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Media Giant Bullies Internet Critic

February 15, 2007

Media Giant Bullies Internet Critic

Discovery Communications Tries to Chill Speech with Baseless Legal Claims

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) warned Discovery Communications, Inc., today to cease its demands for the removal of an online template that uses humor to help people criticize the media company.

The "SpankMaker," located at http://www.spankmymarketer.com/, helps users create parodies of a controversial marketing campaign in connection with a Discovery television production. The online tool provides images from the marketing campaign and Discovery's corporate websites, and allows users to modify them with commentary.

A lawyer for Discovery has demanded that the website operator remove the template, claiming it infringes Discovery's copyright and is used to defame the company. But in a letter sent in response today, EFF outlines how the use of the images in the template is clearly a non-infringing parody. EFF also explains that the comments that offended Discovery are not libelous and that, in any event, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects the creator of the SpankMaker from liability for comments written by others.

"Once again, a business is trying to use false legal claims to chill criticism," said Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Fortunately, more and more, the targets of these kinds of threats are fighting back."

EFF's letter is part of its ongoing campaign to protect online free speech. Earlier this month, EFF provided legal support for environmental activists who were threatened by the Chicago Auto Show after posting an Internet parody. In November, EFF reached an agreement with the corporate owners of the popular children's television character Barney the Purple Dinosaur to withdraw meritless legal threats against a website publisher who parodied the character.

For EFF's response letter:
http://eff.org/legal/cases/discoverycom_v_rubinstein/response_letter.pdf

Contact:

Corynne McSherry
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

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