just some stuff

A Zero for an O

04 Jul 2010

Or: How Associated Newspapers Ltd tries to stop Gordon Brown's deportation by shutting down a website.

Britain's tabloid press has not excatly the reputation of being quality press, some say it has also the reputation of being openly racist. It also has no humor for sure, at least not if somebody has a good laugh on their costs.

Last Friday and Saturday London saw "two days of action against the racist press", called for by several anti-racist activist groups. Some people seem to have thought that the best way to challenge the tabloid press is to become the tabloid press, and commuters were suprised to get handed over a new free paper called "Metr0" (you could read that as "metre zero" if you into leetspeak) last Friday ( 2 July) early morning, featuring the stunning headline that "Gordon Brown is to be deported to Scotland. (1) There must have been ten-thousends of copies spread all over London, as the newspaper was available at many tube and railway stations.

Free daily newpapers have become a big business in London, and in fact it happens that there is also a free daily newssheet called "Metro" (read "metro", but some hasty commuter might have mixed both of them up because they did not read that aloud.) published by a company called Associated Newspapers Ltd, which also happens to be behind the "Daily Mail" (yes, that's the Daily Mail which cheered for Oswald Mosley's blackshirts).

Now while you can say for sure that quality is not on of the characteristics of Associated Newspapers Ltd's products, they also seem not to be up for a good laugh: Probably being given a copy of the "Metr0" themselves on the way to work, they had to discover that there was now also a website called "metr0.co.uk" (2) which shared some faint design similarities to their own website "metro.co.uk": and seemingly decided to consider their new competitors "Metr0" not funny at all indeed.

So instead of sipping their morning espresso, taking the joke and being proud of being historically in one line with "The New York Times" (3), they let loose their dogs .. err ... their law department, i mean, big time: Within hours, they sought an High Court injunction demanding "not publish or distribute in any way (including by way of the Internet) any publication which purports to be 'Metro' or any other publication of the applicant."

While on the copyright front it is not quite sure what "Metr0" or "metr0.co.uk" actually copied from the "Metro" (the logo is obviouly "Metr0", not "metro", they also claimed in the injunction that Associated Newspapers Ltd's Metro "avowedly doesn't take a political stance ", which comes a bit of a suprise for you if you are a frequent reader of that newssheet.

Meanwhile, so the Metro's solicitors in court, "The people behind the spoof are avowedly political.", which seems to be enough for them to be suspicious. When asked by the judge if the lawyers "seriously suggest that [the metro] will suffer damage [as a result of the spoof]" the solicitors stated that "It is an intangible damage to my client’s goodwill, that is, it effects what people will think about its product." Oh my god, somebody might even "think" about their product!

However, they got their injunction, but not knowing whome to serve it to, they delivered it to the London Activist Resource Centre (LARC), assuming this might be the place to locate a group called "Press Action", which in fact runs a completely different website (4) and is blogging about racism in the British press (busy job) and while doing so mentioned the "Metr0" on Friday (5), too. No luck for the lawyers there ...

They then sent their lawyers to the domain registrar to get the domain "metr0.co.uk" deleted because of "copyright infringement" (which the registrar refused as it is unlikely that Associated Newspapers can claim a copyright on the word "metro", unless they going to sue the Parisean underground) and a hosting collective in New York they suspect to host the "metr0.co.uk" website. Even Barbara Streisand meanwhile knows that such a thing might not be a good idea to shut down a website in that way and hence more links to the site turn up since it became known that Associated Newspapers does not like it.

Therefore, instead of chasing websites and newspapers around half the planet and wasting money on their law department, some would recommend to Associated Newspapers Ltd to sit down and have a nice cup of tea (or whatever their managers prefer to take) or even better: to make better newspapers. There's not much hope for the latter though ... and the question of Gordon Brown's whereabouts is unsolved, too.

* this article was written for nettime on Sunday 4 July 2010 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/

by startx, London *