2009.10.05

Glenn Beck's Lawyers Seek to Limit the First Amendment Right to Free Speech

Glenn_beck The Web Site at Issue: www.GlennBeckRapedandMurderedAyoungGirlIn1990.com

This web site, clearly identified as a parody, asks: "Why won't Glenn Beck deny these allegations? We're not accusing Glenn Beck of raping and murdering a young girl in 1990 - in fact, we think he didn't! But we can't help but wonder, since he has failed to deny these horrible allegations. Why won't he deny that he raped and killed a young girl in 1990?" But is this domain name really cybersquatting the Glenn Beck name or simply fair commentary / parody protected under our United States Constitution and the right to free speech? Our cybersquatting lawyers provide the answer below ....

Protecting Famous Names In Cyberspace? Few famous people draw as much controversy as Fox News’ Entertainer Glenn Beck, who has become famous, in part, by accusing people of absurd - crazy - false - seemingly defamatory things by asking rhetorical questions which imply the unsettling answer.  Glenn Beck's fame also makes Glenn Beck’s website www.glennbeck.com a favorite target for cybersquatting (see below for examples of cybersquatting web sites such as Glennbcek.com).  (More information on celebrity cybersquatting). 

... Or Is Glenn Beck Using Lawyers To Quell Free Speech? Currently, Mr. Beck’s trademark attorneys are pursuing a UDRP case against the registrant of the above parody web site despite the fact that it has no visible commercial purpose, and is clearly protected under the First Amendment right to free speech. (For more information on the UDRP and what is elements are required to prove a case, check out this UDRP Resource Page).  Suffice it to say that the UDRP protects famous people, celebrities and trademark holders from the bad faith registration of domain names which are designed into confusing web site visitors that they are the mark holder, celebrity or famous person.  These domain names are designed to confuse and seek to divert web visitors for commercial gain. The UDRP, however, does typically not protect companies or people from parody, gripe sites or the sometimes painful commentary protected by free speech.

.. Is Glenn Beck a Rapists Who Murdered a Young Girl in 1990?  Of course, this is a question and not a statement so I am really 'not saying.'   And of course, the implication is not remotely true.  But then again Glenn Beck hasn't denied it..... Ah, the Internet Meme.  The term "Internet meme" refers to a catchphrase or concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the internet, largely through email, blogs, forums, social networking sites and instant messaging. The term derives from the original concept of memes, although it has come to refer to a much more narrowly defined category of cultural information. Examples include Rickrolling, lolcats, "Leave Britney Alone", Keyboard Cat and "All your base are belong to us". It involves statements or questions which are so absurd, that no one would believe them.  Each Meme makes a point distinct from the statement/question posed.  Below is a good example of an Meme Gilbert Gottfried Meme about Bob Saget, the point of which is laughter not truth.

The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget
Gilbert Gottfried Pt. 1
www.comedycentral.com
Joke of the Day Stand-Up Comedy Free Online Games

You need to check out the web site under attack by Mr. Beck in order to understand what is going on here and why the First Amendment protections are in play  www.GlennBeckRapedandMurderedAyoungGirlIn1990.com.  The web site plays off Beck’s tendency to start with an outrageous claim (Muslims are terrorists), indicate that Beck is not saying it is true (Beck is not saying 'so and so' who happens to be a Muslim is a terrorist) and then place the burden of disproof on the ambushed party (But 'so and so' should prove to us all that he is not a terrorist if we are to clear his/her name). As noted at TechDirt commenting on cable shows like Glenn Beck's: "One of the popular tactics of such shows, is to use the ever popular "report on a rumor" setup, which lets them insinuate something, without ever officially stepping up and saying it themselves. The simplest form is the "some are saying..." lead in that lets these folks spend plenty of time discussing things without ever actually investigating if they're true."

Here is another example of Glenn Beck's use of the rhetorical question to make an accusation, check out this video below:

This particular meme about Glenn Beck has been around a while with Google returning over 300,000 results for "glenn beck rape kill girl", and has made its way around the internet several times. But this is the first known attempt by Glenn Beck to take down one of the web sites that spreads the meme.  In so doing, Beck raises a lot of eyebrows given his own 'entertainment' style and supposed support for the First Amendment right to free speech. The First Amendment protects, by necessity, both popular and unpopular  and controversial speech. Whether the site could be considered defamation is considered here.

A decision under the UDRP should be forthcoming in the next several weeks, although Mr. Beck certainly has a major uphill battle given the First Amendment implications involved in that particular domain dispute. One of our good friends and accomplished domain dispute lawyers Marc Randazza is representing the Respondent.  His Response Brief and proposed stipulation (which we doubt Mr. beck will agree to since it would expose his hypocrisy)  is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the First Amendment right to Free Speech and how it applies to parody web sites.

Some money quotes from famed lawyer Randazza:

"We are not here because the domain name could cause confusion. We do not have a  declaration from the president of the international association of imbeciles that his members are blankly staring at the Respondent’s website wondering “where did all the race baiting content go?” We are here because Mr. Beck wants Respondent’s website shut down. He wants it shut down because Respondent’s website makes a poignant and accurate satirical critique of Mr. Beck by parodying Beck’s very rhetorical style. Beck’s skin is too thin to take the criticism, so he wants the site down."

"It is specious at best for Mr. Beck to assert that his fans, or the public as a whole, would confuse Respondent’s website with Mr. Beck himself—unless of course it is Mr. Beck’s view that his fans and the average internet user are in fact hurried morons. Respondent presumes that this is not how Mr. Beck regards his audience. And, even if he does so regard his audience, this is not a basis for upholding his complaint. Given that Mr. Beck cannot genuinely believe or reasonably assert that Respondent’s website will cause such confusion, there can be only one purpose to filing this complaint: as an attempt to silence a critic because he doesn’t like being criticized."

Glenn Beck's attempts to quell the very free speech rights he hides behind every day to spew his rants against other people makes us wonder.  Does Glenn Beck really care about people cybersquatting his famous name? 

It turns out he is not.  If you review the typo variations of GlennBeck.com at DomainTools, you will see that Mr. Beck has many obvious typosquatters attempting to infringe his trademark rights in his famous name.  It kind of makes you wonder why Mr. Beck isn’t pursuing those domain names which are clearly designed to divert traffic from his primary website and make money off of his famous name…

Maybe Glenn Beck is to busy asking other people to prove they are not terrorists, racists or communists to make the time....  Or maybe he is just afraid of being subjected to the very tactics he so frequently uses against people.

More commentary here...

I am definitely NOT asking you to spread the word of this post or the question of whether Glenn Beck attacks the Untied States Constitution and the right to free speech.  Because that obviously would not be true at all.

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