Domain Name Update

There is a news story circulating that internet regulators are permitting domain names with an infinite variety of extensions – so users would not be limited to dot-com, dot-ca or the other 21 extensions which are currently approved.  The piece I heard made it sound as if internet users could wake up tomorrow and start typing in their own random top-level domain suffixes. 

To clarify: It’s true that ICANN (the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers) has approved a proposal to widen the number of extensions, and to permit extensions to be expressed in languages other than the roman alphabet.  However, this will be a long time in coming.  Organizations interested in introducing a new extension must apply to have it approved and implemented.  And ICANN is not expected to even accept applications until mid-2009, then those new extensions that are approved are not likely to be rolled-out until 2010 at the earliest. 

As usual, trade-mark owners and brand managers need to keep abreast of these developments and make strategic decisions about where to focus their branding efforts.  But this particular development is a few years away.


Calgary – 14:00 MST

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Domain Name & Defamation Case

A disgruntled ex-employee registers the dot-com version of the employer’s dot-ca domain name.  Then, just before leaving on vacation out of the country, the ex-employee directs the dot-com domain name to a gay porn site.  The employer sues for damages.

In a recent judgement (Inform Cycle Ltd. v. Draper, 2008 ABQB 369), the Court has awarded damages against the ex-employee for passing-off and defamation, to the tune of $15,000.00.  The case is interesting for a few reasons: first, it is one of the few decisions dealing with both online corporate defamation (defamation of business reputation on the internet) and domain name issues.  And it is interesting for the summary way in which the Court concluded that damages were appropriate.

In the B.C. case of Crookes v. Yahoo, the Court disposed of an online defamation claim by reasoning that there was no evidence that the alleged defamatory material was accessed by someone in B.C.  “Publication is an essential element for an action in defamation,” said the judge. “In this case … [t]here is no evidence anyone read the material in British Columbia.”

Contrast that with the analysis in the Inform Cycle case: “There is no record of the number of people who were forwarded to the gay pornographic website…the people referred to the ‘.com’ site over that 16 day period were people who had made an error by choosing ‘.com’ instead of ‘.ca’. We do not know how many people made that error. We do not know how many actually thought that the referral to the porn site was deliberate rather than a computer or internet glitch. We do not know if anyone, or how many, actually believed that Inform was involved in the porn site or business.” (emphasis added) Despite those apparent gaps in the evidence, the Court had no problem concluding that defamation had occurred, and that damages were appropriate.  The difference might be explained (at least partly) by the fact that the alleged defamatory comments in the Crookes case were made in a members-only discussion forum. It’s likely that the nature of the site where the domain name was directed also has something to do with it.  It is clear that further clarity on these issues is required.

Calgary – 15:30 MST

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Canada’s Brands

bb-bold.JPGA ranking of Canada’s top brands puts Research In Motion out in front, with its newly-introduced Blackberry Bold (left).  The BlackBerry brand is pegged at a value of $5.6-billion, well ahead of the Canadian financial institutions such as RBC and TD Canada Trust that topped the list in years past.  Other iconic Canadian trade-marks such as Tim Horton’s and Canadian Tire are bumped down the list. 

Link to the report: Best Canadian Brands 2008  (PDF copy)

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Proposed Canadian Copyright Law Introduced

Today the Government finally introduced its long-awaited Copyright Reform bill – (Bill C-61 ). Of course over the coming days, media and bloggers will be dissecting it.  But the immediate summary appears to be that the efforts to balance user rights (things like private copying, format and time-shifting) are restricted by anti-DRM circumvention provisions. 

It appears that you may be permitted to copy a song or movie to your iPod, and if you have to crack a digital lock in order to do so, then you may be able to avoid statutory damages for breaking the lock (statutory damages are automatic damages ranging between $500 and $20,000 per work) if the circumvention was for “private purposes”.  Curiously, it appears that you can only avoid statutory damages, but not actual damages.  This means that the copyright owner could still sue for actual damages, even if the circumvention was for “private purposes.”

 Calgary – 15:00 MST


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