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Google's Ban of an Anti-MoveOn.org Ad 476

Posted by kdawson
from the trademarks-are-not-political dept.
Whip-hero writes in with an Examiner.com story about Google's rejection of an ad critical of MoveOn.org. The story rehashes the controversy over MoveOn.org's ad that ran in the NYTimes on the first day of testimony of Gen. Petraeus's Senate testimony. The rejected ad was submitted on behalf of Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins — its text is reproduced in the article. The implication, which has been picked up by many blogs on the other side of the spectrum from MoveOn.org, is that Google acted out of political favoritism. Not so, says Google's policy counsel: Google's trademark policy allows any trademark holder to request that its marks not be used in ads; and MoveOn.org had made such a request.
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Google's Ban of an Anti-MoveOn.org Ad

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  • Sooo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheGreatHegemon (956058) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:09PM (#20968599)
    Basically, a ad had a trademark on it, and the trademark owner asked for the ad to be removed? Not really big news...
    It'll be news if they submitted an ad WITHOUT infringing on a trademark, and that was rejected.
    • Re:Sooo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tenchiken (22661) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:28PM (#20968749)
      So what happens if the DNC, or RNC, which are after all political corporations and have their respective party named trademarked forbid Google from displaying any advertising that critiques them.

      All of the paranoia, all of the rhetoric, all of te tin foil goes away once it's the other side being muzzled, instead of yours. More proof (as if any where needed) of the complete lack of principles from most of the political slashdot crew.
      • Re:Sooo.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch@gma i l . com> on Saturday October 13, 2007 @06:21PM (#20969189) Journal
        Or you could, you know, criticize the group without their trademark...it's not impossible...I mean, if I say "Those gosh darned Recoding Industry Association of America people are dumb" I've criticized them without using their trademark, just their name. Names are almost never trademarked, or at least full names (Pepsi may be, but Pepsi Cola Company isn't as far as I know).

        Honestly, if you're going to criticize someone you may as well spell out who you're criticizing, what with the ton of different acronyms we have today.
      • Re:Sooo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13, 2007 @06:27PM (#20969225)
        It should be clear that we, the citizens of America (and the world for that matter), are being played off each other.

        We're being played. Used by the wealthy and powerful, tricked into fighting over false grievances while the elites literally get away with murder.

        Take a glance at TV any time, and you'll see ludicrous BS like "Hannity" and "Colmes." I put the names in quotes because they aren't real people; they are characters. Each is a bumbling caricature of what the opposite political party is supposed to look like. Republicans are supposed to hate the Colmes character, and Democrats are supposed to hate the Hannity character. In reality, neither character says anything reasonable nor worthwhile -- they are purely scripted to trigger the hate-phrases of their respective goading target.

        This is just a single example, but when you start to look around you, you notice that almost everything in high-level politics works this way. There are a few exceptions among politicians, but they rarely get elected because they don't play along. Without accepting bribes from wealthy donors, a politician can't afford the ad spots needed to gain popular recognition. Likewise, there are a few exceptions in mainstream media, but they don't last long if they disrupt the flow of advertising money or if they offend their wealthy owners.

        Why are we being played?

        When we think that our enemies are our neighbors, we will not stand up to the megacorporations fleecing us, and their sycophants in Congress who pass laws to help them steal our money (in return for a small portion of it themselves). We'll quibble among ourselves while they get away with whatever they like. No, the wealthy and powerful aren't concertedly working together against us -- but they're much closer to each other than they are to the teeming masses far below them. They all benefit when we are their slave labor.

        We end up supporting the court jester who appears to most closely support our views. In truth, the jesters are all just playing their parts, and they'll all get paid well at the end of the night. We, the paying audience, don't seem to realize it's just a show.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cHiphead (17854)
          I'd say we just start Fight Clubbing the system but I've got a job with health insurance and a family, so thats out.

