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

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

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 - 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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