‘Gordon Brown to be deported to Scotland’ was the headline which greeted many city workers as they made their morning commute across the capital on Friday.
The story told how the former prime minister would eminently be returned to his home country under new immigration rules to be introduced by the coalition government. The accompanying picture appeared to show Gordon Brown detained by two police officers at a beer festival in Cambridge.
It emerged that the story was in not in fact the lead of commuters favourite METRO but that of a spoof paper entitled METR0 – the numeric 0 replacing the capital O.
Associated Newspapers, the publisher behind the free daily METRO failed to see the funny side and immediately instructed their lawyers to take action.
“Tens of thousand of copies” of METR0 were distributed by some 50 people at rush hour sporting the METR0 logo at 20 stations around London as part of a two-day protest against racism and anti-migrant bias in media publications.
Associated sought an injunction on the basis that the publishers of METR0 had infringed their trademark copyrights. Court was attended at 10pm on Friday night in an out-of-hours session.
It was thought that Press Action – a group that describe themselves as “a network of individuals, independent and alternative media activities and organisations, offering grass-roots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues” was behind the spoof.
Association told the court that they had requested that the US-based company hosting a Metro spoof website take it down but they refused.
James Abrahams, counsel for Association told the court that “it is impossible to quantify the damage to the client…Metro avowedly doesn’t take a political stance. The damage to the brand and goodwill is unquantifiable. The people behind the spoof are avowedly political.”
“Are you seriously suggesting that your clients will suffer damage?” Mr Justice Peter Smith asked of Abrahams.
The Judge continued: “It’s a one-off. It has had so little impact, and it’s not even been distributed in the other 32 cities [where the Metro is circulated].
Smith granted the injunction against all persons responsible for the publication and/or distribution of the so-called “spoof” Metr0 on 2nd July. A copy of the order was sent to those running the Press Action blog
A statement by Press Action stated however that they “had nothing to do with the publication and distribution of the spoof”. They had merely posted an electronic copy together with a press release on their website which they had received from the anonymous spoofers.
A Whois check on the spoof website reveals the registered name as ‘Press Action’ and an address that belongs to the London Action Resource Centre in Whitechapel, London.
A spokesperson for Press Action said: “It is very likely that whoever did the spoof was inspired by our callout and wanted to use our name and register the domain with a common address, such as LARC’s, to protect their anonymity. To argue that LARC is “clearly involved with the two days of action,” as the Metro solicitors did in court, is just a desperate search for a scapegoat that is guilty by association.”
The Order required the Respondents upon service of the Order to immediately inform the Applicant’s Solicitors (and confirm in writing) the name, address and contact details of all persons responsible for the publication and/or distribution of any publication which purports to be “Metro” or any other publication of the Applicant, including the persons having control of the website ww.metrO.co.uk.
The spoofers appear to be remaining anonymous.