          Cheers.
    • by sed quid in infernos (1167989) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:29PM (#20968757)
      There are many examples of using another's trademark in an ad that do not amount to trademark infringement. The nominative use [harvard.edu] exception allows use of another's trademark to refer to the trademark owner's product or the trademark owner itself when:

      [f]irst, the product or service in question must be one not readily identifiable without use of the trademark; second, only so much of the mark or marks may be used as is reasonably necessary to identify the product or service; and third, the user must do nothing that would, in conjunction with the mark, suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark holder.
      Based on the contents of the ad reproduced in TFA, this ad could easily qualify for the nominative use exception. The determination couldn't be final without looking at the whole ad itself, but the snippets in the article seem to be right in line with these requirements. Certainly, Google has the right to implement any trademark policy it wants. But their policy causes them to reject many ads that are not infringing on others' trademarks. The same policy would stop ads that described the wrongdoing of any organization that has trademark rights in its name (as most organizations that deal with the public do).
      • They probably implemented the policy to stop people from running blatant smear campaigns via AdWords. This problem is perhaps more threatening via AdWords simply because it is automated and potentially anonymous. If it got out of hand, it could lose Google a lot of money as well as the interest of advertisers. Remember, ads were the big pot o' gold that dried up completely during the burst, and now that you can make money in internet advertising again, they are probably looking at every way that could self-

      • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @08:28PM (#20969917)
        Except in this case the ad was using the trademark MoveOn.org for the purpose of selling the oposition. It would be legitimate if it was a blog entry talking about the issue. But in this case, the trademark was being misappropriated to directly link to an opposition campaign page.

        The whole power of the ad was derived from the the trademarke MoveOn.org, if you read it with a generic liberal replaced, it just doesn't have the same impact. And that is why ultimately it was a legitimate request.

        The group itself has a name which is likely in violation of trademark protections. As much as I would love for somebody to put MoveOn.org in their place, this was a legitimate move on the part of Google to try and protect a trademark.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sonamchauhan (587356)
          from the article:

          An anti-war ad currently running on Google asks "Keep Blackwater in Iraq?" and links to an article titled "Bastards at Blackwater -- Should Blackwater Security be held accountable for the deaths of its employees?"

          Google is being hypocritical.
      • the court says: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Scrameustache (459504) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @08:47PM (#20970035) Homepage Journal

        There are many examples of using another's trademark in an ad that do not amount to trademark infringement. The nominative use [harvard.edu] exception allows use of another's trademark to refer to the trademark owner's product or the trademark owner itself
        Google was sued over trademarks used as adSense triggers: "Defendant's internal use of plaintiff's trademark trigger sponsored links is not a use of a trademark...because there is no allegation that defendant places plaintiff's trademarks on any goods, containers, displays, or advertisements [ericgoldman.org], or that its internal use is visible to the public."

        Therefore, Google's policy is When we receive a complaint from a trademark owner, we only investigate the use of the trademark in ad text. If the advertiser is using the trademark in ad text, we will require the advertiser to remove the trademark and prevent them from using it in ad text in the future. Please note that we will not disable keywords in response to a trademark complaint.

        Their position is the only one that will increase shareholder value.
    • Re:Sooo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Scrameustache (459504) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:31PM (#20968765) Homepage Journal

      Basically, a ad had a trademark on it, and the trademark owner asked for the ad to be removed? Not really big news...
      Unless you spin it into free publicity for your candidate, that is.

      "That damn liberal media, they're trying to silence a candidate! Lets vote for her out of spite!"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Basically, a ad had a trademark on it, and the trademark owner asked for the ad to be removed? Not really big news... It'll be news if they submitted an ad WITHOUT infringing on a trademark, and that was rejected.

      I'm quite sure that referencing a trademark when you're criticizing the holder is considered fair use, and Google is ignoring other ads that use trademarks in a similar fashion. Google may not have violated any law here, but if the article is telling the whole story, I would be hard put to say t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DJCacophony (832334)
        Trademarks aren't copyrights, there is no "fair use clause". Beyond that, Google never said they were doing it to comply with laws. They are probably doing it as a professional courtesy. If somebody wanted to put an "ad" up that slammed freerepublic, and freerepublic asked Google not to, then Google would give them the same consideration.
        • Re:Sooo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @06:01PM (#20969043)

          Trademarks aren't copyrights, there is no "fair use clause".

          No, Trademark Law also has a fair use doctrine, which includes using trademarks nominatively. Otherwise you'd see Coke and Pepsi suing each other whenever one of them put out an ad comparing the two.

          Beyond that, Google never said they were doing it to comply with laws. They are probably doing it as a professional courtesy. If somebody wanted to put an "ad" up that slammed freerepublic, and freerepublic asked Google not to, then Google would give them the same consideration.

          The article mentions anti-Blackwater and anti-Exxon ads as being "permitted" by Google, but it doesn't say whether or not the companies have requested takedowns.

