The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is planning to appeal a September judgment finding that GoDaddy did not violate anti-cybersquatting laws. Part of the Academy’s claim centered around the common practice of having “parked pages” which are basically placeholders sites. The practice allows a domain owner to reserve a domain until it finds hosting or completes the website.
The Academy claimed that GoDaddy improperly profited from the use of its OSCAR mark by allowing the registration of domains that included the OSCAR mark, and sharing in the proceeds of ad revenue on parked pages.
The Court found that the Academy had failed to prove that GoDaddy had the bad faith intent to profit required for the claim and also that GoDaddy had met its burden on its affirmative defense that it acted with a good faith belief that the use was lawful.
It didn’t help the Academy’s case that GoDaddy took a number of proactive steps to limit potential infringement and acted quickly whenever infringement was brought to its attention.
The case, lasting five years, highlights the policy tension among intellectual property laws and the internet economy. The Court cited the automated process of registering domains and the high cost of manually reviewing each new registration to ensure that no infringement occurs in its findings regarding bad faith.
Traditionally, the burden of policing a trademark falls to the mark holder. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act provided some additional tools for job in the internet age and attempted to strike a balance between the benefits of the internet and the burden on intellectual property holders. Here, the Academy seemed to make an attempt to pass the burden of policing its mark on to providers like GoDaddy. The Court stated towards the end of its ruling that the Academy’s “ACPA claim would impose upon GoDaddy (and presumably any other company offering parking, hosting, or other basic internet services) the unprecedented duty to act as the internet’s trademark police.”
It’s not yet clear exactly what the Academy plans to attack in its appeal. We’ll have to wait to see if the Appeals Court thinks that GoDaddy should act as the internet’s trademark police.