Fri Apr 09, 2010 @ 11:30AM PST
By Eriq Gardner and Matthew Belloni
EXCLUSIVE: CNN has embraced the user-generated culture of the Internet, encouraging viewers to send in news reports and featuring viewer responses on Twitter and Facebook.
But the cable news giant is now suing a man named Robert Paisola who identifies himself on blogs
as a senior iReporter for CNN, features a stylized logo of CNN on his Twitter feed, claims to be a regular contributor to CNN on his LinkedIn page and has registered CNNLIVE.INFO as a domain name.
A Google search of Paisola reveals why CNN might want to disassociate itself from him. The guy claims to be the CEO of the Los Angeles-based group of companies called Western Capital Family but has been accused of criminal fraud. CNN says in court papers filed in Atlanta that Paisola has been sued by others and has attempted to use his questionable status as a CNN iReporter to gain press credentials to access news events.
CNN's claims against Paisola include trademark infringement, breach of contract and unfair competition after he allegedly violated the terms of a prior settlement agreement to cease and desist his activities.
Among the allegations from the complaint:
- "Paisola's Twitter page contains a prominent display of the CNN stylized logo"
- "Paisola's LinkedIn page falsely states that 'Robert is a regular contributor to...CNN.' And also states that 'Robert is credentialed by...CNN I Report.'"
- "Paisola has posted a number of web picture albums to Picasa using or referring to CNN or claiming that he is reporting for CNN."
CNN says the use of the marks is likely to "deceive, confuse and mislead the public, purchasers and prospective purchasers" into believing Paisola works for CNN, causing it "irreparable harm."
An email to Paisola via his blog was not immediately returned.
On its website, CNN has an entire section
devoted to ways that users can contribute. Some have celebrated moves like this by powerful news outlets as a welcome democratization of the media. But this case illustrates a risk of that empowerment.