AMPAS v. GoDaddy
The culmination of a protracted lawsuit filed back in 2010 is set to begin on August 4th in a California District Court. The suit involves The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), best known for its annual Academy Awards presentations, also known as The Oscars, is seeking damages from Internet domain registrar giant GoDaddy. The two have been entangled in court going on five years in a landmark “cybersquatting” case.
So what is cybersquatting?
According to Dictionary.com, cybersquatting is defined as follows: “the registration of a commercially valuable Internet domain name, as a trademark, with the intention of selling it or profiting from its use.”
GoDaddy is accused of cybersquatting by allowing the registration of domains that AMPAS say are “confusingly similar” to their brands, such as “Oscar” and “Academy Awards.” So far, the Academy has had success in court against the majority of the nearly 300 domains in question. The upcoming trial will rule on a remaining 57 domain names.
AMPAS is claiming that GoDaddy generated at least $100 million in revenue from the domains in question and that the sites diverted traffic away from their official websites, Oscar.org and Oscar.com. GoDaddy contends that parts of the suit are frivolous, citing that “Oscar” has numerous meanings, including first names. The domain company, who reported earnings of over a billion dollars in 2014, contends that it implemented a “filter” in response to trademark concerns back in 2013.
Legal parameters of cybersquatting fall under the The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), enacted in 1999.
Other high-profile cybersquatting cases include actress Julia Roberts who sued over the domain name juliaroberts.com, telecommunications giant Verizon who sued over the domains myverizonwireless.com, iphoneverizonplans.com and verizon-cellular.com, and iconic British football club Manchester United over the domain name manchesterunitedfc.com, which was purchased by an opposing fan.
Cybersquatting has also gained notoriety in the political arena over the past several years with people setting up domains using the names of likely presidential candidates, either for political purposes or for potential financial gain. Critics of cybersquatting laws contend that if taken too far they can suppress free speech.
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