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
    lar3ry, 2 Jul 2007 @ 3:53pm

    Re: How Are They Not Breaking Laws?

    I guess you should have Dana Carvey thrown in jail for impersonating Bush 41 (he was a president!), and... let's see... Will Ferrell impersonated GWB on Saturday Night Live, so let's throw him in the slammer as well. Rich Little has been doing it for years... let's give him the electric chair!

    Parody and impersonation is legitimate and protected speech. The Supreme Court of the US allowed that as well with the "Pretty Woman" decision.

    That still won't make companies that find themselves a laughingstock avoid trying to stifle the speech that makes them look like fools. The lawyers do know better, but are being paid to "do something." The ISPs see a threatening letter from a lawyer and immediately do a song and dance. Sure, they're screwing their own customers, but they've got plenty of customers, so what's one pissed off customer? That's why ISPs turn over IP logs to the RIAA without even the benefit of a subpoena. It's easier to screw your customers than to take the time to tell the lawyers that they don't have a legal foot to stand on.

    I guess that in the USA, screwing your customers doesn't hurt business. The RIAA have proved that many times over.


    All that being said...

    There's no "protected speech" on the Internet. The U.S. constitution is pretty vague on the concept of "online speech" and even the first amendment only applies its' free speech to guarantees that "Congress shall enact no law abridging" it.

    An ISP can shut down a web site for any reason, whether it be the fact that it upsets a large corporation or that they use "too much purple" in their graphics. It's a contractual matter between the ISP and the customer, and the T.O.S. that the customer agreed to is almost always written to the benefit of the ISP. Excercise your "free speech" rights, and start looking for a new ISP.

    The concept of a "free press" only applies to those that can afford the price of owning a press... find your own T-3 connection, a couple of peers that will route packets to you, and other logistical support, and then exercise your "free speech" rights.

    Anything else on the Internet is there by the "good graces" of the people hosting the content... the ISPs or corporations that own the virtual real estate. It's capitalism at its most basic.

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