Jonathan Prince on 24 Feb 2001 05:29:24 -0000

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<nettime> Pacifica Threatens Websites

Pacifica to Critics: Take Down Your Web Sites or We'll Sue

Two Web Sites Critical of Pacifica Foundation are Subject of Lawsuit 
Threats; First Amendment Protects Critics, Public Citizen Says

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a move that is widely viewed as an attack on 
First Amendment rights on the Internet, Pacifica Foundation has said 
it will sue to force two groups embroiled in a controversy over the 
radio network to dismantle Web sites critical of Pacifica.

A lawyer representing Pacifica sent letters last week to Friends of 
Free Speech Radio in California and WBAI Listener Network in New 
York, demanding that the two groups abandon the use of their domain 
names and relinquish all rights to those names by today, Feb. 19, or 
face legal action. Pacifica is claiming that the groups, which 
operate and, are violating 
trademark laws.

Representatives of the two groups have said they will not dismantle 
the sites. Public Citizen, which champions First Amendment rights on 
the Internet, will represent the groups if Pacifica sues, as 
expected. A Pacifica attorney has told Public Citizen that it will 
indeed go to court.

"We cannot sit by idly while corporations try to silence people using 
illegal intimidation tactics," Public Citizen President Joan 
Claybrook said. "The law is quite clear about First Amendment rights, 
which apply on the Internet as much as in traditional forms of print."

The controversy stems from a conflict between Pacifica's management 
and station employees and members over the network's future. 
Management is viewed as seeking to sacrifice programming for profits, 
while employees and many community activists say they don't want to 
give up the progressive programming for which Pacifica is noted.

In its Feb. 14 letters, Pacifica Foundation attorney Tanya 
Vanderbilt, of Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. in Washington, D.C., 
claims that the use of the Web site domain names is a trademark 
infringement, could confuse people who go to the Web to look for 
Pacifica's site and restricts Pacifica from conducting business on 
the Internet under its own name.

But Paul Alan Levy, an attorney with Public Citizen Litigation Group 
who has represented people in several similar cases, said Pacifica's 
threats would not hold up in court. Trademark infringement occurs 
when a company's name is used in a misleading way to profit from 
consumer confusion about whether the company has sponsored the 
message, he said. This clearly didn't apply in this case, because 
both sites are clearly non-commercial, he said.

"The First Amendment fully supports the kind of speech that is posted 
on these Web sites," Levy said. "It's unbelievable that Pacifica has 
to resort to bullying tactics, rather than addressing the internal 
problems that have led to this dissension."

Said Friends of Free Speech Radio member Robbie Osman, 
" and are legal and valuable Web sites. They 
offer information about the actions of the present Pacifica board. 
They make no pretense to being anything else." He added that 
"Pacifica historically has defended free expression and encouraged 
fair and open debate. We must not allow it to descend into 
thuggishness and censorship."

Patty Heffley of WBAI Listener network said, "Pacifica is trying to 
stifle free speech on their own broadcast network and now in some 
Orwellian fashion they are trying to silence those who listen as 

In a similar recent case, Public Citizen represented an airline 
passenger who was so upset about how Alitalia handled his lost 
luggage complaint that he launched a Web site entitled The airline sued for trademark infringement, 
among other things, but dropped the suit shortly after a judge 
demanded that a top company official, such as the president, come to 
court to explain why the company brought the case.

Jonathan Prince  - it's bad for you - he's bad for everyone - stupid wars are bad
"More than any time in history, mankind faces a crossroads.
One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness.
the other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have
the wisdom to choose correctly."   - Woody Allen 

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