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UPD3 BT Threaten Legal Action to Gag Spoof Wales Superfast Broadband Site

Monday, March 11th, 2013 (7:55 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 1,682)
superfarce cymru

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.

UPDATE 9:33am

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“.

UPDATE 9:41am

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.

UPDATE 9:49am

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.

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43 Responses
  1. TheFacts

    T&Cs:

    The content of the Site is protected by copyright, trademark and other intellectual property rights as applicable and is provided solely for your own use. Republication or redistribution of any of the content available on the Site, including by framing or similar means, is prohibited.

  2. Tom

    The Wispa site has a petition to charge an “up to” price for an “up to” service.
    Unfeasible and unpredictable.
    Otherwise a professional looking site.

  3. FibreFred

    What a fool, I hope they sue the bllcks off him.

    You’d expect better from a professional ISP and company than childish games to give themselves publicity. I expect it has backfired though all they’ve done is shown how sad and petty they are.

    Its not even just basic copyright issues, he’s clearly just saved off the whole website and made small changes, based on that I’d be looking to take them to the cleaners

    • Richard Brown

      It never ceases to amaze me the intelligent responses that are available in these types of comment trails.
      Not only is it an excellent example of the manner in which free comment is encouraged and enabled, but also an exemplar for the quality that this can derive.
      Thank you for your intelligent input into the debate FibreFred – possibly worth a few clarifications:
      1. Richard Brown is not an ISP
      2. Wispa Limited (who I work for) is not an ISP
      3. I’m not sad – I’m quite happy
      4. I have several suits that could come with you to the cleaners if you could make the extra time (you seem to be going there anyway)
      5. I’m happy to allow my comments regarding others to not only be attributed to me – but also publicly. If you were so confident it could be a useful addition to the conversation

      Finally – you seem to be very angry. I am not sure if this is with me personally, or life in general. Please either address your anger directly with me, or seek appropriate help – that way only ulcers lay.

    • FibreFred

      🙂 I assumed you were a wireless ISP, “WISP” you probably represent one.

      Your actions do link you to your company intended or otherwise

      I would say you are sad. I’m not angry at all, not even with you, although I do have no time for thieves which you are and will have known at the time or doing this.

      Its not like you made up your own website to mock theirs, you stole theirs and amended it. Again unprofessional, I’m sure any future customers requiring “consultancy” will see the same

    • Richard Brown

      Okay FibreFred, here’s a couple of home truths for you.
      1. In the absence of it being familiar it is impossible to create parody ergo – without the content having similarity it is without parody…
      2. Your accusations within your comments demonstrate a clear reason why you would so desperately try to hide your identity – perhaps you see libel and defamation as being less important in the ‘scheme of things’ as parody?
      3. Your definition of professional does not match any known definition. Simply being paid for something makes you a professional – I don’t doubt that you find yourself in that context – and don’t doubt that you hold yourself in high regard in that area…
      4. Assumption is the mother of all f*ck ups…

    • FibreFred. Some of your remarks are bordering on personal abuse here and I will kindly ask you to keep your comments clean or not to post if you can’t. Thanks.

    • TheFacts

      Richard Brown does not ‘work for’ Wispa Ltd, he is the sole director.

    • Richard Brown

      Sadly, sole director or otherwise – it’s a matter of fact that I work for the company. It may seem like a moot point – but it really isn’t. As a Limited company wispa employees me as a director – otherwise I’d be self employed.
      With that said – if it wasn’t clear – I am indeed the Director and sole share owner of the company – although superfarce is a URL leased by me personally and it is a personal parody, not a wispa endeavour.
      Hopefully that clears any doubt!

  4. Dida

    Time for the UK Government to amend the Copyright Act with a parody exception.

  5. Jonny

    The superfarce-cymru website does have a serious point behind the humour and that is the Welsh Assembly do announce these grant schemes and statements. But in reality they just fall by the wayside. Fibre and broadband in Wales SHOULD be a priority now. Mt problem with getting fibre is one of pure red tape bureaucracy, which makes me mad as hell that it cannot just get resolved. And this suparfast-cymru to me just meant the date being change until next March 2014 or beyond. Poking fun at them brings much needed attention to the issues faced in Wales with regard to broadband and fibre.

