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Metro's cage rattled by spoof

Press Action | 04.07.2010 02:25 | Anti-racism | Migration

The Metro has obtained a High Court injunction against "all persons responsible for the publication and/or distribution" of a Metro spoof paper that was distributed by campaigners at London tube stations on Friday morning. But since the spoof was produced and distributed anonymously, the injunction seems to have been served upon the wrong people, in what appears to be a guilty-by-association verdict.

The spoof paper, which has also been circulated on the web, has a similar masthead and layout to the free daily, with a zero instead of the O. The owners of Metro, Associated Newspapers Limited, claim this is an infringement of the company's trademark copyrights, while campaigners argue the company directors "do not have a sense of humour" and have "gone too far in suppressing free speech to protect their commercial interests."

Under the headline "Gordon Brown to be deported to Scotland," the front frontpage story claimed the former prime minister was facing imminent removal back to his "home country," as the new coalition government introduced new immigration rules that imposed further restrictions on "non-English nationals." Alongside the article, a manipulated picture showed Gordon Brown being arrested by two policemen at a beer festival in Cambridge.

Tens of thousands of copies of the spoof paper were distributed by 50 or so people wearing white T-shirts bearing the Metro logo during rush hour at 20 busy stations around the capital. The 'spoofing operation' was apparently part of 'two days of action against racist press', called by a coalition of anti-racist and migrant rights groups under the name Press Action. A blog bearing the same name had been set up about a month before, with the aim of "exposing and taking action against racist and anti-migrant bias in mainstream media." [1]

The callout for the days of action, circulated around various campaign websites and mailing lists, had called upon "all concerned groups and individuals to stand up to counter fear with action on the 2nd and 3rd July" and "put the racist press in the spotlight" by taking "autonomous, decentralised actions and protests against racist press across the UK." [2]

Represented by Bird & Bird LLP, Associated Newspapers sought a High Court injunction until 10:30am on Monday, ordering the respondents to "not publish or distribute in any way (including by way of the Internet) any publication which purports to be 'Metro' or any other publication of the applicant." The legal action seems to have stemmed from an assumption that the spoof might be distributed again on Saturday, which turned out to be unfounded speculation and a waste of judges' time.

A copy of the injunction order was subsequently sent by Katharine Stephens of Bird & Bird to the people running the Press Action blog [3], presuming they were behind the spoof. A statement by Press Action, however, said they "had nothing to do with the publication and distribution of the spoof" and had merely received an electronic copy from the anonymous spoofers, along with a press release [4], which they then circulated and posted on their blog.

The blog has since taken the spoof down but it can be accessed on numerous other activists and websites. A statement by Press Action maintained that, "despite not being the respondents, we have complied with the court order as a gesture of goodwill."

Metro's official website had also been spoofed as part of the spoofing operation, with a similar layout but with the spoof paper's content instead, and a web link (URL) substituting the O with zero (

It is understood that Associated Newspapers has also contacted the US-based company that apparently hosts the spoof site, asking that they take it down, which they have refused to do, according to the injunction hearing records.

A Whois check on the spoof website [5] shows that it registered under the name 'Press Action' and an address in Whitechapel, London, that belongs to a social centre known as the London Action Resource Centre.

LARC describes itself as a "collectively run building providing space and resources for different activist groups" and is, indeed, used by many people who do not necessarily know each other or know what the others might be doing.

A spokesperson for Press Action said: "It is very likely that whoever did the spoof was inspired by our callout and wanted to use our name and register the domain with a common address, such as LARC's, to protect their anonymity. To argue that LARC is "clearly involved with the two days of action," as the Metro solicitors did in court, is just a desperate search for a scapegoat that is guilty by association."

Asked by the judge what damage the spoof had caused their client, the Associated Newspapers solicitors argued that the Metro "avowedly doesn't take a political stance. The damage to the brand and goodwill [of the paper's owners] is unquantifiable. The people behind the spoof are avowedly political. They are piggybacking on the goodwill built up in the brand since 1999 to espouse their own political cause."

Unconvinced by this argument, and repeatedly expressing his concern that "this is a case of make haste and repent at leisure," the judge asks, "Are you seriously suggesting that your clients will suffer damage [as a result of the spoof]?" to which the solicitor replies, "It is an intangible damage to my client's goodwill, that is, it effects what people will think about its product."


[1] The blog is at

[2] The callout can be found at

[3] A copy of the injunction order, along with the proceedings and the applicant's notes submitted to the judge, are attached herewith.

[4] The Metr0 press release can be found at


Press Action
- Homepage:


A Zero for an O

05.07.2010 21:34

Or: How Associated Newspapers Ltd tries to stop Gordon Brown's
deportation by shutting down a website.

by startx, London *

Britain's tabloid press has not excatly the reputation of being quality
press, some say it has also the reputation of being openly racist.
It also has no humor for sure, at least not if somebody has a good
laugh on their costs.

