Yesterday, Janick Murray-Hall announced that his satirical news site and Journal de Montéal (JdeM) pardoy Le Journal de Mourréal would cease all operations. In a Facebook post, the site’s founder said that he couldn’t afford the legal fees necessary to fight media behemoth and JdeM parent company Quebecor:
Le Journal de Mourréal started publishing fake news stories in 2012 with a style mimicking JdeM’s tabloid approach, complete with a spoof of their logo and category choices on their website. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery for some, for Quebecor, it was cause to seek an injunction, claiming Journal de Mourréal was financially benefiting off the similarities and readers may confuse the two sites.
Initially, Murray-Hall decided to fight the court challenge by raising funds online and, of course, publishing a satirical article about Quebecor’s over-the-top litigious nature, but then realized the costs would be too much and threw in the towel. As Murray Hall’s colleague Olivier (aka Suzanne Lachance) noted in a different Facebook post today, Quebecor was very likely to lose the case, but the prohibitive costs made it impossible for the pair to continue.
This sounds like it could be a typical SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit designed to frighten potential critics into silence with the looming threat of huge expenses. Such suits are, in fact, illegal in Quebec, but then, of course, getting to the point where the Mourréal team could sue for court costs would probably take a hefty amount of legal fees up front.
The question remains, though: Does Quebecor really have such a low opinion of the typical JdeM reader that they think a clearly satirical site may confuse them? Or, as Olivier put it in his Facebook post:
“Honestly, we never thought that a newspaper which publishes 10 articles per day on Pokémon and the Kardashians could actually consider having, at this point, a brand image to defend!”
* Featured image is the former Journal de Mourréal Facebook page header