ISP Takes Down Parody After Chamber Of Commerce Complains
The Internet services provider Hurricane Electric, which hosted a parody created by the Yes Men, took down the site after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce alleged last week that its copyright was infringed by the Yes Men prank. But by late Friday, the parody was online again with another ISP.
The Yes Men's parody site contains a fake Chamber of Commerce press release that proudly declares the group's strong support for a climate change bill. The business organization, which has criticized pending climate change legislation, argues that the parody site infringes the business group's copyright by mimicking its logos and design.
The digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation fired back a letter on behalf of the Yes Men, arguing that the site is protected by fair use principles because it "is obviously designed for purposes of criticism and comment."
The EFF also asked the Chamber to immediately withdraw its takedown letter. "We are frankly disappointed that the Chamber of Commerce has chosen to take this approach, particularly in light of the Chamber's well-documented history of support for free speech," the letter states.
Yes Men wasn't the only site affected by Hurricane Electric's move. The ISP also briefly took down sites of around 400 other organizations that, like Yes Men, had come to Hurricane Electric through the company May First/People Link. Those other sites were down for around 90 minutes on Thursday night before May First/People Link was able to convince Hurricane Electric to restore service to them. May First/People Link also was able to arrange for another ISP to host the Yes Men parody.
Last week, the Chamber of Commerce revised its own site by adding a banner that warns visitors who arrived from the parody that they had come from a "hoax site."
The Chamber of Commerce has reason to be sensitive about its stance on climate change. The group's criticism of legislation aimed at curbing global warming has led to membership defections by some major companies, including Nike and Apple.
The prank went beyond just the Web site. The Yes Men also put out a press release and staged a press conference at the National Press Club. A spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce interrupted the fake press conference, but by that time some media outlets -- including Reuters -- had already filed reports based on the Yes Men's press release.
But even if the stunt fooled people, it's still protected by fair use principles, says Matt Zimmerman, the EFF lawyer representing the group. "There's no likelihood of confusion analysis in copyright law," Zimmerman says. Whether a site causes confusion can be relevant to trademark claims, but the Chamber of Commerce did not allege that the site infringes its trademark.