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Glenn Beck Loses WIPO Case, But Gets to Close Parody Site Anyway

Fox News hot property Glenn Beck didn’t rape and murder a young girl in 1990.

But last last month he lost an administrative proceeding with the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Arbitration and Mediation Center in which he argued that the domain name violated his trademark and constitutes defamation.

Beck got his way anyway. After winning, the satire site’s owner, Isaac Eiland-Hall, of Panama City, Fla., turned over the password. And Beck, or someone close to him, removed the site from the domain.

That wasn't the end of the site, however.  It lives on here.

Beck filed the Wipo complaint under the Uniform Policy for Domain Name Dispute Resolution, adopted by Icann--the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number, and adjudicated under the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution, and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Dispute Resolution.

Eiland-Hall’s response denied that the parody site created a domain dispute issue. The response to the complaint is available here.

Although Eiland-Hall admitted that at first glance, the domain name seems “mean-spirited,” he successfully argued that the WIPO Panel “must understand the cultural, social, and political background behind” the site.

The response explains the evolution of Internet "memes.” The domain name, the response explains, relates to a Gilbert Gottfried comedy routine in which Gottfried, roasting comedian Bob Saget, kept insisting that a previously unheard rumor—that Saget raped and killed a girl in 1990—were untrue, and asked the audience to stop spreading the rumor.

The site name, the Eiland-Hall response explains, links to Beck’s interview with Rep. Keith Ellison, D., Minn., who is Muslim. Beck said to Ellison:

No offense and I know Muslims, I like Muslims, I've been to
mosques, I really don't think Islam is a religion of evil. I think it's
being hijacked, quite frankly. With that being said, you are a
Democrat. You are saying let's cut and run. And I have to tell
you, I have been nervous about this interview because what I
feel like saying is, sir, prove to me that you are not working
with our enemies. And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you
of being an enemy. But that's the way I feel, and I think a lot
of Americans will feel that way.

Eiland-Hall’s response to Beck’s WIPO filing continued:

The rhetorical style is simple. Beck attacks Ellison by asking Ellison to prove
that Ellison is not “working with our enemies,” thus placing the burden
upon Ellison to “prove” that the accusation is untrue.

Quite simply, Beck’s shtick is simply a cheap imitation of Gilbert Gottfried,
sans the humor.

More details on the background are available in an NPR article here.

The response discusses that the domain name is neither a defamation nor trademark issue. First, the respondent argues that Beck was not defamed, mostly because the domain name was political humor. Second, for Beck to win on the trademark claim, Beck would need to prove that domain name was identical or confusingly similar to the trademarked name and that Eiland-Hall benefited financially from the mark's use.

In his response, Eiland-Hall explained the Internet meme concept: "The term Internet meme is a phrase used to describe a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet."

The WIPO Panel limited its investigation into whether Eiland-Hall participated in abusive domain name registration and use. The panel found that the URL was confusingly similar to the trademark, but that Eiland-Hall did not benefit financially from Beck’s name.

After the Panel arbitrated the decision and found in his favor, Eiland-Hall sent Beck a letter, voluntarily providing Beck with the username and password to the site if Beck wanted to remove the site—along with a lecture on First Amendement freedoms. The letter is available here.

The Oct. 29 WIPO decision can be found here.

--Erica Jaffe, CPR Intern