Freedom of Speech: a Concept Not Limited to Yankees
by Paul Keating
I have been increasingly frustrated with the apparent continuous attempts by panelists to find ways to grant UDRPs involving gripe sites. While unable to make much headway in UDRPs involving US respondents, panelists have regularly eroded the concept of free speech using domain names finding in many cases that the concept is â€œlimitedâ€ to the US. The result is that the â€œUSâ€ approach is no longer a clear majority view.
Every once in awhile I see an enlightened panel decision. In Coast Hotels Ltd. v. Bill Lewis and UNITE HERE (WIPO D2009-1295), the complainant attempted to â€œrecoverâ€ several criticism domains including www.coasthotels-badforbc.info*. Panelist Nicholas Weston showed his stuff by pointing out the obvious. Freedom of expression is not a concept limited to Yankees. As Mr. Weston politely points out (in a footnote no less), the concept is embedded in multiple UN Declarations, a great many EU treaties, and quite a few national laws in European Member States.
While I would have preferred that Mr. Weston go the extra mile to destroy the illogical foundation of the non-free-speech decisions, one cannot complain that the first crack in the dam has now appeared. Now panelists will have to find a new â€œrationaleâ€ to support their decision to censure speech and award gripe-site domains to trademark holders.
*Going after an â€œinfoâ€ name speaks volumes as to how far complainants will go to shut down critical sites.
Paul Keating is an attorney focusing on domain name issues. He is lucky enough to both live and work in Barcelona with his family.