Bitcoin is going head to head with Western Union, and the payment processing giant does not like it. Earlier this month, Western Union created an advertisement promoting their holiday deal: for the holiday, you can wire up to $50 within the United States for a $5.00 fee. Some of you may note that this is completely ridiculous. Evidently, some intrepid Bitcoiner felt the same way, and created the following advertisement, comparing Bitcoin’s feature set with that of Western Union’s. The comparison is far from favorable.
A version of the image was posted to a Bitcoin news Facebook page. Western Union, evidently unamused, issued a DMCA takedown notice almost immediately. This is a problem for several reasons: most pressingly, because the use of the Western Union ad (which contains their logo) isn’t a question of copyright, it’s a question of trademark, something that the DMCA cannot be used to address. Beyond that, reproducing an advertisement for the purpose of criticizing it is clearly fair use, making it an abuse of the DMCA, even if the law were being applied correctly.
Since its creation, the DMCA has been used as a cudgel by large companies to suppress criticism and free use – knowing that most users are not willing to pursue a court case, the DMCA as a legal instrument is ripe for abuse – even if, in this case the Streisand effect will probably result in the wide circulation of the image. However, it is interesting that a giant in the field like Western Union is so threatened by an upstart like Bitcoin that they have to resort to the DMCA to get people to stop talking about it.
Evidently, Western Union also subscribes to the idea that Bitcoin represents an imminent threat to their bloated, usurious wire transfer industry, and it’s going to curb-stomp their business model into the beige sea of obsolescence where the ghost of Blockbuster still lingers.
At the end of the day, it’s just a parody ad, but the larger message comes through pretty clearly: the old giants are scared, and Bitcoin is going to eat them alive.