Walmart Not Horsing Around With Parody Domain Site

from the neigh dept

Walmart. Just saying the company’s name is usually enough to evoke unbidden brain-sounds of terrifying organ music and images of pitchfork-wielding devil-imps. But, hey, it’s a large business that’s been around for quite a while, so I guess it’s doing alright. It seems to me that somebody might want to call a meeting with the Walmart legal brain trust, because the company’s campaign against a silly and simple parody website isn’t achieving much of anything at all, and is in fact Streisanding the parody site into national views.

This story starts back in 2012, when ICANN saw fit to hold a firesale on domain extensions. Buying them up was all the rage for reasons unfathomable to this author. Still, that was the impetus for how we arrived at Walmart going after a site with a .horse extension.

That explains why, for the mere price of $29, you can now purchase a .horse domain name, if you want to do such a thing. “With .HORSE, there are no hurdles between equine enthusiasts on the Internet,” says United Domains. “Giddy up and register .HORSE today!” It doesn’t seem like too many people have been receptive to this pun-based sales pitch, but a 34-year-old named Jeph Jacques saw the opportunity for what he calls an “art project.”

“I thought, ‘Alright I’m gonna buy this and do something stupid with it and see what happens,” he told me. And readers, he did just that.

This grand art project? Buying up the domain www.walmart.horse, slapping a picture of the front of a Walmart store with a, you guessed it, horse superimposed over the top, and declaring the whole thing a monumental artistic success. Seriously, this is the only thing at the website if you go there.

Monet it might not be, but the image is suddenly competing with the likes of famous artists for attention and views thanks to Walmart freaking the hell out about it. In its infamous wisdom, Walmart and its crackerjack legal team have demanded that the whole shebang be taken down, claiming infringement of trademark. The C&D letter Walmart helpfully sent along suggested that Jacques’ website would confuse customers into thinking that Walmart, who is not in either the business of horses nor in the business of having a sense of humor, might have some affiliation to walmart.horse. Interestingly, the letter targets the domain name, rather than the image on the site itself. I’m not personally aware of any infringement claim on domain name being refuted by the actual extension used, but this would seem to be a ripe candidate for that argument, given that Walmart is not in the horse business.

But this really shouldn’t even get that far, given the whole purpose of the site itself and the artistic nature of the creator.

Jacques argues that his site is “an obvious parody and therefore falls under fair use.” He also told Walmart in his response that he’d be happy to put a disclaimer on his site to let visitors know he is not actually affiliated with the Waltons. And although he doesn’t want to bow to the company just yet, he says he’s already proved his original hypothesis: that corporations spend an absurd amount of time policing their trademarks.

Point proven, I suppose. Meanwhile, a tiny joke site has been Streisanded into the national conversation because Walmart just couldn’t resist.

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Companies: walmart

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Comments on “Walmart Not Horsing Around With Parody Domain Site”

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41 Comments
mr. papercuts says:

I dont understand why this article has such a tone of condescension towards exactly the kind of freedom from copyright expression that this .horse site situation embodies. Is the .horse art project really so dumb, when it represents exactly the way that the average, fumbling-their-way-into-artistic-expression everyman bumps up against corporate copyright censorship?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Didn’t really mean to imply condescension. Jeph’s walmart.horse project isn’t dumb, it’s just kind of a simple little thing that should have been glossed over by Walmart.

I know this is going to sound insulting as well when I don’t mean it to be, but the .horse thing isn’t “dumb”, it’s just kind of “insignificant”….

Anonymous Coward says:

walmart.legal

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Is your name being used in a way you dislike?
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Then visit Walmart.legal where our discount lawyers will file questionable lawsuits cheaper than anyone else. We guarantee or prices are lower than any competitors, if you find a cheaper price we will best it by 10%!

Listen to these testimonials:
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Anonymous Coward says:

Talk to the Registry (not the one you're thinking of...)

Silly Walmart. That horse’s registered name is WAL Mart (the WAL standing for the initials of the breeder and the “Mart” being a compilation of both sire and dam names). Therefore, the site is merely advertising the owner’s animal. The Registry obviously had no issue with the name. Sorry, Walmart, you have no case.

Ronald J Riley says:

Subdomains

The site owner should add additional sub domains such has ass.walmart.horse. Perhaps a picture with the horse, and then a turd and under that and a face. Or maybe just the back end of the same horse, no doubt people would figure out the meaning.

An endless number of opportunities exist.

Too bad Walmart cannot hire Dozier, he croaked after watching his pathetic law office disintegrate. As far as I can tell he only had one client after I put up the web site mocking him in response to his bogus demand letters.

My advice to Walmart, apologize and maybe offer to make a handsome charitable donation as a gesture of good will. Public Citizen comes to mind as a good candidate.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Subdomains

Honest, honorable, intelligent, well mannered, battle worn veterans of the world rarely participate in online dialogue because of the attacks their participation invites. And so you get a very one sided, jaded, biased perspective on Internet law and policy issues.
John Dozier, the idiot who said the above? If it wasn’t for the fact he’s already dead, I’d say he needs to quit drinking the Kool-Aid!

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