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wbai.net press release 2-12-01

CONTACT: Patty Heffley patty@inch.com
Tel. 646-489-5963


In what has become a tiresome pattern of attacks on free speech and First Amendment advocates, a law firm representing the Pacifica Foundation has threatened legal action against a woman who has maintained the wbai.net website in New York City since 1997.

Epstein Becker & Green has been in the news lately, but in ways that are less than favorable to their clients. Epstein Becker & Green is the law firm retained by the Pacifica Foundation to defend itself against multiple lawsuits charging that the directors of the Foundation sit on the Foundation's board of directors illegally. Plaintiffs have filed those lawsuits based on their concerns about the apparent efforts to liquidate the radio broadcasting assets of the Pacifica Foundation in apparent violation of state and federal law.

Patty Heffley, a multimedia producer in New York City and a member of the group Coalition for a democratic Pacifica-New York chapter, has maintained the WBAI Listener Network website www.wbai.net continuously since 1997. The website has a long track record in support of First Amendment rights, Free Speech Radio in the United States and worldwide, and the discussion of issues related to WBAI 99.5 FM, the New York affiliate of the Pacifica Foundation.

Important issues discussed on the website wbai.net include announcements of listener-sponsored events in New York City concerning the conflicts between the Pacifica National Board and their five affiliates, the pending lawsuits against the Pacifica Foundation, and the documented union-busting efforts carried out at WBAI by the recently fired former General Manager of the station, Valerie Van Isler.

CdP-NY has verified reports that Epstein, Becker & Green advertises their skill at interfering with union drives in the workplace as a selling point for their clients. In an extraordinary demonstration of stretching legal ethics to their breaking point, Epstein Becker & Green attorney and staff member John Murdock currently sits on the board of directors of the Pacifica Foundation. Plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits against the Pacifica National Board allege that Mr. Murdock sits on the board illegally, in apparent violation of California state law and in apparent violation of the bylaws of the Pacifica Foundation itself.

Ms. Heffley received a letter from Pacifica's lawyers -- the same law firm that employs Mr. Murdock, a member of the Pacifica National Board -- via email on Friday (see below) . It's rather strange that after years of this site operating as part of a listener network (wbai.NET) , Pacifica decided to attack wbai.net now, claiming that wbai.net infringes on their trademark! If there is any site that has hurt WBAI's name, it's the "official" www.wbai.org site, which has completely wiped out all information on the current crisis from its site in recent weeks.

Even cursory review of the relevant case law, as well as the relevant guidelines posted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) at http://www.icann.org/udrp/udrp.htm suggests that the operators of wbai.net are engaged in fair use of the domain name wbai.net. Thus the efforts by Epstein Becker & Green appear to be a clumsy attempt to intimidate Ms. Heffley into closing down a site with a long record of support for the very principles now under attack by the Pacifica Foundation, which is a client of Epstein Becker & Green. Ms. Heffley fully intends to fight for the right to use the domain name wbai.net to support people working for Free Speech Radio in New York City, throughout the Pacifica network, and around the globe.

WBAI has always been more than a corporate name. It has also been the voice of listeners. wbai.net represents some of those voices and right now is an especially critical time for them to be heard. It's pretty clear that the Pacifica Foundation is annoyed with the contents of the website wbai.net. But it's also clear to anyone who simply looks at the page that this is NOT a page belonging to WBAI management. This page is, and will continue to be, for the listeners. This latest clumsy attempt to intimidate Ms. Heffley verifies that individuals running Pacifica perceive Free Speech as a threat, rather than as a cornerstone of the mission of the Pacifica Foundation.

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