          Either way, if their trademark use policy doesn't allow for nominative use, it's faulty and needs to be fixed. Plenty of companies run comparative ads (our product versus Competitor X's product), which generally require the other company to be identified.
          • Re:Sooo.... (Score:5, Informative)

            by raehl (609729) <raehl311 AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday October 13, 2007 @07:05PM (#20969455) Homepage
            Either way, if their trademark use policy doesn't allow for nominative use, it's faulty and needs to be fixed.

            Didn't this policy result from Google getting sued for allowing competitors to buy ads that keyed off a trademarked name?

            I.e. if you searched for 'Hertz rental car', you'd get a bunch of Avis ads because Avis had paid for their ads to show up whenever someone searched for 'Hertz'?

            Assuming that's the case, you can hardly blame Google - they're screwed either way.
        • Re:Sooo.... (Score:4, Informative)

          by larry bagina (561269) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @06:08PM (#20969109) Journal

          Actually, there is a statutory Fair Use [wikipedia.org] for trademarks. A nonowner may also use a trademark nominatively--to refer to the actual trademarked product or its source. In addition to protecting product criticism and analysis, United States law actually encourages nominative usage by competitors in the form of comparative advertising.

          Of course, Google has been sued numerous times over ad keywords and content, so it's not unexpected.

    • Re:Sooo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alan_dershowitz (586542) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:39PM (#20968859)
      It'll be news if they submitted an ad WITHOUT infringing on a trademark, and that was rejected.

      Did you read the article, that's what happened! According to the article's quoted intellectual property expert:

      Ronald Coleman, a lawyer and leading expert on online intellectual property disputes, noted that, as a private company, Google has the right to treat different advertisers differently.

      But he called Google's removal of the Collins ads "troubling." Coleman says that there is no such requirement under trademark law and that Google appears to be selectively enforcing its policy.

      "In a recent ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the notion that there is anything like a cause of action under the Lanham Act, the statue governing trademark law in the United States, for so-called 'trademark disparagement,' " Coleman said. The courts have also rejected the notion that the use of a trademark as a search term is a "legally cognizable use" as a trademark use under federal trademark law, he added. Coleman is also general counsel for the Media Bloggers Association.
      I think it's bullshit that some people think it's a trademark violation to refer to an organization by name while criticizing it. How could you criticize any company then? It would mean trademark law trumps the first amendment.
      • Re:Sooo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Khaed (544779) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:44PM (#20968909)
        "There's this company, called... Okay, there's a company that makes an operating system most people use. It's named after a set of glass panes placed in your wall to allow you to see outside. The company... they're called... a word for very small and the opposite of hard. And, see..."
      • by arth1 (260657)

        I think it's bullshit that some people think it's a trademark violation to refer to an organization by name while criticizing it. How could you criticize any company then? It would mean trademark law trumps the first amendment.

        The way I understand it, Google doesn't claim that it's a trademark violation, but that the trademark holder has paid to reserve all use of the trademark to their own spot ads.
        Much like other advertisers have done to exclusively appear in the "paid spots" for certain search terms.

        Rega

    • Free Speech? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OrangeTide (124937)
      so I cannot be critical of any corporation or organization? If I don't like the methods of the RIAA, advertising companies can refuse me service? It is certainly within their legal right, because they are private organizations. But is it ethical to refuse customers who wish to push a political message, especially to counter one that already is freely using the advertising service?

      Making ads with other people's trademarks should be protected, like if I'm some crappy beige box PC maker I can't really use trad
    • I thought you were allowed to use a trademark to make an ad that criticized or compared another product to that trademarked product.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gerzel (240421) *
      No what is news or rather made into news is the Google "Ban" on adds against move-on.org even though there is no such ban. The detail of the trademark will be quietly left out while the pundits loudly shout about the supposed ban.

      This is how politics work or doesn't work as the case may be.
      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        in particular it highlights the blatent dishonesty of most neo-conservative commentators
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sumdumass (711423)
      It's really big news when the Ad was political critisism of another political group. If it were anything on the move on.org side, people would be screaming censorship.

      Well, they are here too, but it instead of it being championed and echoed, it is being dropped as "well, those are the rules, obey them and move along now".

      And to think that a group who pulls underhanded tactics i the name of free speech would be the ones to personally attempt to stop it when someone else is doing it. Nice insight Moveon
    • Re:Sooo.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by theophilosophilus (606876) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @07:13PM (#20969505) Homepage Journal

      Basically, a ad had a trademark on it, and the trademark owner asked for the ad to be removed? Not really big news... It'll be news if they submitted an ad WITHOUT infringing on a trademark, and that was rejected.
      You've really missed a huge issue here. In this case, trademark law is being invoked to stifle criticism of a political organization. Further, it turns out that Google's policy is being employed to stifle criticism of big corporations ranging from Wallmart to Exxon.