Last Friday and Saturday London saw "two days of action against the
racist press", called for by several anti-racist activist groups. Some
people seem to have thought that the best way to challenge the tabloid
press is to become the tabloid press, and commuters were suprised to
get handed over a new free paper called "Metr0" (you could read that as
"metre zero" if you into leetspeak) last Friday ( 2 July) early
morning, featuring the stunning headline that "Gordon Brown is to be
deported to Scotland".[1] There must have been ten-thousends of copies
spread all over London, as the newspaper was available at many tube and
railway stations.

Free daily newpapers have become a big business in London, and in fact
it happens that there is also a free daily newssheet called
"Metro" (read "metro", but some hasty commuter might have mixed both of
them up because they did not read that aloud.) published by a company
called Associated Newspapers Ltd, which also happens to be behind the
"Daily Mail" (yes, that's the Daily Mail which cheered for Oswald
Mosley's blackshirts).

Now while you can say for sure that quality is not on of the
characteristics of Associated Newspapers Ltd's products, they also seem
not to be up for a good laugh: Probably being given a copy of the
"Metr0" themselves on the way to work, they had to discover that there
was now also a website called "" [2] which shared some faint
design similarities to their own website "": and seemingly
decided to consider their new competitors "Metr0" not funny at all

So instead of sipping their morning espresso, taking the joke and being
proud of being historically in one line with "The New York Times" [3],
they let loose their dogs .. err ... their law department, i mean,
big time: Within hours, they sought an High Court injunction demanding
"not publish or distribute in any way (including by way of the
Internet) any publication which purports to be 'Metro' or any other
publication of the applicant."

While on the copyright front it is not quite sure what "Metr0" or
"" actually copied from the "Metro" (the logo is obviouly
"Metr0", not "metro", they also claimed in the injunction that
Newspapers Ltd's Metro "avowedly doesn’t take a political stance ",
which comes a bit of a suprise for you if you are a frequent reader of
that newssheet.

Meanwhile, so the Metro's solicitors in court, "The people behind the
spoof are avowedly political.", which seems to be enough for them to
be suspicious. When asked by the judge if the lawyers "seriously suggest
that [the metro] will suffer damage [as a result of the spoof]" the
solicitors stated that "It is an intangible damage to my client’s
goodwill, that is, it effects what people will think about its
product." Oh my god, somebody might even "think" about their product!

However, they got their injunction, but not knowing whome to serve it
to, they delivered it to the London Activist Resource Centre (LARC),
assuming this might be the place to locate a group called "Press
Action", which in fact runs a completely different website
( ) and is blogging about racism in
the British press (busy job) and while doing so mentioned the
"Metr0" on Friday [4], too. No luck for the lawyers there ...

They then sent their lawyers to the domain registrar to get the domain
"" deleted because of "copyright infringement" (which the
registrar refused as it is unlikely that Associated Newspapers can
claim a copyright on the word "metro", unless they going to sue the
Parisean underground) and a hosting collective in New York they suspect
to host the "" website. Even Barbara Streisand meanwhile
knows that such a thing might not be a good idea to shut down a website
in that way and hence more links to the site turn up since it became
known that Associated Newspapers does not like it.

Therefore, instead of chasing websites and newspapers around half the
planet and wasting money on their law department, some would recommend
to Associated Newspapers Ltd to sit down and have a nice cup of tea (or
whatever their managers prefer to take) or even better: to make better
newspapers. There's not much hope for the latter though ... and the
question of Gordon Brown's whereabouts is unsolved, too.

[1] a pdf version of the Metr0 from 2 July 2010 can be found at:

( and meanwhile most likely at other places, too)



[4] Press Release by PressAction:

* this article was written for nettime on Sunday 4 July 2010

startx [repost]
- Homepage:


Hide the following 9 comments

Have to agree with metro on this one

04.07.2010 10:24

Basically, they are pretending to represent a body in a way they do not want to. The other issue is that your spoof, by definition is not fact based (thats what a spoof is).

Both of these are very deceptive and based on lies, so I hardly think the metro would want to be associated with this. (you may think its an obvious spoof - but don't under-estimate the stupidity of people. 84% of the world's population belief in an imaginary super-being --> thats how stupid people are).

I am a bit shocked that the left would resort to the same kind of Dirty Tricks that we constantly moan about politicians using. What next?.... "sex it up a bit"? Total bullshit tactics that are guaranteed to backfire and turn people off. Look how many ministers use exactly the same kind of stuff, or the Tabloids...... never works in the long run and for you it will be no different.

