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Greenpeace wins legal battle against energy giant

10 June 2021 at 8:28 am
Maggie Coggan
Charity representatives have labelled it a win for freedom of expression

Maggie Coggan | 10 June 2021 at 8:28 am


Greenpeace wins legal battle against energy giant
10 June 2021 at 8:28 am

Charity representatives have labelled it a win for freedom of expression 

An attempt by Australia’s largest electricity generator to shut down a Greenpeace campaign, alleging it breached copyright and trademark laws by using the company’s logo, has largely failed, following a final court decision. 

On Tuesday, Justice Stephen Burley ruled against AGL Energy on its trademark infringement claim and failed in its copyright infringement claim for all of the uses of the logo except for three social media posts as well as some photographs and placards.    

The company launched legal action against the charity in May over a Greenpeace report and online advertisements targeting AGL as Australia’s largest corporate polluter.

The campaign features AGL’s logo and phrases such as “generating pollution for generations” and “still Australia’s biggest climate polluter”.

Katrina Bullock, Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s general counsel, told Pro Bono News at the time that she believed the copyright and trademark claim was an attempt to stifle criticism of their pollution, and the outcome of the case would set an important precedent for future campaigns. 

AGL lawyer Megan Evetts told the court there was a “clear intention to harm the brand” through the Greenpeace campaign.

“AGL is not seeking to stifle public debate. What it is seeking to do is protect itself, protect its intellectual property rights,” Evetts said.

The charity’s views were backed by a group of Australia’s leading environmental groups, who threw their support behind Greenpeace Australia Pacific in the lead up to the court case.   

A win for the future

Speaking after the ruling, Bullock said that the case was a win for freedom of expression and set an important legal precedent in copyright law.

“Today’s legal victory is good news for charities, advocacy organisations, satirists and anyone else who seeks to rely on the ‘fair dealing’ freedom of speech safeguard in the Copyright Act to criticise, review, satirise or parody powerful corporations,” she said.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific plans to continue its campaign to pressure AGL to close its coal-burning power stations by 2030. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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