EXCLUSIVE!!!!!!!! For-profit, self-appointed “Independent Voice of South Louisiana” apparently has area monopoly on [censored]ing
The People’s [Censored] is in no way affiliated with the [Censored] or their corporate overlords Capital City Press.
BY BEN VITELLI
Occupy Baton Rouge
On January 23, only one day after the release of the first issue of Occupy Baton Rouge’s monthly newsletter “The People’s [Censored],” the OBR email account received a message from the head editor of the [Censored]–the Baton Rouge daily newspaper, not the gay rights magazine (just so you’re not confused). An excerpt of his email:
“While I am flattered that you have copied The [Censored]’s banner and, to an extent, our standard front page design, I must ask you to come up with a new format for your newsletter. As currently presented, your newsletter could cause confusion among your readers that The [Censored] newspaper and the Occupy Baton Rouge movement are somehow connected. I believe it infringes on our copyright and trademark. While we support free speech and free press, we also must maintain our position as a publication that is not aligned with any particular group or movement.”
While it seemed almost impossible that anyone would confuse our online monthly newsletter with the Baton Rouge daily, one of our editors replied to their request, stating that though our independent paper was largely protected as parody, we would add a disclaimer to our front page. To be perfectly frank, we were a bit surprised the people at the [Censored] were still aware of our existence, let alone regularly checking our website and Facebook page for updates. Since our attempted “Move-In Day” last Black Friday, when half the Baton Rouge Police Department decided to use their holiday weekend and LSU-Arkansas game day to monitor the couple dozen protestors hanging out at Arsenal Park, there had been a considerable absence of coverage of our many actions in the [Censored].
This is sadly the way the goldfish-attention spanned mainstream media works, folks. Something is “In” for awhile—it’s fresh and exciting and new, and then suddenly The Next Big Thing comes along and whatever was so important three weeks ago is forgotten about and left by the wayside, continuity be damned. It’s a travesty, and it’s a phenomenon that unfortunately stretches far beyond the reaches of our friends at the [Censored].
While we were initially somewhat thrown off by the [Censored]’s complaints against our paper, we found being back on their radar for such a trivial technicality slightly flattering. Our newsletter, which hadn’t been up for more than a week, was already receiving threats from high places. The common consensus amongst our members was that we must be doing something right if our modest efforts were still pissing off the Old Guard.
Then, the following week, the [Censored] attacked again. Our email account received a letter from someone introducing himself as a lawyer for Capital City Press, the owners of the [Censored], and was accompanied by a formal demand letter. The three page letter was a threat addressed to one of our members specifically by name. The lawyers spent a lot of time defining “parody” (as well as condescendingly referring us to the Onion which, apparently, is the pinnacle of parody) and ended with the demand under legal threat that we do the following:
“(i) immediately and permanently terminating any further marketing, promotion and/or use of the term ‘The [Censored],’ including any and all confusingly similar or related derivations of the mark;
“(ii) immediately and permanently removing any and all references and/or use of the ‘The [Censored]’ trade name/trademark on your website located at http://occupybr.com/, including all associated webpages, and/or elsewhere on the Internet;
“(iii) immediately and permanently terminating any and all further use, display, circulation or distribution of any promotions, advertisements, publications, content and/or marketing that includes any reference to ‘The [Censored]’;
“(iv) signifying your binding acceptance of these terms by signing and returning this consent agreement to undersigned counsel by no later than February 14, 2012
“And (v) agreeing to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees to Capital City Press if a court should subsequently find that you have breached your obligations and/or commitments to Capital City Press hereunder.”
One of the main ideas behind the “Occupy Movement” is to reclaim the public sphere. For longer than many of us have been alive, a war has been waged by the 1% on public property and public services. Private influences poison everything with money and the mainstream media has actively taken on the role of the hired nurse administering the toxins into the arms of our so-called democracy. As a people, we’ve been robbed of our future, and the media—the supposed watchdog for our democracy—has been a willing accomplice for this massive historical graft. A true democracy cannot function without a functioning media, and our media, which is driven by a will to power and profit, has thus made a mockery of us and our democracy.
Inspired by the Occupy movement, then, many individuals across the world took the initiative to create their own newspapers based on the idea of spreading free knowledge. Papers such as “The Occupied Wall Street Journal” popped up all across the nation, parodying their local newspaper and reporting on the news and stories that they saw as most important. Independent journalists from all over came together to report on what they saw was wrong in the world and to help [censored] for the change they want to see.
While we live in a country based on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, many of the parodied papers did not take kindly to being called out as the bloated protectors of the 1% that they are. The Occupied Chicago Tribune and the Occupied Oakland Tribune were the first to be threatened by their local “non-occupied” paper. Later came the Occupied Wisconsin State Journal, followed by us.
As an interesting side-note, Rupert Murdoch has yet to threaten the Occupied Wall Street Journal, which shows that though he doesn’t have enough sense to not hack into a dead girl’s phone, he’s at least smart enough to sniff out some bad PR moves in advance.
While Trademark Laws are written in such a way that some businesses are legally required to protect their Trademark lest they lose it, the odds that any reader of these publications would confuse the ad-soaked drivel of the 1% found in the mainstream news with our independently voiced not-for-profit paper is so minimal it’s beyond comprehension.
What is most likely happening here, at least in our case, is that the [Censored], a long established fixture of the Baton Rouge community, is flexing its muscles against any paper that threatens its status as expert on all matters Baton Rouge. While they would certainly not take steps to outright attack or censor our paper, the ambiguity of Trademark Law as well as the for-profit [Censored]’s significantly larger budget compared to ours, allowed for the perfect set-up for some good old fashioned bullying.
So, as a way of demonstrating how the mainstream media works–and how it doesn’t work–we at the People’s [Censored] have made several noticeable changes to our newsletter. Hopefully, this will both free us up to continue with our independent journalism, as well as free up the lawyers of the [Censored] to work on cases that are hopefully a bit more important. And while the name of our paper may be different, we see this as an excellent opportunity to continue on with the same mission as when we started out–giving voice to The People and not the 1%, unlike those [censored]ers who run the [Censored].
Originally published in Issue 2 of the People’s [Censored].