Anti-WalMart domain win claimed as sea-change
But it's nothing of the sort. Sadly
WIPO has ruled against a huge conglomerate! We know, unbelievable as it may seem, it's true. Kenneth J. Harvey is officially entitled not to have his www.wallmartcanadasucks.com taken off him and given to a faceless organisation. The judges did slap Ken's wrist however, calling him childish and unfair.
This decision was immediately claimed as an enormous victory, giving the man in the street a legal precedent to be allowed to criticise big, powerful companies without fear of intimidation or legal hassles.
Unfortunately, it is nothing of the sort. And for anyone to claim that it is, is a sorry indication of how far WIPO has managed to persuade society that trademark and image are greater priorities than the individual's freedom of expression.
Wal-Mart has been on a huge spree of domain reclaim - in fact it may be WIPO's best customer - it has virtually every URL that begins "wal-mart" and "walmart". The defendant in this case had already handed over www.walmartcanadasucks.com and www.wal-martcanadasucks.com in July. Through this massive process of reclaim, Wal-Mart has effectively (as Kenneth pointed out in his case) stifled all criticism of the company on the Internet. Now how can this possibly be right in a so-called democracy and a so-called open medium?
You'll note that Ken kept the URL www.wallmartcanadasucks.com - that's "wall" with two "l"s - i.e. it has nothing whatsoever to do with Wal-Mart's trademark. The fact that it won www.walmart etc. without the hyphen should be where the battles are being fought.
But now we seem to be claiming that by being allowed to keep a MISSPELLED domain name, we should be grateful. The reason why even WIPO couldn't decide in Wal-Mart's favour is because if it had, it would effectively be saying that any site that criticised any trademark company should be handed over to the company in question.
This is what is called autocracy - look it up.
This case should never have even been raised by Wal-Mart and the fact it was, and was even discussed, is a depressing omen. What we have learnt is where WIPO's envelope finally ends - right up to the point where the URL has nothing to do with the company. That's a comforting thought, ain't it? ®
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