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Hotrodders.com Administrator
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Discovery Communications, (the parent company of The Learning Channel and The Discovery Channel) is complaining about SpankMyMarketer.com, the site made to document the failed Spank My Monkey/Anti-Christ marketing campaign involving Gas Monkey Garage, Coker Tire, SEMA (the Specialty Equipment Market Association), and The Learning Channel.

They had no objection to any of the pages on SpankMyMarketer.com. The articles are heavily-referenced, and have yet to draw a single complaint from anyone as to their accuracy. In fact, I would recommend that everyone take the time to read this page on SpankMyMarketer.com: The Learning Channel. It appears that Discovery's involvement in the Spank My Monkey marketing campaign (and the subsequent cover-up) was significantly deeper than we had initially thought.

Anyway, what Discovery is really challenging is the software tool that I created for SpankMyMarketer.com: The SpankMaker. The SpankMaker allows anyone to anonymously make parody comics of the marketers involved in the Spank My Monkey campaign, including parody comics of the Board of Directors of Discovery Communications. People have been reading the articles on SpankMyMarketer.com, and then they've been expressing their opinions by making some pretty funny parody comics of the involved marketers, including Discovery.

Discovery is demanding that I remove the photo of their Board of Directors from The SpankMaker, so that nobody can make parody comics of them. Their lawyer is claiming that it infringes upon their copyright, and that the parody comics are defamatory.

Their claims are, of course, baseless. We've all seen the parody comics and skits of politicians and celebrities in newspapers, magazines, and on television shows such as Saturday Night Live, or any of the late-night talk shows.

Here in America, parodies are specifically recognized as a form of free speech. They are viewed as "criticism and commentary", and are specially protected against claims of copyright violations. And, "defamation" only comes into play when people are making "statements of fact". The SpankMaker parodies are simply expressions of opinion, and the right to freely express an opinion is a cornerstone of free speech.

Nevertheless, Discovery has demanded their photo in the SpankMaker be taken down, and may take legal action against me personally. Trying to cut off the administrator at the knees is a common tactic. With the admin out of the picture, it's easier to silence the entire community.

We've seen this same tactic before. Some of our older members will remember when the mainstream hotrodding media in Australia tried to take out an Australian hotrodding forum by suing their administrator for some opinions expressed by a forum member. The Australian law didn't have anything on the books to address this new internet free speech issue, so a loophole in the law was exploited to try to take the Australians offline. In the end, we took "official" ownership of the Australian forum, and moved their site to Computer Tyme hosting, a specialty free-speech web host. They now run their community as they choose, at Ozrodders.com, but, technically, I'm the administrator. Shortly after that, I started the Crankshaft Coalition to help address any similar situations we might encounter in the future.

In America, in most circumstances, the administrator can't really be blamed for stuff posted by users of a website. Specifically, the law states that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." This is pretty much in line with the rules of a reasonable society. The phone company doesn't get blamed for the things that customers say on their phones. Administrators shouldn't get blamed for the things that users say on their websites.

But Discovery is a multi-billion dollar corporation. They don't like what we have to say about them. So, they are using baseless legal claims to try to silence us.

It's simple -- we're not backing down.

Those who were here for the Australian situation will also remember that we were guided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (the "EFF"), the leading online organization that protects free speech, and works to reduce government intervention in the lives of Americans. Once again, the EFF was first in line to lend a hand. This time, the EFF has volunteered to represent me in connection with this dispute. They are doing this "pro bono" -- for free.

We have the same rights as anyone else in the hotrodding world, anyone else in the media, and anyone else in America. There are thousands of us who come here regularly, thousands more who watch quietly from the sidelines, and millions who have visited Hotrodders.com over the past seven years. They're trying to rob us all of our free speech.

They will fail.

We are going to get our fair shake, and the public is going to see exactly what goes on behind the scenes in internet and television marketing.

