Saturday, 28 January 2012

US Court: domain registrar not liable if domains merely 'forward'

A District Court in California ruled on 10 January that a domain name registrar is not liable for 'cyber squatting' if it redirects web users from a squatted website to another site.

Two domain names, registered by Go Daddy (GD) and bearing the name of the oil company Petronas, redirected visitors to a pornographic website through GD's servers. The District Judge ruled that "the forwarding of the disputed domains does not amount to 'use' of the domain names".

Simon Bennett, Partner at Fox Williams, believes the "decision was the right one, since [GD] does not exercise editorial control over sites hosted under domain names for which it acts as registrar".

Gillian Anderson, an Associate at Pinsent Masons, also called the ruling "the correct decision", while referring to the 2011 case Microsoft Corp v Shah Civil Action. In that case a claim of 'contributory cyber squatting' was upheld. "In contrast, Petronas' claim failed because the court decided that the registrar had not directly contributed to the infringement", Anderson explains. "It remains to be seen how the Petronas decision will be applied in future cases given the opposing outcomes from Petronas and Microsoft."

Cyber squatting - the practice of registering a domain name with the intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else - is illegal under the Anti-cyber squatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) if it happens in bad faith and with the intent to profit.

Michiel Willems © 2012 ECLP January issue, CP Publishing Ltd. London, UK.