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Optical Express 'ruined my life' gripe site lives on

Free speech rights trump cybersquatting charges

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A gripe site for people who claim high street opticians Optical Express “ruined” their eyesight with botched LASIK surgery has been allowed to remain online, after a cybersquatting panel ruled that the owner has the right to free speech.

Nominet Dispute Resolution Service panelist Keith Gymer earlier this month ruled that the owner of the domain name opticalexpressruinedmylife.co.uk, Sasha Rodoy, was not a cybersquatter, following a formal complaint by Optical Express.

The site is used to host a small collection of horror stories collected from people allegedly suffering health problems after having eye surgery performed by the company's opticians.

Optical Express, in its cybersquatting complaint, claimed that the site hosted “defamatory and actionable content” and that the domain registration should be cancelled per Nominet's .uk anti-cybersquatting policy.

Rodoy claims her own eyesight was affected by surgery at rival chain Optimax. She also owns optimaxruinedmylife.co.uk and said she set up the Optical Express version after hearing from disgruntled customers of that company.

The Nominet cybersquatting panelist found in her favour, ruling: "If using a domain name conveying a critical message in association with a specific name or trade mark were automatically to be considered as inherently unfair, as the Complainant [Optical Express] appears to imply, that could have an undesirable and significantly chilling effect on free speech.”

Optical Express pointed to the precedent of Ryanair v Robert Tyler from 2010, in which ihateryanair.co.uk was determined to be cybersquatting.

However, the panelist in the opticalexpressruinedmylife.co.uk case noted that, unlike Tyler, Rodoy had not attempted to make any money from her site by hosting advertising.

Rodoy now gets to keep the domain name in question.

The full decision can be downloaded in PDF format from this page. The Register contacted Optical Express for comment, but it has yet to respond. ®

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