Domain Name Registration Triggers C&D From Instagram... Which Triggers A Weirdly Wonderful Backlash Filled With Duck Drawings`

from the domain-name-fun dept

If you're going to allow the corporate finger to rest heavily on the "Release the Lawyers" button, you need to be braced for the backlash. As backlashes go, this particular incident is light on one-star reviews and widespread excoriation. But it is dripping with sarcasm masquerading as wide-eyed innocence and shows just how quickly a handful of internet denizens can make someone wish they'd never bothered trying to "right" a "wrong."

A redditor registered the domain slutsofinstagram.com, as one does when presented with the available tools and the inclination to make snap judgements for the amusement of one's self and (hopefully) others. Shortly after that, the legal department of Instagram got involved, as one does when elbowing others for trademark breathing space and possessing the inclination to host photos without worrying about third-party hecklers.


The letter notes that slutsofinstagram.com "contains" the trademarked word "Instagram." It then talks about its 30 million users and being a "worldwide leader" in photo uploading and justifiably famous for doing so.

It also points out that it must police the internet for uses/abuses of its trademark, ensuring that consumers aren't confused and its mark remains tarnish-free. Finally, the letter notes that the registrant may not be familiar with trademark law, but that's the registrant's fault and he should immediately cease all use of the Instagram trademark, disable any site at that address and not attempt to trade/sell the domain name to another party.

That bit of officiousness prompted this completely ridiculous (but in the more positive sense) response:

Hi

Wow that sounds like you guys have a cool videogame. 30 million members. Holy moly! I was confused at first but you must be referring to my online fantasy series Slütsof in Stâgram. It's a really cool project I'm working on, you should check it out. It's about a magical goat and a duck princess who journey across the enchanted land of Stagram, many adventures are had…

I'm sorry if it sounds close to your company name but I don't think you own the alphabet, that would be funny imagine? Have a good day.
Two pages from slutsofinstagram were attached (completely SFW):


Soon, more images were posted, some by the site owner but many more from others, fleshing out the Stâgram world.




As the site owner notes, he has yet to hear back from Instagram. Some questions have been raised, like what kind of legal rep only signs her first name on a C&D and who the hell actually posts funny content to r/Funny? There's also a lack of clarity on the chicken-and-egg problem. Did this redditor create the site with artwork in place simply to troll Instagram, or did he actually have a more unsavory destination in mind before Instagram stepped in?

Either way, the resulting silence (if legit) is growing rather loud. The redditor apparently posted this in early August, even though it was only in the past few days that any attention has been paid to it. Instagram's purported actions have pretty much ensured this site will remain filled with hand-drawn ducks and goats (and Stâgram maps), rather than the more titillating content unwary surfers (and "Edith") may be expecting. So, in a way, it's still a win for Instagram, which won't have its name associated with the word "sluts." On the other hand, the content swiftly filling up slutsofinstagram.com definitely makes it a bit harder to legally claim this redditor should have to abandon his registered domain.


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  • icon
    Rikuo (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 3:28am

    I would not be surprised if this became an actual game, sorta like what happened when a single paragraph on 4chan caught the attention of members and became Katawa Shoujo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 4:11am

      Re:

      Ducktales in Russia: Slutsof In Stagram

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 4:15am

        Re: Re:

        Also, I'm linguistically impaired since the Russian alphabet is a tad different. Would it be Nordic?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 9:07am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The umlaut over the U is typically German, or for German names in Swedish. The ring over the A in Stagram in the paragraph of the sketch image can also be Swedish. Stagram doesn't seem to follow Swedish placename patterns. Most placenames that I'm finding that end in something close to AM end in HAMN (e.g. Söderhamn) which is the equivalent of the English HAM (e.g. Birmingham).

