It's been exactly a year since international pranksters, The Yes Men, made headlines by posing as Chamber of Commerce officials and staging a press conference in Washington, D.C. to announce their support for comprehensive climate change legislation.
And the Chamber is still not amused.
A week after the incident -- which used a fake press release and a modified version of the Chamber's Website to fool several news organizations -- the Chamber sued The Yes Men, alleging that the parody crossed the line into fraud.
The Chamber hired high-powered lawyer Richard Wyatt Jr. of Hunton & Williams. The attorney once represented Food Lion in its infamous lawsuit against ABC News after the news network reported that the food chain sold unsanitary beef. His firm, which commands some of the highest hourly rates in the legal world, is still pursuing the Chamber's case against The Yes Men, who are being represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that supports increased protection for Internet civil liberties.
Currently, The Yes Men's motion to dismiss the case is still pending. A spokesperson for the Chamber emailed HuffPost that its request to start discovery in the case is still pending. Wyatt did not return calls for comment.
The initial complaint and related motions should be required reading in any college course on parody and satire. The Yes Men's defense and the Chamber's response include a summary of the history of parody, from Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" to the hijinks on "Saturday Night Live."
After listing the Webster's Dictionary definition of parody, Wyatt asserts that the Yes Men's action went "far beyond mere 'imitation' of the style of the Chamber to deliberately and deceptively impersonate the Chamber by every possible means." He continues:
And rather than treat a serious subject in a nonsensical or comedic manner, the Yes Men conducted their activities with utmost seriousness over an extended period. They did so not simply to "poke fun" at the Chamber, but rather to convince member of the press and public that the Chamber had, in fact, taken a position that it did not take, and that the Chamber had ceased lobbying on an issue of immense concern to many of its members.
In as serious a tone as possible, Wyatt asserts that parody is not protected by the First Amendment, citing Anheuser-Busch's unfunny lawsuit against a humor magazine that included a mock ad for "Michelob Oily". Among dozens of citations are the Dallas Cowboys' lawsuit against a porn movie producer who used cheerleader uniforms in an X-rated film, 2 Live Crew's parody of Roy Orbison's classic song "Pretty Woman" and an artist's series of photographs featuring a Barbie doll depicted in sexualized positions.
The Yes Men continue their activity, most recently lampooning a new ad campaign by Chevron, issuing a fake news release that claims the ads address an environmental controversy in Ecuador, in which the oil giant is accused of pollution. So far, it is not clear if Chevron will pursue legal action. A Chevron spokesman derided the prank as "rhetoric and stunts."
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