Maybe there is something to be learned from the Yes Men, who have somehow gotten away with impersonating corporations (as far as I know).
It has something to do with the way they use these legal battles as ways to educate the public, by spinning the PR for all its worth. (or with doing what they call “corporate identity correction”- doing/saying the things that the corporations should be saying/doing).
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Roughly four years ago, activist group/prankster demigods the Yes Men held a press conference where they presented themselves as spokesmen for the US Chamber of Commerce and announced the Chamber had done an about-face on climate change. Everything was going well until an actual representative of the CofC crashed the Yes Men’s party, exposing them as impersonators. A good time was had by all, except the Chamber of Commerce (and some duped reporters), the former of which immediately ran off to lawyer up.
Things escalated quickly.
The Chamber’s first move was to fire off a DMCA takedown notice aimed at the Yes Men’s Chamber of Commerce-aping website (www.chamber-of-commerce.us [no longer live]). This first attempt went nowhere quickly, although it did draw the attention of the EFF. Realizing copyright infringement might not be the best card to play, the Chamber shifted strategies and sued the Yes Men for trademark infringement. All of this took place in about 72 hours.
Nearly four years later, the Chamber of Commerce has decided to drop its suit against the Yes Men. The legal system in this country can be many things, but “speedy” isn’t one of them.
The Chamber seemed pretty sure of itself four years ago. It was confident enough to rush into a lawsuit and a round of Streisanding to punish activists who briefly made them look ridiculous. But a push back by the EFF (and David Wright Tremaine LLP), citing use of trademark in criticism as protected speech, possibly caused the Chamber to reconsider seeing this one through.
Most entities who suddenly find a lawsuit against them dropped, especially one pursued by a much larger organization with deeper pockets, will take a few deep breaths and welcome the chance to go back to a more normal life, one free of pending legal action.
Not the Yes Men.
Soon after learning of the lawsuit’s dismissal by the Chamber, the group fired off a response detailing their disappointment in the Chamber’s unwillingness to see this thing through.
Washington DC, June 13, 2013 – The Yes Men today implored the U..S. Chamber of Commerce to reconsider their recent decision to withdraw the lawsuit they filed nearly four years ago, in a press conference on the steps of the lobbying giant itself.
“Just as their case against us was finally heating up again, the U.S. Chamber decided to drop it,” said former defendant Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men. “The U.S. Chamber knew this was our chance to challenge their silly claims and, since they claimed we had ‘damaged’ them, investigate the details of their finances through the discovery process. It’s the height of rudeness to deprive us of this great opportunity.”
“The U.S. Chamber’s lawsuit represented the only time in 17 years that anyone has been stupid enough to sue us,” said former defendant Mike Bonanno. “This was the chance of a lifetime, and we profoundly deplore the U.S. Chamber’s about-face.”
Perhaps it’s this sort of “can do” attitude that encouraged the Chamber’s withdrawal from the battlefield. It’s certainly not as though the organization suddenly learned to laugh at itself and adopt a more laissez faire approach to criticism-via-impersonation. More likely, it realized it was in for a tougher battle than it originally imagined and quite possibly didn’t want to expose more of its inner workings than was strictly necessary.
The Yes Men had such great plans for the Chamber, too.
“In just the last fifteen years, the hoaxsters at the U.S. Chamber have spent nearly a billion dollars lying to children and adults, and generally lobbying for corporations and against humans,” said Bichlbaum. “This lawsuit gave us a chance to help reveal the U.S. Chamber’s many hoaxes to the public.”
It’s a sad day at the Yes Men HQ, but hope still springs eternal. The group is planning a little legal action of its own.
The Yes Men are considering a lawsuit against the U.S. Chamber for depriving them of the opportunity to expose them. “Tell ’em to put their damn helmets on,” said Bonanno, echoing Tom Donohue’s words upon launching the U.S. Chamber lawsuit in 2009.
I’m not sure where the Yes Men are heading with this, but it promises to be entertaining. Of course, they still need some legal help and this new angle has yet to find a lawyer that’s willing to play the part of the straight man in a courtroom farce.