De Beers Not Amused By Parody Site, Demands Removal
The send-up of the paper and accompanying Web site, www.nytimes-se.com, was unveiled earlier this month by a group known as The Yes Men. Dated July 4, 2009, the spoof contains articles with headlines like "Court Indicts Bush on High Treason Charge," and send-ups of ads by companies including GM, Exxon and De Beers.
The fake De Beers said: "Your purchase of a diamond will enable us to donate a prosthetic for an African whose hand was lost in diamond conflicts." A revolutionary group in Sierra Leone, known for carrying out civilian amputations, funded itself by selling diamonds.
De Beers responded by demanding that Joker.com, based in Switzerland, take down the domain name or face a potential trademark infringement lawsuit.
The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation has now become involved, and is demanding that De Beers retract its ultimatum to Joker.com. "First and foremost, there is no trademark infringement here. The spoof advertisement to which De Beers objects is just that--a clearly parodic ad on a clearly parodic website," Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Corynne McSherry wrote this week in a letter to De Beers' lawyer.
Furthermore, she wrote, the parody site--which carries no ads-- is "fully non-commercial" and therefore exempt from the Lanham Act, which regulates trademarks.
The parody drew widespread attention, with articles in the Times, USA Today and other publications. The Times gave the effort a mixed review. While calling it "clever," the paper also said the parody was "all the fun of a steaming bowl of quinoa."