Greenpeace says AGL campaign was 'pure'

·3-min read

Attempts to characterise Greenpeace as a "corporate villain" for its use of energy giant AGL's logo in an environmental campaign are distorted and irrational, the not-for-profit's lawyers say.

Greenpeace also admitted its attempts to highlight AGL's poor environmental record were intended to make the company's brand "temporarily toxic" - but insisted it did not breach copyright while doing so.

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 Australia's carbon emissions, Greenpeace produced online content including the AGL logo and the phrase "Australia's Greatest Liability" alongside it.

This was an attempt to recast the acronym which makes up AGL.

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.

Neil Murray SC, representing Greenpeace, told the Federal Court on Wednesday that the motivations of the environmental group were "pure" and its actions were not intended to inflict maximum harm.

He said AGL attempts to characterise Greenpeace as a corporate villain infringing copyright were "distorted (and), with respect, irrational".

But John Hennessy SC for AGL said the Greenpeace campaign involved the "wholesale reproduction of the logo" and could not be considered satirical.

Earlier, Greenpeace senior campaigner Glenn Walker - who was responsible for the campaign against AGL - told the court 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.

He insisted Greenpeace would, if change 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 case has now adjourned for Justice Stephen Burley to make a judgment.

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.

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