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FC: Charles Arthur on Mastercard threatening Attrition.org over satire
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001 00:25:11 -0500 (CDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2001 14:05:39 -0400
From: Declan McCullagh <declan () well com>
To: politech () politechbot com
Subject: FC: Charles Arthur on Mastercard threatening Attrition.org over satire

Original message with exchange between Mastercard and Attrition.org:


Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 16:20:06 +0100
To: declan () well com
From: "Charles Arthur, The Independent" <carthur () independent co uk>
Subject: Re: FC: More on Mastercard lawyers threatening Attrition.org over 

Hi Declan...

Surely more briefly it could be put (we haven't had that campaign over
here, so I'm sorta going by the attrition parodies... which are pretty

Cost of searching for "priceless" and "image" on Google... $0.00002
Cost of sending lawyernastysnailmail to nonexistent PO Box for
attrition.org.. $1,594.32 (inc bathroom break)
Cost of sending lawyernastyemail with snailmail as Word to attrition.org...
$0.32 (no bathroom break)

Cost of bugging attrition.org and its users and getting spread all around
Politech and interesting-people and who knows where... PRICELESS.

'Nuff said.


The Independent newspaper on the Web: http://www.independent.co.uk/
         It's even better on paper


From: "Trei, Peter" <ptrei () rsasecurity com>
To: "'declan () well com'" <declan () well com>
Subject: RE: More on Mastercard lawyers threatening Attrition.org over sat
Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 11:14:07 -0400

[Disclaimers: IANAL, and this describes the situation as I understood it
several years ago - pt]

Part of the way trademark protection works requires that trademark
holders defend against infringing uses. My father used to work for a company
which had several products, the names of which were at risk of becoming
common nouns and verbs. Legally, they were required to protest generic
usage of the terms to show that they were defending the trademark. If
they did not do so,  the tradmark could be declared generic, and lost.

As a result, not only did the company send out 'big foot' letters like
we've seen here, but they also put ads in various writers magazines
notifying the readers of their trademarks, and insisting that the 'tm' and
(r) symbols be used appropriately.

My impression was that they did not have a realistic expectation of
stomping out casual generic use of the names, but that they were
doing this to prevent the names from being declared generic, in which
case their competitors would start using them.

'Aspirin' is an example of a trademark lost in this manner.


Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 11:35:37 -0400
From: Gabriel Rocha <grocha () geeksimplex org>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan () well com>
Subject: Re: FC: Mastercard lawyers threaten Attrition.org over satire site

        is a dead link.
        they need to research better what they oppose to, as this one
        clearly indicates...besides:

        Lawyers threatening attrition: $10,000
        Reply by attrition staff: time
        Losing face all over the news: priceless


From: Thomas Wicker <twicker () therapyedge com>
To: Jeanne.Hamburg () bakerbotts com
Cc: "'declan () well com'" <declan () well com>, jericho () attrition org,
         theresa.melody () bakerbotts com, staff () attrition org,
         sgamsin () mastercard com, ayde_ayala () mastercard com
Subject: RE: Mastercard lawyers threaten Attrition.org over satire site

Dear Ms. Hamburg:

After reading the message included below, I want to assure you that, as a
loyal MasterCard customer for the past 15 years, and as someone who prefers
MC over Visa, these pictures did absolutely nothing to dilute my image of
the company. Tasteless, they are; disgusting, yes; associated with
MasterCard, no more so than the person who says "Great googly-moogly" in
imitation of the Snicker's commercial when something bad happens.

Could MC issue a press statement that it finds this material offensive and
objectionable? Certainly. Decry it to the hilt. Does it hurt MC? Heck, no.
It means that MasterCard's advertising campaign was so effective that it's
become part of pop culture. This is the type of media exposure advertising
campaigns are *supposed* to produce, the kind that ad execs slobber over,
the kind that become memes. People will do take-offs all day, because
they're fun and they like the commercials, much like people constantly quote
"Whazzup?," even at schools. Some of your parodies will be tame, some will
be G-rated, some will be incredibly humorous and let everyone have a good
time. And some, as with anything that becomes part of popular culture, will
be tasteless and crude, as these are, and life, somehow, will go on. People
will recognize the crudity, some will laugh (I admit to snickering at a few
-- that poor person with the cubicle -- what a great idea ... ), some will
go on to something more productive, some will be offended and close their
browser immediately. But few, if any, will think that MasterCard actually
endorses these amateurish, MasterCard-name-and-logo-free images (unless, of
course, they've been living in a hole for the past 100 years and believe
that companies would produce an ad without either mentioning the company's
name or showing the company's logo).

As a MasterCard customer, the main thing I find objectionable is that you're
wasting the money I have to pay to make purchases with MasterCard on
researching and writing about an issue that simply isn't an issue. My
suggestion is to give this to the PR people, have them make extremely
appropriate and perfectly justified noises about MC denouncing these photos,
and then go to court after people who are defrauding the card users, not
after a website that's merely publishing photos that have been circulating
for some time and which that website did not create. If not that, then at
least go after someone with better Photoshop skills than the people who did
these (though the Jesse Jackson one is at least a good picture).

