Greenpeace Parody Site Censored Using Copyright Infringement Claim

from the freedom-of-speech,-what's-that? dept

One of the the reasons why legislation like SOPA and treaties like ACTA are so dangerous is that their loose definitions allow measures intended to deal with copyright infringement to be used to censor inconvenient opinions. Unfortunately, that’s not just a theoretical problem with future legislation, but one that is already happening, as this post from Rick Falkvinge makes clear:

Greenpeace protests an oil company with a parody site. The oil company files a lawsuit against the ISP of Greenpeace, claiming copyright monopoly violation of the company’s look and feel. The ISP shuts down the Greenpeace protest site immediately, complying with the threat from the oil company, without fighting the lawsuit or waiting for the court. Yup: the abuse-friendly copyright monopoly is now abused by oil companies to suppress Greenpeace, too.

You can compare the original Web site, from a company called Neste Oil, with a (modified) screenshot of Greenpeace’s version. The original parody site was located at nestespoil.com, a play on the nesteoil.com domain name. The company’s not happy about that either:

Nestespoil.com parodies the Annual report 2011 of Neste Oil and criticizes the company’s biodiesel business that aggravates forest destruction. Neste Oil has made a complaint to WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) in which it tries to get Greenpeace’s Nestespoil.com domain for itself.

But it’s the claim of copyright infringement that’s more interesting. That’s because the legal action against Greenpeace’s ISP, Loopia, tries to address the issue of parody. The document (original pdf in Swedish) says that Greenpeace was seeking to stir up a “political debate”, and claims that such “political propaganda” loses the protection of parody, and is therefore infringing on Neste Oil’s copyright.

IANAL, and certainly not a Swedish lawyer, so I’ve no idea if that’s true, although it would be disturbing it if were, since parody is an important part of political discourse. In any case, it’s troubling that copyright is being used in this way to shut down legitimate debate about important issues like energy policy and deforestation.

And there’s another concern, which is highlighted in an interesting offer by the Swedish ISP Binero to host Greenpeace’s parody site:

As a Swedish web host shut down the Greenpeace parody site Nestespoil.com after a law suit from Neste Oil, competitor Binero invited Greenpeace in, with the new site Nestespoilreturns.com. Binero considers the EU E-commerce directive 2000/31/EG and the consequent local laws to be absurd and that all sites must be allowed to have their legality tried by authorities. Current laws put web hosts, ISPs and other middle men at risk of being sued for damages unless they immediately shut down sites in unclear cases. Large corporations can stop sites simply by threatening middle men and we believe this is a threat to free speech.

That’s a hugely important point at a time when supporters of copyright maximalism are belittling people’s concern that proposals like SOPA and ACTA will lead to censorship. That’s not because of any claimed “right” to make unauthorized copies, but because those laws will be abused to shut down commentary sites in the same way that Greenpeace’s was muzzled.

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Companies: binero, greenpeace, loopia, neste oil

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Comments on “Greenpeace Parody Site Censored Using Copyright Infringement Claim”

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29 Comments
DannyB (profile) says:

Why is Pirate Mike* supporting the evil thieving pirates whose primary goal** was to steal copyright protected material, thus depriving*** the owner of their original copies?

Footnotes:

* obviously I’m too stoopid to read who posted this article

** obviously I’m too stoopid to read and comprehend the article

*** obviously I’m too stupid to understand this thing called copying

Yakko Warner (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As a lawyer representing the troll group Angry Cowards Anonymous, I hereby notify the owners of the website techdirt.com to immediately remove this blatant violation of my clients’ intellectual property. This so-called “parody” is a direct affront to my clients’ extremely fragile sense of well-being, and attempting to mock their speech is a clear infringement on copyrights and patents (see patent #129,465,302: Method of Debasing Content Creators by Misattribution; #129,465,303: Method of Debasing Content Creators by Misattribution on the Internet; #129,465,307: Method of Disrupting Discussion by Non-Sequitur; and #129,465,308: Method of Disrupting Discussion by Non-Sequitur on the Internet) owned by my clients.

DannyB (profile) says:

Why stop there?

If a parody site can be shut down because the subject does not like it, then this will censor an entire form of expression.

No more political parody.

What will The Daily Show do?

