SYDNEY, AAP – A Greenpeace senior campaigner admits the not-for-profit’s attempts to highlight Australian energy giant AGL’s poor environmental record were intended to make the company’s brand “temporarily toxic”.
But the organisation maintains it did not breach copyright on AGL’s logo by using it in a “cheeky” campaign designed to place pressure on the company to move away from coal and boost its use of renewables.
AGL has launched legal action against Greenpeace Australia Pacific over the use of its logo in a campaign calling AGL “Australia’s biggest climate polluter”.
In seeking to promulgate the message AGL is responsible for eight per cent of all Australia’s carbon emissions, Greenpeace produced a website with an AGL logo and the phrase “Australia’s Greatest Liability” alongside it.
The environmental organisation also produced a report on AGL’s activities, accusing the company of falsely presenting itself as a climate leader.
AGL says the logo’s use infringes its copyright and trademark rights and has taken Greenpeace to the Federal Court over the matter.
AGL’s lawyers said allegations of environmental wrongdoing were “unsubstantiated” and the company did not wish to suppress public debate on climate change, but simply to protect its copyright.
Greenpeace argues its use of the AGL logo should fall under “fair dealing” provisions in Australian copyright law as it is clearly satire or parody.
Glenn Walker, a Greenpeace senior campaigner responsible for the campaign against AGL, told the court on Wednesday that the campaign was a typical case of “brand jamming” to capture public attention.
Mr Walker and Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive David Ritter repeatedly denied the campaign was created for educational purposes.
Mr Walker instead said the campaign hoped to render AGL a “temporary villain” and “toxic” for its environmental record, inducing pressure to change.
But he insisted Greenpeace would, if that occurred, then praise the company.
Greenpeace wants AGL to close all of its coal-fired power stations by 2030.
“In this case, the key thing we wanted to do was motivate people, narrow their view of the issue so they were compelled to act,” Mr Walker said.
“We wanted to put a lot of pressure on this company to change.
“We see that as a temporary state … we’re very happy to celebrate their achievements when they change, we weren’t setting out to destroy (AGL).”
The hearing continues before Justice Stephen Burley.
Prior to proceedings in court, Greenpeace general counsel Katrina Bullock labelled AGL’s suit a “SLAPP lawsuit” – a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” which is designed to intimidate a firm’s critics.