GUYS, There's a New York Times Parody Account on Twitter, and the Times' Lawyers Are ON IT

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Nov. 20 2012 4:00 PM

GUYS, There's a New York Times Parody Account on Twitter, and the Times' Lawyers Are ON IT

Parody account @NYTOnIt's avatar has been reduced to an egg thanks to the Times' trademark-infringement claim.
Parody account @NYTOnIt was briefly suspended by Twitter and its avatar has been reduced to an egg thanks to the Times' trademark-infringement complaint.

Screenshot / Twitter

On Saturday, the New York Times ran an op-ed headlined "How To Live Without Irony." Among author Christy Wampole's suggestions: "undertaking the cultivation of sincerity, humility and self-effacement, and demoting the frivolous and the kitschy on our collective scale of values." But she forgot to mention the Times' own preferred method: Siccing its lawyers on the ironists.

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Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

The Times parody account @NYTOnIt, which has amassed more than 20,000 followers on Twitter with its cheerful skewering of the paper's more obvious, fatuous, and pompous trend stories, rendered Wampole's piece thusly: "GUYS, it's like rain on your wedding day, and The Times is ON IT." By coincidence—isn't it ironic?—that was @NYTOnIt's last tweet before Twitter suspended the account Monday in response to a trademark complaint from the Times. So much for humility and self-effacement, eh?

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The paper's spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy, explained the Times' stance to Poynter:

We did file a complaint with Twitter and it is our understanding that they have suspended this account for a violation of Twitter’s terms of service. We’re not seeking to disable the account however it is important to The Times that our copyright is protected and that it is clear to all users of Twitter that parody accounts or other unofficial Times accounts are not affiliated nor endorsed by The Times.

Apparently that was not clear enough from @NYTOnIt's Twitter bio, which explicitly states that it's a parody account. The complaint hinged on @NYTOnIt's use of an edited version of The Times' "T" logo—as AllThingsD's Peter Kafka noted, @NYTOnIt's version appeared to be wearing some sort of beret. (I’ve reprinted it here. Come and get me, Gray Lady!)

NYT On It logo
NYTOnIt's erstwhile logo.

The parody account's creator, Benjamin Kabak, took to Twitter to voice his unironic annoyance. "Considering how many NYTers know I run @NYTOnIt, it's pretty disappointing they couldn't contact me without going through Twitter's TOS," he tweeted. He added, "Some Times lawyer got upset over my edited use of the T logo. I say it's fair use and they used Twitter's TOS to suspend account."

To its partial credit, Twitter quickly reinstated the account in response to Kabak's appeal, though it declined to reinstate the altered logo. And Kabak reported via the Times Is On It Facebook page that Twitter had threatened to permanently delete his account if it received one more complaint. He's now soliciting suggestions for a new avatar that won't get him banned for life.

The Times is On It
A prophetic @NYTOnIt tweet from earlier this year.

Screenshot / Twitter

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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