Cybersquatting precedents

I have a cousin who’s a pretty well known actress and she’s finally gotten around to setting up a webpage for her fan base. She’s asked me to help her get it up and running.

So I go to register [hername].com and am surprised to learn (she’s not that big a star) that someone’s squatting on it.

Wasn’t Julia Roberts recently successful in getting a cybersquatter to release Can anyone help me find the specifics of that case (ammunition for a letter to the squatter, so hopefully we won’t have to take it to court)?

Thanks in advance.

If you can prove that you have a reason to have the name (sounds like you do) the people to go to are ICANN. Take a look at the Domain Name Dispute Policy and see what you need to do. They usually side with the little guy so you have a good chance I think.

Well, as far as I can tell, it’s not a matter of being “the little guy.”

This is my cousin’s own real name, and as a professional actress it’s her common-law trademark. (I’ve urged her to make it a registered trademark to make this kind of issue more cut and dried in case this kind of this is an issue in the future.)

The squatter has no right to it at all. I’m just looking for a way to get him to relinquish it without having to drag him through a pile of money on the way to and from court.

I’ve been in ICANN: “Under the policy, most types of trademark-based domain-name disputes must be resolved by agreement, court action, or arbitration before a registrar will cancel, suspend, or transfer a domain name.”

I just want to document for this guy that there’s no way in hell a court would side with him, and hope that he’ll give it up without a fight.

re: Julia Robers

A couple of issues are whether or not the person who has the domain has their own viable reason to own it (i.e. it might be their name, although that seems unlikely). And even if this is the case, it this person is using the domain name to profit off your cousins good name then they can be found guilty of cybersquatting.

However, before taking this to top levels you might want to contact the “cyber-squatter” who may be a fan and simply want to be re-imbursed and maybe a perosnally autographed photo or something. Could save some time and money.

Thought of that; suggested she thank him profusely for “holding” the address for her, and maybe give him Executive Producer credit on the site or something. Then I dug a bit and found he’s registered a slew of celebrities’ names. And no, it’s not anywhere near his name. Her name is entirely unique in the world, most likely: made up first name, rare Norwegian last name. So he’s obviously registered it (and others) with the hope of ransoming them to their rightful owners.

And thanks, Tretiak, for the Julia Roberts link. That was exactly the info I was looking for.

If he’s registered a whole number of names, and doesn’t run any websites (or maintain any other “legitimate” front for having the names) then he most likely won’t have a leg to stand on legally.

Have a look at this link for information on the WIPO, the international organisation that rules on disputes. Their procedures should give you some information on what to do next (and some hints to drop to this guy that he’ll be fighting a losing battle!).


Hopefully the registrant will see reason and won’t force arbitration; the filing fee is $1,500!

Sting sued to get the domain but was turned away. The difference was that this site had nothing to do with Sting the musician and the name Sting isn’t even trademarked. He just figured, I want it, give it to me.

Who is your cousin? You have to tell us…

Sorry; don’t want to alert the squatter till we’ve figured out what to do. Maybe after it’s settled.

In any case, she’s a face you’d recognize–lots of commercial work, soap operas, small parts in big movies, a couple big parts in a couple small movies–but I don’t think you’d call her A-list; you might not even recognize her name.

I have a lot of fun when I visit her, though. She keeps a guest book in her bathroom, and it has toilet thoughts jotted by people like Burt Reynolds and James Earl Jones.

I remember reading years ago about a guy who registered before the National Basketball Association could get around to it. The guy said he wasn’t being greedy, he just wanted to get enough money to pay for his son’s college tuition. When the NBA lawyers were through with him, he ended up giving the name to the NBA in exchange for some official NBA socks.

On the other hand, the computer maker “Gateway 2000” – which hadn’t even changed its name to just “Gateway” yet – tried to pry away for free from a guy who had been using it for his business for years and had every legitimate reason for having it. Gateway finally had to pay to get the URL.

Keyword being “legitimate,” of course.

My favorite related story: the Spinal Tap people put have up a Napster parody site at and are renting the domain from, a beer-related site. Spinal Tap’s version has a link to the beer site (talk about great free advertising!) and they’ll relinquish it when it the whole Napster thing gets old. Everybody wins!

First of all, there is more than one Julia Roberts in the world.

So, sour peaches Julia.

As for your friend, if her name is so special that no one in the world has it, maybe you can make a case. Otherwise most likely not.

Well, I’m entirely certain that my cousin’s name is unique. And to clarify, Julia Roberts was successful: the guy who’d registered her name was not named Julia Roberts. If the domain had been registered to a woman named Julia Roberts, I’m sure the situation would have been more complicated.

Not at all. You can register ANY thing you want except for trademarks. I could register but not I could register but not see?

If I registered I could NOT pretend to be Apple corporation there.

Unfortunately, handy, WIPO tends to rule in favour of the big guns even when it comes to names. They seem to judge based on a vague idea of “legitimate use” – i.e. if you have a good reason to hold the name, fine. If (in their opinion) you are doing it solely to make a fast buck, tough. I believe they look at things like whether it’s a trade name you use, whether you run a site related to the name (e.g. a Julia Roberts fanclub site), and so on.

(for more on WIPO try this news story)

Also, handy, the arbitrator specifically ruled that “Julia Roberts” is Julia Roberts’s common-law trademark, which is a term that has a legitimate legal meaning. For exactly the same reasons, my cousin’s name is her common-law trademark.