We saw right through the initial Spank My Monkey thong photo and the Anti-Christ of the Hot Rod World video. We researched the marketing tactics of Dodgy Monkey Media. We caught Coker Tire trying to handle this situation with veiled threats. We exposed SEMA's marketing campaign directed to the rat rod culture, which SEMA referred to as a lucrative "emerging youth culture trend". And, we witnessed the cover-up as they tried to edit their video, and exploit Wikipedia for their commercial gain.

We have been smarter, more resourceful, and more effective, every step of the way. Now, they're sending in their big guns, and we have the best free speech lawyers in the world on our side.

Until this situation is resolved, I have to use some discretion in talking about it. This doesn't mean that I have to run and hide. Actually, I should be able to answer a bunch of your questions, and point you to some online resources to help you understand exactly what's happening. But if I have to say: "Sorry, I can't discuss that now", you'll just have to deal with it until this is over. You can also stay updated via the EFF Press Room.

I've already brought this up in the moderator forum, and many of our moderators have graciously volunteered to put in some extra time on the forums while I'm handling this situation. So, try to be good. But, of course, not too good.

I know that our members will also want to lend a hand, but probably aren't exactly sure how they can help. If you want to help out, here's what you can do:


1. Educate yourself. Understand exactly what "free speech" means, and how it is properly applied to everyday life. Understand what wealthy corporations are doing when they try to win cases by "process", rather than by merit. Also, the EFF has some easy-to-understand FAQ pages that cover online free speech laws. Here are two that you might want to bookmark: Defamation FAQ, Section 230 Protections. When you're in other forums, and this issue comes up, spread your knowledge.

2. Body guys -- we could use more analysis on the "rust" in the original Spank My Monkey pic: Is that Fake Rust?. It looks like it might be tied in to SEMA's attempt to market to the youth-oriented rat rod culture. Use resources like Google Image Search or eBay to find pics of similar-bodied makes/models, or check against your own photos, to demonstrate how cars naturally rust. You can submit your opinion anonymously through the feedback form on SpankMyMarketer.com, or, feel free to start a new thread to discuss this.

3. Contact Discovery Communications, and use your free speech to express your opinion to them. You can find email and phone contact information for Discovery on the links in the "Questions and Comments" section on their Contact Us page.

4. Use The SpankMaker. Especially, use it to let Discovery know what you think about their legal tactics. You can anonymously make any comic you like, and, with one click, you can send it straight to the Chairman of Discovery Communications.
 

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With the degree of rust on that car, wouldn't the trim me at least slightly pitted? It looks awful shiny. Notice how the rust dripped and ran under the tip of the belt line piece, yet there is a 1/2" space and then rust on the remainder. Also notice how the "fairy rust" stop at the front lower door edge and did not wander onto the lower fender. In the video, the whole hood is rusted. Kinda strange. IMO I am not an expert on rust, just an observer of the obvious.
 

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I don't see any legal issues with defamation, I could see them hitting you up on the copyright issues with the picture of the board of directors though...just because an image is in the public domain does not make it legal to post on your website without the image owner's permission...someone can correct me if I am wrong... :thumbup:
 

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Hotrodders.com Administrator
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Rambo_The_Dog -- you can read the response to Discovery's lawyers to learn more about the copyright issue: response letter (pdf). I think you'll see what's meant by "baseless legal claims". Essentially, because these are parodies, they are offered special protection under copyright law as a form of commentary and criticism. The fact that our interests are non-commercial also helps. You can also check out this article on SpankMyMarketer.com: Parody and the Law.

xxllmm4 -- You are right in that this definitely consumes time. However, on forums for administrators, you see a lot of online communities facing baseless legal threats from commercial interests. Some fight, some win, some lose, some are forced to shut down. This is a rare situation where one of the biggest media companies in America is trying to use false legal claims to limit our free speech, because they don't like what we have to say. To me, this is less about funny comics and sneaky marketers than it is about the ability to have the same rights on the net as you have in the offline world: the freedom to express your opinion. Unfortunately, we've seen a similar situation in the past with the Australian forum, and it's not unreasonable to think that we'll see a similar situation in the future.

