In the Beck v. Eiland-Hall (2009) case, a 34-year-old computer science student named Isaac Eiland-Hall created a website with the domain glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com. The website was a satirical take on a roast that Gilbert Gottfried did on Bob Saget which aired on Comedy Central back in 2008. According to NPR's All Tech Considered , Gilbert Gottfried repeatedly insisted that there were rumors about Bob Saget raping and murdering a young girl in 1990, and asked that these rumors stop unless someone had evidence to deny the claim.
The joke later became an Internet meme when on August 31st 2009, a user created a post on the website Fark applying the original Gottfried joke to Glenn Beck's interviewing style - which usually revolves around: "I'm just asking the question". The meme quickly spread from Fark to other social networking sites like Twitter, Reddit and Digg amongst others.
Upon seeing the post on Fark, Isaac Eiland-Hall decided to register a domain name with which he would parody Beck's style. He registered the domain GlennBeckRapedAndMurderedAYoungGirlIn1990.com and launched the site the next day on September 1st 2009.
Case Details: Is it true?Edit
The website was clearly satirical. There was a notice at the top of the page: ”Notice: this website is 100% parody”, which provided a link to a full disclaimer in which the site's author explained that the site and accusation was clearly comical and in no way serious. In a interview with Ars Technica , Eiland-Hall claimed that he wanted to use "Beck's tactics against him" and saw the website as a means of opposing him and his style of commentary. The site read: "We are definitely accusing Glenn Beck of using questionable tactics in order to spread his message and garner higher ratings. You see, we believe Beck uses tactics like the top part of this site ... and he uses them with no disclaimers, with all apparent seriousness."
On a website titled Digital Media Law Project it states that Glenn Beck, “claims in his UDRP complaint that the domain name is confusingly similar to his trademark "Glenn Beck" and that Eiland-Hall has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain name and registered it in bad faith. The same page also states that Eiland-Hall argued back stating that “the domain name is not confusingly similar to "Glenn Beck" (except perhaps to a "moron in a hurry"), that Eiland Hall has legitimate rights in the domain name because he uses it to criticize Beck and to participate in an Internet meme, and that Beck has failed to establish that he has trademark rights in his name”.
The World Intellectual Property Organization eventually ruled against Glenn Beck on October 29, 2009 and dismissed the case. Eiland-Hall later voluntarily transfered the domain name over to Glenn Beck's media company.
Internet Law: CybersquattingEdit
The court did not concern itself with matters of defamation and "bad faith" accusations. The World Intellectual Property Organization limited the case's scope to a determine whether Eiland-Hall had infringed on Beck's trademark and/or engaged in "abusive domain name registration and use". The legal claim that was made in this case, according to the Digital Media Law Project, was cybersquatting. Wikipedia states that cybersquatting is “registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. The cyber squatter then offers to sell the domain to the person or company who owns a trademark contained within the name at an inflated price”.
Since Glenn Beck was under the impression that the website was created to harm his reputation, this case would seem like it should be considered cybersquatting. Eiland-Hall, however, was represented by First Amendment rights lawyer Marc Randazza who asserted that Beck had insufficiently demonstrated trademark rights to his name, and instead claimed that he was actually trying to have the website taken down because he did not appreciate the criticism.
Internet Law: Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP)Edit
The administrative complaint that was filed was under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), which is a policy that was adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to set “terms and conditions in connection with a dispute between you and any party other than us (the registrar) over the registration and use of an Internet domain name registered by you.” This policy is used in any instance regarding Internet law where someone has created a domain name using bad faith, a domain name is similar to a different trademark domain or when there are no rights to a specific domain name created by someone.
Internet Law: The Communications Decency Act
The Communications Decency Act gives liability protection to registrars and web hosts for the content users publish. The letters sent by Beck's legal team to the registrar were of no threat to the defendants, and had no legal grounding. It is speculated that this intimidation attempt was aimed at obtaining the site owner's name, which at the time was anonymous.