US Chamber of Commerce suing the Yes Men

Mother Jones senior editor Michael Mechanic writes in with this update on the "Yes Men pwn the US Chamber of Commerce" story I blogged about last week, which Cory further updated here. Michael says,
yes-men3000.300wide.200high.jpg Kate Sheppard [of Mother Jones] was at the fake US Chamber of Commerce press conference in DC where a Yes Man, posing as a Chamber rep, claimed the Chamber was reversing its draconian position on climate change, which has caused lots of big Chamber members -- Apple, Nike, Exelon, and others -- to quit the national business group. But then a REAL Chamber PR man arrived at the meeting to declare it a fraud. (And Sheppard ended up on Maddow that night).

Today, Sheppard reports that the Chamber is suing its impersonators: "The defendants are not merry pranksters tweaking the establishment," the Chamber said in a press release issued with the suit. "Instead, they deliberately broke the law in order to further commercial interest in their books, movies, and other merchandise."

Mother Jones stories on the US Chamber (here's an index):
* Chamber Sues Yes Men
* Chamber Uses Yes Men 'Attack' to Fundraise

Here's a related item in the New Yorker.

Image: by Wikimedia Commons user Tavis used under a CC License

32

  1. “The defendants are not merry pranksters tweaking the establishment”

    – how do you prove someone is not merry? See if you can secretly catch them saying ‘bah, humbug’ on tape?

  2. “Instead, they deliberately broke the law in order to further commercial interest in their books, movies, and other merchandise.”

    Hot damn, those guys should join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce!

  3. This charge could be difficult to prove. For instance, were the Yes Men promoting their film while giving the fake press conference? No! They were giving a fake press conference!

    I’ll ask them what’s up when they come to town in a couple weeks to promote their new film, which they *won’t* be doing by holding a fake press conference about a different subject.

  4. I’m just wondering what the US Chamber of commerce’s cause of action is. Publicly libeling them by pretending they’re *not* gigantic douchebags who wouldn’t mind destroying the world if it meant a few more precious, precious dollars in their wallets?

  5. The CoC seems to be saying that, since the group would gain publicity and thus sales, no group that sells anything may engage in parody. This seems to be an end run around First Amendment protection of parody. As the courts have routinely ruled (e.g. Food Lion v. Capital City/ABC), a long shot action under some other tort cannot reach speech explicitly protected from a “frontal” action. I expect the courts to smack down the CoC, as they should.

  6. What specific law(s) are they purported to have broken? AFAIK, “identity theft” protects individuals, not corporations.

  7. Don’t fall for it! Surely the real Chamber of Commerce would never risk making themselves look like fools by doing such a thing.
    This is nothing but the Yes Men impersonating the Chamber of Commerce suing the Yes Men for impersonating the Chamber of Commerce.

  8. The Yes men are one of my fave bits of organized chaos. We exchanged emails about my idea of EPA Superfund historical markers. Maybe ‘Hidden chambers of commerce’ would be a more suitable title for the series.

  9. The Chamber has filed a civil complaint in the US District Court of Washington, DC, accusing Yes Men Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos (also known as Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, respectively) of trademark infringement, unfair competition and false advertising.

  10. Your blurb could be read to say that those companies backed put of the CoC because they fell for the yes men prank, making them look like the draconian ones instead of the progressives.

  11. “Instead, they deliberately broke the law in order to further commercial interest in their books, movies, and other merchandise.”

    I think the guy has a point. Most of the people in the industry of dissent are trying to make cold hard cash just like everybody else. It’s the American way.

  12. Oh I hope this goes so badly for the CoC (heh). And by all precedent, it will.

    Rather than let the joke be the joke and roll on, they’re going to try to sue a gaggle of performance artists over parody and political speech, two of the most protected forms of free expression. Even hard-line “originalists” like Scalia and Thomas have sided with protecting political speech, which this is a clear example of.

    The beauty of the “Yes Men’s” game is the CoC now has to actively explain their climate change denial, as it is just that very position that differentiates them from the parody. By explaining how different they are they only look more foolish. And in court no less.

    Is there a legal defense fund yet? Better still, can I buy tickets to the proceedings? Further, can I bring popcorn?

  13. Wait, satire is illegal if the intent is to make money? SOMEONE SUE JON STEWART!!!

    Also, I like that one of the accusations in the suit is for “unfair competition.” Because it’s soooo unfair that someone would pretend to be the “good” Chamber of Commerce. Come on! How’s the poor Evil Chamber of Commerce going to turn a dime if someone sets up a fake Good Chamber of Commerce???

  14. ok, but can’t they be
    merry pranksters tweaking the establishment while deliberately breaking the law and furthering commercial interest in their books, movies, and other merchandise.

    Always so black and white, sheesh..

  15. The Chamber of Commerce is no longer relevant therefore they have to make their money through legal avenues.

  16. There is a big difference between me making a site called boinkboink and writing up a blog making fun of some boingboing related matter, and setting up a site called boing-boing.net, with no mention of humor, an exact copy of the site along with content that would cause users to stop visiting boingboing or investors to pull their money. One is satire, the other is a dirty buisness trick.
    Yes men are in no way funloving activists, they are egocentric charlatans who want PR and will do anything to get it, thinking freedom of speech will save them from anything.
    They could have done this “nicely”, playing by the rules, for example by not claiming to actually be the Chamber of commerce, but just writing the news story (like the onion would have), instead they threw away moral and ethics to get results.

    1. Anonymous member of the CoC, that’s a ridiculous comparison.

      Are you actually saying that what the Yes Men were doing was like copying Boing Boing word-for-word and trying to make money off of it?

      You don’t realize that it was satire? You don’t think they knew that people would realize (quickly) that they weren’t the real CoC, and that that was part of the point?

      If one of the Yes Men stood at a podium with the Seal of the POTUS and claimed to be Barack Obama, stating that he was going to declare war on France, do you think it would more more like copying Boing Boing word-for-word, or more like, say, satire?

      Why would it be any different?

      You say there was “no mention of humor.” Not all humor needs to be accompanied by cymbals at the end of the joke. Sometimes intelligent people still understand the humor.

      Tell me, you actually worried that the Yes Men managed to convince so many people that they were the real CoC that investors will “pull out money” from the CoC and invest in them??? That doesn’t even make sense.

    2. Anonymous member of the CoC: that’s a ridiculous comparison.

      Are you actually saying that what the Yes Men were doing was like copying Boing Boing word-for-word and trying to make money off of it?

      You don’t realize that it was satire? You don’t think they knew that people would realize (quickly) that they weren’t the real CoC, and that that was part of the point?

      If one of the Yes Men stood at a podium with the Seal of the POTUS and claimed to be Barack Obama, stating that he was going to declare war on France, do you think it would more more like copying Boing Boing word-for-word, or more like, say, satire?

      Why would it be any different?

      You say there was “no mention of humor.” Not all humor needs to be accompanied by cymbals at the end of the joke. Sometimes intelligent people still understand the humor.

      Tell me, you actually worried that the Yes Men managed to convince so many people that they were the real CoC that investors will “pull out money” from the CoC and invest in them??? That doesn’t even make sense.

  17. Politicians and celebrities have been copied all the time. Think of all the Elvises out there. If a corporation is a person, what’s the difference? These guys are performance artists. They do things that make people think. This is awesome to me because through their art we learn truth. Who is the bigger offender here. Is it the clowns who could be easily discredited with a simple phone call to the bona fide company or is it the media who just takes things at first glance and prints it as fact without checking sources? This type of theatre dates back hundreds of years. It’s called BOUFFON.

Comments are closed.