[LINK] Domain names and free speech
Wed, 01 Nov 2000 22:50:36 +1000
On Wed, 1 Nov 2000 15:56:40 +1100 Nick Smith <NSMITH@nla.gov.au> wrote:
>The WIPO panel held that guinnesssucks.com (etc) is confusingly similar to
>guinness.com. This means that people who are looking for information about
>Guinness alchoholic beverages etc might go to guinnesssucks.com (a site
>This is growing into a big free speech issue (or is it just me?)....
Yep, it is - it's certainly not just you. Oz censorship laws get a lot of
air time, but an equally probably greater threat to freedom of expression
is presented by corporations, via trademark and defamation actions and the
like. One doesn't hear much about these because many are settled out of
court - with secrecy provisions in the settlement so those who know what
happened can't even talk about the outcome. And, they can't talk about it
before settlement because doing so opens them up to a second charge of
I'm told this is quite common in Australia off-line and it will no doubt
become common online, if it isn't already.
Terry Lane (ABC broadcaster and Pres. Free Speech Committee Vic) has a
disturbing article in the 4/2000 edition of Index
(www.indexoncensorship.org but that back issue isn't online yet). Part of
its re a guy who wrote a book called "Forest Friendly Building Timbers" - a
consumer guide to timbers and timber substitutes not taken from old-growth
forests and arranged a pre-publication contract with BBC Hardware. The
National Association of Forest Industries claimed it contravened the Trade
Practices Act re damaging the 'good name' and trading operations of
another. Fortunately the author made an effort to help himself - he
contacted Lane at Free Speech Vic who got Alan Fels on his radio program
and, according to Lane's article, Fels blew the NAFI case out of the water
and accused NAFI of misuse of the TP Act to intimidate a critic. Other
stories in the article do not have such a happy ending.
It's easy to say that those threatened ought to make an effort to help
themselves but when faced with the prospect of losing one's worldly goods,
even assuming they can afford lawyers equivalent to those the corporations
put forward, it's not so easy to do.
It would be nice to think the ICANN dispute process / organisations like
WIPO and might balance the scales somewhat re online speech, but there's
little evidence of it to date.
Irene Graham, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. PGP key on h/page.
Web: http://libertus.net - about censorship & free speech in Australia.
Executive Director, Electronic Frontiers Australia: http://www.efa.org.au