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Men In Thongs The Center Of Copyright, Free Speech Dispute - Yahoo! News

Men In Thongs The Center Of Copyright, Free Speech Dispute

By K.C. Jones
Fri Feb 16, 6:28 PM ET

The company that produces The Learning Channel has filed a copyright and defamation lawsuit to bring down a parody of its own advertising campaign that used a picture of two men in front of a hot rod wearing little more than thong underwear and dark glasses.

Discovery Communications, which also produces The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and BBC America, is demanding that the owners of SpankMaker Web site remove the material. A lawyer for Discovery claims the site's contents are defamatory and should be removed.

The photograph in question was mass e-mailed to members of the Bulletin Board as a marketing promotion for a SEMA (the Specialty Equipment Market Association) show involving several car enthusiast groups including Gas Monkey Garage, Coker Tire, Newstalgia Wheel, and The Learning Channel. In addition to the scantily clad men, the advertisement included sexual remarks related to the Web site's name.

SpankMaker criticized Discovery for its marketing tactics, including advertiser-funded programming, even though the hot rod show was cancelled. SpankMaker's owners then posted parodies of the advertisement as well as Discovery Communications' board of directors.

Outraged that its own marketing program was lampooned, Discovery Communications lobbed a legal filing earlier this month on the grounds of copyright infringement and defamation of its board.

Citizen rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation has now stepped forward to defend SpankMaker, stating the Communications Decency Act protects the Web site creator from liability for information intended to provoke and encourage criticism and parody.

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

Representatives from Discovery Communications did not immediately return calls on Friday to comment about the EFF's condemnation.

EFF said its involvement is part of an ongoing campaign to protect free speech on the Internet. The group recently stood up for a blogger who mocked Barney, the purple dinosaur. Barney's creators dropped their claims against the blogger and paid for the blogger's legal fees after EFF got involved.


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