      As pointed out elsewhere using a corporation's name is not infringement. Google's policy is obviously a shield against frivolous infringement litigation, but it is stifling criticism of those hiding behind baseless trademark claims. This is a demonstration of just how dangerous Google's position of monopolistic power over information has become.

      I would have hoped that a Slashdotter would be more astute in protecting his rights.
  • This is retarded. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Silverlancer (786390) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:14PM (#20968625)
    This was on Fark the other day, and between the usual conservative and liberal bashing and flaming, it became quite obvious that this was a non-story:

    An organization saw their trademark being used without their permission in an advertisement, and asked that it be taken down.

    If this was Microsoft running an ad that said "Ubuntu Linux promotes terrorism," and Ubuntu asked Google to remove it, would you get all angry about how evil Ubuntu and Google are?
    • by tenchiken (22661)
      Since you spun your arguement in a way that the feeble minded b0ts on slashdot will agree with, let me flip the arguement around:
      If Canonical put a add in Google and said:
      "Microsoft sells your secrets to the NSA, and engages in anti-competitive practices" and Google yanked it, would you still agree.

      Careful. Your biases are showing.
      • by jstomel (985001)
        Allow me to be the first to say: I would be totally cool with google yanking that add if Microsoft complained. Google is allowed to make their own trademark and content policies, and as long as they follow them consistently I have no problem with this.
    • by ceroklis (1083863)

      If this was Microsoft running an ad that said "Ubuntu Linux promotes terrorism," and Ubuntu asked Google to remove it, would you get all angry about how evil Ubuntu and Google are?

      Yes.
    • by Khaed (544779) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:38PM (#20968845)
      If this was Microsoft running an ad that said "Ubuntu Linux promotes terrorism," and Ubuntu asked Google to remove it, would you get all angry about how evil Ubuntu and Google are?

      Outright defamation is not the same as criticism. Microsoft could and would get sued for that ad, and Google could get sued for it, too.

      MoveOn made a political ad criticizing a person by name -- so does that mean it'd be okay to criticize those in MoveOn responsible for the ad, by name, in a rival ad? This is a political thing, and Petraeus, MoveOn is a public figure -- they're fair game in the political world.
      • by jstomel (985001)
        Google and the NYT are allowed to have different policies about what they do and don't allow in their adds. As long as their policies are internally consistent, what difference does it make? And does anyone know whether or not Petraeus asked that his name not be used? Has he ever made any statements to that effect?
        • by Khaed (544779)
          And does anyone know whether or not Petraeus asked that his name not be used? Has he ever made any statements to that effect?

          Irrelevant. He's a public figure. It was established way back in a lawsuit brought against Larry Flynt by (I believe) Jerry Falwell that public figures are open game for ridicule. And thank God, because otherwise we could never make fun of the morons without risking a hail of lawsuits.

          I never said Google wasn't allowed to have different policies, by the way. I simply said that the
    • Wrong (Score:2, Informative)

      by G Fab (1142219)
      It's a judgment call since Google can do whatever the hell it wants, but there was no trademark violation.

      Showing the actions of Moveon in order to criticize them is fair use. There is no question that this ad was not illegal.

      Google is liberal. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's obvious. They filter information in a biased way, too. If you look at the fringe sites they allow onto google news, its matches their political views. No right wing nuts, plenty of left wing nuts.

      Again, I don't have a pr
      • Showing the actions of Moveon in order to criticize them is fair use.

        But capitalizing on the trademark for campaign publicity isn't.

        If you look at the fringe sites they allow onto google news, its matches their political views. No right wing nuts, plenty of left wing nuts.

        That's a lie! This simple news search result's second source is "freemarketnews.com", and last time I checked free market was not a lefty wingnut idea http://news.google.com/news?&q=ron+paul [google.com]

    • by emj (15659)
      But that's what is said in the summary, this time the summary was a lot better than the article...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dachannien (617929)
      Some light reading for you. [wikipedia.org]

      The Collins ad and your example have one critical difference: your example is premised on an untrue statement that would be defamatory to (in this case) the Ubuntu Foundation. The Collins ad may have appropriated the MoveOn name, but it did so based on MoveOn's own actions, in a manner that not only doesn't create marketplace confusion about the MoveOn name, but in fact reinforces that trademark.

