Yes Men prank the Chamber of Commerce — and get away with it
If you’re going to prank the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, you’d better brace yourself for a long legal battle.
It’s been almost four years since the Yes Men conned reporters into thinking the chamber was finally warming up to the dangers of climate change. The tricksters put up a fake website and sent out a fake press release under the chamber’s name, fooling a number of mainstream news outlets into believing that the business group had reversed course and decided to support climate legislation. The Yes Men also held a fake news conference, which went on for a number of minutes before an actual chamber spokesman barged in and busted it up (video is below).
Laughs were had, feelings were hurt, confusion reigned for the better part of five minutes, and then, of course, the stodgy old men in ties talked to their lawyers and filed the inevitable lawsuit.
On Friday, with court proceedings in the stalled case finally set to get underway, the stodgy old men in ties backed down. From The Wall Street Journal:
The Chamber’s … lawsuit alleged the Yes Men infringed its trademarks, engaged in false advertising and committed cyberpiracy that confused the public about the organization’s policy positions. “The acts are nothing less than commercial identity theft masquerading as social activism,” the lawsuit alleged.
In response, the Yes Men argued the hoax was protected First Amendment speech that criticized the Chamber on a matter of public concern. “The Yes Men deliberately used the Chamber’s logo and service marks to poke fun at it,” the group said in court papers. “Without using the Chamber’s marks, the parody would have lost virtually all of its force and purpose.” …
An updated version of the Chamber’s lawsuit would have been due in court Monday. In dropping the lawsuit, the Chamber cited “the age of the case,” and the fact that it had taken control of the domain name the Yes Men previously used for their fake web site.
Here is a video of the prank that caused all those wasted lawyer hours. Enjoy:
Get Grist in your inbox