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November 20, 2012

The Humorless Folks at the NY Times

Eminently mockable story of the day. Apparently the enlightened editorial staff of the NY Times wants to protect gullible readers from unauthorized parodies of... the NY Times:

Twitter has suspended a popular New York Times parody account after the Times filed a complaint against it. The @NYTOnIt account — which poked fun at some lifestyle and trend stories in the Times — had over 20,000 followers prior to its suspension late Monday night. Before Twitter took “The Times Is On It” down, the account was known for tweets such as this one from Nov. 13: “GUYS, there are *gasp* fake profiles on Facebook, and The Times is ON IT. http://nyti.ms/TDt1ut ". The Twitter bio read: “Because sometimes stories in newspapers are just *that* obvious.”

“Twitter has suspended my account over a claim from The Times that my avatar violates a trademark,” the person behind the account wrote Monday night on The Times Is On It Facebook page. “I say fair use. Right now, I'm waiting for Twitter to process my request to fix the problem so I can get the account reenabled. But feel free to spread the word over how the country's largest newspaper feels threatened by a small Twitter account right now.”

Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy wrote in an e-mail to POLITICO that “this is not about feeling ‘threatened.’”

“We did file a complaint with Twitter and it is our understanding that they have suspended this account for a violation of Twitter's terms of service,” Murphy wrote. “This is not about feeling ‘threatened.’ However, it is important to The Times that our copyright 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.”

It's not that the Times is trying to suppress free speech or anything. And they certainly aren't too thin-skinned to withstand a little gentle criticism, delivered up with a generous helping of humor.

What they're really concerned about is enforcing Twitter's terms of service. If we allow the Rule of Law to be eroded by unsanctioned parodies, what other horrors might spring up to annoy the Grey Lady?

That, and the deeply scary possibility that their readers actually believe that most mockery of public figures and institutions is officially sanctioned by the intended target. Accept no substitutes: always look for the union label before consuming sarcasm, parody, or spoofs.

The Times' reputation depends on it.

Posted by Cassandra at November 20, 2012 10:00 AM

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...it is important to The Times 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

Really, it seems to me that The Times is parodying itself.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 20, 2012 10:23 AM

Well... I hate to defend the Times, but you do have to protect your trademarks or risk losing trademark protection. And "fair use" is a pretty flimsy argument against a charge of trademark infringement. Wisely, it appears that the Times Is On It folks are bowing to the inevitable and have set up a design contest for their new logo. I understand that this one's available.

Posted by: spd rdr at November 20, 2012 11:03 AM

Yeah, the NYTimes always comes out on the side of enforcing rules, no matter whose rules they are. Like never publishing government leaks for example. Give me a freakin' break.

Posted by: Susanamantha at November 20, 2012 12:48 PM

I wonder if it acceptable in these times to mock Carlos Slim and his financial acumen.

Probably not.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at November 20, 2012 10:39 PM

The Times has a reputation?

Posted by: htom at November 20, 2012 11:25 PM

Responsible use of social networking sites is the solution. Don't test it like it can never figure out that you're doing something wrong. Then you get angry and impose "fair use" if you're caught?

Posted by: Alexis Marlons at November 21, 2012 10:12 AM