Davis campaign launches a "fake" Powers Web site
The Daily Gotham was the first to pick up on a sly bit of digital-era campaign mudslinging Saturday when it pulled the curtain on the latest "Jon Powers" Web site (www.powersplatoon.com) to show that, in fact, it wasn't a Jon Powers Web site at all. It wasn't by him, for him or with him. It wasn't from his campaign or his supporters.
Powers Platoon is a tactical fake "Paid for by Davis for Congress," and it's more than just a spitting image of the "actual" campaign site, it's identical — save, of course, the content, which is 100 percent anti-Powers, calling him out for connections with special interest lobbyists and accusing him of waffling on high profile issues.
Can you tell which one is real, which fake?
For those of you who can't tell which site is bogus — though I find it hard to believe that anyone would, for one second, believe the lie — it's the one on the bottom, the one that criticizes Powers in alliterative language that was already hackneyed by the end of the last presidential election (flips, flops, flails). It's obvious. It couldn't be more of a sham and for that very reason is worth a good laugh, at the very least.
But how much of a laugh? Seriously. When do we stop laughing and wonder if this is going too far, as some say. A pair of blog sites that don't shy from the fact that they are supporters of Jon Powers — the Daily Gotham and Buffalo Pundit — think that the site is going so far that it's illegal.
While the Gotham gets a little too nasty and over the top about it — calling Jack Davis a "scumbag" and accusing the site's designers of being no different than people who try to "steal your credit card information" — the question is worth asking: is the site illegal? How?
Buffalo Pundit has this to say:
It’s not protected by the fair use doctrine because it’s not using mere excerpts of Powers’ work product, but has completely mimicked his site in an effort to confuse and trick the reader. Everything right down to the logo, the font, the layout, and even the portrait...
All of these items are protected by automatic copyright held by Mr. Powers. We all expected Jack Davis to use his millions to smear Powers. None of us expected him to do it by breaking the law and deliberately tricking prospective voters.
Is it, then, copyright infringement? What is "automatic copyright"? The Batavian has a couple calls in to attorneys, as well as inquiries sent out to both campaigns: Powers and Davis. Neither has said anything yet, and we're still waiting to hear back from the attorneys.
We also sent an e-mail to the site's registered owner, asking him flat out if he considered the possibility of copyright infringement. His name is Erick Mullen. He gives a Washington, DC address.
Although we have not yet confirmed that it is the same individual who built the fake Powers site, there is a "political communications firm" called Mullen & Company that is run by Erick Mullen and based in Washington. From the Web site:
Mullen & Company is a political communications firm that specializes in award-winning creative media and strategic communications. To win in politics today often demands a break from conventional wisdom, and Mullen & Company will provide your campaign with a modern, thorough knowledge of media strategy and tactics. To win today political campaigns must make decisions rationally rather than culturally.
In his bio, Mullen states that he was part of the campaign team that elected Sen. Charles Schumer in 1998. A video of Schumer posted on the site proves their connection.
We're waiting to hear back from Mullen.
UPDATE: The Batavian did, in fact, hear back from Mullen promptly following this post, and he has defended the site against the allegations from the Powers camp that it is illegal—you can read his comments below. Further, no attorney has yet come forward to affirm the illegality of the site, and we have to believe that it does not violate any specifics of the law.