The National Arbitration Forum just released its decision in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. World Readable c/o R.L. Cadenhead, the domain-name dispute in which the film studio tried to take Wargames.Com away from me because it owns a trademark related to the 1983 film WarGames and the upcoming sequel WarGames 2: The Dead Code.
A three-member panel of arbitrators denied MGM's claim on the grounds that I established my legitimate interest in selling wargames at the domain:
The picture that emerges from this material is of the Respondent, having seen Complainant's WARGAMES movie as a teenager in or about 1983 and having developed a professional interest in computer programming and wargames, to the extent of writing about them, creating them and publishing material on numerous websites, registered the disputed domain name
in 1998 with the idea of one day using it to sell wargames over the Internet. That idea remained in abeyance for six years until Respondent began to prepare to open his online store. Meantime the domain name resolved to a website which, inter alia, contained advertising links which most likely generated PPC revenue. By the time Complainant complained by letter of September 7, 2006, preparations to open the online store had advanced sufficiently to enable Respondent to advance his plans and to open the store on September 14, 2006.
Complainant rightly submits that what Respondent did after receiving the letter of September 7, 2006 cannot be taken into account in determining legitimacy. However, the speed with which Respondent was able to open his online store after having received that letter lends support to Respondent's contention that much work by way of preparation to use the disputed domain name for the purpose of selling wargames over the Internet had already been done by the time that letter was received. The sworn statements mentioned above cannot be dismissed as ex post facto attempts to concoct a defense to this Complaint. Indeed, they explain the acquisition in 2004 of the sales and use tax permit and the subscription to the Drop Ship Source Directory as being related to Respondent's intended online wargames store.
In its complaint, MGM found several things to make me look like a cybersquatter obsessed with the film, including a joke I made in Sams Teach Yourself Java in 24 Hours:
The quote "Shall we play a game?" is from the 1983 movie War Games, in which a young computer programmer portrayed by Matthew Broderick saves mankind after almost causing global thermonuclear war and the near-extinction of humankind. You'll learn how to do that in the next book of this series, Sams Teach Yourself to Create International Incidents with Java in 24 Hours.
MGM also cited a Red Herring interview:
That Respondent recalls where he first saw the WARGAMES film demonstrates the degree to which the film imprinted on his mind, and helps to explain his fascination and continuing references to MGM's film.
When first contacted by MGM in September, I was certain that I would win a Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) case if my ownership of the domain was challenged. I didn't know much about the UDRP, having never been involved in one of these disputes in a decade of web publishing, but I understood that it existed to stop people from grabbing domains to profit on somebody else's trademark. I got Wargames.Com to sell wargames.
The more I learned about the UDRP, the less confidence I had in winning. Most disputes end in victories for trademark holders and there's a huge number of ways that domain owners have been judged to have acted in bad faith.
Where domain owners are concerned, the UDRP's a strange game where the only winning move is not to play.
This battle has been four months of stress-induced, take the whole gallon of ice cream out the fridge eating -- people are starting to ask my due date. The next book I write will cover how domain name owners can protect themselves from a UDRP grab. I asked my book agent to shop two different proposals depending on the outcome.
The first proposal: How I went to battle with a ginormous corporation and saved my domain.
Thanks to my attorneys Wade Duchene and Brett E. Lewis, I don't have to write the other proposed book: How one of America's most beloved film studios hurt my feelings, kicked my ass and took my domain name, and what you can do to avoid my sad, sad fate.
Congrats on the win.. however, I hope for you they give up here and not take it forward. For many companies UDRP is the FIRST (cheapest and quickest) attempt, not the last. From here they may go and file a lawsuit against you which will make the cost and effort of protecting a UDRP a complete a complete joke.
Congratulations, and kudos for fighting the good fight.
Wargame (the movie) anecdote: I saw the movie in the theatre the same day that the KAL-007 flight disappeared in August of 1983. I can't remember if I'd heard the KAL news before or after the movie came out, but I remember leaving the movie theatre with a sensation of impending the-world-is-ending doom.
Further anecdote: Almost 6 months to the day before the ill-fated flight (that'd be early March, 1983), I flew Korean Air Lines from LAX - Anchorage - Seoul. So I had high empathy with passengers for the Anchorage - Seoul leg of the flight.
Congratulations! And yes, I hope this is the end of your troubles on this matter.
