Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Report Chilling Effects - STOP the Suppression of Free Speech

"  Protest, Parody and Criticism Sites

Have you recently received a letter that sounds something like this?
Re: Infringement of XXX, Inc.'s Intellectual Property Rights
This firm represents XXX,Inc. It has come to XXX's attention that you have registered and been using the domain name XXXSUCKS.COM. Your activities constitute trademark infringement and unfair competition under Federal and State law and may be in violation of the recently enacted Anticybersquatting statute and ICANN's Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy. XXX.Inc will not tolerate attempts to trade off its excellent reputation. We hereby demand that you (1) immediately deactivate (remove name service from) all hosts in the XXXSUCKS.COM domain, and (2) agree to transfer the domain to XXX,Inc. Should you fail to do so, XXX,Inc. will take the additional measures it deems appropriate to protect its valuable trademark rights.

Even though the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, trademark and copyright owners have rights, that may or may not be violated by the name or content of a web site you have dedicated to protest, criticism or parody. If you violate these rights, there are a number of court actions that can be brought against you in federal and/or state court. In addition, a trademark owner can file for a quick administrative proceeding to take away your domain name, in order to deprive you of the ability to easily direct Internet users to your site. This administrative proceeding involves the UDRP.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the cease and desist letter sent to you probably makes things sound worse than they are. Although the cease and desist letter, as above, ordinarily tells you of an impressive number of separate laws that you have violated, a number of the supposed violations are talking about pretty much the same kind of thing. If you have a good defense that goes to the core of the threatened actions against you, that defense may protect you against most or all of the legal and administrative threats.

This Topic will describe the typical legal and administrative actions with which writers who engage in protest, criticism and parody on the Internet are threatened. There is a lot of overlap in the legal issues in an attack on protest, criticism and parody sites, but there also may be some differences in the attack. For this reason, the Topic will separated the cease and desist letters and FAQ’S directed at protest and criticism from those directed at parody and satire. Pay particular attention to the FAQ’S concerning the UDRP, as many trademark owners choose that quick and inexpensive route to take away a domain name. The trademark holder may be able to accomplish what it desires by the simple act of taking away a domain name and with it the easy access to your site by interested parties.

For more information, see the Frequently Asked Questions about Protest, Parody and Criticism Sites."

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