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.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Filed Under: acta, parody, rick falkvinge, sopa, sweden
Companies: binero, greenpeace, loopia, neste oil


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  1. identicon
    Androgynous Cowherd, 27 Jun 2012 @ 12:14am

    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.

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