      I don't think it's appropriate to call shenanigans on Google in this case quite yet,
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:18PM (#20968649)
    From the article: "Google routinely permits the unauthorized use of company names such as Exxon, Wal-Mart, Cargill and Microsoft in advocacy ads. An anti-war ad currently running on Google asks Keep Blackwater in Iraq? and links to an article titled Bastards at Blackwater Should Blackwater Security be held accountable for the deaths of its employees?"

    Does this mean the only reason we see "Wal-mart sucks" ads are because none of those companies PR/legal departments have asked Google to stop using their trademarks?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:28PM (#20968745)
      Sounds like it. Pity the author of the article couldn't have actually dug a little deeper and asked Google whether or not this was the case, but I suppose today's journalist never wants to allow clarification to get in the way of controversy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vonPoonBurGer (680105)
      I just spent five minutes googling for the company names in question, as well as searching for " sucks." I saw lots of "X sucks" search results, but few if any ads, and no advocacy ads. Given that the main contention of the article (Google censors ads on a political basis) has turned out to be bunk, I'm willing to bet this additional supposition (Google allows its own policy to be selectively violated) is equally worthless. The original article in question was a shoddy opinion piece with no fact checking
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Solandri (704621)

      Does this mean the only reason we see "Wal-mart sucks" ads are because none of those companies PR/legal departments have asked Google to stop using their trademarks?

      I think we need to make a distinction between names as a trademark and names as an identifier. It seems trademark [wikipedia.org] protection exists only within the sphere of commerce. So trademark protection should cover use of the trademarked name for identifying products or services. e.g. If you try to advertise a verizonphones.com site or something. Bu

  • Well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by El Lobo (994537) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:25PM (#20968727)
    No matter what the causes of the ban are , it's frightening what the power of an (almost) full monopoly on internet seaching services can do. Google is today the number one searching enginw on the internet. It's SO used that "to google" has replaced the verb "to search"... so if Google bans something or have favoritisms for something, this, no matter waht, will have SERIOUS implications for the involved parts. Funny how the powers than be concentrate on the infamious "MS monopoly (whatever that is) and close their eyes on the more serious Google issue.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nacturation (646836)

      Funny how the powers than be concentrate on the infamious "MS monopoly (whatever that is) and close their eyes on the more serious Google issue.
      The difference, of course, is that Microsoft achieved its position by leveraging its dominant position in order to strong-arm other companies. Google, even though it was late to the game, achieved its position because users found its product to be superior even though its competition had the dominant position at the time.
       
    • This is an advertisement that was banned, not a web site in the normal search results. Google would still be every bit as useful if they banned ads randomly or didn't show ads at all.

      So far, Google has a pretty good track record of not hand-tweaking their results (at least in the US).
    • Funny how the powers than be concentrate on the infamious "MS monopoly (whatever that is) and close their eyes on the more serious Google issue.

      On April 3, 2000, a judgment was handed down in the case of United States v. Microsoft, calling the company an "abusive monopoly" [usdoj.gov].
      Microsoft's position in the OS market is so strong that it manages to be the third most used search engine on the internet [compete.com], even though its product is vastly inferior to other competitors, since it defaults to searching on that site from many different places in their OS.

      As opposed to Google, where I have a nifty search box in my browser that's set to it by default, and comes al

    • They don't have anything like a full monopoly. They have a good share of the traffic, but not a monopoly. We can use other Search Engines if we want to. Ask.com, Yahoo.com, Ask Jeeves, About.com, etc. are still available for use. So Anti-Move-On.Org can probably get its ad on one of these other sites.

      And while I believe in free speech, there is no right to a microphone. You have the right to SAY whatever you want. But you don't have a right to force someone else to display your content. I can't cla

    • by Jartan (219704)

      No matter what the causes of the ban are , it's frightening what the power of an (almost) full monopoly on internet seaching services can do.

      I don't really see how it's that frightening personally. Google isn't exactly in a position where they can exploit their large market share. They don't have any sort of hold over their users. If they started annoying them the users could easily switch to some other search engine.

      It's true if you own a website dependent on traffic from google then it would be frighte

    • If you think google is such a big bad monopoly, why don't you start up a competitor? They aren't keeping you from doing that, you know. Which means that while they have a very large market share, they aren't an illegal monopoly. Anyone can go into business in direct competition with them. Just be sure your product is better than theirs, or you don't stand a chance. In fact, PLEASE go into direct competition with them! Competition with google can only make both your product and google's product better. It
  • summary >Google's trademark policy allows any trademark holder to request that its marks not be used in ads; and MoveOn.org had made such a request.

