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CanWest drops parody suit against printer

Canwest has dropped its lawsuit against a Vancouver printer in a case involving a parody of the Vancouver Sun.

The parody, which included headlines such as “Study Shows Truth Biased Against Israel,” mocked Canwest’s coverage of the Middle East. The media company is suing those responsible for the parody, claiming copyright violation and trademark infringement.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elliott Myers approved Thursday a new statement of claim that does not include Vancouver printer Horizon Publications and its general manager as defendants.

The new statement of claim also drops allegations that the remaining defendants, Gordon Murray and Carel Moiseiwitsch, committed the civil wrongs of conspiracy and injurious falsehood.

Lawyers for the two sides appeared Thursday in Supreme Court Chambers before Justice Myers on an appeal of a November ruling by Supreme Court Master Alan Donaldson.

Donaldson, a Supreme Court official with the power to make procedural orders in civil cases, ordered a number of statements struck from Murray’s statement of defence, which was filed with the court in response to Canwest’s statement of claim.

Donaldson ruled that Murray's statement of defence cannot argue that “Canwest newspapers and other Canwest media properties have a strong pro-Israel bias” and that this bias comes from company headquarters. Nor can Murray demand that Canwest produce documents related to these claims, Donaldson ruled.

Murray and Moiseiwitsch argue that their right to produce the parody is protected by the free speech provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

On Thursday, Murray’s lawyer, Jason Gratl, argued that Murray should be allowed to argue when the case goes to trial that the allegations of bias in the parody are true.

David Church, representing Canwest, responded that the case is solely about the unauthorized use of Canwest’s intellectual property and that whether the allegations are true or not is irrelevant.

Justice Myers reserved his decision until next week.

Murray and Moiseiwitsch produced the four-page newspaper in question in June 2007 and left it in Vancouver Sun newspaper boxes.

The parody paper copies the logo and layout of the Vancouver Sun, a Canwest paper, and is identified as being produced by the “Palestine Media Collective.”

In December 2007, Canwest launched a lawsuit against pro-Palestinian activist Mordecai Briemberg, Horizon Publications and its general manager, and several unnamed persons.

Several months after the suit was filed, Murray and Moiseiwitsch came forward, identified themselves as the authors of the paper, and were added to the suit.

Briemberg, a retired community college instructor, had nothing to do with creating the paper, they said. In November of last year, Canwest dropped its action against Briemberg.

Tom Barrett is a contributing editor at The Tyee.

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