By: Lauren Saccone
You’d think by now people would have learned not to anger the internet. In particular, wouldn’t you want to avoid the attention of a group that has famously hacked into the servers at the Vatican, Interpol, and the United States Department of Justice? Apparently not, as one organization has managed to anger the hacktivist group Anonymous. And this time, it’s personal.
In February of this year, a French company quietly trademarked the well-known Anonymous logo for commercial purposes. The company, called Early Flicker or E-Flicker, intends to use the image as well as Anonymous’ logon, to produce and sell merchandise. In case you weren't aware, such a move is pretty much of the exact opposite mindset of Anonymous’ worldwide community and anti-corporate attitude.
E-Flicker’s business decision remained under the radar until July 31st, when a Twitter user associated with Anonymous discovered the trademark application. Within a few short hours, Anonymous’ international network was up in digital arms.
The organization posted a YouTube video directly addressing E-Flicker. In the video, which you can watch below, an Anonymous spokesperson, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask to hide his identity, promised retribution for E-Flicker’s crassly commercial behavior.
“Their arrogance and ignorance of what they have done will not go unpunished,” explains the video. “Anonymous will take down any business they [E-Flicker] have going on the internet, and the 99% will not stop until the registration has been revoked and a public apology has been made.”
These threats should not be taken lightly by E-Flicker. When Anonymous feels a digital injustice has occurred, the organization goes into action. They’ve taken down corporate security servers of the highest rank, and crashed government websites. Fairly recently, the group hacked into Australia’s government websites, defacing Queensland’s web pages and stumping their hosting company. A small company taking them on is not the best business plan.
“If you look around, there are others selling Anonymous apparel,” explained website TechDirt. “But trying to trademark the logo, and limit its use by other isn’t just playing with fire, it’s directly taunting a large group of people with weapons that shoot fire… and who have little hesitation in using them.”
It should be mentioned that technically Anonymous already owns the trademark rights to their logo and slogan under the Creative Commons license. But if E-Flicker is willing to stand by their trademark claims, things could get very ugly, very quickly.
E-Flicker currently has an eBay page, on which people are free to purchase T-shirts with either the logo or the slogan. Anonymous has never had any problem with people promoting their cause through merchandise. There are countless accounts on Zazzle, RedBubble, and CafePress selling merchandise bearing Anonymous images.
The problem, it seems, is that E-Flicker wants to prevent other people from using Anonymous' imagery. Under the terms of the copyright, they could file a complaint against any individual using the Anonymous logo or slogan. This understandably upsets Anonymous, which runs on the principles of the free sharing of information.
As of this writing, E-Flicker’s pages are still up and running. Perhaps Anonymous is waiting for an official statement from the company. Or maybe they’re giving E-Flicker a chance to make amends. After all, the company obviously had no idea what it was getting into.
[Pic via Wikimedia Commons - Anonymous Flag]