Chamber Unleashes Lawyers on Yes Men

| Fri Oct. 23, 2009 11:48 AM EDT

After the Yes Men pulled their now-famous prank earlier this week on the US Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber issued a vague threat of "law-enforcement action." The group doesn't appear to have called the cops on the Yes Men just yet, but on Wednesday it issued a Digital Millennium Copyright Act take-down demand notice for the parody site that the Yes Men set up to publicize their fake event, in which the "Chamber" announced that it would support a sane global warming policy after all.

The Chamber's attorney at the intellectual property law firm Kenyon & Kenyon issued a notice to the Yes Men's internet service provider, Hurricane Electric, asking them to take down the site. "The website infringes the Chamber of Commerce's copyrights by directly copying the images, logos, design, and layout of the Chamber of Commerce's copyright-protected official website, located at www.uschamber.com," they wrote.

They ask Hurricane to "take down all such infringing material" and/or end their business relationship with the Yes Men. "Continuing to be the ISP for this material could subject Hurricane Electric to legal liability," the letter states.

"We are certain you can understand our client's concerns, and its need to protect its intellectual property," it continues.

And now the Electronic Frontiers Foundation is jumping in, telling the Chamber to take a chill pill. The site, they say, fits within the accepted fair use and parody rights.

"We are very disappointed the Chamber of Commerce decided to respond to political criticism with legal threats," said EFF staff attorney Corynne McSherry in a statement. "The site is obviously intended to highlight and parody the Chamber's controversial views, which have sparked political debate and led high-profile members to withdraw their support from the Chamber."

Ars Technica has more.

UPDATE: It seems that Hurricane, fearing the Chamber's legal rebuke, pulled the plug on both the Yes Men site and May First/People Link, the group that was directly providing service for the Yes Men. Hurricane was the upstream provider, but a May First/People Link in turn provided service for the Yes Men and 400 other groups. So, for a period last night, all 400 groups had their websites shut down.

The Yes Men issued a press release on Friday stating that May First/People Link was able to get the service reconnected for the other groups. Meanwhile, the Yes Men have relocated the parody site.

It also presented a problem for ticket sales, as the Yes Men's latest film, The Yes Men Fix the World is currently in theaters. The action, say the Yes Men, threatens theaters (which also happen to be small businesses) who may be selling tickets through the Yes Men site.

"The Chamber claims to represent 3 million businesses of every size, yet their actions undermined a fair number of small businesses," said Yes Man Mike Bonanno. "The Chamber is clearly much less interested in actual freedom, economic or otherwise, than in the license of their largest members to operate free from the scientific consensus."

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