Blue Ribbon Campaign vs. BFSS

The British Field Sports Society (BFSS)
Censoring Cyberspace

The following verbatim e-mailed legal threat from the BFSS is HedWeb's first, and so far only, communication from an organisation called the British Field Sports Society. It is unclear whether the BFSS's present level of enthusiasm for free debate and discussion of bloodsports on the Net will be sustained.
[DP. 9 Aug 1996]

Latest BFSS legal threat
[DP. 28 Aug 1996]

Date: Wed, 07 Aug 1996 20:25:10 -0700
From: Janet George
Organization: British Field Sports Society
Subject: Your client passing off
>Dear Sir
>It has been brought to our attention that a Lycos search for "British
>Field Sports Society" reveals a site hosted by your company which is
>passing off as the British Field Sports Society. This is illegal.
>Our solicitors advise us that unless this site is removed immediately
>we should take action to obtain an injunction and damages from your
>client and yourselves.
>The site is offensive and arguably libellous. Please notify us within 7
>days of your intentions with regard to this site. If I do not receive
>a satisfactory response, I will have no option but to place the matter
>in the hands of our solicitors.
>Janet George (Mrs.)
>Chief Press Officer

Dear Mrs George
Thank you for cc-ing me the above e-mail.

I presume you are in fact referring to an article, entitled "The British Field Sports
Society - Killing for Kicks" found at the URL:

On your first point, I do not think any reasonable - or even unreasonable - person
could think that that article was issued by, or on behalf of, the BFSS. Indeed, it is
forthright and explicit throughout in its criticism of the society and the killing of
animals for 'sport'. It does not use the logo or domain name or in any way attempt
to parody the BFSS site, let alone "pass [itself] off as" such. I suspect that on due
reflection - and inspection - you will agree.

In view, however, of the manner and pretences under which the BFSS has been
encouraging its members to infiltrate the RSPCA, you may appreciate there would
have been a certain irony in the charge had it been true.

You describe the article, again apparently without irony, as "offensive."
As you may be aware, the majority of people in our society find the practice of hunting
down and killing other living creatures for fun profoundly obnoxious. I accept,
though it saddens me, that you do not, and indeed wish actively to promote "field
sports". I would hope, however, that you do not wish to censor free comment on
the practice; or to ask me, or any of the contributors to my pages, or my service
provider Pavilion, to do so.

I'm afraid your suggestion that the article might, in some completely unspecified
way, be "arguably libellous" is too vague for me to be able to rebut it; so I will
have to let it pass.

If necessary, I would certainly be prepared, though I do not seek, both to defend
publicly the article, and the right to freedom of lawful expression without
censorship in a democratic society, in court.

Fighting censorship in cyberspace is, in my opinion, equally important. I have to say
that I regard your attempt to threaten legal sanctions, however empty, rather
than to use reasoned argument in this manner, as both sinister and oppressive.

I would hope that on reflection you may wish to reconsider your position.

Thank you for your consideration.
Yours sincerely
David Pearce.

[reply sent 8 Aug]

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