A few weeks back, the media pranksters, The Yes Men, pulled off their latest prank. They got on stage at a gas and oil conference, pretending to be an ExxonMobil exec and a member of the U.S. National Petroleum Council and proceeded to pitch a new product called Exxon Vivoleum, which would be made from the remains of people who died due to global climate change. The two men were soon escorted off-stage and out of the building. No matter what your opinion is on the topic of energy companies or climate change, it was a pretty amusing prank. It got it's week or so of play in the news and on some talk shows and had started to fade away. However, now it's popping back up because someone (and no one seems to know who) has convinced the Yes Men's ISP to pull the plug on the Vivoleum parody site (via Slashdot). On top of that, the ISP is demanding that all mentions of Exxon be removed from the Yes Men's own website, or their email will be turned off. This, of course, would suggest that Exxon was behind the complaint that got the site pulled. If that's the case, then Exxon is overstepping its bounds. Parody is protected free speech (and Exxon's lawyers know this). Furthermore, simply mentioning the name of Exxon doesn't infringe on their trademark. Abusing intellectual property law to shut up critics can backfire badly. Already, this is causing the Vivoleum story to get added life after it had started to fade, and now it could open up questions about whether Exxon is abusing intellectual property law as well.
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