Coal bosses shut down satirical website

March 9, 2007

A satirical website created by climate action group Rising Tide Newcastle (RTN) has twice been shut down by the powerful coal industry lobby group, the NSW Minerals Council.

The RTN website was a response to the NSW Minerals Council's "Life. Brought to you by mining" advertising campaign, which was launched on February 19. The adverstisement campaign, which cost millions of dollars, argues that mining is inextricable from modern luxury (see http://www.nswmining.com.au). RTN created the parody website (http://www.miningnsw.com.au) to present the other side of the story — the damage wrought by mining to the local and global environment, and to the local community.

Within 24 hours of the RTN website launch, the site's hosts were contacted by Minerals Council lawyers, who claimed the site infringed copyright. While the RTN website was probably legal under the Copyright Act's fair dealing clause because it is a parody, the Minerals Council's claim of copyright infringement meant the hosts were legally required to remove the site pending a response to the claim.

When the RTN then completely re-made the site, using the layout and images that were either original or used with permission to remove any possibility of copyright infringement, the Minerals Council lawyers contacted the new website hosts with a similar claim letter, and again had the site removed.

RTN has submitted a counter-notice rejecting the Minerals Council allegations. The activists argue that the coal lobby group is trying to silence growing public disquiet about the coal export industry's large contribution to global climate change. Ned Haughton, the website's graphic designer, said: "The Minerals Council is abusing legal process to ensure that its public relations spin is unquestioned and that community criticism of its methods or message is quashed as quickly as possible."

RTN spokesperson Steve Phillips added: "The Minerals Council says it wants a 'balanced debate' on the impacts of coalmining on local, regional, and global environments — we welcome that wholeheartedly. Its rhetoric, however, is sharply at odds with its attempts to silence legitimate criticism from community groups."

International copyright law does not have the same automatic take-down clause of Australian copyright law and RTN has moved the website to an off-shore host. The site was officially relaunched on March 6.

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