Who Cut Off The Yes Men's Parody Website?

from the parody-is-protected-fair-use dept

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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  1. identicon
    Mark Francis, 2 Jul 2007 @ 8:35pm

    Political speech should be protected

    ...but in Canada, where this latest stunt took place, it is not.

    So for all of you above talking about first amendment rights, first realize that the event happened in Canada, where there is no First Amendment. We have a promise of 'free expression' but our common law still looks back 300 years and elevates right to reputation to dizzying heights. As a result, you can tell the truth and still be found guilty of libel. You can express an opinion based on fact, but still be found guilty of libel. Libel as a crime is actually still on the books in Canada and is still used!

    There are no exceptions for political speech or satire or parody. You have no more right in Canada to publicly criticize the Prime Minister than you have to speculate on the inner-most personal secrets of your most un-public next door neighbor.

    In Canada, libel law specifically calls for reverse onus to be applied, that is, you are guilty until proven innocent. Smart people and corporations looking to shut someone down forum shop to places like British Columbia and file libel lawsuits there. This means that even if you publish in the US, talking about an American personage, if that person can argue to have an interest in BC, they can sue you there and use the very low standard of libel.

    In other words, it is possible to do a complete end run around your first amendment rights.

    For a recent, real example, see this post on P2pNet:

    http://www.p2pnet.net/story/12642

    An entire blog on blogspot has been removed over an ongoing lawsuit concerning one post and some comments. What's really funny is that the blogger used the 'soylent green' phrae too!

    The Yes Men *may* have fallen victim to forum shopping, given that their stunt was done in Alberta, which has similar libel laws to BC's.

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