Payday lender Wonga ordered Twitter to remove a parody posted by a user today, that showed a character from its adverts superimposed onto a man in a Hogarth painting from the Rake’s Progress series of a spendthrift locked up in a debtors’ prison.
Online satirist Brandy Snap added the words: “Fed up of final demands, whining relatives and debtors’ prison?” and reproduces the Wonga logo with the added strapline: “Your soul is ours.”
The loans company said the depiction of Earl, one of the elderly puppets used in the well-known ads, and the use of Wonga’s logo on the picture infringed their copyright and sent a take-down notice. Twitter removed the image along with several other pastiches by online satirists who also received the warnings.
The warning said: “Unauthorised use of all or a substantial part of a copyright work is an infringing act. The ‘wonga.com’ trademark device has been reproduced without consent. Unauthorised use of all or a substantial part of a copyright work (which the copyright owner asserts in addition to its trade mark rights) is an infringing act.”
Wonga has often been criticised for charging its customers interest rates of up to thousands of per cent. The Advertising Standards Authority banned one of its adverts this week for implying that charging an annual interest rate of 5,853 per cent was “irrelevant”.
Although successfully removing the Hogarth parody from Twitter the company was accused of creating a Streisand Effect – the phenomenon where an attempt at censorship has the unintended consequence of drawing more attention to the information in question.
Thousands of Twitter users retweeted the original parody and sent Brandy Snap messages of support. Scott Nelson said: “Wonga not liking the bad publicity? Perhaps Wonga should stop preying on the financially vulnerable and needy.”
Brandy Snap posted another pastiche later in the day, with the message “Wonga - This is how Twitter works,” superimposing Earl onto a still from a Barbara Streisand film, The movie star says: “If only you’d have asked first. I coulda told ya what would happen honey.”