Podcaster loses "cybersquat" of Simpsons Movie site

GENEVA Wed Jul 25, 2007 2:04pm EDT

1 of 4. A publicity image for 'The Simpsons Movie' courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Credit: Reuters/Handout

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GENEVA (Reuters) - A U.S. podcaster on Wednesday lost the right to operate a Web site using the name of "The Simpsons Movie" to attract fans of the cartoon series to sites related to his own Internet output.

An arbitrator for the United Nations' patent agency, WIPO, ruled that New York-based Keith Malley must cede control of the "thesimpsonsmovie.com" site to Twentieth Century Fox, the News Corp. unit which owns the Simpsons trademark.

The movie starring the cartoon family premiered July 20 in Springfield, Vermont, ahead of its release on Friday.

The World Intellectual Property Organization ruling found that Malley had registered the domain name to divert business to linked sites promoting and selling merchandise associated with the popular "Keith and the Girl" podcast he produces.

The arbitrator said the creation of the Simpsons Movie Web site amounted to "bad faith registration and use" of the address -- a practice known as "cybersquatting."

The case, which highlighted the difficulties involved in managing the Internet, was brought by Twentieth Century Fox in May. WIPO has since 1999 operated a dispute settlement system under which cyberquatters can be challenged and have their sites closed down or transferred to a more legitimate owner.

Malley, a 33-year-old who operates the podcast with his singer girlfriend Chemda Khalili, offered no defense, WIPO said.

Over the past eight years, the U.N. agency has handled some 10,500 cases of cybersquatting, many involving famous commercial brands from oil firms to hotel chains, prominent film stars and actors, writers and internationally-known sports clubs.

Earlier this year WIPO said the Internet's governance was under threat from pirates who have adopted a range of techniques to get hold of domain names and create a free-for-all market in them.

Squatters register variations of top-level domain names, or "TLDs" like www.reuters.com, to which they have no genuine claim, by using the proliferating national or type identifiers -- like .au (Australia) or .aero (aviation).

In the Simpsons case, WIPO said, Malley at first used the "movie" site to link to another "that featured off-color and in some cases sexually-explicit depictions" involving characters from the television series.

A lawyer for Malley had indicated the comedian would be prepared to sell the site to Twentieth Century Fox for $50,000, WIPO said. The offer was refused by the film company.

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