--
Also, this is starting to hit the press. Here's a good one from today: Discovery Upset About Parody Spanking.
 

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xxllmm4 said:
So am I the only one that sees this as a MASSIVE waste of your time?

Jordon
Probably.

Let's get this part out of the way up front:

Are you involved in posting comments online for the benefit of some marketer? Does your livelihood depend upon any of the businesses involved with any of the pages Jon linked?

When people see an advertisement on television or in a magazine or newspaper, it's obvious that they are dealing with a commercial message. Nobody has to wonder if a sales pitch is being made. That's not what happens in the interactive communication online. For all you know, I'm being paid for every character I type right now.

Why do you consider this a waste of time? Do you consider it a legitimate business practice to pretend to not be associated with a business while promoting it as if just a satisfied "consumer"? Another, older, term for "stealth marketing" is "astroturfing" -- the faking of grass roots support.

Ever been to an auction and learned that the auctioneer has people planted in the crowd, pushing up the bids?

Why did you bother to take the time and effort to post a comment to indicate it's a waste of time? Are you paid to discourage others from looking too closely at "stealth" and "guerilla" marketing?

Disclaimer: Nobody pays me to be grouchy, cynical and suspicious; I came by it naturally as a result of witnessing increasing sleaze and deception.

Then again, I could be on my way to fame and riches by typing on the Internet from the comfort of home and stuffing envelopes in my spare time. Act now and get a free paperweight of genuine faux crystal! Operators are standing by!
 

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Jon said:
Also, this is starting to hit the press. Here's a good one from today: Discovery Upset About Parody Spanking.
I really liked the last paragraph of the above article.

Evidently the folks at The Discovery Channel never watch Jay Leno on the Tonight show or Letterman or Jimmy Kimmel. They always have comments and/or contrived videos pummeling everyone from the President down.

I support you in your endeavors Jon! :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the support -- it looks like lots of people are using the SpankMaker too , and new comments are also coming in regarding the "rust".

Traffic to smm.com has increased 20-fold.

Here's another article: Men in Thongs the Center of Copyright, Free Speech Dispute.

Outraged that its own marketing program was lampooned, Discovery Communications lobbed a legal filing earlier this month on the grounds of copyright infringement and defamation of its board.

Citizen rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation has now stepped forward to defend SpankMaker, stating the Communications Decency Act protects the Web site creator from liability for information intended to provoke and encourage criticism and parody.
 

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Jon said:
Thanks for the support -- it looks like lots of people are using the SpankMaker too , and new comments are also coming in regarding the "rust".

Traffic to smm.com has increased 20-fold.

Here's another article: Men in Thongs the Center of Copyright, Free Speech Dispute.
Jon, I think that reporter needs to do some research.

The photograph in question was mass e-mailed to members of the Hotrodders.com Bulletin Board [...]
Was it mass emailed or did the reporter just leap to that conclusion because the thongmonkies "spammed" the forum?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Yup, that one has some inaccuracies, although they got the gist of it. I would think we'll see more of that down the line.

I think by "mass email", the author means "forum spam".

Also, SpankMyMarketer and SpankMaker were being interchanged, enough such that I just went and registered spankmaker.com, just to avoid someone else grabbing it and confusing the situation.

This sentence was interesting:

Representatives from Discovery Communications did not immediately return calls on Friday to comment about the EFF's condemnation.
I wonder what Discovery will say when they do decide to "return calls"?
 

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Jon said:
Yup, that one has some inaccuracies, although they got the gist of it. I would think we'll see more of that down the line.
I hope there is more accurate reporting down the line. Geez, the EFF has the story on their site, securitypronews.com ran an article, you've got piles of pages full of info and the reporter _could_ have emailed you, the EFF or Discovery to get some facts. That sloppiness doesn't reflect well on the reporter or Yahoo.