  6. Telecom Engineer

    BT have a point re their ip on the design and any logos etc. However free speech is the very best thing about the internet, this sort of threat makes it all uneasy, but you have to draw the line somewhere. If I did a copy of tescos website and put various horse meat messages I would expect a call from tesco legal. Why not comply with the request, iam sure the guy who did this could easily produce another website design and use the publicity for his agenda?

  7. Martyn Dews

    This is one of those interesting stories that crop up now and again which would not normally get extensive coverage, however due to the “cease and desist” request from BT, this has not raised curiosity levels and I would bet visits to the site has increased significantly.

    Is this a bad thing? I think not. I don’t live in Wales so this does not affect me directly, however I have looked at the Superfarce site in some depth due to the reports following the C&D. Also, as a result of the clearly indicated link on the Superfarce site, I have also looked at the Superfast Cymru site in a similar depth too. I would not have normally have visited that.

    So now I have a balanced viewpoint and who’s to say which version is right or wrong, it’s for the individual to decide. I’d guess that bits of both site will turn out to be true. I think as a result of the site it has highlighted the issues for discussion, which is not a bad thing in my view.

    • Richard Brown

      I think the bit you missed is that the Welsh Gov do not want that discussion.

      * Press releases are issued and blindly reprinted
      * Promises made, promoted but never re-examined (re-examination often highlights areas missed)
      * Grandiose claims are made about the benefits of the spend, with little or no relation to fact
      * AMs are prevented from doing their job and examining what the Welsh Gov are up to

      Sadly – I doubt that this is a BT endeavour. Judging by the amount of spoof videos on YouTube that use their TV adverts (complete with all logos) and only change the voiceover, I suspect BT are (rightly) pretty much indifferent to criticism.

      Bearing in mind that superfarce has no interest in criticising BT, I suspect that the actual trigger for this lays elsewhere.

    • Martyn Dews

      I suspect you may be correct Richard.

      Also, regarding some of your bullet points, I don’t think those are confined to the Welsh Government. Let me refer you to a recent article in the Lancashire County Council newsletter.

    • DTMark

      The site has delivered its message, and as in cases like this, the publicity surrounding the attempt to have it changed results in further visits and publicity for that message which is an important one.

      I suspect the best answer is to “re-skin” the site with an original design which may or may not resemble the “official” one fairly closely.

      Richard – happy to do this for you if you like.

    • Richard Brown

      Thanks Mark – I’ll put you ‘on hold’ for that one if that is okay? A little lower in this comment trail you’ll see that perhaps BT aren’t quite the right people to be asserting copyright in this instance…

    • DTMark

      Indeed. The offer remains open.

      They do seem to have rather shot themselves in the proverbial feet by not just objecting to the (blurred) logo, but the content, too.

      It’s almost as if they had something to do with writing it. But then, that couldn’t possibly be true and so nobody reading this should infer that is being suggested.

  8. Richard Brown

    Oh, Martyn. It is much worse than you may at first think.

    Firstly, the styling code on original site all have Lancashire in the name:

    bannerLogo

    We’re bringing fast, fibre broadband to homes and businesses across Wales.

    and secondly

    http://www.superfastlancashire.com/home

    See if you recognise any of the text….

    • Richard Brown

      Code got stripped on my previous comment – but basically all of the styling designations have ‘lancashire’ as the class…

    • zemadeiran

      registrant-firstname: Gary
      registrant-lastname: Mortensen-Barker
      registrant-street1: **********
      registrant-pcode: **********
      registrant-city: **********
      registrant-ccode: GB
      registrant-phone: **********
      registrant-email: **********

      [Admin: Excess personal details removed]

    • zemadeiran

      oh dear oh dear….

    • TheFacts

      He is Head of Online Marketing, NGA, BT Group.

    • DTMark

      Nice bit of detective work there. I’m sure there’s an application for Domain Privacy progressing as we speak.

