BT has threatened legal action against the owner of spoof website Superfarce Wales (Cymru), which parodied the official Superfast Wales project that is designed to inform the public about their plans to make superfast broadband services available to 96% of premises in Wales (UK) by the end of 2015.
The comical website is operated by Richard Brown, chief of consulting group Wispa Limited, whom has often criticised the Welsh Government and BT’s joint state aid supported effort to improve broadband internet access in Wales.
Clearly BT didn’t share in the humour as the operator has now issued a Cease and Desist Letter to Mr Brown (the PDF is courtesy of Br0kenTeleph0n3), which warns that the spoof site represents an “infringement of copyright” (i.e. visually it’s a very close clone of the official site).
Extract from BT’s Cease and Desist Letter
“BT requires that all matter infringing BT’s copyright is removed from www.superfarce-cymru.com within 7 (seven) days of the date of this letter. In the absence of your compliance with this requirement, this matter will be passed to BT’s litigation department in order that appropriate action can be taken to safeguard BT’s intellectual property rights.”
The letter, which was issued by Bernadette M Mee (BT’s Head of Trade Marks) on 8th March 2013, effectively gives Mr Brown until the end of this week to remove any offending content. Understandably BT wouldn’t want consumers to get the two websites confused (though that would be good for a giggle), yet by drawing further attention to it they might also risk giving opponents of their plans an additional platform to make any concerns known.
ISPreview.co.uk has this morning asked both BT and Richard Brown for comment and we will update the article once those responses have been received.
We have added a reply from Richard Brown below.
Richard Brown, COO of Wispa.it, told ISPreview.co.uk:
“I honestly expected BT to completely ignore the Superfarce-cymru.com website. I know that ‘the Industry’ that surrounds broadband in the UK will find it entertaining (and sadly accurate), and maybe it may help some of those who are interested in the way that public funds are being distributed with a non-BT/non-Gov view of things.
I did not expect them to have their Head of Trade Marks to try and stop the site existing. The message contained within the SuperFarce website is an important one. The Government in Wales has a habit of grandiose statements of what ‘good’ will come from the ‘investment’ that they are making in broadband. The reality always falls short.
The superfast-cymru website is what the Welsh Government point to in order to try and answer our questions, it only seems appropriate that there is an alternative that points out that this may not be the only view of things.
BT sending an ‘instruction’ to remove the substantial material and blurred logo from the superfarce-cymru.com website is entertaining. Not least, there has been no request to Google to remove it from the index (much easier than the threatened legal action). I suspect that this is simply because they know that Google would not be interested – superfarce-cymru is a satirical website, not an attempt to benefit from someone else’s intellectual property.”
Mr Brown closed his message by stating that the “superfarce-cymru website will be around for a while yet“.
A spokesperson for BT has advised us that this is a “private matter” and not one they intend to comment on.
At least it was private until it became very public.
It’s worth pointing out that the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 has elements (sections 29, 30 and 178) that allow for fair dealing with copyright, which is restricted to: research and private study (both non-commercial), criticism, review and news / reporting. Wispa are likely to oppose the request based on some of these grounds.