Jon said:
I think by "mass email", the author means "forum spam".
I've noticed lately that there has been a sort of redefining of "spam" to be "mass email". It was originally "unsolicited, commercial email", regardless of bulk. Since the thongmonkies were posting a commercial message under the
charity guise, it fits loosely with the original definition, except for the means of delivering the unsolicited commercial message.

Jon said:
Also, SpankMyMarketer and SpankMaker were being interchanged, enough such that I just went and registered spankmaker.com, just to avoid someone else grabbing it and confusing the situation.
Heh, at least they haven't used spankmyrod.com.

Jon said:
This sentence was interesting:

Representatives from Discovery Communications did not immediately return calls on Friday to comment about the EFF's condemnation.
I wonder what Discovery will say when they do decide to "return calls"?
They might, on Monday, point out that no lawsuit was filed, no bulk emailing took place, that they didn't try to bring down the picture of the thongsters, and that those "several car enthusiast groups" listed in the "news" article are, in fact, businesses. Oh, and the phrase "sexual remarks related to the Web site's name" is so vague I can't tell if the website being referred to is hotrodders.com, spankmymarketer.com or gasmonkeygarage.com.

The more I look at that article, the more disgusted I get. IMO, that reporter wouldn't make it in any job that requires any accuracy. He'd probably gap spark plugs with a crowbar.

It's a good thing you didn't get that reporter to write the parody pages. The EFF would've run screaming from the mess.
 

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grouch said:
Probably.

Let's get this part out of the way up front:

Are you involved in posting comments online for the benefit of some marketer? Does your livelihood depend upon any of the businesses involved with any of the pages Jon linked?
Legally I think if he is compensated he has to answer ....

I think I posted an article talking about the legals on that. If your paid of recieve compensation to post, and are asked you are legally bound to tell your relationship.

So xxllmm4 are ya?
 

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Jon,

A request for a small change to the SpankMaker.

Could you add a "Preview" button so that you can see what it will look like before submitting it?

Those that know me know that I like to get a little "wordy" :D ... and what I have to say doesn't fit in the balloon.
 

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Thanks Bryan59EC, glenn33. I was just scared Jon might turn to an easy target and put one of my pictures up for making parodies.

I haven't been to many hotrod shows but I've never seen one that had hairy men in women's thongs. The few shows I've been to had lots of families, lots of folks of all ages looking at or showing off work that was as varied as the people. It's almost as if the marketers are trying to reinvent hotrodders in their own carefully crafted image. Well, actually, it's exactly like that.

What would be the end result if such guerilla and stealth marketing succeeded? What would a generation of "hotrodders" raised on such force-fed imagery and marketing be like? Instead of cboy's rat on a budget, we'd have rat rods ~as seen on tv!~ Instead of reading how willys36 used a glass pack muffler to make taillight housings, the "kids" would be swapping tales of which featured "garage" on tv was best at doing taillights for you, with however many astroturfers it took in online discussions to keep them thinking it's just not cool unless the right sponsored product is used.

Tracking the cobwebs in this marketing and Jon's very public exposure of its reach will help people to realize the extent of manipulation being attempted in semi-secrecy. Who is real, and therefore giving real advice? Who is being paid to either promote a product or preserve a way of marketing?

The scrutiny by members of a community such as Hotrodders.com is what provides self-policing to expose fakers. Communities spin webs of trust -- members vouch for each other based on history of credibility. Marketers try to fake those webs of trust, as well. Those don't stand up to close scrutiny or time. The "many eyeballs" principle works for a lot more than just free/open source software. Any time you get a gathering of "ordinary" people, you also get a gathering of their collective knowledge, experiences and expertise. The trouble is, there's always some greedy rat around who wants to play puppetmaster to exploit such a gathering.

I'll surrender the soapbox now. I'm babbling again.
 
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