Environmental charity Greenpeace Australia Pacific has triumphed over AGL Energy in a landmark intellectual property judgement in the Federal Court today.

School Strikers at Loy Yang A Power Station in Victoria
Three Victorian School Strikers protest against AGL Energy’s burning of coal at their coal-fired power station, Loy Yang A, in the La Trobe Valley.

The Honourable Justice Burley delivered judgement, finding that Greenpeace had not infringed AGL’s trade mark, and that the overwhelming majority of Greenpeace’s campaign materials did not infringe AGL’s copyright.

The small number of Greenpeace’s campaign materials which were not protected by the “fair dealing” copyright defence, were uses which were more in the nature of protest, rather than exposing AGL to ridicule.

The judge found that “copyright protects the owner’s interest in the artistic work, it does not provide a mechanism for protecting a copyright owner’s reputation”. He held that “it is not the use of AGL’s logo in the campaign that causes damage, but rather the informational message” – that AGL is Australia’s biggest climate polluter. 


Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner Glenn Walker said that today’s ruling was a significant victory, but that the battle against AGL, which is responsible for more climate pollution than any other Australian company, goes on.

“Today’s ruling in favour of Greenpeace is an affirmation that the law is on the side of freedom of expression. But this is just the first victory. Our campaign to expose AGL as Australia’s single biggest corporate contributor to climate pollution, and to pressure it to close its coal-burning power stations will continue for as long as it takes to win. This is much bigger than a court case over a logo – it’s a fight for the future.”

“As today’s ruling shows, despite the multi-billion dollar might of fossil fuel Goliaths like AGL, courage and conviction can win the day.”

Katrina Bullock, General Counsel for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said that the landmark case was a win for freedom of expression, setting an important legal precedent in copyright law.

“Today’s legal victory is good news for charities, advocacy organisations, satirists and anyone else who seeks to rely on the “fair dealing” freedom of speech safeguard in the Copyright Act to criticise, review, satirise or parody powerful corporations,” she said.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific plans to continue its campaign to pressure AGL to close its coal-burning power stations by 2030, including the logo parody that sparked AGL’s lawsuit against the environmental charity.