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 May 9, 2011

Federal Judge Favors Free Speech, Rules That Political Spoof Against Koch Industries Did Not Break Law

Statement of Deepak Gupta, Attorney, Public Citizen

A federal judge’s ruling today in Utah dismissing Koch Industries’ lawsuit against a group of anonymous climate-change activists known as Youth for Climate Truth is an important victory for free speech online. 

The judge ruled that Youth for Climate Truth had a First Amendment right to issue its satirical press release and website – in which the group impersonated Koch and announced that the company had reversed its position on climate change – in an effort to call attention to Koch’s bankrolling efforts to deny climate change. The U.S. District Court for the District of Utah rejected all of Koch’s legal claims, which alleged trademark infringement, unfair competition, cybersquatting, computer hacking and breach of the company website’s terms of use. The judge also issued an order barring Koch from using any identifying information it already obtained by subpoena about the anonymous group.

We are gratified that the court affirmed our clients’ First Amendment right to engage in anonymous political speech and rejected Koch’s baseless legal theories.

This lawsuit was a well-financed attempt by Koch to bully its political opponents into submission. The court was right to dismiss this lawsuit, which was based on a harmless prank.

This important precedent will prevent future lawsuits aimed at stifling political speech.
Read more about this case.

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