Autism Speaks Silences Autistic Child
This happened last week to a member of the Aspies for Freedom forum, who goes by the net nickname Kelly (among other nicknames) and is 14 years old. Autism Speaks got pissed off because Kelly built a parody website, NTSpeaks, which humorously suggested that interventions for certain annoying and intolerant behaviors of the non-autistic population might be in order. The site was designed to resemble Autism Speaks' website.
Building such a site was, of course, completely legal. American copyright law specifically states that a parody is not a copyright violation. Additionally, the First Amendment protects parodies along with other forms of free speech. The parody is a time-honored genre in American public discourse; concerned citizens have been expressing their political opinions by way of parody ever since rebellious colonists in the 1700s plastered their cities with handbills lampooning King George.
Apparently Autism Speaks' lawyers decided, however, that it would be very easy to intimidate an autistic child who did not have the means to fight back. They sent Kelly a letter containing a ridiculous demand for $90,000 for "funds lost." Then they followed that up by claiming that they were willing to settle the matter without receiving any payment because of Kelly's age, provided the website was taken down. They also browbeat Kelly into destroying the source code and giving the domain name to Autism Speaks.
I don't fault Kelly in any way for giving in to the pressure; a young kid can't reasonably be expected to have the means to stand up to a corporate bully like Autism Speaks, after all. But if I ever get a letter from Autism Speaks' lawyers threatening to sue me about something on my website, I'm going to print it on my blog in its entirety, along with a response telling them to kiss my autistic ass. If they really want it all over the blogosphere (and, quite likely, the mainstream news) that they have a practice of filing frivolous lawsuits to intimidate autistic self-advocates, they deserve the consequences of that arrogance, and this is the only response they should get from any of us: "Go ahead, make my day."
EDIT: This story has now been "farked," which means that Autism Speaks is being ridiculed on Fark.com (a popular site for discussion of bizarre news stories). Also, here's a link to a new NT Speaks website created in response to Autism Speaks' bullying.
Labels: Autism Speaks