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Brazil: Blog Countersues Newspaper Over Web Domain

Another chapter in the legal dispute between the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo and the satirical blog Falha of São Paulo is being written. However, this time Falha is the one who decided to file a lawsuit against the newspaper.

Towards the end of September 2010, Falha's website was taken down after an injunction was issued by the Brazilian courts. The site's main purpose was to satirize the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, and in order to do so it used photo-montages of false, often ironic newspaper headlines [pt] and a “generator of headlines” with the layout of Folha de Sao Paulo. Folha took the matter to court, seeking an injunction as well as claiming financial compensation for moral damages.

The first lawsuit, which resulted in a “tie” in September 2011, was, in the opinion [pt] of the journalist Rodrigo Vianna “a lesson [from the judge] on what is freedom of expression.”

Lino Bocchini protesting in front of Folha de São Paulo

Lino Bocchini protesting in front of Folha de São Paulo

Falha de São Paulo is now seeking the unfreezing of its domain, falhadespaulo.com.br, which had been frozen by the court, through a second injunction against Registro.br (the Brazilian agency that manages all domains ending in. br). Journalist Lino Bocchini, the creator of Falha,  announced in late March 2012, that  he was going to go ahead with a new lawsuit. He explained why he was doing so:

Terminou com uma espécie de empate a disputa jurídica em primeira instância entre Folha e Falha, e agora está começando a segunda. Já protocolamos nosso recurso  junto ao Tribunal de Justiça (TJ-SP) pedindo a derrubada da censura da Folha à Falha e a volta do domínio www.falhadespaulo.com.br. A sentença do juiz da 29ª Vara Cível de São Paulo informa que o juiz acolheu “parcialmente” o pedido da Folha, determinando o “congelamento” do domínio “falhadespaulo.com.br”, mas rejeitou todo o resto.

The legal dispute in a first instance between Folha and Falha has ended with a sort of tie, and now the second round is starting. We have filed our appeal [pdf] to the Court of Justice (TJ-SP) seeking the overturning of the censorship of Folha towards Falha and the return of the domain www.falhadespaulo.com.br. The judge's ruling [pdf] of the 29th Civil Court of Sao Paulo reports that the judge had “partially” granted Folha's request, causing the “freezing” of the domain “falhadespaulo.com.br”, but rejected all the rest.

Given that the registering of even other similar domains have been prevented, it is through the alternative domain “Desculpe a nossa Falha” (Sorry our fault) that the Bocchini brothers are giving publicity to their cause, raising support and, where possible, picking on [pt] the newspaper using humor, as is characteristic of the pair.

According to Bocchini brothers, the website Folha Gospel is one of the sites that uses a similar logo clearly inspired on Folha de São Paulo's without been sued.

According to Bocchini brothers, the website Folha Gospel is one of the sites that uses a similar logo clearly inspired on Folha de São Paulo

While the authors of Falha allege political persecution by Folha (with the intention to silence the direct critics of their editorial policy), Folha on the other hand, says that the problem is the misuse of their brand. In order to sustain its defense, Falha has published a series of “evidence” [pt] from websites that use similar logos from Folha (or other Brazilian online platforms) and which haven't been sued.

Journalist Lúcia Rodrigues, da from Rede Brasil Atual, briefly explains [pt] the case:

O jornalista Lino Ito Bocchini trava uma batalha judicial com a Folha de São Paulo para ter o direito de manter o domínio sobre o site Falha de São Paulo, criado por ele e seu irmão, Mario Ito Bocchini. O site é uma paródia ao jornal da família Frias e foi censurado pela justiça, a pedido da Folha, no final de 2010. Na última quinta-feira, 5, Lino organizou um debate que discutiu o papel da Folha no financiamento do golpe militar e da tortura durante a ditadura [vídeo e resumo do debate "Relações da mídia com a ditadura"]. A expectativa é que a ação contra a Folha seja julgada este ano pelos desembargadores do Tribunal de Justiça de São Paulo.

The journalist Lino Ito Bocchini is waging a legal battle with Folha de Sao Paulo to have the right to hold the domain of the site Falha de São Paulo, created by him and his brother Mario Ito Bocchini. The site is a parody of the Frias family newspaper and was censured by the justice, at the request of Folha by the end of 2010. On last Thursday, the 5 [of April], Lino organized a debate that discussed the role of Folha in funding the military coup and torture during the dictatorship . The expectation is that the suit against Folha will be taken to court this year by the judges of the Court of São Paulo.
Folha's vehicle that used to be lent to the regime, was burned by left wing demonstrators

Folha's vehicle that used to be lent to the regime, was burned by left wing demonstrators

The case is one of a kind, and it may put a mark on freedom of expression in Brazilian blogsphere, as Leopoldo Loureiro and Luís Borrelli Neto, the lawyers of Falha, stated [pt].

While making the announcement of the “second round” of the legal dispute, Bocchini brothers declared [pt]:

Enfim, é sempre bom lembrar, estamos falando de uma briga um tanto desigual. De um lado são dois irmãos “avulsos”, independentes, sendo defendidos “pro-bono” (pagando apenas as custas do processo) por advogados bacanas identificados com a causa –aliás, estamos de advogado novo nessa segunda fase. Do outro está o maior jornal do país, com um gigantesco escritório de advocacia fungando nas nossas costas. O que ajuda a equilibrar o jogo é o apoio gigantesco que estamos recebendo de toda blogosfera, que entendeu que esse caso, por seu absurdo e pelo seu ineditismo, é de interesse coletivo. E não dá pra deixar barato o maior jornal do país, que vive pregando liberdade de expressão e democracia, promovendo uma censura dessas contra dois blogueiros.

Anyway, it's always good to remember we're talking about a fight somewhat uneven. On one side are two “loose” independent brothers, who are been advocated “pro bono” (paying only the costs of the proceedings) by cool lawyers who identify themselves with the cause-in fact, we have a new lawyer in this second phase. On the other [side] is the largest newspaper of the country with a huge law firm sniffing down our back. What helps balance the game is the massive support we are receiving from across the blogosphere, who understood that this case, for its absurdity and its uniqueness, is of collective interest. And you can not just ignore the country's largest newspaper, who lives preaching freedom of expression and democracy, promoting a censorship like this against two bloggers.
All images were taken from the blog Desculpe Nossa Falha and are being used with permission.

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