Singer Jennifer Lopez has filed papers against the owner of jenniferlopez.org and jenniferlopez.net, accusing him of cybersquatting.
The two sites are owned by one Jeremiah Tieman who lives in Arizona and uses the sites to display news, pictures and videos of and about the singer and includes a disclaimer at the bottom stating that the sites are fan sites and are not endorsed by Lopez. However, both sites also include prominent ads and links through to affiliate sites.
Case D2009-0057 was filed last week with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) by Lopez’s charitable foundation – which support women and children on low incomes – rather than her hard-hitting IP lawyers Fross, Zelnick, Lehrman and Zissu who are the registered owners of Lopez’s dotcom website.
It is not yet known if Tieman will put up a fight for the domains – I have emailed him asking for an interview – but his chances don’t look good after WIPO has consistently found in favour of celebrities in such cases. Tom Cruise was awarded TomCruise.com by WIPO in a carefully fudged judgment (my analysis here) but also a judgment in which it was argued that if someone made any money at all from a namesake domain that it could be taken as a sign of “bad faith” – one of the three things that someone must prove in order to be given their domain. Another similar fudge gave England and Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney his dotcom.
Other celebrities recently involved in cybersquatting cases have been Scarlett Johansson, who was given scarlettjohansson.com after its owner unwisely decided to have a competition which gave applicants the “chance” to have a threesome with the sexy actress. Chef Raymond Blanc also won back his dotcom namesake last year.
However, all is not lost for Tieman. Sting lost his attempt at Sting.com; and most famously Kevin Spacey lost his bid for KevinSpacey.com in the California courts, put in an appeal and then reached a deal with the notorious celebrity-domain-name owner Jeff Burgar who handed it over.
We shall have to wait and see what happens with JenniferLopez.net.
Update: Jennifer Lopez’s Foundation won back the domains. You can read the decision here.
Previous owner Tieman didn’t help his case by changing the “Whois” registration details for the domain twice in an apparent effort to sidestep the UDRP process. It didn’t work. Tieman also offered to sell the domain to the Lopez Foundations twice – for $80,000 and then for $45,000.
All that aside though the UDRP decision is shaky, and, as I have covered a number of times in past cases, have built its case on the foundation of suspect decisions, themselves built on top of suspect decisions. It’s a whole house of cards that will fall down if WIPO doesn’t start looking at UDRP properly and firming it up.
This time around, the nine-year delay between the domain registration and Lopez’ action is dismissed, despite there being a whole legal theory in the US of “laches”. The panelist finds that this doesn’t apply in “injunctive” cases – although I have to say handing over intangible property (as also defined in US law) strikes me as more than just injunctive action.
So in conclusion: Lopez won; the original owner was a bit dodgy; the UDRP process is a mess; and WIPO continues to fudge the rules.