I devoted my syndicated newspaper column this week to the targets of MoveOn.org’s speech-squelching bullying campaign. This is a shameful and despicable intimidation scheme abusing copyright infringement law to silence critics of the “General Betray Us” attack ad. You know about it because I’ve been blogging about it repeatedly for the past week. Unlike Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly and Michael Savage, the mom-and-pop t-shirt sellers who received cease-and-desist letters from the thugs at MoveOn do not have daily radio or TV shows. They do not have deep pockets. Who’s looking out for them? Here’s the column. Spread the word:
MoveOn.org, the left-wing extremists who bashed the commander of American forces in Iraq as a traitor, should get out of the political kitchen. The George Soros-funded hitmen can’t stand even a bit of heat from Mom-and-Pop retailers who tried selling T-shirts and mugs on the Internet critical of the “General Betray Us” smear ads against Gen. David Petraeus.
I heard from one of the independent T-shirt sellers targeted by MoveOn.org last week. The seller is a lifelong Democrat and member of the military. Incensed by the attack on Gen. Petraeus, the retailer opened up a shop at online store CafePress. The homemade designs at the PoliStew Cafe (www.cafepress.com/polistew) were stark and simple: “Move Away from Move On!” “MoveOn.org NoFriend to Dems.” “General Petraeus has done more for this country than MoveOn.org.”
For daring to raise a voice and raise some money for the troops (all proceeds from the sale of his items go to the National Military Family Association charity), this T-shirt seller earned the wrath of MoveOn.org’s lawyers. MoveOn.org chief operating officer Carrie Olson brought down the sledgehammer. She sent a cease-and-desist letter to CafePress demanding that PoliStew Cafe’s items and other anti-MoveOn.org merchandise be removed from the store.
Olson warned: “We have been alerted to an entire page of items on your website that infringes on our registered trademark, and we request that you remove all items immediately, and ask the poster to refrain from shipping any items purchased on this webpage. We also request that you give us contact information for the company / person who posted the items. This content has certainly NOT been authorized by anyone at MoveOn.org, nor anyone affiliated with MoveOn.”
Acceptable speech to MoveOn.org: Likening President Bush to Adolf Hitler, as they did in 2004.
Unacceptable speech: Little old mugs and hoodie sweatshirts gently satirizing the thin-skinned, left-wing mafia.
The pretextual copyright infringement claims are downright laughable. This isn’t about protecting MoveOn.org’s property rights. It’s about shutting up citizens who don’t have the deep pockets to defend themselves against frivolous claims by bullies in progressive clothing. Sane liberals should be ashamed at such free speech-squelching efforts. As Los Angeles Times blogger Jon Healey, the only other mainstream journalist to cover the crackdown, notes:
“Trademark law doesn’t confer monopoly rights over all uses of a registered phrase or symbol, however, and it wasn’t created simply to protect the trademark owner’s interests. Instead, it’s designed to protect consumers against being misled or confused about brands. The courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of parodies and critiques; that’s why http://www.famousbrandnamesucks.com doesn’t violate famousbrandname’s trademark. And most, if not all, of the items targeted by MoveOn were clearly designed to razz it, not to trick buyers into thinking they were the group’s products.”
CafePress refused to give in on several of the items. But the speech-chilling message is clear: Parody MoveOn.org and they’ll threaten to hunt you down and sue you. The PoliStew Cafe operator took down the pro-Petraeus, anti-MoveOn.org shirts and replaced them instead with merchandise referring to “THE GROUP THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED.” An army of MoveOn mockers online has published photoshopped logos (“MoveOut.org,” “MoveOn.org: Surrender in Action”) in solidarity — daring the far-left lawyers to sue them.
Edward Padgett, a Los Angeles blogger who spread the word about MoveOn’s attempt to silence critics, laments: “For several years I have found MoveOn.org to be an inspirational anti-war group, but the past few weeks they have been an embarrassment to all Americans with their attacks upon President Bush and General Petraeus. I subscribe to the MoveOn newsletter, and even considered hosting an anti-war rally in San Dimas, but now I want no part of this radical group and will remove my name from their newsletter subscription . . . I guess to MoveOn, the First Amendment is only for the rich.”
Dissent-silencing tactics approved, apparently, by the MoveOn.org Democrats who are too busy bashing Rush Limbaugh to notice the gagging of ordinary citizens on their own side of the political aisle.
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