guest post by Charlie Todd
Earlier this month a massive group of pranksters led by members of The Yes Men and The Anti-Advertising Agency printed up and distributed copies of a spoof New York Times. The paper featured the headline “Iraq War Ends” and 14 pages of unbelievably good news for any left-leaning reader. The paper, which was also reproduced online, also included some very clever fake advertisements for real corporations, including the De Beers ad above. While the real Times called the prank a “Grade-A-caper”, De Beers did not find it as funny.
Matt Zimmerman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains:
Not surprisingly, the corporate targets of the parody were not pleased. Now, in what is becoming an all-too-familiar trend, one of those corporations has attempted to shut down the site by putting pressure on what is often the weakest link in the online speech chain: the domain name registrar. Stymied by the First Amendment and other legal impediments, those who don’t appreciate critical commentary and other “objectionable” online content have found intermediaries — providers of indispensable technical services like domain name registration and web hosting — much easier to intimidate.
This time, the complaining (and overreaching) party was the South African diamond conglomerate De Beers, the target of a critical fake ad on the web version of the New York Times spoof announcing that diamond purchases “will enable us to donate a prosthetic for an African whose hand was lost in diamond conflicts.” Miffed by the criticism, De Beers responded not by confronting the authors (whose parody is protected by the First Amendment) but instead by threatening their Swiss-based domain name registrar, Joker.com. De Beers has demanded that Joker.com disable the spoof website’s domain name or face liability for trademark infringement.
You can read the EFF’s letter to De Beers, attached at the bottom of their coverage.
I’m reminded of the nastygram Laughing Squid received last holiday season from Best Buy.
image via nytimes-se.com