Oh boy. Apparently, some people still haven’t read Twitter’s rules on parody accounts, and it’s getting them into a whole world of legal trouble. The creator of the account @coventryfirst is being sued by life insurance firm Coventry First for sending fake and inappropriate tweets in the company’s name.
You’ll need a little background information on Coventry First in order to understand the tweets coming from its parody account.
Coventry First is a “secondary life insurance market” player. This means they invest in the rights to collect on individuals’ policies. As Reuters notes, this practice gained notoriety in the 80s when investors bought the policies of AIDS patients, expecting to be paid a huge payday rather quickly, and instead incurred losses when those patients began to live longer due to treatments. Since then, it has been criticized as an industry that basically bets on death.
The parody account named in Coventry First’s lawsuit pokes fun at the infamous insurance giant, pretending to be Coventry itself cheering for the death of its policy holders.
The account has been active since May 26th, and has tweeted such gems as:
“horrible weekend..no plane crashes (they make a lot of money), no earthquakes :-(”
“sure,maybe health ins. comps. want u to die fast once you get sick but they want u healthy for a long time first.coventry wants u dead NOW!”
Coventry First is suing the owner of the fake account for “unfair competition and trademark infringement”, seeking a court order for monetary damages and the suspension of the Twitter account. It has also issued a subpoena to Twitter to reveal the identity of the person behind the account.
Unfortunately for the parody account holder, they forgot to add some pretty basic safeguards against such lawsuits into their account. Twitter stipulates that all parody accounts should be clearly labeled as such, using a word like “fake”, “not” or “fan” in the username and the profile name. They should also be clearly labeled as a parody within the bio, and should not try to mislead users into believing that it is the real company or individual that it is parodying.
From the looks of it, @coventryfirst hasn’t complied with any of those guidelines, which may leave it open to Coventry First’s lawsuit. On the other hand, legal experts quoted by Reuters suggest that trademark claims like the one Coventry First laid against the parody account must be proved based on the fact that the fake account is misleading consumers and causing confusion in the marketplace – and I’m not so sure tweets like “2 increase shareholder value, would it b wrong to root for mass deaths in the world? preferably, 1st-world countries. LMK, kthxbai” would ever really be mistaken for something from the real Coventry First.