          That said, Stagram has already been used as a shortened form of Instagram apparently, as a simple google search will bear out.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 6:06am

        Re: Re:

        'cause we Slutsof in Stagram, and we goin gorillaz, ahh?!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 4:13am

    I have to admit I was disappointed by this article. Hands up those who were getting worked up with an aggregator for... "Duck"etes pictures from Instagram.

    *Rises both hands*

    Also, if this is pure trollish I award one million Internets to this sir. He trolled me as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 4:48am

    Pronounced "fah-CHEE-bo"

    Was that the same Redditor responsible for the famous "Facébo OK" site?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Paul Alan Levy (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 5:27am

    Funny but disingenuous

    It is a funny response, but likely disingenuous and thus harder to defend in the UDRP. A straightforward justification -- that the use of Instagram's name in this URL was not not confusing, and was fair use -- would also have been successful

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 6:45am

      Re: Funny but disingenuous

      So, if you take the piss out of a silly attack and don't hire lawyers in a foreign country to fight things seriously, that turns the rules against you? It could be true, but that's pretty wrong for people in societies where cash != justice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        _Eugene _Goodrich, 1 Oct 2014 @ 4:00pm

        Re: Re: Funny but disingenuous

        I believe that's right. Courts don't, as a general rule, have senses of humors in the complaints and defenses they hear.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      BentFranklin (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 7:31am

      Re: Funny but disingenuous

      This site should have the same status as http://www.peopleofwalmart.com.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 11:44am

      Re: Funny but disingenuous

      The domain owner's reply can be submitted in a UDRP response but would most likely factor little in the decision. A UDRP Complainant has to make three points of a case:

      (i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and

      (ii) the domain owner has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and

      (iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

      The first point would easily go in Instagram's favor. The actual use of the website as something that obviously has not relation to Instagram would, however, factor greatly as a defense against a bad faith registration and show legitimate interest in the domain name. Assuming this domain actually went to a UDRP (I suspect it won't), if the domain owner actually submitted a defense I believe he'd have a very good chance of keeping the domain.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ima Fish (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 5:33am

    Now I'm going to have to file a C&D! My son and I created (i.e., thought about) an "adult swim" styled cartoon about a caveman and a time traveling duck and the wacky journeys they'd have.

    This unnamed redditor obviously took my idea and cleverly changed it so it would no longer violate my copyright. That bastard!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 6:24am

    "tips hat" to the unknown redditor ..well played sir ,well played.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 6:50am

    Couldnt Tag Heuer C&D insTAGram.com by that logic?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 6:58am

    You know, if the likes of 4chan put their mind to it, they could create thousands of domains like that overnight. Or register one domain and procedurally generate an infinite number of subdomains. Trademark law has increasingly less basis in reality.

    (If every domain would incur a $100,000 fine, would infinite subdomains result in a $∞ fine?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nurlip (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 7:15am

    Is Instagram in the right on this? I thought registering a domain was fair game and it's the company's responsibility to register any domains associated with their company name first...

    If the guy had made a site of actual pictures taken from Instagram, i could see how they have cause for the C&D but simply registering a domain..?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 7:51am

      Re:

      As near as I can tell from my admittedly brief research, simply registering the domain does not infringe on trademarks, and there is no legal cause for action as a result. So, no, Instagram isn't on solid legal ground here. In order for trademark infringement to occur, the trademark must be used in commerce. In the case of domain names, this can occur in two ways: the domain leads to a site that is engaging in commerce, or the domain itself is sold ("cybersquatting").

      Just registering a domain name that includes a trademark does not infringe unless you do something with it that makes it infringing.

      (See http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/property00/domain/CaseLaw.html)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      jackn, 30 Sep 2014 @ 7:56am

      Re:

      I don't use instagram, but do they claim copyright on user submitted content? (Maybe that is why I don't use it)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 7:56am

      Re:

      I remember when musician Keith Urban threw his toys out of the stroller because someone else, an artist, named Keith Urban registered the domain keithurban.com (or something along those lines.)

      He demanded the guy transfer his domain over to him or something along those lines.

