Pattishall IP Blog

November 27, 2012

When it Comes to Parody Twitter Accounts, Laughing Them Off May Be Your Best Move

Filed under: Internet, Social Media, Trademark (General) — Tags: , , , , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 12:39 pm

by Andrew R. W. Hughes

The @NYTOnIt Twitter feed managed to draw more than 20,000 followers and accolades from Time magazine with its wry send-ups of New York Times trend pieces.  Whenever the New York Times published a story that Benjamin Kabak found obvious, pompous, or otherwise groan-inducing, he took to his @NYTOnIt Twitter handle to mock the venerable publication.  When the New York Times ran a piece on teenagers’ bedrooms being messy, @NYTOnIt was there with, “GUYS, teenagers have messy bedrooms, and The Times is ON IT. http://nyti.ms/X62BZs.”  An article about seniors and the Internet drew, “GUYS, some old people aren’t too up on the Internet, and The Times is ON IT. http://nyti.ms/SaJglV.”

While many people found the account hilarious, the New York Times did not.  This week, the paper complained to Twitter, which suspended the account.[1]  The basis of the complaint was apparently not the content, but Kabak’s use of a modified version of the Times’ “T” logo as the handle’s avatar:

As the paper’s spokeswoman Eileen Murphy explained, “We’re not seeking to disable the account however it is important to The Times that our [trademark] is protected and that it is clear to all users of Twitter that parody accounts or other unofficial Times accounts are not affiliated nor endorsed by The Times.”[2]

Kabak claimed that his use of the modified Times logo was fair use.  Bolstering his claim was the fact that the description of the account explicitly stated that it was “a parody account clearly not associated with any newspaper.”[3]  Nonetheless, in accordance with its rules regarding trademark protection, Twitter initially suspended the account, before restoring it without the potentially infringing logo. (more…)

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