Steve Levy ⬥ 13 November
On October 9th, I posted an entry on Glenn Beck filing a UDRP complaint with WIPO over the domain name <glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com>
On October 29th, a WIPO Panel issued its decision denying transfer of the domain. The claim made by Glenn Beck and his media company was that the domain was defamatory and registered in violation of the UDRP. Mercury Radio Arts, Inc. and Glenn Beck v. Isaac Eiland-Hall, WIPO Case No. D2009-1182. The Respondent domain owner defended claiming that he had registered the domain as a protest against the interviewing and commenting style used by Beck to “spread lies and misinformation” and, as such, the domain and his web content were protected as First Amendment free speech. In denying the complaint the Panel found that, although the domain is confusingly similar to Beck’s common-law “Glenn Beck” trademark, the Respondent had a legitimate interest in the name since it was clearly used for the purposes of parody and political commentary, and the Respondent did not benefit financially from Beck’s name.
Citing Supreme Court precedent, the Panel stated that even when a knowingly false statement is made regarding a famous individual, it is not actionable without proving “actual malice” on the part of the speaker. The Panel added that, rather than just considering the domain itself, the “Respondent’s speech should be assessed as a whole, both by reference to the disputed domain name and the content of Respondent’s website (i.e., on the assumption the preponderance of Internet users will indeed click through).” Here, the Respondent’s website contained many statements acknowledging the falsity of the statement implied by the domain name and highlighting the fact that the domain name was a parody of Beck’s style.
Having made his point, after the decision was announced, the Respondent actually gave Beck the username and password to his account so that the domain could be cancelled or transferred to Beck. In his accompanying letter to Beck he chastised the celebrity saying “Rather than choosing to strive to excellence and civic contribution, you simply pander to the fears and insecurities of your audience. And in the process, you do them, and us all, a great deal of harm.” As of that afternoon, the site was down.