      Didn't work, though.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        FeRDNYC (profile), 27 Nov 2014 @ 1:54am

        Re: Re:

        Billy Joel's name (well, actually, the "logo" of his name) is trademarked in several categories of use — he sells recorded music, posters and other printed materials, and performs on stage as Billy Joel™. He set that up many years ago, in fact, long before most artists were giving any thought to such matters. (There's some contractual drama dating back to early in his career that's probably the reason behind it.)

        But it's set up in just that way, very specifically trademarking the "typed drawing" (logo) in specific uses, presumably to make it legally enforcable. An attempt to trademark just his name itself, or to control things like domain registrations that simply use the letters "billyjoel", would stand a much better chance of getting invalidated by a court if he ever tried to protect it.

        Which is why Keith Urban was SOL. The best you can hope for in those situations is that if you wave enough money at the holder, they might be convinced to sell you the domain.

        Ref: Billy Joel is a registered TradeMark - Straight Dope Message Board

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 7:52am

    Excuse me while I go copyright vowels and then go sue Instagram for using them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 9:12am

    Third interpretation

    Even if the domain owner did originally intend to use the domain as sluts-of-instagram, it may not have been intended in an erotic usage. Rather, he may have intended it to showcase "instagram whores" - people use instagram to satisfy their need for attention, even if they only post G-rated content, like pictures of favourite foods, chronicles of ordinary boring days, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2014 @ 10:15am

    Without seeing the headers of the email I can't say for sure, but I am almost positive that this is coming from MarkMonitor. The language is virtually identical to domain-related trademark notices my company has received from Ebay/PayPal (which were also signed "Edith").

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Techanon, 30 Sep 2014 @ 11:45am

    lol, dat r/funny trial thread.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 11:52am

    "Its fame entitles it to broad legal protection."
    Really, is that how lawyers paid by FB think the law actually works?

    Conduct business?
    And as there was no site when you flipped out, how does one reach that conclusion?

    From the legal minds who don't need the law to back up their claims, just a large war chest to run the other guy out of money to make them do what they want. (eg: "Book" lawsuits/threats)

    I think this letter did way more to tarnish the mark, than anyone mocking its users online could have.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous G (profile), 30 Sep 2014 @ 12:46pm

    I used to work for a company called DiamondWare that registered the domain name dw.com (back in the 1990s when the Internet was a quiet place and two-letter domain names were still available). In 2000, Deutsche Welle started a lawsuit against the company saying they had a right to the domain. They lost.

    DiamondWare was purchased by another company while I was working there. The website was no longer needed, so I asked my boss if I should put up a redirect to the Doctor Who website or the DW Drums website (those seemed to be what most people were looking for, according to referral data) but he didn't let me. Now Deutsche Welle has control over the domain so they finally did get what they wanted. I wonder how much money it cost them to accomplish that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      FeRDNYC (profile), 27 Nov 2014 @ 2:18am

      Re:

      If DiamondWare were "foolish" enough to let dw.com expire (foolish from a business perspective, since a two-letter domain obviously became a hot, and valuable, commodity) once it was "no longer needed", then Deutsche Welle could have swooped in and registered it without it costing them squat. (Well, other than whatever their registrar charged in registration fee, so like €10 maybe?) If they were that anxious to get control of the domain, I'm sure they were tracking the expiration date and poised to pounce the moment DiamondWare's registration lapsed.

      Same thing if DiamondWare let dw.com lie fallow, in fact, since one of the requirements for holding a domain registration is some form of use. (Or it was, back then — I haven't kept up with the rules.) Even a single-page placeholder website is sufficient, but if there were no servers reachable under the dw.com domain at all then Deutsche Welle could've applied to have the registration forfeited and turned over to them. Again, minimal cost.

      Obviously, the "smart" move for DiamondWare's new parent would've been to dangle in it front of DW and find out just how much it was worth to them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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