Domain Name Laws and Ethics -

Posted on 2010-11-10
Last Modified: 2013-11-19
I had a similarly titled question open a while back on this topic and I got some great feedback. There is something that still isn't clear in my mind about this so I'm posting a new question.

Let's say for example that you bought the following domain name:

Now let's present several different scenarios:
 1) You don't use the domain name for anything.
 2) You post somewhat unrelated information on the domain name and place ads on the site.
 3) You post long lists of why the Apple iPad Sucks.
 4) You post long lists of why the Apple iPad Sucks and you place ads on the site.
 5) You post long lists of why the Apple iPad Sucks and you encourage people to buy a [you name it here] complete with affiliate links.
 6) You allow the public to come post their complaints about their Apple iPad.

Is there some fundamental law that you've violated in all of the above cases? Have you violate already when you purchase the domain name or is it only when you utilize the website for something that defames Apple and/or their product(s)?

Disclaimer: I have no interest in the domain name Someone does already own it and that someone is not me or anyone I know.

Question by:HKComputer

Assisted Solution

CCSOFlag earned 100 total points
ID: 34105000
The only thing I could think of is a copyright issues.  You'd have to see what the copyright is for the ipod name.  If it doesn't say you can't use it as a web page name, then to my knowledge there is no law that would be broken.  Now purchasing a domain name doesnt' matter.  Many people do that in hopes of someone wanting to purchase it later.  Some companies pay some pretty cash for certain domain names.
LVL 44

Accepted Solution

scrathcyboy earned 300 total points
ID: 34116555
This is a complex question with nebulous answers for all points, so I will be BRIEF --

1.  Anyone else wanting the domain can sue you to get it if they have a legitimate gripe with your nonuse.
2.  People do this all the time to sell domain names.  You will be copying 1000s of others, no problems.
3.  You have the right to do this.  Apple can sue you, but the freedom of speech will negate their suit.
4.  Same as 3, ads are for site revenue.
5.  If you mean a competitive product, you run the risk of a defamation suit from Apple.
6.  If you REMOVE the competitive brand in 5, there is nothing wrong with a GRIPE SITE -- they are useful, and validate your claims, hence immunize you from suit.
7.  The best is the one you MISSED -- Make JUST a public complaint site -- NO advertising, NO personal opinions of the author, NO competitive products -- you just give the framework for OTHER people to vent their frustrations.  100% bullet proof, no one can say you are biased.

DO 7.
LVL 44

Expert Comment

ID: 34116571
strike 'nebulous' above.  I meant to say that each item could take pages of point/counterpoint to cover.
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Author Comment

ID: 34116867
I think I'm mostly concerned about creating a site that ends up causing a court battle. If I use, for example, "Apple" in my domain name I would think that could be viewed as violating trademark laws.

Number 7 does seem like a good option and one I may consider pursuing.
LVL 44

Expert Comment

ID: 34116945
" If I use, for example, "Apple" in my domain name I would think that could be viewed as violating trademark laws."

NO.  I love apple -- I hate apple -- neither violates TRADEMARK laws, because you are not claiming you are Apple Inc. -- via deceptively similar names.  It is clear from the web name that you like (hate) Apple products, so the issue is NOT one of trademarks at all -- the issue is whether you DEFAME the company Apple.  These are two clearly distinct legal considerations.  If you tried to get --

that would be a TRADEMARK issue, not a defamation issue.  The scenarios you discuss have nothing to do with trademarks, they are all to do with whether they damage apple's business or not, and that is a defamation consideration by the Courts, not a trademark one.

Author Comment

ID: 34116956
OK, gotcha.
LVL 44

Expert Comment

ID: 34117001
America has this "freedom of speech" right in the constitution, for better or for worse.  News media sites abuse it and use it to control the minds of the public, knowing they have immunity.  Theirs is the WORST abuse of the freedom of speech amendment.

You on the other hand are just an impacted user of a product (in this fictitious scenario) that is overhype and underperform, and you are ripped by it.  So you have the right to say whatever you want about it, as long as you don't deliberately try to undermine the revenue of the company involved.  Even if you do, you still have the right to say whatever you think.

However, to be safe and be able to sleep well at nights, it is better if OTHERS say what you want said.  It is a matter of giving testimonials on your site, just using people's initials and state, not their full name, to where you protect their privacy from attack, and you protect yourself, because you are not setting yourself up as a target for shooting practice.  

Hey if 100 people send in complaints about the Walmart Trac-phone as a scam, all you are doing is reporting a common problem.  You are doing consumers a FAVOR, and the site can ONLY be seen as a positive contribution to cut down consumer fraud.  

You want to pepper such sites with lots of facts about problems you or others have encountered, and then what can the company say?    That these problems don't exist?   Sure ......
LVL 27

Assisted Solution

tliotta earned 100 total points
ID: 34125796
Kind of odd... You can potentially lose a damages suit if you defame; you could be forced to make up a portion of the losses. But if you run and sing its praises and drive some revenue for Apple, there is no corresponding portion of revenues that come to you.

What if gets flooded with complaints about iPads?


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