About a week ago the Yes Men, a parody group, released a fake National Rifle Association (NRA) campaign called “Share the Safety,” which pretended to be a charity initiative devoted to donating guns to poor urban Americans. The NRA immediately panicked and worked to throttle access to the campaign, despite the fact that it is uncontroversially a legal expression of free speech.
Characteristically, the parody was sleek and elaborate – in addition to a promotional video (below) and a video of a fake press conference in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the Yes Men launched sharethesafety.org via Surge, a digital publishing service.
The NRA was so displeased by the attack on their devotion to the Second Amendment, they decided that they had no tolerance for parody – First Amendment be damned! They filed a complaint with Surge’s host, Digitalocean, either under a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice-and-takedown process or under trademark law. Digitalocean swiftly responded by shutting down over 38,000 Surge sites.
Tellingly, the Share the Safety promotional video on Youtube remained fully accessible. This is because the NRA’s complaints are not legally valid. Parody is protected under the DMCA and under trademark law. YouTube has extensive experience with content laws, so it is not willing to bend to unfair requests by organizations that don’t like being made fun of.
All Surge sites have been restored, including sharethesafety.org, however the incident speaks volumes about the NRA’s real commitment to American values and freedoms. It blares apocalyptic sirens whenever anyone dares recommend thorough background checks for all firearm purchases, but is willing to act swiftly and decisively to shut down free speech that expresses views it disagrees with. The NRA is not devoted to liberty, it is devoted to weapon proliferation and their own profit, whatever its highbrow rhetoric may want you to believe – and American