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Glenn Beck Abuses the UDRP?

Why doesn’t he just come out and address the questions about whether or not he wants to suppress Constitutionally-protected free speech through a process that is supposed to handle cybersquatting domain name disputes?  If he would simply answer the question or deny the allegations, perhaps it will all just go away.  Because he doesn’t, the questions will remain and should continued to be asked.  I’m not saying Beck hates the First Amendment, but his refusal to address this issue is puzzling.

Yes, that was my weak attempt to emulate Glenn Beck’s style of making unfounded allegations through rhetorical questions and then saying the target of the accusations should defend themselves.   The tactic is explained better with an examle in the first part of this clip from the Daily Show.

Someone with a much better sense of satire and parody than me turned the tables on Beck with the website, www.glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com.  You can see the whole story about the origin of domain by visiting the site, but it stems from a roast of Bob Saget by Gilbert Gottfried. Someone took the line from Gottfried and applied it to Beck’s style on one website in August of this year and, like other viral phenomena–Boom goes the Dynamite

Apparently, Glenn Beck was not amused.  Knowing he could not sue the creators for libel because of the Supreme Court’s holding in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell that protects satire and parody, Beck filed a UDRP claim. The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy is an out-of-court process to settle domain name disputes.  While not a lawsuit, ICANN has the ability to order the deletion or transfer of domain names for .biz, .com, .info, .org because each registrant agreed to be bound by the UDRP when the domain names were registered.

To prevail on a UDRP claim, you must prove: (1) you have a trademark right that is identical or confusingly similar to the domain of the infringer; (2) that the infringer has no legitimate interest in the domain name; and (3) and that the person is using the name in bad faith. In other words, the process is used to prevent cybersquatters as opposed to a family website showing pictures that happens to be similar to a trademarked word or phrase.

In other words, to win, Beck would have to show (1) by and through his famous name, he has a publicity interest that is identical or confusingly similar to www.glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com; (2) the satirist has no legitimate interest in the domain name (think a blank or parked page); and (3) that the person is using the name in bad faith (think demanding to be paid an extortionist amount for the site).  

Beck should have known better than to use a flimsy legal tactic to attack a satirist.  The creator of the site teamed with attorney Marc Randazza to provide one of the most entertaining UDRP responses.  Addressing each element, the respondent wrote:

None of the factors in ¶4(b) of the UDRP apply.  There is no evidence that Respondent has registered and used the domain name for the purpose of selling it for profit.  Respondent is not engaged in a pattern of cybersquatting.  Respondent did not register the domain name to disrupt the business of a competitor, he registered it to pay homage to an existing internet meme that poked fun at Glenn Beck, to poke fun at Glenn Beck directly, and to express his political opinions.  

There is no indication that the Respondent has intentionally attempted to confuse anyone searching for Mr. Beck’s own website, nor that anyone was unintentionally confused — even initially.  Only an abject imbecile could believe that the domain name would have any connection with the Complainant.

We are not here because the domain name could cause confusion.  We do not have a declaration from the president of the international association of imbeciles that his members are blankly staring at the Respondent’s website wondering “where did all the race baiting content go?”  We are here because Mr. Beck wants Respondent’s website shut down. He wants it shut down because Respondent’s website makes a poignant and accurate satirical critique of Mr. Beck by parodying Beck’s very rhetorical style.  Beck’s skin is too thin to take the criticism, so he wants the site down.  Beck is represented by a learned and respected legal team.  Accordingly, it is beyond doubt that his counsel advised him that under the First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution, no action in a U.S. Court would be successful. . . .  Accordingly, Beck is attempting to use this transnational body to circumvent and subvert Respondent’s constitutional rights.    

 You can read the entire biting response here.  The response goes on to point out the UDRP is not meant to circumvent the First Amendment defenses to defamation claims.

While entertaining, the Citizen Media Law Blog post about this story points out that perhaps Beck was merely using the UDRP to out the owner of the website.  Most courts require a prima fascia showing of a defamation claim before they will order the disclosure of identifying information online.  Because of the obvious parody, Beck would not have been able to satisfy his burden and would not have otherwise been able to force the disclosure of his critic.  Through the UDRP, he was able to.  Could this tactic be used in the future?  The UDRP does allow for the recovery of fees if the initial filing is made in bad faith, but will that be enough of a deterrent to unmask a critic?

For now, to avoid any conflicts with Beck, I will forgo changing the url of this blog to www.BeckhatestheFirstAmendmentemedialaw.com