U.N. agency rules for 'The Simpsons'
Wed Jul 25, 7:11 PM ET
Woo-hoo! "The Simpsons Movie" has won its name back on the Internet. A U.N. agency has ruled that ownership of the domain name thesimpsonsmovie.com must be handed to News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox, which owns the rights to the film and the popular TV series.
Twentieth Century Fox complained to the World Intellectual Property Organization over the use of the film's name in the Internet address of a site registered by Keith Malley of New York.
Fox lawyers claimed Malley was using the address to divert Internet users to a Web site that included sexually explicit depictions of several characters from The Simpsons and, later, to his "Keith and the Girl" Web site. He was demanding a $50,000 fee from Twentieth Century Fox for the domain name, according to the July 22 ruling of the WIPO arbitration panel.
It found that Malley "has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain name" and ordered its immediate return.
In an interview, Malley said that Fox lawyers never contacted him and that he learned about the case after the deadline had passed. He said his contact information was available on his Web site and through his lawyer, although he hadn't updated the official registration records for the domain name, which he bought in 1999.
"I found it bullying," Malley said, adding that he would speak with his lawyer about challenging the decision. Malley could appeal by filing a lawsuit in a court.
The arbitration system, which was set up in 1999, allows those who think they have the right to a domain to gain control of it without having to fight a costly legal battle or pay large sums of money. Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Madonna are among the Hollywood stars who have previously won rulings against so-called "cybersquatters."
"The animated television series 'The Simpsons' debuted in 1989, and has become one of the longest running network series in television history," the ruling said, noting that Friday's release of the film has generated huge public interest on the Internet.
WIPO said Malley's "aim in registering the disputed domain name was to profit from and exploit" Twentieth Century Fox's trademark to promote and sell his own products and merchandise.
Malley, 33, who produces an Internet radio show, said he obtained the domain name with intentions of creating a parody of "The Simpsons." He said the amount Fox offered for the domain name, $300, wouldn't cover time spent developing ideas for the site; he would not elaborate on those ideas.