Fight for the Future has received a cease and desist order from Comcast’s lawyers, claiming that Comcastroturf.com – a pro-net neutrality site encouraging Internet users to investigate an astroturfing campaign possibly funded by the cable lobby – violates Comcast’s “valuable intellectual property.” The letter threatens legal action if the domain is not transferred to Comcast’s control.
The notice is ironic, in that it’s a perfect example of why we need Title II based net neutrality protections that ban ISPs from blocking or throttling content.
If the FCC’s current proposal is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply censoring this site — or other sites critical of their corporate policies — without even bothering with lawyers.
The legal notice can be viewed here. It claims that Comcastroturf.com violates the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and infringes on Comcast’s trademarks. Of course, these claims are legally baseless, since the site is clearly a form of First Amendment protected political speech and makes no attempt to impersonate Comcast. (See the case “Bosley Medical Institute vs. Kremer” which held that a site critical of a company’s practices could not be considered trademark infringement, or the case Taubman vs. Webfeats, which decided that *sucks.com domain names—in this case taubmansucks.com—were free speech)
Comcastroturf.com criticizes the cable lobby and encourages Internet users to search the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s docket to check if a fake comment was submitted using their name and address to attack Title II based net neutrality protections. It has been widely reported that more than 450,000 of these comments have been submitted to the FCC — and as a result of the site at Comcastroturf.com, Fight for the Future has heard from dozens of people who say that anti-net neutrality comments were submitted using their personal information without their permission. We have connected individuals with Attorneys Generals and have called for the FCC act immediately to investigate this potential fraud.
Companies like Comcast have a long history of funding shady astroturfing operations like the one we are trying to expose with Comcastroturf.com, and also a long history of engaging in censorship. This is exactly why we need net neutrality rules, and why we can’t trust companies like Comcast to just “behave” when they have abused their power time and time again.
Fight for the Future has no intention of taking down Comcastroturf.com, and we would be happy to discuss the matter with Comcast in court.