But why stop there? If John doesn’t like Jill’s parody of him, then John probably doesn’t like the criticism from Jill, expressed in any form. So why not just censor Jill from even speaking about John at all?

Andrew F (profile) says:

Re: Why stop there?

I predict subtler forms of parody. The Singaporean government once had (and may still have) a reputation for suing the pants off its critics for libel.

After one incident in which the government justified a tax increase by saying “you get what you pay for,” Singaporeans started joking about restaurants charging extra for chopsticks and soy sauce.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What do you mean they do not do anything for parody? Did you think parody was a person or something?

One does not do things for parody but rather does things with parody. Political critique is not only one of the most important things one does with parody, it’s perhaps the longest and best established.

It is because of parody’s use for and importance to political critique that it enjoys protection under law.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not a lawyer either, but I am a Swede and I know how to find legal information.

The Supreme Court case they refer to for their assertion that “political propaganda” does not fall under the protection of parody, NJA 1975 s. 679, is about moral rights. It’s too old to be digitized, but it’s been referred to in newer cases which are available. NJA 2008 s. 309 says that NJA 1975 s. 679 was about a grammophone record containing a song with music and the first line of text copied from another song, but with the rest of the text changed to a protest against the Vietnam war. This was deemed to be a breach of the original songwriter’s moral rights.

Since this is based on a third-hand summary, it would be interesting if some other Swede could find the original report. Any good library should have copies of NJA (Nytt Juridiskt Arkiv).

Moral rights are tricky in general. That newer case (NJA 2008 s. 309) is quite famous: it’s about two filmmakers suing a TV station for having commercial breaks when showing their movies. The filmmakers won.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

The document says that Greenpeace was seeking to stir up a “political debate”, and claims that such “political propaganda” loses the protection of parody, and is therefore infringing on Neste Oil’s copyright.

That’s backwards. Political speech is in need of extra protection, if anything. It certainly should not have reduced protection. The US Constitution recognizes this fact, or at least the jurisprudence surrounding it does. Does the European one not do likewise?

Androgynous Cowherd says:

What the hell??

This thread had a dozen comments or more, and now I reload it and it has none??? Who deleted them and why?

I am resubmitting this one of mine:

The document says that Greenpeace was seeking to stir up a “political debate”, and claims that such “political propaganda” loses the protection of parody, and is therefore infringing on Neste Oil’s copyright.

That’s backwards. Political speech is in need of extra protection, if anything. It certainly should not have reduced protection. The US Constitution recognizes this fact, or at least the jurisprudence surrounding it does. Does the European one not do likewise?

Androgynous Cowherd says:

Re: Re:

Something’s really broken around here. First all the comments to this post disappear. Then when I try to repost mine, I keep getting an incorrect response that simply says “Error” on a red background. No explanation of what I supposedly did wrong or what I should change in order to make my comment submission meet with its approval; just “Error”. So I just hit back, submit, back, submit hoping that it magically starts working again and, eventually, it does, though it’s abnormally slow to send it. Then I reload the article page to see my new comment and to post an added one about the weird and nonspecific “Error” message (which, I’m sure, was itself in error; since it later accepted exactly the same form contents there was never anything wrong with them in the first place).

And the original comments have reappeared that had been deleted!

Something’s broken somewhere. Comments disappearing and reappearing, bogus error messages when making error-free form submissions, slow page loads, and all at around the same time too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The observed behaviors are most simply explained by some server-side malfunction, not a client-side one, particularly since the client-side software and configuration were unaltered while the system went from working, to broken behavior, to working again whereas changes might have been made at the server side during the same time frame.

As for the specific hypothesis of the client machine needing “more oil”, the observed behaviors are inconsistent with client-side overheating due to a stuck fan on either the CPU, PSU, case, or GPU. Slowdowns and/or client-side crashes would be the likely outcome of any of those, and those exhaust the problems oil could fix.

But If I Were says:

IANAL

Courts should have to rule on such allegations before such sites are closed. The ISP acting upon a strongarm threat from a potential litigant attempting to have a court decide for it should not have to bring down the site without court order. This is DUE PROCESS and is an important part of law in these parts. Seeing how so many world wide court decisions are bearing down on internet policies, it is imperative that these accusers not be able to usurp that prior to a favorable ruling from an impartial judicial body.

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