Leaving Reality Behind

Etoy is a European digital art group. Their slogan is: ‘leaving reality behind.’ Etoy routinely experiments with the boundaries of art, such as selling shares of ‘stock’ in the etoy.corporation, a registered company in Switzerland and travelling the world as well as living in ‘etoy.tanks’ (cargo containers).

The group was founded in 1994 and is owned now by hundreds of etoy.shareholders such as international art collectors, the etoy.agents and toywar.soldiers (who protected the etoy.brand during the toywar — a legal fight with an online toy retailer over the domain). The etoy.inventors own, control and protect the corporate ‘sculpture.’

According to eToys Inc. offered etoy $516,000 for the rights to the domain name. After etoy rejected this offer, eToys Inc. responded by filing a lawsuit on the grounds of ‘unfair competition, trademark delusion, security fraud, illegal stock market operation, pornographic content, offensive behavior, and terrorist activity.’ The Toywar soon ensued. eToys was successful at one point in the litigation process and was able to get an injunction to temporarily shut down the etoy website. But before long the Toywar developed into a high-profile tactical media event.

Fearing customer confusion about the similar domain names, eToys sued etoy for trademark infringement, and asked etoy to remove graphic images and profane language from their website that were bringing customer complaints. The artists refused to comply, and eToys eventually obtained a preliminary injunction against etoy which shut down their website. etoy fought back with a coordinated public relations campaign and Internet-based denial of service attacks on After several weeks eToys dropped the lawsuit and the etoy website returned to operation.

With the ongoing legal struggle with eToys, etoy, Advisor Reinhold Grether issued a call to arms, asking for agents of the Toy. Army to create ‘new toys’ to help with the fight. ®TMark responded by creating a game-esque campaign called ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas,’ intended to interrupt eToys’ website during its busiest time of the year. ®TMark calls their ‘new toy’ a “multi-user Internet game whose goal is to damage (or possibly even destroy) the company [eToys].’ This was just one of the many projects created by ®TMark for the ‘etoy fund.’ The project also involved placing numerous pages on the eToys server, including financial documents, which would slow the eToys server during the busiest sale season of the year.

The battle hurt the image of eToys Inc. and the company’s stock fell by over 70%, plummeting from $67 to $19. The Toywar had also begun to garner worldwide press attention. After a number of weeks, eToys decided to surrender, dropping the lawsuit. It has been reported that eToys declared bankruptcy after the legal dispute with etoy. It has been called ‘the most expensive performance in art history,’ citing eToys’ market capitalization loss of $4.5 billion dollars during the conflict. However most analysts denied that this had been caused by the efforts of etoy and its supporters alone. The story is one of the subjects of the documentary film, ‘info wars.’

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