Beck v. Eiland-Hall
Beck v. Eiland-Hall is a case filed before the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2009 by political commentator Glenn Beck, concerning the satirical website "GlennBeckRapedAndMurderedAYoungGirlIn1990.com". The site was created by Isaac Eiland-Hall as a parody of Beck's style of commentary. Based on a joke originally used by comedian Gilbert Gottfried at a 2008 comedy roast of Bob Saget, where Gottfried jokingly implored listeners to disregard the (non-existent) rumor that his fellow comedian raped and murdered a girl in 1990. Internet posters contrasted the meme with Beck's style of arguing, by requesting Beck "prove that he didn't" commit the act in question. Eiland-Hall created a website about it, which launched on September 1, 2009, and had 120,000 page loads within its first 24 hours.
Attorneys representing Glenn Beck's media company Mercury Radio Arts requested the domain registrar of Eiland-Hall's website to delete the site. They filed a complaint to the WIPO under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) asserting that the domain name of the website was itself defamatory and claimed trademark over the domain name for its use of "Glenn Beck". Marc Randazza represented Eiland-Hall and filed a response brief to WIPO comparing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court case Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, and asserted that the website's domain name was "protected political speech", and "satirical political humor". The brief explained the connection between the website and their view on Beck's style of interviewing, where he asks his guests to prove a negative. Randazza pointed out that Beck's action of going to the WIPO in an attempt to get the website taken down was in contradiction to his prior statements saying he prefers United States law over international law.
Randazza sent a letter to Beck's attorneys, requesting that Beck stipulate to the U.S. Constitution during the WIPO case. Beck filed a supplemental filing in the case, and argued that the domain name was misleading and could lead individuals to believe it contained factual information rather than criticism. Eiland-Hall filed a surreply which said that Beck "attempted to silence a critic by circumventing (and thereby devaluing) the First Amendment". On October 29, 2009, the WIPO ruled against Beck, concluding that Eiland-Hall was making a political statement through use of parody in a "legitimate non-commercial use" of the Glenn Beck mark. Eiland-Hall wrote a letter to Beck in which he voluntarily turned over ownership of the domain name. He kept the website active at GB1990.com and didglennbeckrapeandmurderayounggirlin1990.com.
- I like Muslims, I've been to mosques. . . . And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview because what I feel like saying is, sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.
- We are definitely accusing Glenn Beck of using questionable tactics in order to spread his message and garner higher ratings. You see, we believe Beck uses tactics like the top part of this site ... and he uses them with no disclaimers, with all apparent seriousness.
- Disclaimer on website; cited in — Matyszczyk, Chris (October 24, 2009). "Glenn Beck's legal action against site that parodies, um, Glenn Beck". CNET News (CBS Interactive Inc.). Retrieved on 2009-10-25.
- As you are aware, this firm represents Mercury Radio Arts, Inc. and Glenn Beck. Despite our letter yesterday demanding that you delete the Defamatory Domain, suspend and/or terminate your provision of WhoisGuard privacy protection services to the unknown individual who sought to register the domain, and provide us with information identifying the unknown individual, we note that as of Friday, September 4, 2009 at approximately 6:35 EDT, the Defamatory Domain remains active.
- Letter from lawyers for Glenn Beck to registrar of website; cited in — Cook, John (September 9, 2009). "Glenn Beck, PR Genius, Spreads the False Rumor He Raped and Murdered a Young Girl in 1990". Gawker (Gawker Media). Retrieved on 2009-10-04.
- Beck’s skin is too thin to take the criticism, so he wants the site down. Beck is represented by a learned and respected legal team. Accordingly, it is beyond doubt that his counsel advised him that under the First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution, no action in a U.S. Court would be successful. See, e.g., Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988). Accordingly, Beck is attempting to use this transnational body to circumvent and subvert the Respondent’s constitutional rights.
- Marc Randazza lawyer for respondent Eiland-Hall, in response brief in the case; cited in — Schmelzer, Paul (October 7, 2009). "Glenn Beck appeals to international body to shut down satirical site". Minnesota Independent (Center for Independent Media). Retrieved on 2009-10-08.
- While there is absolutely nothing humorous or amusing about the statement made by Respondent in his domain name that 'Glenn Beck Raped and Murdered a Young Girl in 1990,' the average Internet user finding the domain name GlennBeckRapedAndMurderedAYoungGirlin1990.com ("Disputed Domain Name") in a search would have no reason not to believe that they will be directed to a website providing factual information (as opposed to protected criticism or similar protected speech) about Mr. Beck.
- Lawyers for Glenn Beck, in Beck supplemental filing in the case; cited in — Hamilton, David (September 9, 2009). "TV Host Glenn Beck to Take Legal Action Against Nasty Domain". Web Host Industry Review (www.thewhir.com). Retrieved on 2009-10-21.
- Glenn Beck is the butt of a viral joke. He may not get the joke, but this does not make the joke likely to confuse or subject the domain name to transfer under the UDRP. Glenn Beck’s failure to understand these basic principles of law does not make the joke any less humorous, and does not make him any less of the butt. The First Amendment protects Respondent’s right to make Glenn Beck the butt, and his hypocritical attempts to squelch legitimate free speech criticism do nothing to portray himself in a more flattering light. Because his arguments do not satisfy Section 4(a) of the Policy, his request should be denied. Because he has attempted to silence a critic by circumventing (and thereby devaluing) the First Amendment — which he publically (and in this proceeding) claims to love — he should be deeply ashamed.
- Respondent appears to the Panel to be engaged in a parody of the style or methodology that Respondent appears genuinely to believe is employed by Complainant in the provision of political commentary, and for that reason Respondent can be said to be making a political statement. This constitutes a legitimate non-commercial use of Complainant’s mark under the Policy.