-- Thomas Wicker (for himself)


From: terry.s () juno com
To: declan () well com, jericho () attrition org
Cc: staff () attrition org, sioda () attrition org, alpha () attrition org,
         Jeanne.Hamburg () bakerbotts com, terry.s () juno com
Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 13:38:48 -0400
Subject: Re: Mastercard lawyers threaten Attrition.org over satire site

If I were an Attrition.org volunteer, I might not take kindly to
allegations by Mastercard attorneys that I'd engaged in criminal conduct
in the course of apparently (and clearly intended) legal speech
commenting on societal quirks.  In fact, I might assume that Mastercard
attorneys would know the difference between criminal obscenity and other
casual meanings of "obscene", and so would not allege a Web satire to be
obscene unless the intent were to defame or libel site operators based on
their topical choice of speech message, unrelated to the peculiar issues
of Mastercard trying to coopt a long standing expression like "priceless"
as if their intellectual creation and property.  In fact, seeing as
Mastercard's attorney's defamation of Attrition.org has been published
internationally, I might investigate what if any actionable libel
existed, or what Bar Association sanctions might be available against
such an attorney.

Ideally, we wouldn't have precedents like Pacifica, never mind Miller, in
our legal system.  The concept of indecency as it currently exists in
American law has such religious roots that it cannot exist in a
religiously or culturally neutral manner, never mind free of strict
scrutiny test violations of 1st Amendment criteria.  Likewise, Miller's
focus on (human focused) sexual and excretory activities includes similar
bias which it might be hopeful to think can eventually be cleared from
law.  Absent those discriminatory prejudices from arguably incompetent
Supreme Court justices, equal protections of law might someday be
interpreted to treat an abuse of legal free speech lawyer threat letter
from a corporation trying to assert thug like muscle as obscene and
criminal, while rituals of sexual pleasure or pain (or speech about such)
would receive equal protections of law, and excretory activities be
ignored by law absent real public health and safety issues.

In order to push this issue, if I were a creative artist associated with
Attrition.org, I might sketch out a new "priceless" satire.  (I hereby
release this idea to Attrition.org or its associates if they wish to
develop it or a variant.)

A field of (huge, with jagged edges) dildos, purchased with MasterCard.

Several large cranes and bungy cord jump systems, purchased with

Legal services to bounce thug-like attorneys, using said items, purchased
with MasterCard.  (Could be focused on Baker Botts or MC corp. officers,
though "Baker Botts" could play well in a separate satire of Comedy
Central "battle bots".)

World supply of K-Y (show fleets of 18-wheelers with suitable markings,
maybe even users thereof in a large polysexual orgy), purchased with

Knowing no K-Y was available as those lawyers plunged onto their
rough-n-ready dildos, Priceless!

I bet few viewing that sketch would be thinking about what kind of fraud
in law or process must have been involved, or what defects exist in the
Lanham Act, for MasterCard to claim an expression like "priceless" was
their creation or property.

Rev Terry Smith

Electronic Communication Freedoms Liaison, ERLAN


Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 12:54:36 -0700
From: SteelHead <brk () slip net>
Subject: Re: More on Mastercard lawyers threatening Attrition.org over satire
To: declan () well com, politech () politechbot com
Cc: Jeanne.Hamburg () bakerbotts com, jericho () attrition org,
         theresa.melody () bakerbotts com, staff () attrition org,
         sgamsin () mastercard com, ayde_ayala () mastercard com
Message-id: <004a01c1000d$fd10dc40$83a7ce3f () pacbell net>
Organization: Linuxhelpers

If I may interject a minor addendum to the concept of dilution....

Back in the 1970's there was a campaign by some religious folks that was a
parody/play of the Mastercard (in those days they used the term
"MasterCharge) wherby the logo said (old memories are tricky) in effect Let
the Master take Charge.  This reference was completely accepted and widely
published and was very similar, to the point of confusion, and the message
was clear and distinct.

that was *not* dilution?



From: "Larry D. Burton" <burtonld () pickett com>
To: <declan () well com>
Subject: RE: More on Mastercard lawyers threatening Attrition.org over satire
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 15:41:58 -0400
Message-ID: <002001c100d3$9084b440$0a51a8c0 () whipporwill pickett com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3 (Normal)
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal

Declan, I think it might be helpful for your readers to understand how
companies like MasterCard go about protecting their trademarks and brand
names. They hire a law firm with the direction to go out and defend. There
are many instances that the company being protected isn't even aware of who
they are being protected from, it's just a law firm out doing what they
think they have been directed to do and billing hours for the work. The more
paper generated the more that can be billed. The more that can be billed the
better the law firm feels it is doing its job.


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