Atlanta demands parody page stop using trademark seal

A local Atlanta man started a parody Facebook page

ATLANTA - It's an inside-the-perimeter joke. And it's hilarious. Unless you're the City of Atlanta. 

"We have invested 90 million dollars in a trolley system that will allow citizens to travel 10 whole blocks in a total of 3 hours."

"In 2017, Bankhead will be torn down and replaced with a Whole Foods."

"Our homicide investigation unit has relocated to the inside of Kroger, next to the sample lady. Please be mindful of this as you do your grocery shopping."

"Our goal is to keep the poor cars out of rich neighborhoods... Please do not disturb the rich life with your ugly vehicle."

It's labeled as the City of Atlanta Facebook Page.  It shows the city's official seal, and has a massive fan following. But, it's not owned nor operated by the City of Atlanta.

The man behind the page is Ben Palmer.  He lives in the city of Atlanta and likes satirical humor.

"I really just wanted to make the page and take screenshots and share it with my friends for them to laugh. And somewhere along the way, other people just started following the page and it grew really fast," Palmer said.

It now has more than 12,800 likes.

Palmer decided to post ridiculous things because he had too many tickets, too many run-ins with city officials, and not enough money to make ends meet.

"A lot of the things were coming out of frustration of what I was going through," Palmer said. "I had just went to court that day for a couple of tickets. [I was] sitting in court thinking over the last several years of being broke and struggling in Atlanta."

That struggle birthed some outrageous posts like this one:

"We take being poor very seriously. If you are caught being poor anywhere near or around Atlanta, our cameras will take a picture of you and you will receive a ticket in the mail. If you do not have a postal address, you will be collected in a paddy wagon and taken off to jail. Your ticket will then be mailed to jail."

Or another that pokes fun at the infamous nicknamed Murder Kroger on Ponce:

"If you get murdered outside of Publix, you will be fined 100-dollars for not being murdered outside of Kroger."

In Parma, Ohio, a man was arrested, then charged with a felony when he made a fake Parma Police Department Facebook page. A jury acquitted him in August.

Atlanta Beltline Inc. asked a Facebook page, Humans of the Atlanta Beltline not to use their name because it's trademarked.

"I'm surprised with the amount of people following it, that someone would see it and it get taken down," Palmner said. "I took the seal from the Parks and Recs Department. Maybe it will one day get taken down. I don't care. It's been worth it."

That use of the seal is where Palmer may have crossed the line.

Wednesday afternoon, a City of Atlanta spokesperson told 11Alive the city was working to remove unauthorized use of the city's seal:

"The First Amendment allows people to express their opinions concerning their government in many ways, including satire. However, no person has the right to use a trademark in a manner that deceives or confuses the public.

The Atlanta City Seal is protected as a registered trademark; it is the City’s brand. When people see our brand, they know that the material on which it appears is on behalf of, or recognized by, the Atlanta City Government.

The owner of the satirical City Facebook page was not authorized to use the City’s trademark. We are working with Facebook to remove the City Seal and any other information on the Facebook page that might confuse or mislead the public into believing that the page or its contents represent the positions, policies or practices of Atlanta City Government."

He says he loves to make people laugh-- even at the expense of the city.

"I don't know if I'll ever fix things. The point of satire is to criticize through humor and the end goal is to improve. So, that would be the goal of this: to improve. That would be great if this were to help."

 


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