Saturday, March 04, 2006

Liberty Counsel and Exodus International may not quite understand copyright law

Exodus International (see Wikipedia article here) is an organization, affilited with Focus On The Family, that claims to be able to, bluntly, "help" individuals "change" from being gay to straight. Primarially through the "transforming power of Jesus Christ." I guess gay and lesbian Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, Zoroasterans, atheists and agnostics are on their own.

It may be recalled that there was a touch of trouble in the organization in 1979 when two of the "ex-gays" (both men) who helped found the organization, Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper (I am *not* making this up!), eloped. Together.

There was another little "incident" when, in 2003, another "ex-gay" member who was a spokeperson for the organization, John Paulk, was observed "flirting" (as he put it) and hustling drinks in a Washington D.C. gay bar. FotF head James Dobson reported put Paulk "on probation" and made sure he had a chaperone on any future speaking engagements after that.

Part of the Exodus media campaign is a billboard ad campaign to "spread their ministry." One of the ads is displayed at left. Image source from the Exodus website

Justin Watt, the writer of the Justinsomnia blog was inspired to put up a parody of the billboard ad. (see image to the right). Image source from Justinsomnia.

Exodus International is not happy. They have hired Liberty Counsel, a legal firm that specializes in promoting their own version of "religious freedom" that seems to lean toward "freedom" of the far-right pseudo-christian theology to dominate everybody else. Liberty Counsel has issued a Cease and Desist order against Justinsomnia demanding a removal of the image from the website. (see here for the C&D text). I'll be interested in seeing what comes of this. My first impression is that this is still covered by the "fair use" and "parody" portions of U.S. copyright law.

I really wonder at the Exodus and Liberty Counsel strategy here. And litigation is going to bring back into the public awareness the outright defection of co-founders and the "fall into temptation" of Paulk (Hmm, I wonder if any of the bar's patrons were costumed as a fig-leafed Eve or a snake-&-apple combination?). This attention would appear to bring doubt about the effectiveness of the "change" and even of how Dobson views the members of Exodus, if they need to be watched all tyhe time -- if this "change" is so effective, can't they find someone "reliable" who will stay bought? Of course, a cease & desist letter is cheap -- nothing more than a threat, essentially saying "we really don't care of the law is on your side or not: we have more money to burn than you do to get our way." However, that monetary equation may change if the ACLU gets involved or a counter-suit is filed on Justinsomnia's behalf by lawyers willing to work on contingency.

As a further incitement, Jason Griffey at Pattern Recognition has taken to Photoshop himself, and has produced another image for our delectation (see below). Image source is Pattern Recognition.

Of course, to make the point severly obvious about "parody," Griffey has added another image to hammer the point in. (those literature-context-challenged may wish to bypass the next billboard)

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