Cartoon Site Can't Be Squatted
by Declan McCullagh
JoeCartoon.com, which features off-color underground comic strips such as Frog Blender and Micro-Gerbil, is famous enough to be protected under a U.S. anti-cybersquatting law, an appeals court has decided.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals said on Friday that a Pennsylvania man who registered five variations of the domain name -- such as joescartoon.com, joecarton.com, and cartoonjoe.com -- violated the 1999 Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
In a 3-0 decision , the court upheld a district judge's ruling, saying John Zuccarini did not have any legitimate rights to the variations on JoeCartoon.com.
The judges said Zuccarini's intent was "to register a domain name in anticipation that consumers would make a mistake, thereby increasing the number of hits his site would receive, and, consequently, the number of advertising dollars he would gain. We conclude that Zuccarini's conduct here is a classic example of a specific practice the ACPA was designed to prohibit."
The ACPA makes it illegal for a person to register or to use in "bad faith" a domain name that is "identical or confusingly similar" to a famous trademark owned by another person or company.
Because the real JoeCartoon.com site created by artist Joseph Shields receives 700,000 visits per month -- the court didn't say whether it meant page views or unique visitors -- the judges said the site "qualifies as being famous" and is protected under the ACPA.
Zuccarini, meanwhile, isn't out of business yet. Other misspelled domains he's registered include gwenythpaltrow.com, rikymartin.com, britineyspears.com, sportillustrated.com, mountianbikes.com, and msnchatrooms.com.
Consolidated Freightways argued that it was allowed to place surveillance devices behind mirrors in restrooms at its terminal in Mira Loma, California because of a collective bargaining agreement it inked with the Teamsters that was protected under federal law.
But when workers discovered the equipment after a mirror fell out of the wall, they sued under a California state law saying anyone who installs a "two-way mirror permitting observation of any restroom" is guilty of a misdemeanor.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was unimpressed with Consolidated Freightways' arguments, and concluded the "videotaping invaded plaintiffs' privacy."
The collective bargaining agreement said that employers "may not use video cameras to discipline or discharge an employee for reasons other than theft of property or dishonesty." Consolidated Freightways noted that they placed six signs around the building saying: "NOTICE! 24 Hour Surveillance Recorded on Videotape," and another restroom had visible cameras.
SSN bill: Sen. Dianne Feinstein hopes that Congress will take action to protect privacy, but her approach is likely to draw fire from free speech advocates.
Last week, the California Democrat introduced S.1055 , which makes it a crime to publish or distribute someone's Social Security number without their permission, even if obtained from a lawful source.
It says that with a few exceptions for law enforcement and government agencies, "no person may display any individual's social security number to the general public without the affirmatively expressed consent of the individual."
Feinstein defines display as to "intentionally communicate or otherwise make available (on the Internet or in any other manner) to the general public an individual's Social Security number."
Journalist groups and First Amendment advocates say that while news organizations may choose not to publish Social Security numbers for privacy reasons -- much as many publications don't print the names of rape victims -- they nevertheless should have the right to do so if editors believe it is newsworthy.
An unrelated section of the legislation says that "it is unlawful for a commercial entity to collect personally identifiable information and disclose such information to any nonaffiliated third party for marketing purposes or sell such information to any nonaffiliated third party."
That is, unless consumers are told what's happening and given the opportunity to opt-out.