Great win! My guess is that MGM, et al. will not pursue any further with an appeal but will make you a fat $$$$$$$$$ offer to buy your domain name now that the legal ownership of the domain name has been settled. Just a guess on my part.
If MGM makes you an offer and you decide to sell them your domain name for a specified amount, be sure before agreeing to whatever amount MGM offers (if any) that you jack it up high enough to include all your own personal arbitration costs -- the lawyers' fees and expenses, court reporter costs, filing fees, copying costs, etc.
Also, I would demand a higher than normal fee for the domain name (if you even decide to sell it) due to MGM tarnishing your reputation and character by calling you a "cybersquatter" and putting you thru all the legal stress. Hey, whatever works. :)
Now would also be a good time since the case just ended to have your lawyers get a formal "written release" from MGM, et al. -- if one is even needed -- that legally allows you to fully discuss/disclose this case in any new future books you may write.
Just some ideas popping around in my head. I'm sure your lawyers have probably covered all of them.
Congratulations. You beat the Man!
I think ICANN simply arrived at the logical conclusion after applying the facts and the work you have done.
I was 99 percent sure your domain would not be taken because MGM could not make a case on three policy requirements.
They also knew they would lose, but they had nothing to lose in trying to take your domain. They have big money for lawyers and when someone wants to fight back, big money can't always buy you want and usurp the cannons of justice.
I had a big company try and pull one over on me by not honoring a contract. I told them I was getting a lawyer and they thought I was just saying that. Their tune changed when they had papers served three days later and I was going to sue them in Federal court.
All my lawyer had to do was send them a nice little letter and all was well.
Don't get stepped on. Fight for what is yours. Sometimes, the little guy does win and wins big.
Isn't America great!
Congratulations! Stick it to "da man"! :)
That's a relief. I'm glad there's now at least one case on record of a decent individual prevailing over a movie conglomerate in a domain name dispute.
Congratulations! Thanks for writing about it extensively, it's been very interesting to follow. Nice to know there's justice once in awhile ;-D
That's a big win, congratulations. These companies think they produce one thing and then own it for all of eternity.
If the copyright gestapo had their way, they would charge everyone a nickel every time a person used the word "war game" or asked "would you like to play a game?"
And when is Mickey Mouse going to be public domain anyway? Every time their ownership is due to expire, copyright law is extended by Congress to protect it.
Unfortunately, they have hired Kirk Cameron as a hit man. Does he ever have a bone to pick.....
Nice work slipping in the quote from the movie too, Rogers: "a strange game where the only winning move is not to play."
Hopefully MGM will realize they're spinning their wheels here. Trying to claim trademark protection over Wargames is like trying to get trademark protection for "Chess" or "Model Railroad" after making a movie about the subject.
Score one for the good guys!
Order up! Justice is served.
You seem on the square. Please carry on.
Yes, congratulations on a well-earned victory.
Having watched you get involved in this and other scuffles, I've noticed that you choose your fights, don't back down, and know how to throw a punch. And I mean that as a compliment.
Now you can ditch the ice cream!
Congrats! I live out in Orange Park but maybe I'll venture out to Jacksonville and buy you a victory drink!
Could we work on a quote other than "I'm so happy that I cried like Chad Lowe at the Academy Awards"? PLEASE!?!?!?!?!?! This is what Rogers told The Register, a UK publication.
Suck on that, Matthew Broderick! You too, General Fat'n'Grumpy! And especially you, WOPR, you worn-out old whore.
Bravo. Congrats to you and Wade. Glad to hear all worked out and look forward to seeing the book.
What's up with the sequel URL, wargames2.com?
Thanks for taking on the big guys! And congrats for winning!
Thanks for the lawyer lead, I'm in need of a good domain dispute lawyer!
So why is wargames.com dead now? That kind of makes the whole victory totally pointless?
"ANNOUNCEMENT: Wargames.Com suspended retail sales on Jan. 10, 2008. We're developing new content devoted to wargames play that will be available soon at this address."
Today is July 1st 2008. Has this site really been dead since January? All of the products in every catagory have been removed.
I was rooting for MGM to lose the battle too, but what good is an online store with no products?
The sales at the store weren't enough to sustain it, so it closed after 18 months. We're going to relaunch the site, probably as more of a gaming community along the lines of RPG.Net.
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