For many years
, we've discussed the legality of so-called "sucks sites." These are, generally speaking, sites that people put up about a brand that they've had a bad experience with, that goes by something along the lines of brandsucks.com. While there has been some back and forth, for the most part, people and domain dispute boards have recognized that such "sucks sites" should be allowed
. They're not infringing on trademarks, in that they don't, for the most part, lead to any confusion over who is running the domain, or if the company in question actually endorses the site (unlikely in most cases).
So it was interesting to see the news that a guy who ran IHateRyanair.co.uk was forced to turn over the domain name
to the company. It was double surprising, because four years ago, we had written about another sucks site, called RyanairCampaign.org that was allowed to keep its domain
. So what gives here? Well, it turns out that it wasn't a normal domain resolution process that is normally used over domain trademark disputes. Instead, Ryanair went straight to the registry -- which, in this case, was Nominet, and apparently Nominet's policies are much more stringent. The company even admits this, saying that the traditional UDRP domain resolution process probably would have let him keep the domain, but they decided it offends their stricter policies. Why? Because on the page he had some affiliate links that earned him £322. And, even though he took down the links, and agreed to sign documents that he wouldn't put them back, they still felt it violated their policies.
This is, frankly, ridiculous. Earning a little bit of cash from a website does not automatically make it such that it's just being done "for the money," as is implied by this ruling. Besides with the amount made, it probably didn't do much more than covering hosting fees. This is really an unfortunate decision, and could certainly chill some forms of speech in making it much more difficult to cover your costs in hosting a public advocacy website against a company. Perhaps someone needs to set up Nominetsucks.co.uk. Of course, all is not lost for the original domain holder, who has simply moved his site to IHateRyanair.org, and hopefully to a less ridiculous registrar.