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What’s legally yours is rightfully ours

Law | Monday, December 3rd, 2007 | 9 years, 11 months ago

The Pirate Bay, everyone’s favourite Bittorrent tracker and conglomerate of filesharing sites, is known for taking delight in ruffling the feathers of the establishment. In the same spirit as their legal threats page and blase retort to their insignificant police-sanctioned downtime, The Pirate Bay took another jab at big media early this October when they leased the expired ifpi.com domain. This domain, until early this year, was under the employ of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Though the IFPI would have us believe otherwise, The Pirate Bay isn’t the only other proprietor of this namespace. The trusty Wayback Machine shows a seemingly independent blog hosted at this domain in April of this year. This is odd since domains are rarely leased for shorter periods than one year.

This acquiry was significant for a few reasons. First and foremost, it’s obviously an attempt to tweak the noses of John Law. Second, the domain was acquired legally and fairly and was only possible because the IFPI organisation allowed their lease to lapse, returning the domain to the public market. Third, The Pirate Bay makes it well known, as illustrated in the screenshot below, that the site is under new ownership and that if you’ve arrived at the site looking for the IFPI organisation you should click the clearly labelled warning.

screenshot of IFPI.com

The commandeering of this domain has caused some headaches and embarrassment for the IFPI. For instance, for some untold reason, they’d opted to accept emails to both their ifpi.org and ifpi.com addresses, and of course, as is their right, The Pirate Bay has opted to activate a catchall email address which presents to them all emails sent to any @ifpi.com address. Truth be told, if this situation has caused any other confusion or inconvenience the IFPI has been too gentlemanly to complain about it publicly.

However, this hasn’t stopped them from crying foul to the World Intellectual Property Organisation – an appointed collective of global representatives whose job is to debate and encourage worldwide creativity and respect of copyrights. It is quizzical, then, that WIPO would show such disdain for their own field by overriding the American ICANN, the body in charge of the world’s domain names, by awarding the IFPI.com domain to the IFPI organisation, even though American law states that domain names cannot be copyrighted:

Can I copyright my domain name?
Copyright law does not protect domain names. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization that has assumed the responsibility for domain name system management, administers the assignation of domain names through accredited registers.

P2Pnet reports that the notice of appeal, granting The Pirate Bay 10 days to contest the ruling, was tardy in its delivery. I certainly hope they’ll contest this to bring the decision and the entire WIPO under further public scrutiny.

Until then, the IFPI and WIPO have given us much to ponder. For instance, the concepts of fair use and legal entitlement. These organisations argue that the law doesn’t always represent the best interests of the truly entitled party, and if not, can be overruled. As I’ve discussed in the past, American law is often proven to submit to 800-pound gorillas even in the face of overwhelming entitlement, prior art, and the stifling of local business versus foreign interests.

Will The Pirate Bay lose steam thanks to this debacle? Nah. Quite the opposite, I’d wager. I can’t imagine such salty dogs not foreseeing such a rocky shore. Nay, they’ll doubtless sing many a shanty about the one that got away; about the time big media let its true colours show and finally proclaimed in plain language what we’ve all known them to be whispering under their collective breath – do as we say, not as we do.

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