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Pacifica Backs off threat to sue websites 5-10-01

Well folks, the threats to the Pacifica activist websites are off. It's anyone's guess why they stopped harrassing us but that is the case for now. There are many possibilities as to why they changed their mind since I'm sure it's not for our benefit. It's not like them......

Perhaps the following upcoming events have something to do with their decision to back off.

On Tuesday May 15th, there will be hearings in Washington D.C. with the Progressive Caucus of the House of Representatives brought by Rep. Major Owens of New York concerning the Pacifia crisis and low power FM.

On that same day in Alameda County Superior court one of three lawsuits against Pacifica, The Listeners Lawsuit, will be seeking an injunction to keep Pacifica from doing any more damage. The suit also seeks to remove Epstein, Becker and Green from representation for conflict of interest as one member of the firm is also a member of the Pacifica National board.

One might perceive it to be in bad form to pursue legal action against free speech websites protected under the first amendment on this day when that is what the network espouses.

We were first notified by email from Pacifica's Counsel Epstein, Becker and Green to desist the listeners website, wbai.net on February 9, 2001. Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen Litigation Group took our case along with savepacifica.net and freewpfw.net, all free speech websites critical of the questionable actions of the Pacifica Foundation who owns the broadcast licenses to 5 stations including WBAI radio in New York City.

On April 23, 2001 we were notified by Tanya Vanderbilt of EB&G that Pacifica was in fact going to sue the websites for trademark infringement.

Just last week they notified our counsel again and said that they had decided not to sue.

I am so grateful to Paul Alan Levy of the Public Citizen Litigation Group for taking our case and having a definite influence on the quick outcome. He's the genuine article.

So, we have many battles out there and this is one down!

Thanks to all the others who offered great ideas, and all kinds of other support.

Patty Heffley CdPNY - serving the listeners since 1997


1) The Public citizen Press release is also at

2) You can view the letter sent to Epstein Becker and Green By Paul Alan Levy from Citizen Litigation Group at


From Public Citizen:

May 10, 2001

Pacifica Backs Off Threat to Sue; Critics Can Keep Web Sites

Pacifica Foundation Had Threatened to Sue to Force Groups To Take Down Sites Until Public Citizen Intervened

WASHINGTON, D.C. _ In what is a point on the scoreboard for First Amendment rights, Pacifica Foundation has decided against suing to force three groups to dismantle Web sites critical of Pacifica.

The Foundation in February threatened to sue the groups, with whom it is embroiled in a controversy over the radio network. The Foundation demanded that Friends of Free Speech Radio in California, WBAI Listener Network in New York and the Free WPFW group in Washington, D.C., abandon the use of their domain names and relinquish the rights to those names by Feb. 19 or face legal action. In response, Public Citizen, which champions free speech rights on the Internet, announced it would represent the groups if Pacifica sued.

In a recent phone conversation, though, an attorney for Pacifica told Public Citizen Litigation Group attorney Paul Alan Levy that Pacific had decided not to sue. Levy today sent the attorney, Tanya Vanderbilt, of Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. in Washington, D.C., a letter confirming the conversation.

"Companies are starting to learn that they can't bring these cases, because they're going to lose," Levy said. "The message is slowly getting out that free speech rights on the Internet are sacrosanct."

The creators of the Web sites (savepacifica.net, wbai.net and freewpfw.org) are embroiled in a controversy stemming from a conflict between Pacifica's management and station employees and members over the network's future. Pacifica had claimed that the use of the Web site domain names was a trademark infringement and could confuse people searching the Web for Pacifica's site. The foundation also claimed that the Web sites restricted Pacifica from conducting business on the Internet under its own name.

Those claims are baseless, Levy said. Trademark infringement occurs when a company's name is used in a misleading way to profit from consumer confusion, which is not the case here. Also, the First Amendment protects the kind of speech posted on the Web sites, he said.

"Pacifica threatened to bring this suit because it wanted to burden its critics with the time and expense of preparing a legal defense," said Robbie Osman, member of Friends of Free Speech Radio. "I would have hoped that before the Foundation threatened to sue, someone in the Pacific national office might have remembered that promoting fair and open debate has been at the very heart of Pacifica's mission since it was founded. By threatening this baseless suit, the Foundation has proved the most damning charge their critics have made against them."

Added Patty Heffley of WBAI Listener Network, "After observing the Pacifica Foundation up close, any positive actions they take must be viewed with suspicion. The good news here is that Pacifica isn't going to squander the listeners' money on an unwarranted suit."


Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.

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