Will The Real Chamber Stand Up?
This has not been a good month for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which represents about three million U.S. businesses, both big and small.
First, the chamber’s opposition to the climate bill has cost it high-profile members such as Apple Inc. and California utility PG&E.
And now General Electric and Cisco Systems tell Reuters they also do not agree with the group on climate regulations. “We need climate legislation and a price for carbon in the U.S. now,” says Peter O’Toole to Reuters.
Now the Chamber, which aggressively pursues tort reform and the filing of “frivolous lawsuits," has filed a lawsuit against a group making frivolous fun of the chamber.
, shows a self-professed U.S. Chamber of Commerce representative conducting a Washington D.C. National Press Club news conference where it was announced that the chamber had made a dramatic “about face on climate policy” and now supported “a stuff carbon tax and correspondingly strong incentives for industries,” as proposed by John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) as the cap-and-trade bill.
Turns out a group, called the “Yes Men,” is made up of actors and activists who were posing as corporate executives to “reveal how corporate greed negatively influences public policy.”
The U.S. Chamber is not laughing.
The chamber has filed a civil lawsuit against the Yes Men to “protect its trademarks and other intellectual property from unlawful use by the “Yes Men” and others in “furtherance of their various commercial enterprises.” The suit names two registered trademarks. One chief in-house attorney called the lawsuit a “customary response by any organization faced with this type of misconduct by the defendants.”
But beyond being customary, the seven-count complaint asks for an injunction including removal of the YouTube videos, a jury trial, damages and attorneys’ fees.
The “Yes Men” refused to decommission their fraudulent Web site, said the Chamber in a statement. The “Yes Men” group has just released a new movie, “The Yes Men Fix the World” and has commercial interests in books, and merchandise.
A video posted on YouTube and the St. Louis Today Platoform, captures the faux news conference held October 19, and an agitated man claiming to work for the actual U.S. Chamber of Commerce, bursting in and disrupting the proceedings. The video, posted on Youtube, has reportedly been viewed some 200,000 times.
Yes Men member Jacques Servin says the lawsuit is disappointing since the Chamber should have recognized this was “clearly political speech.”He tells the New York Times that the Chamber’s trademark and copyrighted information is free speech.
The Chamber has contacted Hurricane Electric, the Internet service provider demanding they remove the content of the Yes Men Web site. Hurricane took down the page. The Yes Men has restored the site through a new ISP.
On page one is a news release, allegedly by Chamber President Tom J. Donohue announcing his support for strong climate legislation.
"This is a blow against free speech, and it demonstrates in gory detail the full hypocrisy of the Chamber," the Yes Men said in a statement. "The only freedom they care about is the economic freedom of large corporations to operate free of the hassles of science, reality, and democracy."
In response, Steven Law, the chamber’s chief general counsel said,
"The Chamber is a strong proponent of free speech and encourages public debate on issues of the day," Law said. "However, the law is clear that you can't misappropriate others' intellectual property for personal financial gain." #