Comedian Agrees To Take Down Parody 'City Of Atlanta' Facebook Page, But Only For Sixty Bucks And Free Trolley Rides
from the my-hero dept
As we are quite likely in some kind of golden age for pure snark, a golden age probably in part super-charged by these here internets, it would be nice if the general public likewise had a firm grasp on the protections afforded to us by free speech rights to partake in parody and mockery. Sadly, too often the targets of such parody would rather try to silence speech than address what might be legitimate concerns. But it’s when government does so that any forgiveness for this should end, as government should be particularly aware both about the free speech rights in place regarding parody and of the consequences of trying to silence criticism in any sort of ham-fisted manner.
Which brings us to the city government of Atlanta, Georgia, which appears to be trying to apply trademark law to harass a comedian whose “City of Atlanta” parody page uses a city logo, with predictably laughable results. This episode started when Ben Palmer, a local comedian, became frustrated at the machinations of city government and started a parody Facebook page, adorning it with one of the city’s official seals.
Palmer started the fake City of Atlanta Facebook page when he became frustrated with numerous parking tickets, run-ins with city officials, and a lack of funds. The page uses an official city seal Palmer admits he copied from the city’s Parks and Recs page. The city of Atlanta was not amused by the copyright infringement.
“The First Amendment allows people to express their opinions concerning their government in many ways, including satire. However, no person has the right to use a trademark in a manner that deceives or confuses the public,” a city spokesperson said in a statement to 11Alive.
Except, of course, that’s not actually true. First, there’s no real deception to be taken into account here; the page is clearly parody. It is far more clear in its purpose, in fact, than many other sites on the internet, some of which can fool even Presidential campaigns. And, in the employment of this sort of parody, a satirist is allowed to use otherwise protected intellectual property. Given the entire point of the First Amendment, this must be particularly the case in the scenario of a citizen’s right to criticize his or her government.
But because the city’s target here is a comedian, Palmer modified the logo in a hilarious way in an effort to appease the government.
I’m sure everyone’s happy now, right? But, in an effort to further thumb his nose at the Atlanta government, Palmer agreed to remove the logo entirely upon the meeting of certain demands he has outlined.
I read the news that the city of Atlanta would like me to discontinue using their logo. I will remove the logo from the page and discontinue posting as “City of Atlanta” in exchange for the following:
- All of my parking and traffic tickets are absolved
- $60 cash
- 2 free rides on the trolley
This is my final offer. Thank you.
Seems reasonable. Not as reasonable as, say, a government simply letting free speech run its course and potentially paying attention to the criticism within parody to address citizen concerns. But that appears to be asking way too much.