Guardian takes legal action to shut down parody headline generator

Guardian headline generator

The publisher of The Guardian has taken legal action to shut down a parody headline generator which it claims has infringed its copyright by using photographs of its journalists and contributors.

Imitation headlines parodying the Guardian’s online op-eds with real author byline pictures were shared on social media in December alongside the hashtag #trollingtheguardian, which trended on Twitter.

Guardian News and Media has now issued a take down notice through solicitors Bristows LLP to the web hosting provider for the guardianmeme.com website, which produced the headlines.

Users of the website were able to write their own headlines in the Guardian style and select the byline of a number of Guardian and Observer journalists, complete with real byline pictures.

One of the spoof headlines that was shared on social media in July appears to have been taken as genuine by some.

It featured politician David Lammy’s byline and picture alongside the headline: “Lets [sic] be very clear on this, “its [sic] okay to be white” is a nazi thing. It will never be okay to be white on our watch.”

It was debunked by the Reuters Fact Check team who said it appeared to have been created using the fake headline generator website.

A Guardian News and Media spokesperson said: “GNM has filed a complaint with the web hosting provider for the website at www.guardianmeme.com due to the website’s reproduction of copyright protected photographs of GNM’s journalists and contributors”.

Twitter account The Grauniad, which tweets at @grauniadmeme and has nearly 20,000 followers, has shared GNM’s legal letter in full online. (The Grauniad is a nickname coined by Private Eye which dates back to a period when The Guardian had a reputation for typos).

The account appears to have also been targeted by lawyers in the belief that it was behind the fake headline generator website. It said it wasn’t behind it, but the man who was had “decided to pull the plug”.

The guardianmeme.com website is no longer available and showed an error message when Press Gazette tried to visit it for this article. However it can still be accessed using the Internet Archive.

In their letter, GNM’s lawyers listed byline pictures for 23 of its journalists and contributors, including Owen Jones and Carole Cadwalladr.

The lawyers called for the website to be shut down and for any details of the site’s operator to be shared so that “if necessary, GNM can bring legal proceedings” against them for copyright infringement.

If the details are not shared, GNM could issue an application seeking disclosure of the information.

In 2015 lawyers for The Guardian wrote to the Martial Arts Guardian opposing the latter title’s attempt to trade mark its name.

At the time Press Gazette noted that there were at least 50 publications in the UK with the name Guardian in the title.

Comments

5 thoughts on “Guardian takes legal action to shut down parody headline generator”

  1. The decision of the creator of the Guardian meme generator to take it down is sad but understandable in the face of the legal threat from The Guardian. However, I believe that the creator has solid legal grounds to resist the legal action.

    In 2014 UK copyright law was amended to create exceptions to copyright to “allow limited use of copyright works without the permission of the copyright owner” (quote from page on gov.uk website headlined “Exceptions to copyright”). One of the exceptions “permits people to use limited amounts of copyright material without the owner’s permission for the purpose of parody, caricature or pastiche” (quote from same page). The Guardian meme generator enabled people to create fake headlines which were caricatures of articles on The Guardian’s comment website so it may fall within an exception to copyright law.

    The reason why The Guardian wanted the Guardian meme generator taken down is because it enabled people to mock The Guardian’s intellectually fraudulent self-pitying thin-skinned writers and they didn’t like it, just as they don’t like being challenged by Guardian readers below-the-line or investigated by external regulators. The Guardian and some of its writers want the right to criticise and scrutinise other people (and be paid for it) but they want to deny other people the right to criticise or scrutinise them.

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