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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Occupiers strike back against the Tribune

Posted By on 06.20.12 at 10:21 AM

Logo of the Occupiers
  • Logo of the Occupiers
What's in a domain name? And what isn't?

The domain name occupiedchicagotribune.org arguably does not contain:

Anything that causes confusion with the Chicago Tribune or commercially exploits the Tribune name.

The argument has just been made on behalf of the Occupied Chicago Tribune (OCT), an occasional newspaper whose website the Tribune would like to shut down. To that end, last month the Tribune filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, asking that the above domain, plus the dormant domain occupychicagotribune.org, also registered by the Occupiers, be turned over to the Tribune.

Occupied Chicago Tribune acquired the two domains "in bad faith" and in order to "divert traffic" from Tribune websites, the complaint argued. I wrote about this complaint at length in last week's Reader, and you can read that column here.

The Occupiers just completed their response. "This is a case about the fundamental human right of political speech," they argue. "'Occupied Chicago Tribune' or 'Occupy Chicago Tribune' is clearly distinguishable from the 'Chicago Tribune' and no reasonable person" would confuse them. Moreover, it is a "bald unsupported claim" that OCT "is attempting to divert traffic from Tribune sites" or to exploit the Chicago Tribune mark for commercial gain.

The domains exist to give OCT a forum in which to exercise "their fundamental political right to contrast, critique and criticize the news reporting of the Chicago Tribune, which acts in the interests of the rich and powerful, with OCT's efforts to represent the poor and working people of Chicago," the rebuttal contends. And it goes on to say that (because of First Amendment considerations) WIPO complaints "involving Americans are routinely denied when the website criticizes or offers commentary about the complainant." The Tribune complaint alleged that it is neither parodied nor critiqued by occupiedchicagotribune.org. The response submits five articles to contradict this claim.

Here's a link to the entire response. A ruling by a WIPO administrative panelist should be made in July.

Note: Alan Maass, the formal respondent to the Tribune complaint, was identified to me by Miles Kampf-Lassin, editor of Occupied Chicago Tribune, as "a journalist in Chicago who originally registered the domain names before the first issue was published or the website was launched. He has not had any affiliation with OCT other than that." Maass is editor of the Socialist Worker newspaper, and author of the book Why You Should Be a Socialist.

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