Getting involved in a grudge with Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony is one thing, but what happens when you try to take on the group hell bent on bringing down the Lord’s Resistance Army leader? Some smarmy NYC graduates are finding out the hard way.
A group of pranksters enrolled in graduate courses at New York University have unveiled a website that parodies the advocacy group-gone-viral Invisible Children, but the guys behind the original anti-Kony campaign aren’t all that amused. So upset are Invisible Children, in fact, that they are threatening to file a lawsuit against the webmasters behind Kickstriker, a parody of the Kickstarter crowd funding website that garners donations for different causes.
For those willing to help out in the fight against Joseph Kony, the official Invisible Children website reveals many different ways to contribute to their cause. By logging on the Kickstriker, however, Web surfers are allowed an opportunity to arm Tibetan monks with machine guns, weaponize homemade drones or, yes, “bring Joseph Kony to Justice.”
“One-hundred million people have seen our ‘KONY 2012’ video on YouTube and elsewhere,” writes a plea for aid from the fake Invisible Children account. “This prompted an unprecedented outcry from the world community: we have to stop Joseph Kony! Unfortunately, after a heartwarming call to action, the world’s governments have failed to deliver. The US response was tepid, and though the African Union has committed 5,000 troops to tracking and bringing the man to justice, AU troops are not exactly known to be effective.”
“What’s more, following the release of the ‘KONY 2012’ video, we found ourselves the subject of much criticism online. In order to address these criticisms, we’ve decided to partner with Kickstriker, in order to launch a transparent, direct funding campaign with the goal of capturing Joseph Kony once and for all. If this project is successfully funded, 100% of your donation will go toward hiring private military contractors from Academi (formerly Blackwater), who will be immediately deployed to central Africa. Their mission: to capture Joseph Kony, dead or alive. To be clear, 100% of your donation will go toward the mission and none will be used for Invisible Children’s general operating expenses.”
The notion of bringing onboard the notorious private security firm behind more than one overseas massacre should be enough misinformation to clue would-be donators to the fact that the Kickstriker page is a scam — and the “general operating expenses” quip rehashes the allegations of financial mismanagement that plagued Invisible Children after it was revealed that they divvy a good chunk of their funding among thor staff. It might not be a parody on par with a “Weird Al” Yankovic endeavor, but arguably still funny.
Not to Invisible Children, though. The actual group is going after the NYU students behind the fake site, saying that their parody is “impermissible use is a blatant and egregious infringement of Invisible Children’s valuable copyright and trademark rights.”
In the rest of the cease-and-desist warning, acquired by Wired.com’s Danger Room, Invisible Children’s representatives say that “failure to cease and desist your unlawful use of Invisible Children’s intellectual property will result in legal action” and are asking for the pranksters to provide in writing that they “permanently deleted all electronic copies of the unauthorized and infringing materials from any computers, servers or other distribution media.”
“The purpose of our website, Kickstriker.com (henceforth ‘Kickstriker’), is to critique a number of institutions, including Invisible Children, through the use of political satire,” Kickstriker’s Mehan Jayasuriya, James Borda and Josh Begley reply to Invisible Children. “As such, while Kickstriker makes use of the trademarked terms ‘Invisible Children’ and ‘KONY 2012,’ these uses are protected under the doctrine of fair use, which allows for such uses for the purposes of criticism and commentary.”
“I don’t think any of us guessed that of all the organizations that we skewered, Invisible Children would be the one to take action,” Jayasuriya adds to Wired’s report. After all, another fake cash-grab on their site suggests that the conservative think-tank group The Heritage Foundation is asking for donations towards building “a discrete interrogation vehicle” that hosts “a sensory-depravation environment where detainees can be effectively and appropriately questioned.”