Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Glenn Beck v. glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com

What do you do when someone uses your trademark as the basis for a domain name? One avenue of protection is to institute a dispute pursuant to the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP).

Enter Glenn Beck. A couple of weeks ago (according to Beck's complaint), someone registered the domain name: glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com. Beck hopes to terminate this registration by way of the UDRP proceeding. To do so, he must prove 3 things:
1) The domain name at issue is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which Beck has rights;
2) The registrant does not have any rights in the domain name; and
3) The registrant registered the domain in bad faith.

The respondent has remained anonymous, but is represented by Marc Randazza, the Editor-in-Chief of the Legal Satyricon blog.

Here's how the 2 sides have presented their arguments on those issues:

Domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which Beck has rights

Beck does not currently have a federal trademark registration for "Glenn Beck." The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has accepted his Intent-To-Use trademark application, but has not yet acted on Beck's statement of use (which will permit the ITU application to mature into a federal trademark registration). Beck also relies on his common law rights in the mark.

The respondent offers 3 arguments in reply. First, personal names are not protected under the UDRP. Second, Beck has not registered rights. And third, Beck has not presented sufficient evidence of common law rights. Respondent concedes that Beck's common law rights "may" exist, but faults Beck for failing to properly evidence them.

The registrant's rights in the domain name

Beck argues that, at best, the domain name is a "protest" site, but is misleading the public regarding the nature, origin and affiliation of the Website. Beck further argues that any notion that respondent has rights in the domain is undermined by the "plainly defamatory" name.

In response, the domain name owner explains that the domain name is an internet meme, which is
a phrase used to describe a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet, much like an esoteric inside joke.
After identifying various other memes, the response argues "This is the price of celebrity -- you just might wind up in a meme, and you might not deserve it." (emphasis in original).

The Glenn Beck meme is, apparently, a play on Gilbert Gottfried's roast of Bob Saget where Gottfried repeatedly joked that "Bob Saget raped and killed a girl in 1990."

Because Beck uses the same style of Gottfried (the formula argued by the respondent is: Outrageous Accusation + Celebrity + Question as to why the celebrity does not deny the accusation == Confirmation of the falsity of the accusation and laughter), the respondent concludes "Quite simply, Beck's shtick is simply a cheap imitation of Gilbert Gottfried, sans the humor."

This meme grew, finally resulting in registering of the domain name.
Beck has tried to paint himself as a "babe in the woods" who has fallen victim to a vicious character attack. In reality, Beck is an accomplished and deliberate manipulator of public opinion, and it is absurd to suggest that he himself does not understand the nature and function of Respondent's website. Given his long history of using the Gottfried Technique, Beck must have recognized that the respondent has merely presented Mr. Beck with a mirror. If Beck does not like what he sees, the Respondent is not to blame.
The respondent concludes this section by arguing that the domain is merely a criticism website.

Motives in registering the domain

Beck basis his bad faith argument on 2 points: (1) Respondent must have known about Beck before registering the domain; and (2) the domain itself is defamatory. Beck explains that respondent is using the domain "to damage Mr. Beck's reputation, tarnish his trademark rights, and disrupt his business activities."

The response relies upon the argument discussed above, namely that the site is criticism and an internet meme.


This case is interesting to me, as UDRP proceeding usually arise when the domain registrant blatantly seeks to profit from its registration, typically by trying to sell the domain name back to the mark holder. This case has none of that flavor, and will be interesting to see how Beck's defamation arguments hold up.


1 comment:

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