    I'll venture to guess that things we never imagined needing trademarking will now be. And it boils down to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, since so many issues that matter languish while the fabric of our nation frays ever faster.
    Can't we stop the food-fight long enough to make issues like this moot?
  • by thegnu (557446) <thegnu@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:31PM (#20968777) Journal

    Two weeks ago, MoveOn was forced to pay an additional $77,508 following media reports that The Times gave the group a substantial discount for the full-page display attacking Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the American forces in Iraq.

    The newspaper initially said MoveOn was charged $64,575, the "standby" rate for advocacy groups with full-page, black-and-white displays that can run anytime during a one-week period.

    MoveOn, however, had requested Monday, Sept. 10, the first day of Petraeus' testimony before Congress on the U.S. military surge in Iraq. Because the ad ran on the date requested, The Times later acknowledged that it should have charged MoveOn $142,083.

    So the Times accidentally undercharged them, then gets to call up several weeks later and demand the rest of the money? MoveOn.org should have done what I do in cases like this: Send them a bill for additional handling and paperwork for the sum that they're requesting.

    Since when do you get to charge someone one amount, deliver the product, and AFTER the fact say, "By the way, we messed up, and you owe us twice as much?" Is this just a case of liberals not being able to stand their ground again? What the hell is wrong with these people that they can't just say that the transaction has taken place, and there's no remedy? I mean, I understand the NY Times going after the money to protect their journalistic credibility, but MoveOn should've thumbed their nose at them, based solely upon the fact that that's not how business works.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evanbd (210358)
      I have no idea how the NYT normally operates, but I imagine it would be standard practice for them to simply declare the amount an outstanding debt and refuse to accept ads from MoveOn until it was payed. And if I were MoveOn, I don't think I'd want to lose the ability to run ads in the NYT over it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gregorio (520049)

      I mean, I understand the NY Times going after the money to protect their journalistic credibility, but MoveOn should've thumbed their nose at them, based solely upon the fact that that's not how business works.

      Except that if the whole issue wasn't a mistake at all, but a very common case of illegal financing (charging advocacy groups less is considered a form of financing), then it is not just about mischarging. I'm pretty sure that a MoveOn supporter/member inside the Times managed to get the ad for less

      • by thegnu (557446)

        It's pretty hard to legitemately mischarge this kind of service. I consider it to be pretty obvious that someone managed to get stuff for less and when they got busted, they had to charge the remaining sum.

        They could have learned from the Republicans and just denied it until forever. If it WAS an honest mistake, there would be no reason to pay. Which, I admit, it probably wasn't.

        I'm not trying to rag on Republicans. They're just evil and smooth, whereas the Dems are sort of evil and awkwardly self-loathi

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nephilium (684559)

      Actually... they needed to charge for the additional money to avoid violating campaign finance laws (which the NYT was a strong supporter of). Any discount given to a political group, party, or candidate counts as a contribution. Newspapers are forbidden to donate money to political groups, parties, or candidates. The employees of the newspaper can donate (up to maximum contribution limits), but the actual newspaper cannot. What it sounds like happened was that some sales droid offered the discount not

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@ ... Dl.com minus bsd> on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:33PM (#20968795) Homepage Journal
    So much for free speech from the left wing. The fault here really isn't Google, although they could arguably using a weak legal argument to be sympathetic to a particular group, it's MoveOn, whose basically taken a page from the book of scientology to try and avoid criticism of itself. What a bunch of thugs!
    • by reboot246 (623534)
      The Left always does what they accuse the Right of doing. That's why they scream bloody murder - to obscure what they've been doing all along.

      Being a liberal is standing on your head and telling the rest of the world it's upside down.


  • Global Warming
    Iraq War
    Tax Increase
    Tax Cut
    Death Penalty
    Gun Control
    President Bush
    President Clinton
    etc etc etc.

    This will be fun.

  • Silly (Score:2, Insightful)

    So by simply discussing this article we are in violation of the MOVEON.ORG trademark.
    Why has this not been removed?
    Moveon.org can dish it out but they sure cant take it.
  • A solid 1/3 of the US is "conservative" / Republican (not the same 1/3s, BTW, especially as of late :-).

    It says something about Google's perception of their position in the marketplace that they feel they can be so brazen. Pissing off that large a fraction of your customer base is not something you should do lightly ... it's not written in stone that they will always provide the best search results (even if we can't foresee them getting a competitor that's at least as good, but perhaps ... less evil...?)

