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EFF to Represent Yes Men in Court Battle Over Chamber of Commerce Action


Davis Wright Tremaine LLP Also Joins in Free Speech Fight

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP, will defend the Yes Men and other activists in a lawsuit filed against them by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over political criticism of the Chamber’s stance on climate change legislation.

In mid-October, the activists staged a “press conference” in which the Chamber of Commerce ostensibly reversed its position and promised to stop lobbying against strong climate change legislation -- a stance that has caused numerous Chamber members to leave the organization. As has been widely reported, before the press conference was even completed, a Chamber of Commerce representative rushed into the room and revealed that the Chamber’s position on climate change legislation had not in fact changed.

“The action was a brilliant piece of political theater, but it had a serious purpose: calling attention to the Chamber’s political activities,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. “This is core political speech, protected by the First Amendment. We’re very pleased that Davis Wright Tremaine -- with its long, successful history of protecting free speech rights of Americans -- has joined us in helping these activists battle a transparent attempt at censorship.”

“U.S. courts have recognized that political parody lies at the heart of the First Amendment,” said Davis Wright Tremaine LLP partner Bruce Johnson. “Even if the party parodied refuses to giggle--or even panics and sues--free speech will ultimately triumph. We look forward to a prompt dismissal of this case and a reaffirmation of the rights of all Americans to poke fun at the pompous and powerful.”

The Chamber has pulled out all the stops in its effort to silence the activists. First, it sent an improper copyright takedown notice to the Yes Men’s upstream provider, demanding that a parody website posted in support of the action be removed immediately and resulting in the temporary shutdown of not only the spoof site but hundreds of other sites hosted by May First/People Link. Next, the Chamber filed suit against the activists in federal court, claiming among other things the activism infringed their trademarks.

“Trademark rights do not encompass the right to silence criticism,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. “It is our hope that the Chamber will rethink its lawsuit and take a position more consistent with its past support of First Amendment rights.”

A response to the Chamber’s complaint is due later this month in the U.S. District Court for District of Columbia.

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