Chris Pirillo is socialsquatted; does the law care?

Chris Pirillo is socialsquatted; does the law care?

Summary: I can scarcely begin to catalog the legal considerations related to the fact that someone is masquerading as Chris Pirillo on Pownce.

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TOPICS: Legal, Dell
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Chris Pirillo is on Pownce at pownce.com/chrispirillo, and has 69 friends. Or wait, that's not Chris. I can scarcely catalog the related legal considerations, which include:

Can Chris stop someone from using his name and likeness without his consent? Possibly, under right of publicity laws, but the ones I'm most familiar with preclude unauthorized commercial uses, and the jurisdictional variations are a nightmare.

Can't Chris sue for defamation if someone is falsifying things he supposedly said and did? Perhaps, but parody is a First Amendment defense to defamation.

Is this parody? No one here has identified themselves as the "fake" Chris Pirillo. Under trademark law apparently, "A parody must convey two simultaneous--and contradictory messages; that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody. To the extent that it does only the former but not the latter, it is not only a poor parody but also vulnerable under trademark law, since the consumer will be confused." From Cliffs Notes, Inc. v. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 886 F. 2d 490 (2d Cir. 1989). (Via Chilling Effects) (I'm not sure if the same requirement extends to parody in general, and haven't quickly found anything on point.)

Does Chris have trademark rights in "Chris Pirillo?" Let's assume yes. And let's assume he wanted to put a stop to someone else's use of pownce.com/chrispirillo. Do anti-cybersquatting laws extend to other level domains? Is something to the right of .com, etc. even an other level domain? Would Chris have recourse against Pownce, the faux Chris Pirillo Pownce user, or both?

How about tags?

(My head hurts.)

Topics: Legal, Dell

Denise Howell

About Denise Howell

Denise Howell is an appellate, intellectual property and technology lawyer who enjoys broad industry recognition for her expertise on the intersection of emerging technologies and law.

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4 comments
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  • pownce.com/chrispirillo is ok

    Having pownce.com/chrispirillo, in my opinion, has to be OK. Here's my thought - the /chrispirillo indicates a directory and not a domain, sub-domain or alternate domain. If chrispirillo.pownce.com was the squatted name, then this would fall in the sub-domain category and an argument could be made. Creating folders or directories couldn't possibly be a problem. Let's look at the second issue - if the user is pretending to be Chris Pirillo and posting as Chris Pirillo, then we should be looking at a take-down letter. If the user fails to remove the picture and the posts, then Chris would have grounds to move forward. If the image and posts are removed then we are back to square one where the user is holding a directory and nothing more.

    Here's my question - what do you think about a directory labeled chrispirillo as opposed to an sub-domain like chrispirillo.pownce.com?
    swlk
    • re pownce.com/chrispirillo is ok

      I think that any time you use someone's trademark or their name and/or likeness (wherever you use it) without authorization, depending on the sort of use you can run afoul of all sorts of laws like those I mentioned: defamation, right of publicity, and trademark. Unfair competition and similar state laws could come into play as well.

      I'd love to get a domain name legal expert to chime in about the specific question of subdomains vs. directories under domain name law (which is just one of the areas of potential concern). Might try to run it by Bret Fausett and see what he thinks.
      Denise Howell
      • so if my name is chris pirillo just because he has fame i can use my own

        so if my name is chris pirillo just because he has fame i can use my own name. i say to bad for chris i'm sure the law would trounce the guy with the smaller bank account or who is unknown.

        but to say someone who has the same name as you can't use it because someone might think it is you is just to bad in my book. i say suck it up or make your self a name that no one would ever think of naming there kid. now if this guy is just using chris's name then i can see getting all bent out of shape.

        but i remember all the celebrity's running rough shod and taking people to court and taking there domain names calling them cyber squatters even though it was there birth names. but thats the way our courts work in the US if you have the money and the fame you just about get what ever you want.
        SO.CAL Guy
  • duel, murder, suicide?

    Don't count on getting any kind of jury trial or any kind of fair hearing in court.
    kay sieverding