Notes on the Atrocities
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Friday, August 15, 2003  

(All right, it's predictable, but how could I avoid it? Happy Satire Friday!)

FOX NEWS IN LAWSUIT FRENZY OVER "FAIR AND BALANCED"

In addition to a lawsuit aimed at comic writer Al Franken over the title of his new book (Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right), Fox News Channel announced today lawsuits against 10,424 bloggers, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Webster's, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Comedy Central.

Filed Monday in Manhattan, the trademark infringement lawsuit seeks to force the offending parties to remove all references to "fair and balanced," as well as "fair" and "balanced," and in once case, "objective." It also asks for unspecified damages.

Fox News registered "Fair & Balanced" as a trademark in 1995, and revised the mark last week to include "fair" and "balanced" where the meaning involved media or communication. If successful, the landmark case could signal a broad new set of power granted to Rupert Murdoch over the English language.

"The intent of these publications is clear," read the suit. "To exploit Fox News' trademark, to confuse the public as to the origins of the 'fairness and balance' and, accordingly, to boost sales of their respective products."

Fox spokeswoman Caitlin Darkheart spoke at the news conference announcing the suits. "It has been clear for some days now that a number of parties have sought to exploit the success of Fox News. In 1995, as we were revolutionizing not just attack media, but language itself, we clearly perverted the meaning of the words 'fair' and 'balanced.' Taken out of their original context, they became a cynical tagline for our product. It's difficult to see at this point how these entities expect to use the words in any context except for said cynical promotion of our conglomerate. Ironic uses of the words--which ridicule us while returning the words to their earlier meaning--are violations of our mark, as well as damaging to our name. For that reason, we're seeking legal recourse."

Since the fracas with Franken, hosts of web logs ("blogs") have incorporated the phrase "fair and balanced" into their titles in order to satirize the absurdity of the Fox move. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a media watchdog, and Comedy Central, host of "The Daily Show," were also targeted by Fox's wrath. Less clear was how Webster's and the Royal Shakespeare Company violated the mark.

Said Darkheart, "The words fair and balanced are each referenced in their obsolete, confusing context in the dictionary. As we have established, that only confuses consumers. Also, we found a prevalence of the words in the comedies of the bard, William Shakespeare, which further confound the meaning of the words. Occasionally they're used facetiously, but occasionally they're also used in their older sense. In neither case, however, is it clear that the bard intended them as promotional words for our company. Given the strength of the Shakespeare name, and the pervasiveness of the message, we'll be seeking to remove all references from his plays."

The lawsuits will be heard beginning in December.


posted by Jeff | 12:25 PM |
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