Chicago Tribune versus Occupied Chicago Tribune

Does Occupied Chicago Tribune have any right to infringe on the Chicago Tribune's intellectual property rights? Photo: Occupied Chicago Tribune

The Occupied Chicago Tribune is an independent media source for those who do not see their struggles and views represented in the mainstream press. We created this paper to provide an outlet for reporting, commentary and analysis on the growing Occupy movement, its unique application in our city and the struggles of the 99%. Bouyed by the protests around the world and frustrated by popular news sources’ representation of the movement, we are dedicated to honest coverage aimed at spreading the message of, and informing, the Occupy movement. (Occupied Chicago Tribune) 

CHICAGO, June 5, 2012— A couple of weeks ago I discovered an article I wrote posted in full on another media website under a different title. Worse, they used several of my photographs interspersed in the article. This was done without permission, though they did attribute the article and photographs to me. 

I immediately contacted the Communities editor and we emailed cease and desist notices to the offending site. Though claiming some kind of “fair use doctrine” they took the offending post down. 

I am ruthless when it comes to my property rights, especially the use of my photographs without permission. Business entities are just as ruthless in protecting their intellectual property rights, especially copyrights and trademarks. 

Occupied Chicago Tribune ( was launched in December online and as a newspaper handed out at protests. 

The site is one of several local independent online publications including the Occupied Wall Street Journal, Occupied Oakland Tribune, and Occupied Washington Times (inactive) created by the Occupy Movement. 

The Chicago Tribune immediately notified Occupied Chicago Tribune they are infringing on copyrights and/or trademarks. The Tribune demanded they cease using Chicago Tribune in their name, take down their website, and all social media sites. 

Occupied Chicago Tribune responded by including a disclaimer; “We’re proud to have no affiliation whatsoever with the 1% Chicago Tribune or the Tribune Co.” Evidently they feel that is an adequate defense to their infringement.   

The Tribune recently filed a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy complaint against Occupied Chicago Tribune through the World Intellectual Property Organization alleging trademark infringement. If their complaint is sustained they can take ownership of the offending domain name.

Occupied Chicago Tribune states they will file to dismiss that complaint. 

Occupied Chicago Tribune states their legal representatives claim there is no infringement and the name of their site, domain they chose, and use of part of the Tribune’s logo is merely a parody of the Chicago Tribune, which they claim is allowed.

They also claim Occupied Chicago Tribune is protected under the First Amendment. 

A press release issued by Occupied Chicago Tribune states the Tribune’s actions are an “ongoing attempt to intimidate or otherwise silence the Occupied Chicago Tribune, despite what is agreed by multiple legal experts as a complete lack of any legal grounding”. 

Occupy Chicago Tribune must not know legal experts, especially multiple legal experts, that rarely agree on anything. If you put ten legal experts in a room with a clock and asked them what time it is you would get ten different times, a fight, and lawsuits. 

Researching the Occupied Oakland Tribune versus the Oakland Tribune, multiple legal experts were not in agreement over the issue. 

Occupied Chicago Tribune claims they are occupying the media of the 1% on behalf of the 99%. Like they Occupy public spaces for protest, they will now occupy intellectual property. 

The goal of Occupied Chicago Tribune “is to serve as a forum in which the stories of the 99%—and not their material resources—are what drive the news.”   

Evidently the Occupy Movement believes they can do whatever they want including infringing on intellectual property rights. After all, it is for a good cause, the collective good of the “99%”. The ends justify the means. They are morally and socially legitimate. 

There is no social, moral, or political justice system in America. There is only a legal system. That system protects the rights of individuals and entities against infringements against their intellectual property, except under very narrow circumstances. 

Occupied Chicago Tribune believes they are within the law or they have the right to flout the law. They also severely criticize the Chicago Tribune for spending money on attorneys to fight them while laying-off staff and emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

In another action, Bay Area News Group, publishers of the Oakland Tribune, sent a cease and desist order to the Occupied Oakland Tribune citing copyright and trademark infringement. Occupied Oakland Tribune’s legal counsel accused Bay Area News Group of intimidation and further claims “the courts would frown on what the Oakland Tribune is doing because it’s suppressing First Amendment-protected speech.” 

I contacted the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune over the publications. The Wall Street Journal replied with “no comment”. I have received no response from the Chicago Tribune. 

The Occupiers are taking a risky stance against corporate media. They foolishly believe major media entities are just going to leave them alone because their lawyers tell them they are in the right.   

The Chicago Tribune and other entities would be remiss if they did not ruthlessly protect their property rights and brands. They cannot and should not allow any infringement to go unchallenged. 

What would happen if someone decided to start the Occupy Occupied Chicago Tribune and used the url Would they file a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization alleging trademark infringement? Would they issue a cease and desist letter? Would they protect themselves and their property?

Would they tolerate a squatter, especially if that squatter’s site criticized or made fun of them? 

What would their legal counsel say about that? Inquiring minds want to know. 

Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur.  He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys.  His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists. 












This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Peter Bella

Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance photographer, freelance writer, budding videographer, and passionate cook.  He aims to be the sharp stick that pokes and annoys.  The Middle Class Guy is a political column written from a center-right point of view.  While concentrating mainly on politics he will stray into culture, entertainment, sports, cooking, and humor from time to time, along with Memories of things Pabst.  All from a middle class perspective.

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