Citizens United, Recent Winner Of Free Speech Case, Tries To Silence Critics

from the free-speech-for-thee,-but-not-for-me? dept

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you've heard about the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, which reiterated corporate personhood in certain circumstances -- specifically with regards to political campaign funding -- effectively freeing up companies to spend as much money as they wanted to support (or not support) political candidates. The ruling was quite controversial, and it's not at all surprising that a Facebook group popped up with the creative name "Citizens United Against Citizens United." Turns out that the Citizens United organization was none too happy about the criticism. Paul Alan Levy alerts us to the news that the new bastion of "free speech" is claiming that the Facebook group violates its trademark and is demanding the destruction of all documents bearing its mark.
Although we haven't seen this issue litigated in the context of Facebook, Citizens United's demand flies in the face of the many decisions holding that an Internet gripe site (or fan site) may use the trademark of the subject of the discussion as its domain name. Under Lamparello v. Falwell, 420 F.3d 309 (4th Cir. 2005), that's even the rule in the Fourth Circuit, where Citizens United is located. How can they possibly hope to win a case like that?

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's argument would seem to be even stronger, because it is using "Citizens United" in its descriptive sense, and not as a mark. It seems doubtful that Citizens United the conservative group can prevent a group of citizens who are united to support or oppose a particular proposition from referring to their effort as Citizens United For X or Citizens United Against Y. (Otherwise, many groups that would have to change their names). It is especially hard to understand how any confusion about source could be expected to result from labeling a campaign "Citizens United Against Citizens United."

Interestingly, Citizens United asks Wisconsin Democracy Campaign to destroy all documents bearing the Citizens United trademark. If that demand were extended to the Supreme Court, could it succeed in wiping the Citizens United decision off the books?

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), 17 Mar 2010 @ 8:22am

    Speech should be free!

    All speech should be free unless I disagree. It rhymes so it must be true.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      DS, 17 Mar 2010 @ 10:28am

      Re: Speech should be free!

      And if someone doesn't like it, boo hoo hoo.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2010 @ 12:34pm

        Re: Re: Speech should be free!

        While that which you said did contributed, the meter i find a bit flawed; such arrythmic rhymes I find damage my mind, and so I think should be outlawed.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Thomas (profile), 17 Mar 2010 @ 8:34am

    Citizens United Against Recursion

    If the court actually hears the case of Citizens United against Citizens United Against Citizens United, I'll start a Facebook group called Citizens United Against Citizens United against Citizens United Against Citizens United.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), 17 Mar 2010 @ 9:10am

      Re: Citizens United Against Recursion

      My brain just exploded.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Hephaestus (profile), 17 Mar 2010 @ 10:38am

        Re: Re: Citizens United Against Recursion

        "My brain just exploded."

        1 against 2 against 3 against 4

        Its simple really and goes like this ...

        Citizens united 1 and 3 are the facebook group,
        Citizens united 2 and 4 are the ones with the Supreme Court decision.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      vyvyan, 17 Mar 2010 @ 10:20am

      Re: Citizens United Against Recursion

      actually the court case will be called:
      Citizens United vs Citizens United Against Citizens United

      still a little confusing :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2010 @ 9:14am

    Free speech for the rich and powerful corporations, enslavement and censorship for the public.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      :Lobo Santo (profile), 17 Mar 2010 @ 9:29am

      Re: Yeah but

      Hey! You're pronouncing it wrong. Sure it's enslavement and censorship, but it's pronounced "democracy" and "freedom."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Ryan, 17 Mar 2010 @ 9:59am

      Re:

      Or rather the attitude of practically everyone anymore is "free speech for me but not for thee". Nevermind that free speech is incompatible with censorship. We need more Voltaires in this day and age.

      As a side note, it's rather incomprehensible that so many people could actually be against this decision. It doesn't increase corruption, only hinder speech. Obviously politicians hate it because it means that it's easier for the public to organize funds to fight against the better financed incumbents that otherwise might win handily, but the public should be embracing it, if anything, as an equalizer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    A Dan (profile), 17 Mar 2010 @ 9:27am

    Trademark

    Supposing this were ruled trademark infringement:

    If they had called it "Citizens united against Citizens United" would they have been all set? If they didn't capitalize the "united" then it would be clear that they were not using the proper noun which refers to the organization. Can trademark be dependent on something as flimsy as internet name capitalization?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NAMELESS.ONE, 17 Mar 2010 @ 9:46am

    is not singing a form a speech?

    there fore all songs should be free
    and i agree
    like open source
    music will not disappear
    it will just change to touring and acts in bars and be more locallized
    and shared to everyone freely
    this is the laziness factor were fightng

    if your a lazy artist YOU WANT LONG TERMS
    if you like suing dead people YOU WANT LONG TERMS
    if you like suing disabled and blind YOU LIKE LONG TERMS
    if you like suing poor people that affect your yacht building YOU LIKE LONG TERMS

    and silencing critics just makes it worse for you all and htis is across the board
    and this is one affect of a mp3 tax
    are you going to come ot my house now and check if i have mp3 ability
    and what of open formats and other sound formats?
    you cant legally tax something thats opensource right

    this will spell the end of the mp3

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    withersteen (profile), 17 Mar 2010 @ 10:18am

    Whatever happened to the original name of this group- CUNT: Citizens United Not Timid?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Robot Steve Jobs, 17 Mar 2010 @ 10:36am

    Just change the name, its simple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2010 @ 11:02am

    Reminds me of being subpoenaed for a deposition.

    The lawyers were fishing for something to pin a previous boss on. So they contact me, to talk about how I was payed. I respond that as a private citizen I would be happy to promote the cause of justice and I would be happy to talk to them. The lawyer replied ok, Ill get the subpoena to you ASAP. At which point I responded that I have a problem.

    Would the lawyer be forced to attend under the force of law? If they had not shown up, would I have been able to send the sheriff to throw them in prison for non attendance?
    NO.
    The Shyster was shocked at my not being pleased about that fact (and didn't seem to understand why I had a problem with it, as I did not have any intention of not attending.)

    The people we Americans have allowed a system to be created around us where there is an oligarchy who have more rights than others, and it is disturbing that many people don't even realize it, much less care.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2010 @ 11:09am

    So the courtroom case title reads:

    "Citizens United against Citizens United Against Citizens United"

    Citizens United really doesn't like themselves. Not only can corporations donate money like a real person, they can also have schizophrenia like a real person too!

    reminds me of the Coke commercials where Coke tries to sue Diet Coke.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TriZz, 17 Mar 2010 @ 12:26pm

    First sentence: "Unless you've bee living under a rock lately" -- I don't think a bee living under a rock would know anything about this...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Pontifex (profile), 18 Mar 2010 @ 9:35am

    The Facebook group in question just changed the name to "United Citizens against Citizens United."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.