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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 6, 2010
2:48 PM

CONTACT: Electronic Frontier Foundation

Corynne McSherry
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

Matt Zimmerman
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
mattz@eff.org

Political Parodists Strike Back Against U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Activists Move to Dismiss Improper Trademark Claims, Defend Free Speech

WASHINGTON - January 6 - A group of political activists including members of the Yes Men and the Action Factory have moved to dismiss a meritless lawsuit filed by the United States Chamber of Commerce accusing the activists of infringing the Chamber's trademarks in the course of a political parody highlighting the Chamber's controversial stance on climate change.

In the motion filed Tuesday, the activists -- represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP -- argue that the Chamber's suit was designed to punish core political speech, rather than to vindicate any actual trademark harm, and should therefore be dismissed.

"U.S. courts have long recognized that trademark rights do not include the right to control language and silence critics," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "This political parody was clearly protected by fair use and the First Amendment."

At issue is a "press conference" staged by the activists in mid-October, in which the Chamber of Commerce ostensibly reversed its position and promised to stop lobbying against strong climate change legislation, a stance that has caused several prominent Chamber members to leave the organization. As has been widely reported, only minutes after the press conference got underway, a Chamber of Commerce representative rushed into the room and revealed that the Chamber's position on climate change legislation had not in fact changed.

The Chamber responded by sending an improper copyright takedown notice to the Yes Men's upstream Internet provider, demanding that a parody website posted in support of the action be removed immediately, which resulted in the temporary shutdown of not only the spoof site but hundreds of other sites hosted by May First/People Link. Next, the Chamber filed suit against the activists in federal court, claiming the activism infringed their trademarks.

"The Chamber's lawsuit seeks to punish the Yes Men for exercising their constitutionally-protected free speech right to parody the Chamber of Commerce's controversial position on climate change," said Davis Wright Tremaine LLP attorney Thomas R. Burke.

The Chamber's opposition to the activists' motion is due on January 19.

For the full motion to dismiss:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/yesmen/YesMenMTDwithExA.pdf

For more on this case:
http://www.eff.org/cases/chamber-commerce-v-servin

 

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EFF is the leading civil liberties group defending your rights in the digital world. EFF fights for freedom primarily in the courts, bringing and defending lawsuits even when that means taking on the US government or large corporations.



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