Panelist rules that domain used for gripe site isn’t protected speech.
UDRP panelists walk a fine line when considering cases involving gripe sites. Is it cybersquatting to register a domain related to a company if the goal is to complain about the company, or is it just exercising free speech?
Panelists tend to give deference to freedom of speech considerations when both parties are in the United States. But a recent case at the World Intellectual Property Organization involving a car dealer shows that the line can be crossed.
The case for TedBritt .net involved a car dealer in Virginia and a man in Maine who claimed that the dealership had been cheating customers.
Panelist W. Scott Blackmer noted that, while the Respondent was free to complain about the car dealer using a website, his approach violated the UDRP.
His decision notes that the Respondent appears to have copied much of the Complainant’s website:
The entire point seems to be to mislead Internet users so they will visit the website and then remain long enough to be exposed to the disparaging content.
Blackmer also pointed out that the Respondent published personal information about the Complainant’s family members and encouraged people to “e-mail them, call them, Face Book them, or visit them at their homes.” He cited doxing as evidence of bad faith:
…the Respondent employed similar tactics here in researching and revealing personal information on the website associated with the Domain Name, including personal information about family members, apparently because of dissatisfaction about a business transaction. This is a dangerous and indefensible practice; in some instances it can be actionable (as was evidently the case in Symetra Life Insurance v. Emerson, supra) or result in criminal prosecution (see, e.g., Wikipedia, “Doxing”). Doxing can be added to the illustrations of bad faith.
Hyland Law PLLC represented the Complainant.
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Author: Andrew Allemann