Yesterday, Scott Johnson was given a cease and desist letter from the Bay Area News Group, the corporate overlord of the Oakland Tribune. He has refused to provide a comment to the Oakland Tribune but here he gives an exclusive interview with the Occupied Oakland Tribune.
Occupied Oakland Tribune: First, it is a pleasure to finally meet you.
Scott Johnson: Likewise.
OOT: Please tell me about the circumstances that led to . . .
SJ: Wait, are you with the Oakland Tribune?
OO: No. Occupied Oakland Tribune.
SJ: Are you sure? Because it would not be appropriate for me to submit to an interview with someone who is threatening a lawsuit.
OOT: Nope. Occupied. Only a total dumbass would confuse us.
SJ: Good point.
OOT: Besides, what would they want to interview you about?
SJ: About this very subject.
OOT: No shit?
SJ: Just 58 minutes after I received the cease and desist letter, their reporter emailed me for an interview.
OOT: Doesn’t that seem like a conflict of interest?
SJ: I know, right? The only people I had told were my wife and my lawyer and suddenly I’m getting this email asking for my phone number. She actually already had my phone number from a previous interview but she lost it.
OOT: Wait, what?
SJ: They interviewed me after the General Strike and were going to run a big story but it never happened. I only did the interview because the reporters promised not to sue me.
OOT: Doesn’t sound like they thought you were tarnishing their image then.
SJ: No, far from it. In fact, I was told that they thought the whole thing was really cool. They even took a copy of my paper and posted it on the door of the hotel room they were using in the Marriott as their downtown Oakland command center. Furthermore, for weeks the @insidebayarea Twitter account, which is the official account for the Oakland Tribune, was retweeting me every time I tweeted about a major Occupy Oakland event. So somebody there thought I was doing something good.
OOT: Now, I hear that there is a Scott Johnson working at the “unoccupied” Oakland Tribune. Have you thought about sending him a cease and desist letter for tarnishing your brand? That would be hilarious.
SJ: Yes, it would be hilarious, but then I would look like a total douchebag and would probably lose a bunch of readers, so it’s not worth it.
OOT: Yeah, good point. So, how much money are you making off this whole thing?
SJ: [hysterical laughter]
OOT: Ok, anyway. You say you have a lawyer. Anybody famous?
SJ: I don’t know, have you heard of Dan Siegel?
OOT: OMG! He’s awesome!
SJ: Yeah, well, I got his son Michael. Also awesome.
OOT: Alright. Anything else?
SJ: Yes. If the Bay Area News Group wanted to keep their trademark from being “tarnished” they could start by not laying off their staff, not foolishly threatening to change their name to the East Bay Tribune, and not abandoning the Tribune Tower. Maybe then they wouldn’t have to worry about their image. Also, people who think this whole thing is ridiculous can support our Kickstarter fund to help us put out our next issue. Even Max Allstadt is going donate to us. All donations go to the cost of publishing the newsletter, which is full of timely, educational content about Occupy Oakland and the broader movement.
Occupied Oakland Tribune refuses to give in to intimidation by the Bay Area News Group
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Scott Johnson, Occupied Oakland Tribune
Michael Siegel, Siegel & Yee
(510) 839-1200 x207, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bay Area News Group (BANG), publisher of the Oakland Tribune newspaper, sent a cease and desist letter yesterday to Scott Johnson of the Occupied Oakland Tribune which was met with an immediate rejection.
“There is no way we are going to be intimidated by the Bay Area News Group,” Johnson said. “This is just another effort by the 1% to push around the 99%. While Oakland City Hall continues arresting people on Oscar Grant Plaza for no reason, the Bay Area News Group is now attempting to quash our First Amendment rights. This has got to stop.”
In their cease and desist letter, BANG declared that the Occupied Oakland Tribune’s use of “the Oakland Tribune’s trademarks tarnishes and diminishes the value of these famous names.” But these arguments will hold no water in a court of law, much less in the court of public opinion.
There is no possibility of consumer confusion between the Occupied Oakland Tribune (OOT) and the Oakland Tribune (OT). The OOT uses a different format, graphics, font and layout than the OT. The banner of the OOT clearly distinguishes itself as “Occupied,” referencing Occupy Oakland and the 99%. The OOT is not sold in the same locations that the OT is sold because it is not, in fact, sold at all, but given away for free at protests and events organized by Occupy Oakland. Oakland readers are sophisticated enough to tell the difference between these two extremely different publications. Additionally, since the OOT is not sold, trademark law does not apply.
The OOT is a commentary on the OT and mainstream media in general. It has social and cultural value and the name “Occupied Oakland Tribune” in this instance falls under fair use. BANG’s cease and desist letter is an absurd attack on First Amendment rights against the protected political speech of the OOT.
The Oakland-based civil rights law firm Siegel & Yee has agreed to represent Johnson and the Occupied Oakland Tribune on a pro bono basis. Mr. Johnson and his attorney, Michael Siegel, expect to submit a formal response to the cease and desist letter in the coming weeks.
“We are not afraid of a lawsuit,” Johnson said, “and we are confident that a court would issue sanctions against BANG if they attempted to sue.”
“The struggle of the 99% will not be stopped. We’re here and we aren’t going anywhere.”
The City of Oakland has spent millions of dollars attempting to repress Occupy Oakland from random arrests to trumped up charges of lynching! But we are not going to let the 1% win this battle–you cannot evict an idea whose time has come!
Occupy Oakland has been called “the most militant Occupy branch” and for good reason. We have spent months battling inequality and police repression and we are not going to stop now!
The Occupied Oakland Tribune plans to print two more editions on January 28 and February 20, but we need your help!
After being endlessly attacked by our own city government, we have relentlessly continued the struggle of the 99 percent against crony capitalism and police crackdowns on our movement.
The Occupied Oakland Tribune, a newspaper born out of the Oakland General Strike on November 2, has attempted to spread the word about Occupy Oakland and rally people to our cause. We plan on distributing two print issues over the next two months and we need your support to help publish them.
Issue 3, January 28: Occupy Oakland will launch a campaign to find a new home, as we have been denied the right to setup a full-scale encampment at Oscar Grant Plaza for several weeks. The OOT plans to publish an issue on this date dedicated to the crimes of Wall Street, the foreclosure crisis and the need for a new home for Occupy Oakland.
Issue 4, February 20: This date is tentatively scheduled for a national Occupy day of action for prisoner solidarity. The issue released on this date will focus on the prison industrial complex, from the death penalty to police harassment of Oakland Occupiers. We will focus on the role of race and class in the prison system and document the voices of those struggling inside the system.
We hope to have a Kickstarter page up very soon! In the meantime, please consider donating to us via WePay.
Thanks for your support. We’ll see you at Oscar Grant Plaza!
Just in time for the December 12 West Coast Port Shut Down, the second issue of the print edition of the Occupied Oakland Tribune has hit the press! It will be available at the Oakland afternoon action on December 12, which begins at 3pm on 14th and Broadway.
This issue is twice as long as the second issue and we are very excited about distributing it. And, once again, it will be completely free as long as supplies last. Of course, we have a proposal to the General Assembly for a reimbursement of the cost of the raw materials–the labor was donated–so consider supporting us once that comes up.
See you at the Port of Oakland!