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YET ANOTHER LEGAL THREAT
Posted 3 Oct 2000 00:00:00 UTC

This time, a parody site that we put up years ago has apparently come under fire due to the expanded power given to corporations through WIPO. In early 1999, when we made the www.guinessrecords.com site to protest the Guinness Book of World Records' horrible piece on Kevin Mitnick, few would debate that this was a valid form of expression. It was clear to all but the most dimwitted that this was a parody. We even included a link to the real site for those who didn't figure it out. Incredibly, that link is referred to as "unauthorized" in the Guinness letter to us.

Parody is a legitimate form of expression which often makes use of similar sounding or similarly spelled names such as these fake radio ads for AD&D (not AT&T) and ABT (not ADT) Alarm Systems. But parody can even extend to the actual name of the entity being made fun of, such as this takeoff of Tom Brokaw on NBC, which even makes "fair use" of the NBC theme. (For these and other great audio parodies, visit Premiere Radio Networks.)

Printed parodies also have a long tradition, such as this spoof of a vodka ad which uses the real name of the company, this imitation of a famous cigarette company which modifies the real name to make a statement, this use of actual wording and images from a real ad to make a point in a parody, and this fake fashion ad which probably pisses off people from many backgrounds. (For the best in mock print ads, visit Ad Busters.)

And throughout all of this, there remain sites that grab people's attention through cleverly registering misspellings of popular words, such as http://www.olympisc.com, which reached a lot of people during the recent Olympic Games in Sydney.

All of these legitimate forms of expression are under threat thanks to the increased power globalization grants to already powerful entities. Even a presidential candidate is being sued by Mastercard for a parody they object to: Nader Tells MasterCard to 'Lighten Up'. Corporate indignation seems to know no boundaries.

While we appreciate the somewhat friendly tone of the Guinness people as well as their offer to pay us the registration fees for the site from the day we got it back in 1999, there is a more important issue at stake here. Since we've been engaged in a fight for free speech and fair use on the DeCSS issue for nearly a year now, we can't simply give up our speech because someone finds it annoying. (It's ironic because had this not happened, we probably would have just let the site expire in February. We hadn't even thought about it in over a year.) What we will do as a show of good faith is put a massive notice on the page that this is a parody as well as a clear link for those who wish to visit the real site. This is NOT something we're required to do in our eyes but we're currently pointing all of our venom at Verizon so we'll do something nice as a counterbalance.

There is one other thing. If the people at the Guinness Book of World Records officially retract the story on Mitnick (an official letter to us will do), we will give them the site without charge immediately upon receipt as the site would no longer serve a purpose to us. No need for us to go into the particulars of what is wrong with the story here - it's all detailed at www.guinessrecords.com.

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