TBO.com: Tampa Bay Online, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times - breaking news and weather.
Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Things To Do

Tampa gun-maker's campaign angers 'Seinfeld's' Soup Nazi

Tribune staff
Published:   |   Updated: April 3, 2013 at 09:29 PM
TAMPA -

Gun manufacturer Mark Serbu says he was just trying to make the point that he didn't agree with New York's recently passed gun laws that don't allow residents there to buy the high-powered sniper rifle he produces.

But the satirical image he posted on his company's Facebook page has morphed into a larger issue involving copyright law, gun control and the Soup Nazi, the “Seinfeld” character made famous with his “No soup for you” catchphrase.

Serbu, founder and president of Serbu Firearms in Tampa, last week posted an image he planned to have put on T-shirts. The image showed the Soup Nazi character and the statement, “No Serbu For You,” a reference to New York's ban on assault rifles, including his company's .50-caliber sniper rifle.

He said he was working with a T-shirt company but posted the image on Facebook first to get feedback from the public on the design. Most people on Facebook reacted favorably, he said.

But he also got a message from Larry Thomas, the actor who played the Soup Nazi on “Seinfeld,” asking Serbu to take the image of him down.

“I have forwarded this to my lawyer and I want to give you the chance to stop using my image before this becomes a legal battle,” Thomas wrote to Serbu.

The initial issue began last month when the New York City Police Department told Serbu it was interested in evaluating the rifle his company sells. Serbu said no, that his company wouldn't sell to law enforcement what residents there weren't allowed to buy.

Serbu said that New York's gun-control law has worked against public safety.

“Ironically, citizens of New York are less safe because their police can't be armed with the best tool for the job,” Serbu said.

Thomas, who was notified of the image by a Facebook friend, said he contacted Serbu because “it's sort of a violation of my rights as a person or an actor.”

“I was upset that anyone would use my image without my permission,” Thomas said.

The actor said he wasn't looking to get drawn into the public debate over the issue, but since news broke about the Soup Nazi image he has gotten lots of requests for interviews and messages on Facebook asking for his thoughts.

Thomas said his response is that, “We're paying law enforcement to protect us. We better hope they have something better than the guy out there trying to shoot our children.”

Serbu took Thomas' Soup Nazi image down on Monday. He's gotten a lot of feedback and attention, including a New York Post story on the controversy.

“It was unusual,” Serbu said about receiving a message from Thomas. “It's not like he's a huge star or anything. He got a lot of publicity from this.”

Serbu has now posted a similar image but with his face instead of Thomas's, with the shirt reading, “Hey NY-Gov… No Serbu For You.”

Thomas said he's OK with Serbu using his own image.

“As long as it's him and not my face, I guess I'm OK,” Thomas said. “As long as he gets my face off there.”


jpatino@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7659

Twitter: @jpatinoTBO

Subscribe to The Tampa Tribune

Comments