A college student was forced to redesign a web site satirizing a foundation run by Wal-Mart after the discount retail giant claimed he violated copyright law by using graphics from the company’s own web site.
Daniel Papasian, 20, of West Hartford, Conn., said he was forced to change his web site after lawyers for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sent his web host a cease-and-desist demand last week.
Wal-Mart claimed Papasian violated copyright law and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by improperly using images from the real Wal-Mart Foundation’s web site.
Papasian said he closed the site for five days so he could remove the offending graphics. In place of the images, Papasian has put the word “censored.”
Papasian launched the web site April 16 for an art class at Carnegie Mellon University called “Parasitic Media.” The class teaches students about the political uses of satire in the media. He acknowledged using Wal-Mart’s graphics on his web site but said he believed he could use the images as part of a parody.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokesman Kevin Thornton said the Bentonville, Ark., company needed to protect its name.
“When you pretend to be someone that you’re not, that could lead to a problem,” Thornton said.
Other web sites designed by students for the class included a parody of a fitness campaign by the fast-food restaurant chain McDonald’s Corp. and a site satirizing “700 Club,” religious broadcaster Pat Robertson’s television show.
Papasian said he was surprised his web site, which had as many as 400 hits in its first four days, would draw the attention of the world’s largest retailer.
“The goal was to make the site look like it could be a real site from a company like Wal-Mart, but have text that was so ridiculous that anyone who read it would realize that it was absurd,” Papasian said in a statement on his revamped web site. “If anyone believed it to be a real Wal-Mart site, that is only a testament to the degree of absurdity that exists within corporate America today.”
Papasian’s parody site