I don't see any difference between this and, for example, someone pretending to be me and saying "Fox hunting is a good thing" in my name. That would really, really piss me off - so I can perfectly understand their feelings.

stoked on brickwork

There's a way to do this right

04.07.2010 11:19

Spoofs done properly ARE legal (not actionable). Simply have to learn the rules about how much difference there has to be to be considered a "spoof" that does not infringe. As for the injuction being served on the wrong people, well that's a matter for a court to decide. I am seeing a rather strange attitude that there has to be certainty of guilt BEFORE court proceedings. Were that the case, what would the court proceedings be for.

If the persons served with the injunction cannot be shown to be the parties responsible presumably the court will declare them innocent. Note that there are TWO different standards of proof involved since infringement is a civil matter in additional to possibly criminal (if injuction violated). Once can be found "innocent" in a criminal proceeding where the standard is "beyond reasonable doubt" but responsible in a civil proceeding where the standard of proof is lower.


Sir, you are a damned cad!

04.07.2010 13:00

"you may think its an obvious spoof - but don't under-estimate the stupidity of people. 84% of the world's population belief in an imaginary super-being --> thats how stupid people are"

I was handed one of those papers and, despite my obvious stupidity, knew it to be nonsense. As did everybody else. This injunction is just Metro lawyers doing what they are paid to...protecting their clients 'brand'. The judge is clearly not a fool and recognises that the media are little more than professional bleaters!

Good on the 'spoofers', well done for not being part of the 84% of the worlds stupid (are you really sure its 84% of the worlds population that are stupid? Could it be that its the other 16% that are stupid instead! The same 16% that make up Government & the media!!!)

Lord Rees Mogg

should have called it something else

04.07.2010 18:47

we did an 8 pg spoof of the Metro about squatting with exactly the same layout. Except that we called it Mesho, as an anagram of homes. We distributed thousands and didn't hear a dicky bird from no lawyers

another spoofer

The Spoof is obviously a viral advertising campaign

04.07.2010 20:10

The publication of a "spoof" might well be actionable. However, since it was carried out by persons unknown there is a reasonable argument to be made that making the Metro Brand available in this way - disregarding the content of the spoof for a moment - has resulted in greater brand penetration for Metro. Indeed, looking at the actual content and comparing it to other headlines that Metro accept to be their own, the spoof is silly enough to be an obvious advertising effort of a viral kind. The only way in which to promote that and make it go viral is to prosecute. That prosecution then obtains coverage in the Independent Media and promotes the brand to new customers who would not normally discuss Metro. All in all, this does the brand a net good. But only if there is complete silence about who originated the spoof. Hence the anonymity.

Such a viral marketing effort does not come for free. If someone were brave enough then they might invoice Metro for the printing, distribution and additional goodwill generated. That should include no less than the damage claimed to the Brand plus the costs of legal action plus the costs of printing, distribution and additional brand goodwill.

Was this a viral that went wrong and wasted courts time?

A belligerent Cur

common sense

04.07.2010 21:27

>> Was this a viral that went wrong and wasted courts time?

I think you're missing the point. The Metro didn't want it - viral campaign effect or not.
I would imagine that they would be the best people to know if it is of benefit or not to their business. It appears they think it isn't


Raisins and Insultanas

05.07.2010 03:19

Dear Raisin,

I refer you to the Sun. The Sun believed that it suited their best interest to publish pictures of the Hillsborough Stadium fire with headlines making questionable, untrue and distressing allegations about Liverpool Football Fans. Even now decades after the events, the Sun as a brand is dead in Liverpool. So, it is possible that a Newspaper Owner does not know what is best for their brand.

I refer you to the concept of asking for what you want, getting it and then regretting it. Familiar enought to most people. Hoover destroyed their brand by offering "free flights" with every purchase. The courts held them to this dangerous proposition and they experienced the regret of bankrupting themselves.

So with all due respect. No: Metro are not best placed to know what is best for their brand or to decide what to do to protect their brand. Owners make mistakes.

Which is what the question aimed at. It is reasonable to respond that Metro are best placed to know what is best for their brand by virtue of ownership. That is an entirely acceptable belief. But, as an argument it is specious, dissembling and, in experience wrong.

The fact is that it is just as plausible for Metro to have attempted a viral campaign and failed as it is for a bunch of activists to have attempted a campaign and fallen foul of Lawyers. What is absent for either scenario is anybody taking responsibility for the printing and distribution.

So no, I have not missed the point. You seem to have addressed an entirely different point to the one I raised. Which is: if Metro seek to obtain injunctions for persons unknown, then we might as well accept that Metro employees just as likely to be those persons as anybody else.

A belligerent Cur

@A belligerent Cur

05.07.2010 10:55

Hillsborough stadium tradegy was not a fire, it was a crush.


To A Fly

05.07.2010 18:53


Hillsborough was a crush. I confused it with the Bradford Fire. Which does show that everybody makes mistakes.

Unlike the Metro, most people are happy to acknowledge they get it wrong.

a belligerent Cur

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