Injunctions and newspapers (but not the way you think)

Shameful stuff from Associated Newspapers: off they went to the High Court to seek an injunction.  (I’m not sure exactly what the claim was – it appears to have been IP-related, but the Guardian report says it was about ‘trademark copyrights’, which is a new one on me).  The reason?  A spoof newspaper, the METR0 (zero instead of O in the actual METRO), the subject of a website and a small physical distribution effort in London.

There’s a fabulous transcript (PDF) of the late-night hearing, with Smith J expressing some serious scepticism about the whole enterprise and the realistic impact of the spoof on Associated’s interests.  It does remind me of the climax of that excellent film The Yes Men Fix The World (which I saw at Cinema City in Norwich, recently broadcast on TV and now available on DVD).  They produced and circulated a note-perfect spoof New York Times.  No injunctions there.  Perhaps Associated are a little more sensitive about the fine brand that is Metro.

But seriously – how can a newspaper, in good conscience, go for an injunction like this, the type of thing that if it were served on a newspaper would provoke immediate (and fair) criticism of judges stopping the presses at the eleventh hour and suppression of press freedom.  The political campaigners and satirists behind Metr0 may not have the record of Private Eye, but to be the subject of an attack from a newspaper is just bizarre.  The fact that the basis was IP rather than defamation or privacy does not change this.  I feel like Neil Kinnock’s 1985 grotesque chaos quote is hanging over this…

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