Activists Stop Esso at France's biggest refinery on the 25 May 2002.
The decision by a French court today to lift an injunction
against the use of a parody logo on the StopEsso website was an
important victory for free speech on the internet, a victory for
the climate, and evidence that Esso's strategy to silence critics
using the courts was futile, Greenpeace said today.
In July 2002, Esso France began legal action against Greenpeace
in France over the StopEsso website, which uses a logo featuring a
double dollar sign ($$) in place of the double "S" in the oil
giant's red and blue logo. StopEsso, a global coalition of groups
including Greenpeace, is campaigning around the world to stop Esso
from sabotaging international action to address climate change and
has used the logo around the world since the campaign was launched
in May 2001.
"Esso is sabotaging climate protection in order to continue its
dirty business and has attempted to use the courts to silence its
critics. Today that strategy failed," said Greenpeace International
campaigner Stephanie Tunmore.
"Esso is one of the world's most profitable companies and uses
its big bucks to get what it wants, from spending millions on
lobbying the White House to drop the Kyoto Protocol, to buying junk
science and advertising campaigns that try to confuse the public
about global warming."
In July last year, a French judge upheld Esso's bid to get the
logo taken off the Greenpeace France website. But after hearing
Greenpeace's appeal, Justice Lacabarats in Paris found that
StopEsso's use of the logo was allowable under the right to free
A similar case over use of parody logos on the internet was
heard in France on the same day as the StopEsso logo case, when
French nuclear company Areva sought to use Greenpeace in France and
New Zealand over a parody logo used on the web. The court upheld a
previous decision that this logo was allowable, again citing
freedom of speech.
Esso had earlier claimed that a double dollar sign logo
associated the company with the Nazi SS but this was rejected by
the court at a preliminary hearing. Esso had demanded the
withdrawal of all the logos, a penalty of 80,000 Euro a day for
reputational damage and 80,000 Euro per day per logo if Greenpeace
failed to comply. It also demanded removal of all use of the term
"It is Esso's own behaviour interfering in international action
on climate change that is damaging its reputation, rather than
anything we are doing," said Tunmore. "Trying to trample over the
right to freedom of expression in an attempt to shut us down has
only attracted further condemnation".
The website http://greenpeace.fr/stopesso/ over which Esso
sought to sue, has now been reactivated in France.