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December 16, 2002
Volume 80, Number 50
CENEAR 80 50 p. 9
ISSN 0009-2347


E-BUSINESS

DOW FIGHTS BACK
Company takes legal action against parody website, gains control

ALEX TULLO

Internet mischief directed at Dow Chemical two weeks ago backfired. On Dec. 3, the 18th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, an environmental group issued a phony press release in which Dow Chemical, the acquirer of Union Carbide, callously distances itself from the incident because taking responsibility would hurt shareholder value. What’s more, the release directed readers to a website, dow-chemical.com.

The site was a parody of the Dow website, with logos and text bitten off the real thing. “Dow is responsible for the modern environmental movement,” said the page, because DDT inspired Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.” There were links to documents mocking sustainable development and Responsible Care as well as a phony speech by Dow CEO Michael D. Parker.

The website was the work of The Yes Men—the group responsible for a number of parody websites, including gatt.org, which spoofs the World Trade Organization. Dow-chemical.com also reproduced entire pages of the Dow site, but words like “chemicals” and “epoxy” were replaced with “toxics” and “bhopoxy.”

Dow’s lawyers weren’t amused and promptly sent a letter to Verio, the company that hosted the website, warning that it violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, and the Lanham Act. Verio took down the site.

A representative from RTMark, which owns the Web server, said The Yes Men would find server space outside the U.S. “Dow will have to keep bopping it wherever it pops up,” he said.

But the site’s domain was registered under “James Parker,” the name of the Dow CEO’s son, and listed his actual home address in Midland, Mich. Site representatives say it was their idea of a joke.

Not a good idea. Seizing on the site’s registration information, Dow lawyers claimed it in the name of the real James Parker and transferred ownership to Dow.

Copies of the site have since sprouted up under new names like Dowethics.com and dow-chemical.va.com.au. “We respect the rights of groups to express their opinions,” Dow spokeswoman Leslie Hatfield says, “but we are disappointed that they would use such tactics.”



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