    • World Population: 6 billion, give or take
      US Population: 300 million, give or take

      100 million / 6 billion = 1.6%

      Hardly a large fraction (And yes, I know it doesn't account for the ~5 billion people without internet access, but neither did your figures).
      • Until you care to estimate how large a fraction of Google's audience, now and in the medium term, has significant disposable income as well as access, I don't think your statistics are very interesting.

        And any way you look at it, 1/3 of the population of the wealthiest country in the world is not a group you should go out of your way to scorn.

    • Yes, but what percentage of the US conservative population is so brazenly partisan that they'd be upset at a company for complying with a request to take down an ad from an organization who owns a copyright used in said ad?

      And is the ephemeral wrath of partisans who will inevitably find someone else to be more ticked off at in a month or two worth more than a potential lawsuit from MoveOn?

      People like to self-inflate their own group's importance, but how much do you think Disney is really suffering from havi
      • Yes, but what percentage of the US conservative population is so brazenly partisan that they'd be upset at a company for complying with a request to take down an ad from an organization who owns a copyright used in said ad?

        (Trademark, not copyright.)

        If you think this is the only example of Google's antipathy towards "Red State America", you haven't been paying attention....

        And that gets to my point: I think Google perceives that it can afford to pull these sorts of stunts, or e.g. never making a speci

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Valdrax (32670)
          (Trademark, not copyright.)

          Yeah, whoops. Odd, I thought that's what I wrote but I guess I didn't.

          If you think this is the only example of Google's antipathy towards "Red State America", you haven't been paying attention....

          I think Google perceives that it can afford to pull these sorts of stunts, or e.g. never making a special page for Memorial or Veterans Day, without significant cost.

          A) They can. That's my entire point. Boycotts based on "Culture War" BS never make hardly any sort of impact if a compa
  • Moveon can criticize, but god forbid if anyone criticize them!

    Goose meet the gander.
  • by logicnazi (169418) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {izancigol}> on Saturday October 13, 2007 @06:25PM (#20969219) Homepage
    This is a troubling policy. Frequently trademarked expressions are the only short common way to reference a particular organization. If that organization can block the use of that trademark in advertisements it can control a great deal of what is said about it. Sure individual blogs can do what they want as long as it is legal but even with the internet if you want your message to reach the people who aren't already believers you need a way to reach out to large numbers that don't regularly visit any site who will express your view for free and that means advertising.

    One is tempted to blame google in this situation but I'm not really sure what else they could do. When they have sold keywords that were close to a trademark even when the ad itself contained no trademark they came in for a lot of criticism and even lawsuits. Moreover, I would guess (but can't be sure) that they would be at risk of being sued for trademark infringement if they allowed ads to keep running that were engaging in genuinely misleading usage.

    Now you might think that google should just let ads like this one run but not ads that use the trademark for competitive advantage. However, not only would this be difficult and expensive it seems likely that google would be forced to rule on tough close choices not to mention keeping having experts in trademark law from all the countries the ad is going to run in examine the use. It would probably be better at this point for them to make an exception for political speech but this still doesn't solve all the difficulties. A much better solution would be to seek an international treaty on trademarks that lets intermediate companies like google step out of the way and requires any legal action to be brought directly against the advertiser.

    It isn't like google is never biased. Their policy (or at least their TOS last time I looked) on what custom buttons for their toolbar they will put into their gallery is pretty bad. It lets you post search buttons for sites that advocate gun control but not for sites that advocate gun possession (presumably like the NRA). Still if they are telling the truth here I don't know if this is really one.
  • I really did look at their website, honest. They seem to be so comprehensively political that the website is pretty-much content free. Who are these people anyway?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Z00L00K (682162)
      Seems to be a bunch of people that want to get some free time on slashdot.

      And - yes I did take a look at their site and it was not really having any substance at all. So what is all the fuzz about? Even the anti-moveon must be a real bunch of losers just considering the ad... Viagra ads are much more fun.

  • Everyone has a price, just pay it and you can own Google, too. Then you can run whatever ads you like. Don't like how the WSJ frames issues, buy it and make it say what you want.

    In this case, I think Google has a legitimate beef, and they have the law on their side. They do the same for youtube videos. You prove it's yours, you ask them to take it down, they take it down (not always in that order).

