Score one for the First Amendment:
A Conyers man may continue criticizing Wal-Mart with parodies on T-shirts that compare the retail giant to the Holocaust and al-Qaida terrorists, a federal judge has ruled.
Timothy Batten in Atlanta ruled that Charles Smith may maintain his Web sites, http://www.walocaust.com and http://www.walqaeda.com. Smith also may continue to sell novelty, satirical merchandise that criticizes the company, the judge said.
“It’s great,” Smith, 50, from Conyers, said Tuesday about the ruling. “I’m relieved. Whenever you go into litigation against such a big company, you never know the outcome.”
“This is a resounding victory for First Amendment rights and sends a clear message to big corporations that would try to use their deep pockets to intimidate and silence their critics,” said one of Smith’s attorneys, Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen.
The judge apparently thought the t-shirts were quite funny:
Wal-Mart possesses strong and widely recognized trademarks, and the terms “Walocaust” and “Wal-Quaeda” are clearly a play on the famous Wal-Mart name, Batten wrote. For that reason, the judge ruled, it is unlikely that someone would confuse Wal-Mart’s trademarks with Smith’s parodies — “particularly one that calls to mind the genocide of millions of people, [and] another that evokes the name of a notorious terrorist organization.”
Batten added that he found the designs to be “successful parodies.”
Court upholds Conyers man’s criticisms of Wal-Mart [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]