June 26, 2012

Media for the 99 percent


Visit the Occupied Chicago Tribune website and you’re greeted by the tagline “we’re proud to have no affiliation whatsoever with the 1% Chicago Tribune or the Tribune Co.”

Now, according to Michael Miner at the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Tribune is fighting the occupy-associated newspaper, Occupied Chicago Tribune, and their related websites.

As background,

“Last December the Occupy Chicago crowd rolled out the first issue of an occasional newspaper that they sassily call the Occupied Chicago Tribune. The name was chosen to make a point, which is that their “independent” paper would speak for the 99 percent who don’t run America, rather than the one percent who do. Similar papers launched in other cities included the Occupied Wall Street Journal, the Occupied Washington Times, the Occupied Boston Globe, and the Occupied Oakland Tribune…As they launched their paper, the Occupiers registered a couple of domain names: occupiedchicagotribune.org, an active site where news and opinion are continuously posted, and occupychicagotribune.org, an inactive site kept in the Occupiers’ hip pocket.”

Late this May, the Chicago Tribune launched a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), claiming that the Occupied paper had acquired its two domain names in “bad faith” and in order to “divert traffic” from the original Tribune.

At this point, most copyright lawyers would point out that the Occupied Chicago Tribune is free to use the trademark in the act of parody or criticism. A use reinforced by the Occupied Chicago Tribune’s editorials, as Miner points out,

“Most certainly occupiedchicagotribune.org criticizes the Tribune. A January editorial began: “The Chicago Tribune’s yellow journalism reached unseemly hues January 5, when it published its front-page expose ‘New report chronicles misconduct within CPS.’…And in March the site posted this meditation on the failings of big media: “In a country in which the top 1 percent owns 40 percent of the material wealth, those with deep pockets can dictate the popular narrative”

The Chicago Tribune‘s case would most likely fail in an American courtroom for this reason, and that’s why the paper took the issue to WIPO arbitration. As Mark M. Jaycox at the Electronic Frontiers Foundation explains,

“the rapid-fire decision making has been abused by parties seeking to silence expressive content and speech. Once the complaint is sent to Occupy Chicago Tribune, they are given twenty days to read it, analyze the merits, and respond. From there, responses are filed, a panel is appointed, and a decision is rendered within 60 days. Combined, these aspects create variables that are intended to speed up the process and allow for fact-specific determinations, but can often create excessive burdens on First Amendment protected activities.”

The decision is expected in July, but one wonders why the Chicago Tribune chose this rather humorless battle, over all the other fronts the newspaper industry is fighting on right now.


Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.