[ISN] FC: Charles Arthur on Mastercard threatening Attrition.org over satire

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Date: Sun Jul 01 2001 - 22:25:11 PDT

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    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2001 14:05:39 -0400
    From: Declan McCullagh <declanat_private>
    To: politechat_private
    Subject: FC: Charles Arthur on Mastercard threatening Attrition.org over satire
    Original message with exchange between Mastercard and Attrition.org:
    Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 16:20:06 +0100
    To: declanat_private
    From: "Charles Arthur, The Independent" <carthurat_private>
    Subject: Re: FC: More on Mastercard lawyers threatening Attrition.org over 
    Hi Declan...
    Surely more briefly it could be put (we haven't had that campaign over
    here, so I'm sorta going by the attrition parodies... which are pretty
    Cost of searching for "priceless" and "image" on Google... $0.00002
    Cost of sending lawyernastysnailmail to nonexistent PO Box for
    attrition.org.. $1,594.32 (inc bathroom break)
    Cost of sending lawyernastyemail with snailmail as Word to attrition.org...
    $0.32 (no bathroom break)
    Cost of bugging attrition.org and its users and getting spread all around
    Politech and interesting-people and who knows where... PRICELESS.
    'Nuff said.
    The Independent newspaper on the Web: http://www.independent.co.uk/
             It's even better on paper
    From: "Trei, Peter" <ptreiat_private>
    To: "'declanat_private'" <declanat_private>
    Subject: RE: More on Mastercard lawyers threatening Attrition.org over sat
    Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 11:14:07 -0400
    [Disclaimers: IANAL, and this describes the situation as I understood it
    several years ago - pt]
    Part of the way trademark protection works requires that trademark
    holders defend against infringing uses. My father used to work for a company
    which had several products, the names of which were at risk of becoming
    common nouns and verbs. Legally, they were required to protest generic
    usage of the terms to show that they were defending the trademark. If
    they did not do so,  the tradmark could be declared generic, and lost.
    As a result, not only did the company send out 'big foot' letters like
    we've seen here, but they also put ads in various writers magazines
    notifying the readers of their trademarks, and insisting that the 'tm' and
    (r) symbols be used appropriately.
    My impression was that they did not have a realistic expectation of
    stomping out casual generic use of the names, but that they were
    doing this to prevent the names from being declared generic, in which
    case their competitors would start using them.
    'Aspirin' is an example of a trademark lost in this manner.
    Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 11:35:37 -0400
    From: Gabriel Rocha <grochaat_private>
    To: Declan McCullagh <declanat_private>
    Subject: Re: FC: Mastercard lawyers threaten Attrition.org over satire site
    	is a dead link.
    	they need to research better what they oppose to, as this one
    	clearly indicates...besides:
    	Lawyers threatening attrition: $10,000
    	Reply by attrition staff: time
    	Losing face all over the news: priceless
    From: Thomas Wicker <twickerat_private>
    To: Jeanne.Hamburgat_private
    Cc: "'declanat_private'" <declanat_private>, jerichoat_private,
             theresa.melodyat_private, staffat_private,
             sgamsinat_private, ayde_ayalaat_private
    Subject: RE: Mastercard lawyers threaten Attrition.org over satire site
    Dear Ms. Hamburg:
    After reading the message included below, I want to assure you that, as a
    loyal MasterCard customer for the past 15 years, and as someone who prefers
    MC over Visa, these pictures did absolutely nothing to dilute my image of
    the company. Tasteless, they are; disgusting, yes; associated with
    MasterCard, no more so than the person who says "Great googly-moogly" in
    imitation of the Snicker's commercial when something bad happens.
    Could MC issue a press statement that it finds this material offensive and
    objectionable? Certainly. Decry it to the hilt. Does it hurt MC? Heck, no.
    It means that MasterCard's advertising campaign was so effective that it's
    become part of pop culture. This is the type of media exposure advertising
    campaigns are *supposed* to produce, the kind that ad execs slobber over,
    the kind that become memes. People will do take-offs all day, because
    they're fun and they like the commercials, much like people constantly quote
    "Whazzup?," even at schools. Some of your parodies will be tame, some will
    be G-rated, some will be incredibly humorous and let everyone have a good
    time. And some, as with anything that becomes part of popular culture, will
    be tasteless and crude, as these are, and life, somehow, will go on. People
    will recognize the crudity, some will laugh (I admit to snickering at a few
    -- that poor person with the cubicle -- what a great idea ... ), some will
    go on to something more productive, some will be offended and close their
    browser immediately. But few, if any, will think that MasterCard actually
    endorses these amateurish, MasterCard-name-and-logo-free images (unless, of
    course, they've been living in a hole for the past 100 years and believe
    that companies would produce an ad without either mentioning the company's
    name or showing the company's logo).
    As a MasterCard customer, the main thing I find objectionable is that you're
    wasting the money I have to pay to make purchases with MasterCard on
    researching and writing about an issue that simply isn't an issue. My
    suggestion is to give this to the PR people, have them make extremely
    appropriate and perfectly justified noises about MC denouncing these photos,
    and then go to court after people who are defrauding the card users, not
    after a website that's merely publishing photos that have been circulating
    for some time and which that website did not create. If not that, then at
    least go after someone with better Photoshop skills than the people who did
    these (though the Jesse Jackson one is at least a good picture).
