Recently declassified transcripts of the interrogation of jailed 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui have revealed the hitherto unheralded, yet vital, role played in the ‘War on Terror’ by those unsung heroes, copyright lawyers. According to the certifiably insane Moussaoui, his part of the 9/11 plot was cancelled following a last-minute legal challenge from lawyers representing best-selling thriller writer Tom Clancy and his publishers. “We had trained for months to hijack an airliner and fly it into Washington’s Capitol Dome,” the terrorist told FBI agents. “But then, just days before the event, Al Qaeida found itself served with a ‘Cease and Desist’ notice and threatened with court action!” It appeared that the writer’s lawyers had somehow gotten wind of the plot and, shocked by what they had learned, decided to act immediately to protect their client’s best interests. “Hell, what would you have done?” asks Joseph Gripples, of New York law firm Sollicker-Socket Associates. “You get information that terrorists are planning an atrocity which exactly matches one described in a client’s best-selling novel, what else can you do but start an action for plagiarism and copyright infringement!” Indeed, the terror plot described by Moussaoui does closely resemble an incident in Tom Clancy’s 1996 novel Executive Orders, in which much of the US government is wiped out by an airliner crashing into the Capitol Dome. Not surprisingly, Al Qaeida’s leadership was highly alarmed by the threat of legal action. “These guys weren’t jerking around – their letter made that very clear! I don’t mind telling you, it scared the hell out of us,” explains a spokesperson for the terror outfit, via a series of taped messages. “There was no way we were going to get drawn into some legal battle with these guys. We could have been tied up in the courts for years – it would have meant postponing the attacks and that could have cost us thousands in the additional wages we would have had to pay the suicide pilots while we waited for a verdict!” Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, the terrorists decided to abandon the planned attack and instead target the Pentagon. “We got one of Osama’s nephews to do a quick search on Google,” says the spokesperson. “As far as we could see nobody had featured a suicide plane attack on the Pentagon in any film, TV series or book, so we felt pretty sure we couldn’t be sued!”

In the event, Sollicker-Socket Associates were satisfied that none of the attacks carried out on 11 September 2001 infringed the copyright of any of its clients. “We checked very thoroughly – the closest we could find to the World Trade Centre attack was King Kong scaling the Twin Towers in the 1976 remake,” confirms Gripple. “Apart from the fact that Paramount Pictures isn’t one of our clients, there is a clear difference between hijacked airliners and a giant ape. Although we did warn Al Qaeida that if any of their people wore gorilla suits whilst crashing the planes into the towers, they could face action from Paramount’s lawyers.” Consequently, the firm didn’t feel obliged to warn the authorities of the impending attacks, which claimed thousands of innocent lives; an action which has drawn criticism from many quarters. “Divulging that kind of information could have compromised client confidentiality” claims Gripples. “Besides, our source was some FBI guy who was trying to publish his memoirs without being sued by the Bureau, so the bastards already knew about it!” The firm now hopes to establish itself as a trendsetter in this new area of copyright law. “Terrorists encroaching on people’s intellectual property rights is, in itself, another form of terror – the trauma of losing millions of dollars of potential royalties can be devastating for the authors involved,” says Gripples. “From now onwards we’ll be very closely monitoring terror attacks globally, not just here in the US – we won’t tolerate tinpot terror groups in the Third World or Far East ripping off our clients in cut-price atrocities. We intend to come down hard on these people – they’ll soon find out that Us copyright laws are enforceable through local courts!” Indeed, Sollicker-Socket Associates is even considering lobbying Congress with a view to amending current copyright laws, so as to allow terrorists to legitimately copy fictional terror attacks upon payment of a fee. “It’s just a logical extension of the current legislation,” muses Gripple. “We already allow individuals and corporations to purchase film, TV and radio options on literary properties, so why not also allow ‘terror options’ to be purchased by the likes of Al Qaeida? For a reasonable fee they would be able to legally base their attacks on, for instance, the works of Tom Clancy for a five year period. An added advantage would be that no other terror group would be able to carry out any similar attacks in that period.”

Not surprisingly, Al Qaeida has been greatly perplexed by the whole business, not least by the issue of how the law firm’s process server was able to find their headquarters in the Afghan mountains so easily. “He just came knocking on the front door, dressed as a mailman,” says the Al Qaeida spokesman. “We just thought it was that DVD of The Sound of Music Osama had ordered from Amazon – next thing we knew, we’d been served with a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter. Bastard!” The organisation has also been forced to retain a team of its own copyright lawyers to vet every new terror plan for possible legal obstacles. “So many things are off the agenda now – we can’t let off nuclear devices in sports stadiums, for instance! That damn Clancy again – he got there first with Sum of All Fears,” explained the terrorists’ spokesperson. “We also can’t use giant mirrors to focus sunlight into a deadly death ray – Eon Productions have a restraining order against us ripping off Die Another Day – and anything involving blowing up the Houses of Parliament has been off the agenda since V For Vendetta! Mind you, we are thinking of suing Warner Brothers over that one for the use of tube trains as weapons of terror!” However, it is Al Qaeida which once again finds itself facing legal action following the 7 July 2005 attacks in London, this time from another terrorist organisation. “We weren’t happy about these bastards encroaching on our turf – we’ve held the franchise for London terrorist outrages for decades,” declares IRA spokesman Seamus O’Bolloghs. “But fair’s fair, the tube attacks showed some originality. We do object though to them blowing up that bus – it was a blatant copy of that time one our boys blew himself and a Routemaster up in the Strand a few years ago! We’ve been in business for nearly a century, and we’re not prepared to let some bunch of upstarts rip us off in our own backyard! We’ll see the bastards in court!” Al Qaeida is unimpressed by this latest legal challenge. “There is no comparison between the two attacks,” rages the fundamentalist’s spokesman. “Our guy meant to blow himself up! Theirs did it by accident – typical bloody Mick! It’s spurious legal actions like this which give terrorism a bad name!”