Next round in Esso's attempt to cybercensor critics in court
Paris, Tuesday 14 January 2003: A French court will tomorrow hear the next round in Esso's attempt to curtail freedom of expression on the internet. Greenpeace France is appealing a ruling by a Paris judge in favour of Esso France which ordered the environmental group to remove its 'StopEsso' parody logo from its French website, pending a full hearing of the case.
In July 2002, Esso France began legal action against Greenpeace in France over the StopEsso website, which uses a logo featuring a double dollar sign ($$) in place of the double "S" in the oil giant's red and blue logo. StopEsso, a global coalition of groups including Greenpeace, is campaigning around the world to stop Esso from sabotaging international action to address climate change and has used the logo around the world since the campaign was launched in May 2001. "Esso is sabotaging climate protection in order to continue its dirty business and using the court system internationally in an attempt to silence its critics. As long as does so, it will continue to attract the anger of the public and attempting to ban the use of a logo on a French website is not going to stop the campaign" said Stephanie Tunmore, Greenpeace climate campaigner.
Also being heard on the same day is an appeal by French nuclear conglomerate Areva against a ruling in favour of Greenpeace in a similar case. In the wake of the StopEsso decision, the nuclear sponsor of French America's Cup challenger Le Defi Areva complained that Greenpeace groups in France and New Zealand had degraded its trademark. Greenpeace had depicted a skull and nuclear symbol behind Areva's stylised A on website stories about the sponsor. Areva argued that the logo discredited and devalued its trademark and sought EU 40,000 in damages. The judge upheld Greenpeace's right to freedom of expression and ruled against Areva.
One judge is expected to hear both cases in separate hearings tomorrow.
In July last year French Justice Binoche rejected categorically Esso's claims that the $$ design of the Stop Esso logo was an attempt to link the company to the infamous Nazi 'SS' and damage Esso's reputation. Esso, marketed as Exxon and Mobil globally, was seeking 80,000 Euro a day if Greenpeace did not comply. The judge reduced this to 5000 Euro a day and allowed the continued use of the term "StopEsso".
"It is Esso's own behaviour interfering in international action on climate change that is damaging its reputation, rather than anything we are doing," said Tunmore. "Trampling over the right to freedom of expression in an attempt to shut us down will only attract further condemnation".