    -- Thomas Wicker (for himself)
    From: terry.sat_private
    To: declanat_private, jerichoat_private
    Cc: staffat_private, siodaat_private, alphaat_private,
             Jeanne.Hamburgat_private, terry.sat_private
    Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 13:38:48 -0400
    Subject: Re: Mastercard lawyers threaten Attrition.org over satire site
    If I were an Attrition.org volunteer, I might not take kindly to
    allegations by Mastercard attorneys that I'd engaged in criminal conduct
    in the course of apparently (and clearly intended) legal speech
    commenting on societal quirks.  In fact, I might assume that Mastercard
    attorneys would know the difference between criminal obscenity and other
    casual meanings of "obscene", and so would not allege a Web satire to be
    obscene unless the intent were to defame or libel site operators based on
    their topical choice of speech message, unrelated to the peculiar issues
    of Mastercard trying to coopt a long standing expression like "priceless"
    as if their intellectual creation and property.  In fact, seeing as
    Mastercard's attorney's defamation of Attrition.org has been published
    internationally, I might investigate what if any actionable libel
    existed, or what Bar Association sanctions might be available against
    such an attorney.
    Ideally, we wouldn't have precedents like Pacifica, never mind Miller, in
    our legal system.  The concept of indecency as it currently exists in
    American law has such religious roots that it cannot exist in a
    religiously or culturally neutral manner, never mind free of strict
    scrutiny test violations of 1st Amendment criteria.  Likewise, Miller's
    focus on (human focused) sexual and excretory activities includes similar
    bias which it might be hopeful to think can eventually be cleared from
    law.  Absent those discriminatory prejudices from arguably incompetent
    Supreme Court justices, equal protections of law might someday be
    interpreted to treat an abuse of legal free speech lawyer threat letter
    from a corporation trying to assert thug like muscle as obscene and
    criminal, while rituals of sexual pleasure or pain (or speech about such)
    would receive equal protections of law, and excretory activities be
    ignored by law absent real public health and safety issues.
    In order to push this issue, if I were a creative artist associated with
    Attrition.org, I might sketch out a new "priceless" satire.  (I hereby
    release this idea to Attrition.org or its associates if they wish to
    develop it or a variant.)
    A field of (huge, with jagged edges) dildos, purchased with MasterCard.
    Several large cranes and bungy cord jump systems, purchased with
    Legal services to bounce thug-like attorneys, using said items, purchased
    with MasterCard.  (Could be focused on Baker Botts or MC corp. officers,
    though "Baker Botts" could play well in a separate satire of Comedy
    Central "battle bots".)
    World supply of K-Y (show fleets of 18-wheelers with suitable markings,
    maybe even users thereof in a large polysexual orgy), purchased with
    Knowing no K-Y was available as those lawyers plunged onto their
    rough-n-ready dildos, Priceless!
    I bet few viewing that sketch would be thinking about what kind of fraud
    in law or process must have been involved, or what defects exist in the
    Lanham Act, for MasterCard to claim an expression like "priceless" was
    their creation or property.
    Rev Terry Smith
    Electronic Communication Freedoms Liaison, ERLAN
    Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 12:54:36 -0700
    From: SteelHead <brkat_private>
    Subject: Re: More on Mastercard lawyers threatening Attrition.org over satire
    To: declanat_private, politechat_private
    Cc: Jeanne.Hamburgat_private, jerichoat_private,
             theresa.melodyat_private, staffat_private,
             sgamsinat_private, ayde_ayalaat_private
    Message-id: <004a01c1000d$fd10dc40$83a7ce3fat_private>
    Organization: Linuxhelpers
    If I may interject a minor addendum to the concept of dilution....
    Back in the 1970's there was a campaign by some religious folks that was a
    parody/play of the Mastercard (in those days they used the term
    "MasterCharge) wherby the logo said (old memories are tricky) in effect Let
    the Master take Charge.  This reference was completely accepted and widely
    published and was very similar, to the point of confusion, and the message
    was clear and distinct.
    that was *not* dilution?
    From: "Larry D. Burton" <burtonldat_private>
    To: <declanat_private>
    Subject: RE: More on Mastercard lawyers threatening Attrition.org over satire
    Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 15:41:58 -0400
    Message-ID: <002001c100d3$9084b440$0a51a8c0at_private>
    MIME-Version: 1.0
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    Declan, I think it might be helpful for your readers to understand how
    companies like MasterCard go about protecting their trademarks and brand
    names. They hire a law firm with the direction to go out and defend. There
    are many instances that the company being protected isn't even aware of who
    they are being protected from, it's just a law firm out doing what they
    think they have been directed to do and billing hours for the work. The more
    paper generated the more that can be billed. The more that can be billed the
    better the law firm feels it is doing its job.
    POLITECH -- Declan McCullagh's politics and technology mailing list
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