dumb" in front of it, and watch the people line up.

As jokes go, it's a bit on the nose, but over the weekend some enterprising types opened a "Dumb Starbucks," selling dumb venti caramel lattes in cups that looked exactly like the real thing, except for the word "dumb."

It helped that a pair of baristas inside were giving the coffee away free, but patrons, according to Forbes, lined up for more than an hour to get a tailor-made "dumb" Starbucks.

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As an FAQ inside explained, the store was legal because it was a parody of the real brand, which is notoriously uptight about anyone getting close to its logo.

For the record, a Stanford University website describes a parody as a "work that ridicules another, usually well-know word, by imitating it in a comic way." This would constitute fair use.

"Is this a real business?" the FAQ asked and answered. "Yes it is … but for legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorizes as a work of parody art. So, in the eyes of the law, our 'coffee shop' is actually an art gallery and the 'coffee' you are buying is considered art. But that's for our lawyers to worry about."

Since the Dumb Starbucks opening, the Web has been filled with speculation about who is really behind store, whose creators have gone to no small amount of expense to duplicate signs and menu boards. Some think that the street artist Banksy is behind the whole thing, with the Forbes writer suggesting he had been recently spotted in L.A.

There was also rampant speculation that the whole thing was a reality TV stunt (which seems more likely given the coffee was free), with some customers suggesting they had seen cameras by the espresso machines.

In any event, having made the rounds on the Internet, Dumb Starbucks may not be serving lattes for long. According to a CBS report, the real deal is now "looking into the matter."

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