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Film Academy Sues GoDaddy for Cybersquatting
Come awards season, GoDaddy probably won’t be thanking the Academy. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presents the annual Oscars, is suing GoDaddy, a web-hosting company and domain registrar, under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act—the first lawsuit of its kind. AMPAS alleges that GoDaddy makes money off of unauthorized trademarks from the iconic award shows.
On Friday, the academy got one step closer to a trial against the web hosting company. At issue is GoDaddy’s CashParking program and domains like Oscarbets.com—GoDaddy customers buy an Oscars-related domain name and then are paid by GoDaddy every time a user clicks on to the site. Judge Audrey Collins ruled that the site was liable for allowing users to “park” domain names and refused its bid for safe harbor, saying that its parking program extended beyond the site’s stated role as a registrar—regardless of whether or not the golden statuette is making GoDaddy any money.
"The safe harbor provision simply does not apply to conduct, like operating the Parked Pages Program, that goes beyond mere registration and maintenance,” Collins wrote. “Furthermore, a registrar’s mere bad faith intent to profit—as opposed to actual profit—is sufficient to disqualify it from safe harbor protection."
But some at the Academy will have to wait for some points to be resolved in trial. According to THR, GoDaddy’s lawyers say the Oscars might not be as famous as the Academy thinks, and that in consumer surveys done by the company, respondents didn’t recognize that contentious trademarks as being entertainment-related. It’s a triable fact whether those marks indeed “meet the tests of recognition,” Collins says.
A date for the trial hasn’t been set, and the judge has extended discovery on certain issues. It might end up being another drama to keep your eye on during Oscar season.