      Let me guess, the Welsh group needed someone to register a domain name and design a website for them, so they went out to the market and from the choice of all available providers, BT offered the best value for money.

    • Richard Brown

      They can go to privacy settings – but that is why God invented ‘print-to-pdf’ 🙂

  9. tony

    It seems as if the site hit a nerve.

    Living in Northern Ireland I find BT’s past press releases a parody. Doubtful press releases on coverage only installing in built up money making areas and forgetting about the Rural community.

    Blah blah blah BT it appears you only care about the shareholders.

    • Richard Brown

      BT are clear that they are not doing rural areas on their NI superfast site:
      http://nibroadband.com/faqs
      They quite brutally state:
      BT has consistently stated that we will invest where it makes good commercial sense and allows us to make a return on our investment. However in many areas, particularly in rural and the more remote areas where the cost to deploy is very costly and penetration of lines are very low, we will need to work in partnership with government and local communities to create a commercial model that will allow us to deploy.
      But then – to be fair, the UK Gov only sent over £4.4m, so I guess that wont go very far…

  10. FibreFred

    ” Not least, there has been no request to Google to remove it from the index (much easier than the threatened legal action).” Seems to be a bit of confusion there. Google is just an index/search engine, not the source of infringement. You go to the source to get this resolved, a DMCA request to Google is something you can do in addition should you desire, which they will be interested in as they have to comply with DMCA.

    A Google removal is not the same as legal action, hence the letter I would imagine

    • Richard Brown

      The letter isn’t legal action either – but your contribution is as valuable as ever.

    • keith

      It is probably best if you ignore him, he seems to have some type of issue where he has to have the last say even though its as wrong as the first. Not enough love as a child, bump to the head, no matter what it is i suspect none of us can help.

      The biggest irony is he seems to feel very strongly about you “apparently” infringing upon copyright of BT material yet here the fool is on a website that has taken a logo you used on your parody site which BT have issue with and has been re-used to highlight this news story. He is thus if BT are successful against you viewing copyright content without the owners permission and should have his door kicked in shortly (well using his brain dead logic he should anyway).

      Its also rather ironic the BT logo copyrighted or not and which you even had the decency to blur on your site is used all over the net including this site in news items.

      Personally what i would do in your position is take that site down just as they request but get a new domain (maybe something like superFALSE-cymru.com to start) and host it on that….. Repeat over and over (there is loads of superxxxxx laughs you could have) until the fools get tired of writing to you, every few months asking you to take something down.

      The other thing you could do is specifically write back and ask which specific content infringes on their copyright and remove only that specific content (be it wording, image etc). That also shows if they try to take this nonsense further that you tried to accommodate any legal copyright concerns they had.

      Failing all that you could go for the complete belligerent approach and ask on a facebook page or similar that people setup multiple mirrors of your site all over the net, a bit like whats happened with piratebay and then wish BT all the best tracking them all down.

      A site that also looks similar does not infringe on copyright, if it did those companies that flog you webspace with basic template designs for your site would have thousands of companies all bickering they copied each others designs.

      BT also need to go careful, very careful in fact considering some of the clipart like images they have used on that site and other BT sites are “opensource” images which are not allowed to be re-used for commercial purposes. And yes before troll boy asks yes i can prove that unlike BT or him being able to prove copyright infringement.

      Personally i find it rather funny you would think in this day and age BT would have a PR department that would realise doing something like this just gives them a worse reputation than they already had on the internet. Apparently like its biggest supporter here though they are still stupid.

    • FibreFred

      Threatened legal action were your words. I was simply quoting them.

      Deduction you are missing the point, he took the whole website and changed it, he didn’t make one that looks similar, there’s a difference. Anyway…. it will be interesting to see what happens 🙂

    • keith

      “he took the whole website and changed it”

      If its “changed” its not the same then is it? Oh and stop deluding yourself into thinking everyone is deduction you just make yourself look an even bigger fool. Staff over at TBB have already had to moderate your pointless comments on the same news item. Maybe instead of always trying to make the first and last comment here you should get out of the house, develop some actual social rather than sociopathic skills and actually have a real life conversation for a change.

