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Web Site Has Right to Tell Boston Builder ‘He Sucks,’ Panel Rules

Feb. 15, 2008 

Web Site Has Right to Tell Boston Builder ‘He Sucks,’ Panel Rules

Public Citizen Wins Free Speech Case in Front of International Arbitration Forum

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Massachusetts woman who created the Web page, “PaulMcMannSucks.com,” has the right to use the name of a Boston builder in the URL of her Internet “gripe” site, an international arbitrator decided this week.

A Dallas-based arbitrator with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center found that the woman’s First Amendment rights protected her use of the Internet domain name, PaulMcMannSucks.com, as well as PaulMcMann.com. The WIPO center, which is in Geneva, Switzerland, is set up to mediate disputes over Internet domain names.

The arbitrator cited two previous court rulings that went against Paul McMann, a commercial builder who does business in the Boston area and was involved in a business dispute with the woman who lives in Concord. A third suit filed by McMann is pending.

Public Citizen, which represented the woman in front of the WIPO and in one of the earlier cases, argued that her non-commercial use of McMann’s name was not an attempt to “commandeer” his customers and, therefore, was protected speech.

“The panel properly recognized that it should defer to the courts that have already held that this Web site is protected by the First Amendment,” said Public Citizen attorney Greg Beck. “Arbitration is designed to prevent the theft of domain names for profit, not to harass people for exercising their freedom of speech.”

READ the decision.

LEARN more about Public Citizen’s free speech cases.