- Ruling of Frederick M. Abbott, the WIPO arbitrator; cited in — Allemann, Andrew (November 6, 2009). "Glenn Beck Loses Domain Dispute Over Meme Site". Domain Name Wire (domainnamewire.com). Retrieved on 2009-11-06.
- I chose to criticize you using the well-tested method of satire because of its effectiveness. But, humor aside, your rhetorical style is no laughing matter. In this context of this WIPO case, you denigrated the letter of First Amendment law.
- Eiland-Hall, in letter to Beck turning over domain name to him; cited in — Techdirt staff (November 6, 2009). "Glenn Beck Not Allowed To Rape And Murder An Internet Meme". Techdirt (www.techdirt.com). Retrieved on 2009-11-07.
- As for why it's not particularly smart -- whether he wins or loses -- is because he just called a whole bunch of attention to some silly internet meme that clearly wants attention. Beck would have been better off just ignoring it. Instead, in legitimizing it by trying to take it down, many more people become aware of the meme -- and may start calling attention to situations where Beck (and others) make use of such tactics.
- Masnick, Michael (September 8, 2009). "Glenn Beck Didn't Rape And Murder Anyone... But He Doesn't Want Websites Discussing It". Techdirt (www.techdirt.com). Retrieved on 2009-10-04.
- At the bottom of the homepage is this [disclaimer] ... But that hasn't stopped Beck's lawyers from trying to shut down the site -- resulting in more blowback and another manifestation of the dreaded Streisand Effect!
- I'm not sure of any case where someone has claimed that a domain name was defamatory.
- Corynne McSherry, Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer; cited in — Anderson, Nate (September 9, 2009). "Can a mere domain name be defamation? Glenn Beck says yes". Ars Technica (Condé Nast Publications). Retrieved on 2009-10-04.
- Now Glenn Beck's trying to shut down their web site, ensuring that people will write about it.
- Cook, John (September 9, 2009). "Glenn Beck, PR Genius, Spreads the False Rumor He Raped and Murdered a Young Girl in 1990". Gawker (Gawker Media). Retrieved on 2009-10-04.
- In what looks like a first in cyber law, Beck's lawyers are arguing that the the very domain name itself is defamatory.
- Beck is only making matters worse for himself by threatening legal action against the website. Before, it was just another idiot meme among the oceans of idiot memes online. Now, it's creeping through the blogosphere toward the mainstream news.
- As you might imagine, Beck is not amused. And he did the one thing guaranteed to garner the greatest amount of publicity for the site, and not coincidentally, for himself: He lawyered up, claiming the site violates his trademark.
- Weiss, Jeffrey (September 17, 2009). "The 'Glenn Beck as Murderer' Meme: Vaccine or Infection?". Politics Daily (AOL News). Retrieved on 2009-10-04.
- It's not often that I would recommend reading a World Intellectual Property Organization legal brief for its entertainment value, but today is going to be an exception.
- Although the mainstream media has avoided any mention of this rumor, Mr. Beck has quite a task ahead of him. Shutting down one web site is like trying to eradicate Pueraria lobata the dreaded Kudzu vine that is eating the South.
- You have to understand the beautifully tight position that this puts Beck in: if he presses on further with a supranational attempt on trying to get rid of the website, he will continue to look like a gigantic hypocrite, given Beck's reported disdain for international bodies and fetishization (without understanding) of American law.
- Beck DESTROYED after efforts to get rid of site parodying him.. Daily Kos. Kos Media, LLC (October 6, 2009). Retrieved on 2009-10-06.
- For those of you with a purely legal bent, the papers offer some interesting trademark and First Amendment issues too. The latter revolve around the idea that given this dispute is between two Americans, it should be handled with respect to the First Amendment. As for the former, is Glenn Beck's trademark merely Glenn Beck? Or is it anything that includes the words Glenn and Beck?
- Matyszczyk, Chris (October 24, 2009). "Glenn Beck's legal action against site that parodies, um, Glenn Beck". CNET News (CBS Interactive Inc.). Retrieved on 2009-10-25.
- The decision appears to mark a significant win for digital rights advocates because a ruling in Beck's favor could have encouraged other subjects of online parodies to take their complaints directly to the WIPO rather than U.S. courts, which are bound by the First Amendment. Some U.S. courts have ruled in other cases that parody sites don't infringe in trademark, even if they use a famous name in the URL.
- Davis, Wendy (November 6, 2009). "Arguing With An Idiot: Glenn Beck's Lawsuit Against Parody Site Rejected". Online Media Daily (MediaPost Publications). Retrieved on 2009-11-07.
- It's good to see that this WIPO arbitrator had no interest in allowing Beck to circumvent the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.
- Ironically, Beck never did respond to Marc Randazza's motion for a stipulation that the panel would have to apply American law in deciding the case, but it didn't matter. He never really had a case even under the standards applicable by this international tribunal.
- So, perhaps one lesson here is: live by the Constitution, put up with Internet by the Constitution.
- MacNicol, Glynnis (November 10, 2009). "Glenn Beck Loses Lawsuit Over ‘Murder And Rape’ Website". Mediaite (www.mediaite.com). Retrieved on 2009-11-10.
- It is indeed protected speech -- and the arbitration panel in this case did believe that the site fit the necessary descriptions.
- Hesse, Monica (November 11, 2009). "The Web Hostess: Site wins case against Glenn Beck". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). Retrieved on 2009-11-12.
- Beck v. Eiland-Hall, case page at Citizen Media Law Project, organization affiliated with Harvard Law School
- WIPO Domain Name Decision: D2009-1182, World Intellectual Property Organization
- The Legal Satyricon blogpost about this WIPO arbitration case (Randazza's blog)
- The site in question in the case (dead as of November 6, 2009)
- Website of respondent