    If you don't like it, exempt your business and personal website from Google's searches, and don't use Google to
  • A while back, when I was looking for work, I took out some Google AdWords Select ads pointing at my resume. One of my ads said that I was an experienced Mac programmer. Google's trademark police disabled that ad, and told me I was forbidden to use the word "Mac" because it was Apple's trademark.

    However, my understanding of trademark law tells me that I was in the right. I wouldn't be if I was using the word "Mac" in a way that was misleading, for example by claiming that Macs were my own product, or so

  • Umm... (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Kickboy12 (913888)
    So just because Google is trying to save it's ass from lawsuits from many copyright holders, all of the sudden they are evil?

    Am I the only one confused by this?
  • by ArikTheRed (865776) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @07:22PM (#20969549) Homepage
    OK - I deal with Google ads (and MSN, etc) for a living. The fact is - Google has very strict policies - but not every account manager at Google is equal (what... you think these ads aren't manually managed?). Some are very paranoid, and will shut down anything with a single complaint, others will spend more time and look into it, and a few won't act until they have gotten multiple complaints or even threatened with lawsuits. Also, the size of the account plays into how lenient they are as well. If you are bidding on a million keywords they'll tend to let things slide, as opposed to someone who bids on 10 or 20.

    So... it's not a conspiracy and it's not a corporate ethics thing, it's just that some people are better at their jobs than others.
  • by sheldon (2322) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @08:41PM (#20970011)
    Collins is a Republican Senator from Maine, and faces a hard choice in her 2008 reelection bid.

    Maine is a fairly moderate state, and Collins is in a position very similar to Lincoln Chafee [wikipedia.org] of Rhode Island. That is, in order to appeal to the voters of Maine she has to take reasonably moderate positions. However, in order to maintain her status as a card carrying Republican, she has to appeal to the kooks.

    Chafee in trying to appeal to the moderates of Rhode Island, made the kooks in the Republican party angry. So they launched a primary challenger against him in the name of Stephen Laffey. [wikipedia.org] This primary challenger weakened Chafee's position, because it pointed out to independents in the state just how kooky the Republicans have become. So despite years of services, a solid reputation, he lost pretty handidly.

    Collins doesn't want the same thing ot happen to her. So to fend off a primary challenge, she's trying to establish her credentials with the kooks. Picking something innocuous that nobody really knows or cares about, she's decided to attack moveon.org. Had she instead decided to champion their latest nutty cause of attacking 12 year olds for speaking in favor of SCHIP [balloon-juice.com], that might have gotten her some negative press back home with regular people and that's not good. So by attacking something the kooks hate, that normal people don't really care about, she's in safe territory.

    Just getting the ad out on google.com wouldn't have been enough, because nobody would have paid much attention to it. So it was necessary to place the ad in such a way as to cause it to be rejected. But not too whacko, using bad language would have drawn attention to regular people. So they lucked out on this trademark infringement thing.

    Because if there is nothing the kooks love more(left, right, it doesn't matter), it is feeling like they are victims of a giant conspiracy to get them. Plus, it is easier to get the press to pick up on your ad being rejected then it is that it is running and nobody is looking at it.

    This news article was intended for right-wing kooks to read, so they'd see Susan Collins as one of their own.
  • by moosesocks (264553) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @08:59PM (#20970099) Homepage
    I know this is slightly OT, but I'd like to see some sort of reasoned debate over it here...

    What exactly was so offensive about MoveOn.org's ad campaign [moveon.org] in the first place?

    Petraeus has handled the Iraq war poorly, and in several cases lied outright to the American people. MoveOn.org called him out on it. Isn't that how democratic politics and free speech are supposed to work?

    It's no secret that many Americans feel that the government misled the general public in order to bolster support for their war, and the ad was a simple reflection of this reality. It wasn't even a baseless personal attack -- they provide quotations, and even cite their sources.

    Perhaps the most troubling part of the whole saga is that the house passed a resolution condemning the advert 341-79, and the senate 71-29 (With all 49 republicans, and 22 democrats voting in favor). The president even got in on the action.

    This Time editorial [time.com] seems to have the best summation of the whole situation.

    Is this all the legislative branch is good for these days? Sternly wagging their fingers at political action groups, and listening to baseball testimony?
  • Trademark Law (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Detritus (11846) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @07:40AM (#20972747) Homepage
    A trademark does not give you ownership of a word or phrase. Trademark protection is limited to the use of the trademark in commerce, to identify a product. MoveOn.org and Google should be ashamed of themselves for abusing the legal system to squelch free speech. MoveOn.org must be taking legal pointers from the scumbags at the so-called Church of Scientology.

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