    • Richard Brown

      Keith – If you’d like to email the source for the images I’d be obliged (richard@wispa.it) 🙂

    • keith

      @Richard Brown

      Well just for starters they can not claim any type of copyright infringement on the arrow icons on their site ones like this as a example…..
      http://www.superfast-wales.com/media/74833/cookiesAcceptButton.png
      (the arrows are all the same image yet for some reason they have saved and resized each one individually, and kept them as PNG files {god only knows why} obviously they are not very good with HTML either or they could had saved a few bytes on the server instead of having multi instances of the same image LOL)

      They are from http://openclipart.org/ and that content ALL OF IT is free for anyone to use and copyright free. Sites all over the globe use that arrow icon a prime example being this http://www.kouhl.com/wp-content/themes/kouhl-theme/images/bottom_arrow.png which is from the same icon pack.

      The same can be said for all the little icons (like the magnifying glass, mobile phone, camera etc) that make up the city/street view image on their main page. infact about the only images on their site which may be of their own creation is the map on the where and when page.

      The real facts of the matter are your parody site makes them look like idiots. This is not the first time they have issued takedown notices to people with websites for want of a better term rip the wee wee out of them, back in 2005 this happened…..
      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/10/03/bt_ireland/

      Its clear they do not like people making them look fools (remind you of anyone on this site ; ) ), like a stupid person though they rise to the bait.

    • TheFacts

      And the Ireland site is no longer there.

      It’s not just the use of icons, it’s the layout.

    • FibreFred

      It doesn’t even have to be layout, content as well. Its hard to compare to the BTIreland site because as you say its not there anymore.

    • keith

      You can not copyright the “layout” of a website. Using that logic every competing newspaper infringes on the others layout. Hell using that idiot logic every forum on the internet infringes as its “layout” is similar to each other. For something to infringe on copyright it has to be a duplicate of content another individual or organisation owns.

      Even if you could copyright the “layout” BT dont own that.

      If you view the actual page source and style the font is sourced via a google and is opensans….. So not owned by BT.

      The page style boxes are made by fancyapps.com and use and app called fancybox v2.1.4.

      The so called CSS style which they proudly have tagged “BT Superfast CSS:” actually comes from several sources, one line in the CSS reads as….
      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MediaWiki_talk:Common.css/Archive_11#Teletype_style_fix_for_Chrome
      Which clearly is NOT BTs work or style CODE.

      Apart from possibly the map on the wales site BT own nothing, not the media (IE images) NOT the layout (Its others fonts and CSS styling code) they own bugger all…. Anyone can check all that for themself you only have to open the site in firefox click tools, click web developer, select style editor.

      Oh and the BTIrelandsucks website still lives on in another form with a slightly altered domain name.

      Please just run along, its clear you have no clue about anything no matter what name you decide to use.

    • FibreFred

      I’m not sure who your comments are aimed at or to what end, BT’s legal team is pursuing this, not any so called experts in the field commenting on this website.

    • keith

      “…BT’s legal team is pursuing this, not any so called experts in the field commenting on this website.”

      Says the person with the balanced and not armchair expert view of… ‘What a fool, I hope they sue the bllcks off him.’

      You are right though your so called “expert” opinion was not needed. Actual “FACTS” on where the sites content is from which is easily viewed by anyone that decides to view the website source and layout code though, now that is accurate information.

      Quick now, use another name, switch to new_londoner, thefacts, somerset, herdwick, GMAN or any of your other numerous names you roam the internet with 24/7. Im off out now through this thing called a front door which you have not past through in years so don’t wait up for a further response.

  11. Keyser Söze

    Super Farce Wales, parody and copyright, the intension of Mr Brown are done with the best of convictions. As stated above very likely got a few more looks to boot, making the funding partner nerves a little more raw to the matter and good thing too.

  12. Keith

    Nearly one month on and the site is still up and running.

    I guess that shows BTs claims of copyright infringement much like a certain poster on this very website are full of the brown smelly stuff.

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