October 19, 2011

Legal News: Lady Gaga Tries, Fails to Claim LadyGaga.org

What Happened:

A non-profit corporation called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages several aspects of the Internet, including a way for trademark holders to obtain domain names containing their trademark under certain circumstances.  Its main purpose is to prevent "cybersquatting," which is when someone registers a domain name containing a trademark for the purpose of selling it to the person or company who owns that trademark.  The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (commonly abbreviated UDRP) established by ICANN governs the process of sorting out these types of disputes over domain names.

In August, Lady Gaga initiated a UDRP action against the registrant of LadyGaga.org, who had been running an unofficial fan site at that domain name for the past three years, claiming that she was unfairly profiting from Lady Gaga's fame.  After a panel considered her arguments, Lady Gaga was denied transfer of the domain name.

Why It Happened:

In order for Lady Gaga to win transfer of the domain name to herself, she would have to prove three elements:
  • The domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the she had rights;
  • The registrant does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name; and
  • The registrant registered the domain name and is using it in "bad faith."
Lady Gaga had no trouble proving the first point since the domain name was identical to her trademark: Lady Gaga.  It was the second point where her arguments failed.  The panel found that the registrant had a legitimate interest in the domain name.  She was running a fan site that was clearly marked as "unofficial" and she was not making any money from running her fan site (if anyone was profiting, it was Lady Gaga from the free promotion).  Because her fan site was legitimate, and not meant to profit off of Lady Gaga's trademark, the domain name could not be taken away from her and given to Lady Gaga, the trademark holder.

Why It's Important:

The main lesson to be learned from this case is that if you want to run a fan site for your favorite artist, make sure you do it out of love and not for money!  It is also a good idea to clearly post that your fan site is unofficial, noncommercial, and not affiliated with or endorsed by the artist, as the defendant did here.

- Lauren
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...