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A Web site critical of the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s views on gays contains constitutionally protected, noncommercial speech and should be allowed to keep its name — a common misspelling for the conservative evangelist, a lawyer for the site owner argued Thursday. Christopher Lamparello of New York City, who operates fallwell.com, took his case to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to reverse a federal judge’s ruling that he violated federal trademark law. A lawyer for Falwell maintained Lamparello’s use of a variation of the preacher’s name bordered on theft. “It’s been wrong to steal since Moses came down from the mountain,” attorney John H. Midlen Jr. said. A federal judge ruled last August the domain name was nearly identical to Falwell’s Web site falwell.com and could confuse Web surfers — despite a disclaimer noting it is not affiliated with Falwell. He also ruled the site had a commercial element because it included a link to a book on amazon.com. “He referred to a single book he thought did a better job than he did” explaining religion and homosexuality, said Lamparello’s attorney, Paul Levy. He said the link was removed three years ago. The appeals court usually rules several weeks after hearing arguments. In 2003, Gary Cohn of Highland Park, Ill., surrendered the domain names jerryfalwell.com and jerryfallwell.com after Falwell threatened to sue him over trademark infringement. Cohn said he created the sites in response to Falwell’s public comments after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Falwell claimed feminists, homosexuals and abortion-rights advocates provoked God to “lift the curtain” of divine protection on America; he later apologized. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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